Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Geoengineering report: Scientists urge more research on climate intervention

A press release from the University of Michigan: Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while necessary, may not happen soon enough to stave off climate catastrophe. So, in addition, the world may need to resort to so-called geoengineering approaches that aim to deliberately control the planet's climate. That's according to a National Research Council committee that today released a pair of sweeping reports on climate intervention techniques. The University of Michigan's Joyce Penner, who is the Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science, served on the committee. Penner studies how clouds affect climate.

The reports consider the two main ways humans could attempt to steer the Earth's system: We could try to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Or we could try to reflect more sunlight back into space. The committee examined the socioeconomic and environmental impacts as well as the costs and technological readiness of approaches in each category.

The researchers said that certain CO2-removal tactics could have a place in a broader climate change response plan. But the sunlight reflecting technologies, on the other hand, are too risky at this point. They underscored how important it is for humans to limit the levels of CO2 they put into the atmosphere in the first place, and they called for more research into all climate intervention approaches.

"I, for one, am concerned with the continuing rise in CO2 concentrations without clear efforts to reduce emissions," Penner said. "The widespread impacts from these increases are readily apparent, and the cost of climate change impacts is likely to be high.

...While the committee said that some of the CO2 removal strategies including "carbon capture and sequestration" have potential to be part of a viable plan to curb climate change, it noted that only prototype sequestration systems exist today. Much development would have to occur before it could be ready for broad use....

A detail of a wall of the Temple of the Moon in Yeha, Ethiopia, shot by A. Davey A. Davey, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Atribution 2.0 Generic license

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