Public Opinion Poll
Our poll is designed to generate and recast the debates around the technologies central to our project. It invites participants to choose from multiple-choice answers that represent most popular – or most controversial – opinions on the matter, or to provide their own answer, allowing the discussion to evolve. Each question is supported by background information on the topic to allow the viewer to make a more informed choice.
The official opinion polls stray from asking provocative or leading questions and often don’t get at the heart at the radical, discontinuous scenarios of the future that are forecast as a consequence of either the use of these technologies – or the opposite, of letting the current crisis unfold without intervening.
The technologies in question are inherently global in scope, and inherently irreversable. Once implemented, the changes to the biosphere cannot be undone. Given the risks and uncertainty of consequences, what is the justification for implementing them? Who would they benefit? Who should they benefit? What are the mechanisms for oversight and control? Who would they cast in the position of power? What is the responsible way to develop the technology without restricting it for fear of misuse? How could it be misused and how could we prevent it?
The idea that crises— economic, political, or natural–– are exploited to advance an agenda that would otherwise not survive the democratic process is often discussed as underlying deployment of controversial technology.
The ’emergency’ has been evoked to encroach on privacy by the NSA, to bail-out the banks, to invade countries and condone the use of torture. Naomi Klein argues that this framing allows multinationals and political leaders to align to promote neoliberal interests at the public’s expense. It has been argued that this is also how climate engineering proposals are seen, as implementing a strategy that would not address the root of the problem but mitigate its symptoms to let us continue with the same consumption and economy growth levels, an agenda advanced by the corporations that benefit from rampant consumption of fossil fuels. Genetic modification of organisms is also often portrayed as a measure to adapt to the changing climate, to create the second ‘green revolution.’ And the synthetic biology research agendas are portrayed as perpetuating the status quo in extending our ability to use natural resources in unsustainable manner.
The emergency framing plays a role in how the precautionary principle – an approach to evaluating risks and benefits – is employed. The precautionary principle is often evoked in oversight designs, and is based on shifting the burden of proof from those who raise concerns about some new project to those promoting it. Instead of waiting for proof that the project causes harm, society should ask those pushing the project to prove that it won’t cause harm.
The idea that crises can produce openings for radical change is ancient. “Only a crisis—actual or perceived––produces real change,”writes Milton Friedman. “When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. . . . ” Synthetic biology, a truly revolutionary technology, presents us with a potential to revise the existing system of how knowledge is produced, shared, and used, of which avenues of research and development are pursued, and of what kind of future we’re creating by making those choices.
Climate engineering has been always portrayed as ‘plan B,’ and emergency measure that it now came time to prepare to use. Some careful thinking has gone into analysis of this description, including the framing itself and the ability to recognize the moment of emergency that would justify the use of the drastic measures.
The complexity comes in part from weighing the harms that might come from climate change against harms that might come from attempts of mitigating those harms by the use of untested technology, and the inherent uncertainty in proving one over the other.
“Parties should take precautionary measures to anticipate, prevent or minimise the causes of climate change and mitigate its adverse effects. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for postponing such measures, taking into account that policies and measures to deal with climate change should be cost effective so as to ensure global benefits at the lowest possible cost.”
Article 3(3) 1992 UNFCCC
Three key features of climate emergency has been identified as “climate change is an immediate or impending threat”, that extends to “life and health of humans and many other life forms” and is highly likely to result in “social disorder, for example economic turmoil and mass migration of climate refugees”, in the absence of immediate action. Markusson et al helpfully add the element of surprise: “Defining a phenomenon as an emergency implies that it has properties of danger, immediacy, and is to some extent unexpected at least in specific location or timing.”/
Read more: http://dcgeoconsortium.org/2014/08/26/methane-volcanoes-and-the-end-of-the-world/