With temperatures rising, glaciers melting and oceans acidifying, scientists are scrambling to address the effects of a changing climate with technology. One example includes artificial photosynthesis, where excess carbon is converted into fuel using visible light. Another includes stratospheric controlled perturbation, or spraying chemicals into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight.
While technological advancements can certainly reduce excess carbon dioxide and global temperatures, they’re effectively Band-Aids on a gushing wound. Technology will buy humanity time to assuage environmental degradation, but technology won’t solve the anthropogenic causes contributing to climate change in the first place.
A focus on technology as a remedy to climate change ignores the economic practices that changed our climate in the first place. According to the EPA, electricity and heat production produces 25% of the total global greenhouse gas emissions, and agriculture contributes to 24% of it. Even if all of us went vegan and drove electric cars, these industries, when left unchecked, would continue to pollute the planet.
Just as a wound gushes blood, wasteful agricultural practices and energy production from fossil fuels continue to seep climate-warming greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Technology cannot hold corporations and governments accountable for their polluting habits.
Not only that, but technology paints climate change as a uniquely environmental issue. Sure, increased global temperatures will bleed into ecological processes such animal migration and seasonal patterns, along with more frequent extreme weather events and drought. These environmental effects will bleed into how societies, economies and political structure adapt to global changes.
But the environment and societies are inextricably linked, and focusing on environmental solutions neglect the societal outcomes of climate change. Technology will suck carbon out of the atmosphere, but no technology can stabilize a nation inundated with climate change refugees. Technology cannot restore a town’s fishing economy once the fish are gone. Communities on a local and national level must collaborate to address climate change.
“Our approach to climate change has to be community-based, using scientific evidence to help make those decisions on how to drive change from a community perspective,” said Amanda Rugenski, a lecturer at the Odum School of Ecology. “It can’t just be science making changes.”
Because the effects of climate change are fast, we need fast solutions to environmental degradation such as increased global temperatures and excess carbon. But these Band-Aid solutions aren’t enough, and putting emphasis on one wound rather than the others is shortsighted.
Don’t get me wrong: I will welcome technological remedies to climate change with open arms. I want widespread artificial photosynthesis. I want reduced global temperatures.
But I will recognize the technological remedies for what they are — further procrastination on the necessary systemic changes required to implement greener economies, ones that don’t pollute the environment as current ones do.
Until we tackle the root causes of climate change, technological advancements will be expensive remedies to ongoing pollution problems. While I will support technology for all it can do, we must not put all our faith in technology, but leaders who are committed to creating greener societies.