UN Discuss Injecting Aerosols into Earth’s Stratosphere to ‘Block the Sun’


United Nations discuss injecting aerosols into Earth's stratosphere

 The geoengineering resolution is set to be discussed at the United Nations Environment Assembly next week, when it meets in Nairobi.

Nature.com reports: The body is poised to debate a resolution on geoengineering approaches that could be used to fight climate change, elevating a controversial issue to its highest political forum yet.

 A proposal backed by Switzerland and ten other countries would require the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) to prepare a comprehensive assessment of geoengineering, including methods to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere or inject aerosols into the stratosphere to block sunlight. Due by August 2020, the report would examine the underlying science and technology, and how to govern research and wide-scale use.

 Preliminary discussions began this week and a final decision by government ministers could come at the end of the UN assembly’s meeting, which runs from 11–15 March.

“In principle, it’s a big deal,” says Ted Parson, who studies environmental law and policy at the University of California, Los Angeles. “This could be the start of the serious international deliberation on governance that has been needed for years.”

Weighing in

 Other UN bodies have considered geoengineering in the context of specific treaties. In 2010, the 196 member countries of the Convention on Biological Diversity called for a moratorium on geoengineering technologies, citing gaps in scientific knowledge and potential environmental, social and economic risks; the non-binding decision includes exceptions for research. And in a series of decisions over the last decade, parties to the London Convention on ocean pollution have banned the commercial use of ocean fertilization — in which iron is released into the ocean to spur the growth of CO2-absorbing algae — while laying out criteria for research.

 But concerns about the global nature of solar geoengineering — the injection of reflective particles into the stratosphere — in particular have spurred efforts to give the governance debate more prominence within the UN. A fleet of high-flying aircraft could pump enough sulfur into the stratosphere to offset around 1.5 °C of warming for as little as US$1 billion–$10 billion annually, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

 The relatively cheap price has spurred concerns that individual countries could eventually pursue such a programme on their own, with global consequences. Janos Pasztor, who heads the Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative, an advocacy group in New York City, has spent more than two years discussing the need for geoengineering governance with high-level government officials around the world. He says that a UNEP assessment would command attention and help to bring governments up to speed.

“There has been no global assessment of geoengineering technologies, and this is very much needed,” says Pasztor, who advised former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon on climate change.

 But other scientists question whether a UNEP assessment of geoengineering would add anything to the global debate, given that organizations such as the UK Royal Society and the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have already produced thorough analyses. And although a UNEP assessment could spur conversations within governments, the question is whether those conversations will advance or hinder research, says Steve Rayner, director of the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford, UK.

“Ten years ago, when we wrote the Royal Society report, we thought that the governance challenge of geoengineering was stopping Dr Strangelove,” Rayner says. “A decade on I am inclined to think it is kick-starting Mr Scrooge.”

Looking ahead

 The outlook for the coming geoengineering debate at the UN Environment Assembly is unclear. The resolution faces opposition from countries such as the United States and Saudi Arabia, as well as scepticism from non-governmental groups that oppose geoengineering.

“The technologies continue to be speculative, so we don’t really need a new study,” says Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director for the ETC Group, an environmental advocacy group in Val-David, Canada. She says that the UNEP resolution discounts work done under the London Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity, which have already produced similar assessments of science and governance issues related to geoengineering.

 If the UN Environment Assembly approves the resolution, Ribeiro is pushing for changes that would require the participation of representatives from civil society, indigenous tribes and others in an ad-hoc advisory committee that would advise the UNEP on the assessment.

 Pasztor’s organization has taken a neutral stance on the resolution itself, and he says that the outcome remains unclear. Regardless, he says the debate itself represents a success. “Our goal is to have governments come together and talk,” Pasztor says. “We have catalysed the process, and now it’s a question for governments.”

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Fact Check:   'Joe Biden Claims ‘We Didn’t Lock People Up In Cages’

CLAIM: Former Vice President Joe Biden claimed, on immigration: “We didn’t lock people up in cages.”

VERDICT: FALSE. The “cages” were built by the Obama-Biden administration.

Univision moderator Jorge Ramos asked Biden at the third Democrat debate at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas, why Latinos should trust him after the Obama administration continued deporting “undocumented immigrants.”

Biden claimed that the Obama administration’s policies were more humane than those of President Donald Trump: “We didn’t lock people up in cages,” he said.

In fact, the “cages” were built by the Obama administration to deal with a surge of unaccompanied minors who crossed the border illegally in 2014.

Originally, the Obama administration was “warehousing” children — literally — in overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities. Breitbart News broke the story of the surge, which was partly triggered by Obama’s policy of allowing illegal alien children who entered the country as minors to stay in the country (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA).

Above image credit: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File

The above photo was published by the Associated Press in June 2014, and the photo below is of Obama’s Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, touring a Border Patrol facility with “cages.”


Above: Border Patrol officers escort Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Gov. Jan Brewer through the department’s Nogales processing facility for immigrant children. (Photo courtesy Barry Bahler/Department of Homeland Security)

The “cages” are chain-link enclosures in Border Patrol processing facilities that are meant to protect children from adults in custody. They are not permanent accommodations.

In mid-2018, as the Trump administration began enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy that stopped the “catch-and-release” policy of letting illegal aliens go after they were arrested. Detaining adults and children meant that children had to be processed separately; the enclosures prevented adults from harming children.

As Breitbart News reported at the time, children were not housed in “cages.” They were processed and then taken to shelters, where they were given medical care, toiletries, education, recreation, and counseling, and where staff attempted to find relatives or sponsors to whom they could be released.

Democrats began tweeting images of “kids in cages” to condemn the Trump administration. Journalists, too, shared those images.

One problem: they were taken during the Obama administration.

Public outrage at the images led President Trump to end the policy, and require families to be detained together.

Democrats keep repeating the mistake, however: in July, they had to delete a tweet that used an image from the Obama era and cited the “inhumane treatment” of children by the Trump administration.

Republicans argue that not detaining illegal aliens is actually the cruel policy, because it encourages migrants to undertake a dangerous journey, often guided by cartels and smugglers.

As Breitbart News’ Alana Mastrangelo noted recently:

But what’s worse than “cages,” however, are reports of migrant children also being handed over to human traffickers during the Obama administration — while Biden was vice president — according to the New York Times. Between October 2013 and July 2015 alone, nearly 80,000 unaccompanied children from Central American countries were detained by U.S. authorities.

It remains unclear how many of the tens of thousands of children were handed over to human traffickers — including sex traffickers — during that span of nearly two years, as those cases are reportedly not tracked.

“Others were ransomed by the very smugglers to whom their families paid thousands of dollars to sneak them into the United States,” reported the New York Times in 2015, during Obama’s presidency and Biden’s vice presidency. “Some lost limbs during the journey or found themselves sold into sexual slavery.”

Biden told voters in South Carolina last month that he would close all border detention facilities, guaranteeing that the migrant flow would continue.

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