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Environment Canada Considers Geo-engineering as Climate Change Fix in ‘Secret’ Meeting, Documents Reveal

In July 2012 Paul Boothe, former deputy minister at Environment Canada, called a meeting to discuss methods of dealing with worst-case climate change scenarios.

According to an internal memorandum from Natural Resources Canada released through Access to Information legislation, Environment Canada presented "a summary of current interest, science and governance issues regarding geoengineering to address climate change" in the meeting. Top level bureaucrats were personally invited to attend the confidential meeting. Which of the invitees actually attended is less clear.

The Environment Canada presentation defines geo-engineering as "the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system in order to moderate global warming."

Mike De Souza writes for Postmedia News, that "Prime Minister Stephen Harper's national security adviser Stephen Rigby turned down a request to join [the] secret meeting," and "most representatives on the list of invitees, including the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Department of National Defence, said Monday that they were trying to track down information about their role in the closed-door discussion."

Also invited were deputy ministers from Natural Resources Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, both of which "referred questions to Environment Canada, but the latter department's Gatineau headquarters were closed for the Quebec holiday Monday."

De Souza reports that the "public service department that supports the prime minister's office — the Privy Council Office — said Monday that it didn't send anyone to the meeting," and "wasn't immediately able to say whether it followed up on information shared during the session."

Boothe also invited "the heads of Canada's spy agency, the Department of National Defence and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade to attend."

The documents outlining the meeting "were marked 'secret' but declassified for release through access to information legislation."

The Environment Canada presentation warned that if "greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated, models predict that 2ºC warming target agreed to [in 2009 by Harper] in Copenhagen, will be exceeded by mid-century."

As De Souza notes, the presentation listed the possible results of this temperature increase as including "increases in extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, heatwaves and cyclones as well as impacts on coastal cities, food security and biodiversity loss." According to "records released by Environment Canada in a spring report on greenhouse gases," average temperatures in Canada have hit "levels of up to three degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in recent years."

The presentation indicated that "global CO2 emissions must level off immediately, and decline to negative values before end of century (implying net CO2 extraction from atmosphere), or other means of moderating warming would be needed." Geo-engineering was proposed as one of these "other means."

From the document:

De Souza summarizes the suggested geo-engineering methods, which include "adding iron to oceans to enhance their absorption of carbon dioxide, sulphur injections in the atmosphere or satellite mirrors to block or reflect solar radiation or large-scale afforestation."

Calgary-based climate scientist David Keith, whose house was damaged by the recent flooding in Alberta, reportedly encourages further research into geo-engineering as "an option to help protect vulnerable populations in developing countries from the effects and extreme weather events linked to existing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere."

De Souza adds that Keith said "no amount of geo-engineering in the future will help if we don't cut emissions."

Image Credit: Wayne Stadler / Flickr

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Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

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