International conferences to slow the greenhouse effect have gone from failure to failure over the past 20 years. IPCC* researchers’ most alarming projection has become perfectly credible. In that scenario, known as “A1F1”, cascading catastrophes could wreak havoc on life on Earth.
Can technology still turn things around? Experiments in deliberate climate engineering, also known as geo-engineering, are multiplying the world over. The USA, Canada, the European Union, China and Russia are all funding evaluations of these techniques’ efficiency against global warming. In 2008, the British Royal Society predicted that “the time may well come when they are accepted as less risky than doing nothing.” Has that time now come?
In the past decade, climate engineering has attracted considerable support. Entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Richard Branson have invested in research on “Solar Radiation Management” (SRM) promising both to save the world and to generate wealth. Powerful conservative think tanks, like the American Enterprise Institute, promote them actively. In 2009, Obama’s science advisors declared that, “It’s got to be looked at, we don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”
A growing fear about the climate emergency makes “last ditch” solutions more palatable. Despite the huge risks involved – because according to Stanford climatologist Ken Caldeira, himself a supporter of SRM technology: “a faulty geo-engineering system could cause global warming to speed up considerably”.
For science historians, these “quick fix” climate-manipulation solutions create a sense of déjà vu. Seeding the ocean, gigantic artificial trees, cloud whitening, stratospheric aerosols, space parasols and more… Many current ideas are throwbacks to research first performed during the Cold War. Back then, U.S. president Lyndon Johnson wanted to turn climate engineering into “a new dimension in the art of warfare.” A respected climatologist at prestigious M.I.T. declared that he “shuddered at the thought of the consequences if the Russians were to invent a feasible method of controlling the weather”… And the physicist Edward Teller – the model for Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove” – urged the Pentagon to develop methods for “climate warfare”.
Yesterday, the East-West struggle. Today, and even more so tomorrow – the struggle against global warming. The Soviet enemy has been conquered, yet geo-engineering has found a promising new market. But its theories are as dangerous and blind to “collateral damage” as ever, as well as being extraordinarily costly to put into effect.
How did a pseudo-science with a controversial past become a planet-wide research subject? How did crack-pot academics turn into respected and even courted figures? As the climate crisis picks up speed, how can we keep rogue states from staking their all in dangerous experiments on our atmosphere and oceans? And will we really have any choice?
This film is an investigation into the worldwide boom in geo-engineering.
The scientists who are spearheading this research, their colleagues who oppose any real-life SRM experiments, the lobbyists who support the first, the thinkers who back the latter: all the key players, for and against direct climate manipulation, have been interviewed. Rare archive material from the Cold War expose the historical background of geo-engineering by revealing previously classified research that look like science fiction.
« Ce film aussi passionnant que terrifiant interroge : qui dégainera le premier ? Un Etat confronté à une grave sécheresse ? Ou un milliardaire franc-tireur ? Captivant et flippant. » – Télérama
« Passionnant, ce documentaire à la fois historique, scientifique et philosophique nous force à réfléchir sur notre responsabilité collective. Une enquête remarquable sur une alternative inquiétante à la diminution d’émissions de CO2. » – Pèlerin
« Une enquête inquiétante, bien étayée par des intervenants de qualité » – Télé 2 Weeks
« Assorti de nombreux éclairages d’experts, un exposé pédagogique et saisissant des techniques envisagées par la géoingénierie » – Cable Satellite TV
« Un focus instructif sur l’histoire de la géo-ingénierie. Ou quand l’homme se prend pour Dieu. Terrifiant ! » – Télé Poche
Le film de Pierre Oscar Lévy sera diffusé mardi 24 novembre sur ARTE à l’occasion de la COP21.
Sélection officielle FOCAL International Award 2016
Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival 2016
Wildlife Vaasa International Film Festival 2016