One of the peculiarities of the "Climate Change" movement, which is ostensibly about keeping global temperature the same, or at least within 1.5 °C of a U.N.-specified value, is its willingness to alter almost everything else to obtain this result. Geoengineering and gigantic construction proposals have been discussed in my previous articles but the efforts do not end there. We are told it may also be necessary to alter the nature of life on earth, human and otherwise, to meet the temperature goal. A World Economic Forum article observes: "efforts to genetically engineer plants and animals for both climate change mitigation and adaptation are gaining momentum, driven by advancements in biotechnology."
These include Jurassic Park-type projects like bringing back extinct species such as wooly mammoths, which unleashed on the tundra, "would knock down sunlight-absorbing trees, exposing ground that better reflects light and prevent(s) melting." Oceans would be seeded with genetically modified, heat tolerant coral. Crops grown in temperate climates would be tropicalized to make them more suitable for the sweltering future. New plants would be conjured into existence specially designed to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in the ground. Nothing is off-limits in pursuit of the great goal.
Back to the drawing board.
But these measures are only the beginning. The biggest proposed changes target the 'anthro' part in anthropogenic global warming. Humanity itself must be altered, argues Matthew Liao of the Center for Bioethics at New York University. "I shall argue that human engineering potentially offers an effective means of tackling climate change." He then goes on to describe various technologies, extant or under development that would:
- Make people temporarily or permanently allergic to eating meat and other mammalian products. "In principle, it could be induced by stimulating the immune system against common bovine proteins. The immune system would then become primed to react to them, and henceforth eating “eco-unfriendly” food would induce unpleasant experiences. Even if the effects do not last a lifetime, the learning effect is likely to persist for a long time."
- Making people smaller. Reducing the average American's height by 6 inches would reduce food consumption by 25 percent. This could be achieved with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select shorter children. Similarly results can be obtained with hormone therapy. Finally there is gene therapy. "Gene imprinting, where only one parent’s copy of the genes is turned on and the other parent’s copy is turned off, has been found to affect birth size."
- Pharmaceutically predispose Westerners not to have children. He suggests certain cognition-enhancing drugs like as Ritalin and Modafinil can reduce birthrates by literally making women "Woke" in the sense of keeping them awake. If some method could be found to pharmacologically induce altruism in humans that might also produce voluntary vegetarianism and an aversion to reproduction.
Liao argues there is nothing sacrosanct about humanity, as shown by the fact that the public in its millions ingests, either voluntarily or by government decree, many body-altering pharmaceuticals each day:
For example, fluoride is deliberately added to water with the aim of fortifying us against tooth decay... Similarly, people are routinely vaccinated to prevent themselves and those around them from acquiring infectious diseases, even though vaccinations sometimes have side effects, and can even lead to death... The view that “it is morally impermissible to interfere with human nature... seems too strong. Vaccination and giving women access to epidural during labor both interfere with nature, but we would not therefore conclude that their usage is morally impermissible.
In other words, human engineering is just one more pill from the drug store. It's potentially right around the corner. Genetically modified, carbon sequestering trees are already being planted in U.S. forests, according to the New York Times. Should we worry?
Brave New World or clown show?
The logical flaw in Liao's argument is that ordinary medication is given to individuals in response to individual diseases. Even fluoridating water or administering a vaccine has the character of a specific solution applied to a definite problem. By contrast terraforming the earth or genetically altering species is not a response to a particular need but action toward the general goal of preventing climate change.
If we shrink a person by six inches or deliberately induce an allergy to mammalian products for reasons of controlling the earth's temperature we are not curing an individual condition; they are not even clinically sick, we are implementing a political mandate. If we stock Canada with wooly mammoths or sow the oceans with mutant coral it is not even because we desire the thing per se so much as their supposed downstream benefits.
This indirectness is risky. In cases where individual treatments are prescribed to individuals, the chain of scientific reason is short and direct. The drug acts directly on the disease. On the other hand climate and bioengineering interventions are -- by definition -- meant to be global in impact. The causal chain from wooly mammoth or shrunken human is long and consequently error-prone. The only justifiable way in which so many varied and far-reaching risks can be taken in the name of temperature mitigation is if the climate modelers are dead sure that the negative effects of geoengineering and genetic engineering are small in comparison to the benefits they expect. The complexity of the climate and biosphere, including social events like wars and pandemics, is so great that no possible predictive model could assuredly encompass it.
The great danger posed by the U.N.'s arbitrary 1.5 °C mandate is that it has become a religious imperative in whose name the skies can be darkened and life forms forever altered, where everything can be changed to hold a calculated target invariant. Controlling the climate may not even be possible, despite our most extreme engineering efforts. "Over the past million years, Earth’s globally averaged surface temperature has risen and fallen by about 5˚C in ice-age cycles, roughly every 100,000 years or so," and there's no assurance the puny U.N. can stop that. But the seductive lure of human power is irresistible and we will try to control the world if it kills us.