A Nigerian scientist has lashed out at projects backed by the likes of Bill Gates and George Soros, which are using Africa to test unproven pet theories.
Gates has supported technology in which particles would be spread in the atmosphere to block sunlight from reaching the surface of the planet, as noted by Forbes. In February, Soros lent his support to a project using solar geoengineering to reflect more sunlight back into space, according to Fortune.
However, Chukwumerije Okereke, director of the Center for Climate Change and Development at Alex Ekwueme Federal University in Nigeria, said these concepts should not be tried out using Africa as a giant petri dish.
“As a climate expert, I consider these environmental manipulation techniques extremely risky. And as an African climate expert, I strongly object to the idea that Africa should be turned into a testing ground for their use,” he wrote in an Op-Ed in The New York Times titled “My Continent Is Not Your Giant Climate Laboratory.”
Okereke was pushing back against a report from the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative favoring what it called solar radiation modification that said logic needed to prevail and warned that “SRM, as well as other climate policy options, might encounter ‘non-rational’ public responses that could strongly influence decision-making.”
“It wasn’t the first time Westerners have tried to persuade Africans that solar engineering projects may be in our best interest. And it won’t be the last,” Okereke wrote.
Okereke called solar radiation management “highly speculative. Without using the whole earth as a laboratory, it’s impossible to know whether it would dim anything, let alone how it would affect ecosystems, people and the global climate.”
“Other proposed techniques include covering deserts with plastic; genetically engineering plants to have brighter, more reflective leaves; creating or making clouds whiter; and deploying millions of mirrors in space.”
Okereke noted that ideas on paper omit a discussion of their impact on people, saying that “the technologies run the danger of upsetting local and regional weather patterns — intensifying drought or flooding, for example, or disrupting monsoon cycles. And the long-term impact on regional climate and seasons is still largely unknown.”
“Millions, perhaps billions, of people’s livelihoods could be undermined,” he said.
Instead of trying to re-engineer the weather, Okereke called for more investment in renewable energy instead of unproven science.
To try out their ideas, he wrote, “advocates have tried to entice African governments by offering to fund research projects, claiming that more research will shed more light on the dangers and benefits of the technology.”
“But this just appears to be a way of trying to make Africa a test case for an unproven technology. Indeed more studies into this hypothetical solution look like steps toward development and a slippery slope to eventual deployment,” he wrote.
Trying out solar geoengineering on somebody else’s turf, as was done in a failed experiment in Mexico, “echoed some of the worst aspects of colonialism,” he wrote.
“African nations should strongly resist letting their territories be used for experimental exercises like this. The technologies are potentially dangerous, and a major distraction from the real change that we all know wealthier nations need to make if we have a hope of outrunning climate devastation,” he wrote.
In an open letter calling for a moratorium on deploying any solar geoengineering technology, a coalition of scientists said risks and rewards would not be spread evenly.
“Science networks are dominated by a few industrialized countries, with less economically powerful countries having little or no direct control over them. Technocratic governance based on expert commissions cannot adjudicate complex global conflicts over values, risk allocation and differences in risk acceptance that arise within the context of solar geoengineering,” the letter said.