THINK BIG: Climate Engineering

Within the next 10 years, American ingenuity can give us the power to engineer the environment on a global scale in order to overcome the challenges associated with climate change. It will be advancements in bio- and geo-engineering technologies that make this possible, and these technologies represent new industries and opportunities for American corporations and entrepreneurs. The next Administration should foster the development of a new industry in climate engineering so American innovation can help us engineer our way out of the climate problem. Scientific trends clearly show that the climate is changing more rapidly than in times past, even if people disagree why and whether humans are the cause. The nature of this latest shift in the global climate is likely to lead to great harm and suffering around the world if a strategy is not developed to develop and use tools for engineering our world on a grander scale. Today’s discussions and debates focus on trying to correct these trends by rolling back carbon output, ignoring the negative economic consequences of that approach. A truly successful solution will focus, not on carbon output, but on technologies that can recapture and repurpose this carbon, while also affecting the other factors that control climate.

The answer is not to try and reverse these changes, but rather to use science to engineer our way out of the climate challenge.

We can do the same to address the climate change problem today; we can use science and engineering to fix our problem and generate new economic growth. Today we are rapidly improving our ability to engineer biology to take on the properties we want, which in turn will give us new ways to engineer the environment. Pairing our advancements in bio-engineering technologies with other geo-engineering technologies gives us even more of an opportunity to take control over how the Earth changes. The opportunity exists for us to engineer a better tomorrow. To capitalize on the next big engineering opportunity, the next Administration should:

Provide the right incentives to engineer a solution to the climate problem. American innovation is what makes this country great; let’s apply that American innovation to climate engineering. Putting in place policies and regulations that encourage corporations and entrepreneurs to invest in climate engineering will usher in a new era of economic prosperity.

Ensure responsible development of bio- and geo-engineering technologies. The technologies that exist to manipulate the natural world are incredibly powerful. In the hands of the ignorant or the malicious, they could be used to destroy the world rather than improve it. New policies and control regimes will be needed to ensure these technologies are developed and used responsibly.

Study the science of the natural world and develop precision models of the climate. Unlocking the secrets of Nature will be essential to engineering our way out of the climate problem. Better scientific models of the climate will foster innovation in new technologies to improve the environment. Additionally, better models will allow safer and more efficient uses of these technologies to improve the world.

RECOMMENDATION

The next Administration needs to develop a comprehensive strategy that capitalizes on advancements in bio- and geo-engineering technologies in order to engineer our way out of the climate problem by helping open up new climate engineering industries for American capitalism to thrive. This will require new breakthroughs in the life and earth sciences, better models of the climate, and new control regimes to ensure these powerful tools are responsibly used and developed.

The answer to the climate challenge is to move forward, not to go back. We need to use our science and technology to develop a capability that will benefit humanity for millennia to come. The next Administration has an opportunity to not just rebuild America, but to rebuild Earth.

This week we will be publishing excerpts from the Potomac Institute’s latest report,
“THINK BIG: BIG Science, BIG Opportunities, and BIG Ideas.” THINK BIG argues that innovation in science and technology are the keys to American economic strength and national security. Rather than a return to the infrastructure, economy, and healthcare systems of the past, the report calls for a vision for the future.

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