The report (published September 1, by the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science) found that unless future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are much more successful than they have been so far, additional action in the form of geoengineering will be necessary to cool the planet. However, the report identified major uncertainties regarding the effectiveness, costs, and environmental impacts of geoengineering technologies.
"Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions is more important than ever," said coauthor Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, "but even with our best efforts, the Earth is likely to continue warming throughout this century due to inertia in the climate system. Cutting emissions can reduce but cannot eliminate the risk of a climate emergency." Possible climate emergencies include rapid collapse of the Greenland ice sheet into the sea causing major sea level rise, a shift in rainfall patterns causing massive global crop failures, or melting Arctic permafrost causing catastrophic release of the powerful greenhouse gas methane.
Professor John Shepherd, who chaired the study said, "It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing CO2 emissions we are headed for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geoengineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases. Our research found that some geoengineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems—yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them. Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we may have to pay for failure to act on climate change."
The report assesses the two main kinds of geoengineering techniques—Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and Solar Radiation Management (SRM). CDR techniques address the root of the problem rising CO2—and so have fewer uncertainties and risks, as they work to return the Earth to a more normal state. They are therefore considered preferable to SRM techniques, but none has yet been demonstrated to be effective at an affordable cost, with acceptable environmental impacts, and they only work to reduce temperatures over very long timescales.
SRM techniques act by reflecting the sun's energy away from Earth, meaning they lower temperatures rapidly, but do not affect CO2 levels. They therefore fail to address the wider effects of rising CO2, such as ocean acidification, and would need to be deployed for a very long time. Although they are relatively cheap to deploy, there are considerable uncertainties about their regional consequences, and they only reduce some, but not all, of the effects of climate change, while possibly creating other problems. The report concludes that SRM techniques could be useful if a threshold is reached where action to reduce temperatures must be taken rapidly, but that they are not an alternative to emissions reductions or CDR techniques.
"If we are confronted with a climate emergency and decide we cannot tolerate any more warming, engineering some system to deflect more sunlight back to space would likely be the primary option available to cool the Earth quickly," said Caldeira. "Of course, we need to make sure that tinkering with our environment in this way would not just cause bigger problems. We need to study these options now so that we can understand the pluses and minuses in case we need to deploy them."
Professor Shepherd added, "None of the geoengineering technologies so far suggested is a magic bullet, and all have risks and uncertainties associated with them. It is essential that we strive to cut emissions now, but we must also face the very real possibility that we will fail. If 'Plan B' is to be an option in the future, considerable research and development of the different methods, their environmental impacts, and governance issues must be undertaken now. Used irresponsibly or without regard for possible side effects, geoengineering could have catastrophic consequences similar to those of climate change itself. We must ensure that a governance framework is in place to prevent this."
The full report can be downloaded at: www.royalsociety.org/geoengineeringclimate
Link to Royal Society press release: http://royalsociety.org/news.asp?id=8734
The Carnegie Institution (www.CIW.edu) has been a pioneering force in basic scientific research since 1902. It is a private, nonprofit organization with six research departments throughout the U.S. Carnegie scientists are leaders in plant biology, developmental biology, astronomy, materials science, global ecology, and Earth and planetary science. The Department of Global Ecology, located in Stanford, California, was established in 2002 to help build the scientific foundations for a sustainable future. Its scientists conduct basic research on a wide range of large-scale environmental issues, including climate change, ocean acidification, biological invasions, and changes in biodiversity.
The Royal Society is an independent academy promoting the natural and applied sciences. Founded in 1660, the Society has three roles, as the UK academy of science, as a learned Society, and as a funding agency.
Further reports about: > Astronomy > Biodiversity > Biological Invasions > CO2 > CO2 emission > Carnegie > Earth's magnetic field > Ecology > Global Ecology > Materials Science > SRM > environmental impact > gas emission > greenhouse gas > greenhouse gas emission > large-scale environmental issues > ocean acidification
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
18.10.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
18.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy