Climate Change “Inconsistent with current Agency policy” -or- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Geoengineering

From Nature News Blog:

After raising various objections, Anderson says, the TCEQ recently moved to delete references to rising sea levels — regardless of cause — as well as sedimentation problems caused by dams and other human influences. To make things crystal clear, the agency conveniently activated “track changes” in Microsoft Word and provided a copy of the chapter to the scientists. Entire paragraphs and sentences were deleted, as were references to peer-reviewed papers at the end. In one case, TCEQ converted “rising sea levels” to “changing sea levels”.

A handful of scientists drew up the full report, and Lester says he expects everybody involved to stand with Anderson and withhold their names from the publication. TCEQ officials declined to answer questions Friday but provided an email response indicating that the report contained “information… that we disagree with.” The statement goes on to say that TCEQ called for the removal of the entire chapter, which was beyond the scope of the report and “inconsistent with current Agency policy.”

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the official and sole environmental agency for the State of Texas.  According to their website, the first bullet point of the agency’s philosophy is: base decisions on the law, common sense, good science, and fiscal responsibility.  However, according to Rick Perry, the state’s current governor and republican presidential nominee, the science of global warming hasn’t been settled (source):

“I do believe that the issue of global warming has been politicized. I think there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. Yes, our climates change. They’ve been changing ever since the earth was formed. But I do not buy into, that a group of scientists, who in some cases were found to be manipulating this data.”

Of course, this is nonsense, and Glenn Kessler at the Washington Post rightly explains why this is so (source).  Climate change is real, and, for the most part, the largest polluters are doing very little to reduce emissions.  In fact, less than two weeks ago, the Bipartisan Policy Center (bipartisan in the democrat-republican sense) released their Task Force on Climate Remediation Research report (i.e geoengineering as a method for slowing or stopping the effects of climate change).  Their recommendation:

With that in mind, the task force believes the federal government should embark on a focused and systematic program of research about climate remediation. The federal government is the only entity that has the incentive, responsibility, and capacity to run a broad, systematic and effective program; it can also play an important role in effectively establishing international research norm.
(note: read John Vidal’s post at The Guardian for a deeper look at the possible political and economical interests of the members who make up the BPC- source)

I was reading most of these articles while commuting home today.  After departing my bus and walking home, I had a deep feeling of dread wash over me.  This is it.  The policies of large, influential governments have failed to address climate change in a sufficient time and, in doing so, have taken seriously the idea of altering our environment to accomodate anthropogenic change change.  It seems that, according to the BPC anyway, it is more reasonable to research (potentially lucrative) technologies for “climate remediation” than to enact policy in hopes of reducing GHG emissions.

For those of you planning to take ASIC 200 next term, Dr. Sens will spend some class time discussing zeitgeist, “the spirit of the times”, with respect to past spirits (cold war nuclear annihilation) and current ones.  I have a deep, dreadful feeling that the results of geoengineering will, too, become a haunting spectre of our time in years to come.  Given my field of study (oceanography and climate), where will I find myself professionally in the next decade?  Will I give in to the late 20th and early 21st century ideal notion that we could stop climate change in its tracks, and begin work on “climate remediation” projects?  With what little work may exist, will I have a choice?

Related Topics


Dave Semeniuk spends hours locked up in his office, thinking about the role the oceans play in controlling global climate, and unique ways of studying it. He'd also like to shamelessly plug his art practice: