Addressing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions could probably be referred to as a passive step in the right direction, but geoengineers want to make a more active steps.
Man has been geoengineering since he discovered agriculture. Plowing, planting, and irrigating led to a more secure harvest when compared to simple hunter gatherer methods. Since the Industrial Age, mankind has been geoengineering, not purposefully, artificially warming the atmosphere. What we know as climate change is the result of a couple hundred years of man tampering with the delicate balance of the world’s ecosystems.
Could geoengineering artificially cool the atmosphere, reversing climate change? If it can be done at all, any trials may have far-reaching consequences. Legally speaking, there are rules that must be followed, and for good reason. For example, the 2010 UN Convention on Biological Diversity [CBD] forbids any form of geoengineering that would affect biodiversity, and the adding of chemicals to the ocean to increase carbon dioxide absorption is prohibited by the London Convention and Protocol [LCP].
From these laws, geoengineering and tampering with the climate would appear to be strictly off-limits, but some research into environmental laws around the world leaves it pretty much up in the air. In spite of the agreements reached in the CBD and LCP, small-scale geoengineering trials have gone ahead, their activities neither prohibited nor encouraged. Interestingly, Jesse Reynolds of Tilburg Law School, in the Netherlands, found that most environmental treaties view geoengineering trials as climate change risk-reduction measures, and allow them to go on, saying “international environmental law generally favors such field tests.
Scott Barrett, of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, says that “countries are more or less free to do what they want,” because the world’s environmental laws governing geoengineering and addressing climate change are so vague.