Climate Change

Can geoengineering help fight climate change? Scientists think so

University of Cambridge has initiated first-of-its-kind Centre for Climate Repair to develop new ways to restrict solar radiation and refreeze the rapidly warming polar regions

By DTE Staff
Published: Thursday 30 May 2019

Geoengineering technologies, which include managing solar radiation, removing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, are gaining traction as the potential last resort to keep warming below a manageable level of 2 degrees Celsius, say scientists, in an article published on Yale Environment 360.

The Oxford Geoengineering Programme defines geoengineering as “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change”.  

This human intervention of the climate system been suggested since the 1960s, but climate scientists until recently debated over its ethical and safety concerns and some even called it “outlandish and unsettling… redolent of science fiction”.

But the mood is shifting due to the scientific community finding it difficult to avoid breaching the target of staying “well below” 2 degrees Celsius — as recommended in the Paris Agreement.

According to the Emissions Gap Report 2018, global greenhouse emissions show no sign of peaking. It reached a record high 53.5 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide in 2017. To limit rising level of warming, drastic action needs to be taken, it said.

We do not have time on our side and the action taken to tackle the climate in the next 10 years would determine the future of humanity, one geoengineering advocate, and former UK chief scientific adviser David King was quoted as saying in the article. 

As part of the efforts, he has initiated first-of-its-kind Centre for Climate Repair at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. The centre plans to develop new ways to restrict solar radiation from reaching the lower atmosphere, including spraying aerosols of sulphate particles into the stratosphere.

It would also explore options to refreeze the rapidly warming polar regions by deploying tall ships to pump salt particles from the ocean into polar clouds to make them brighter, the article said.

Peter Cox from the University of Exeter in England noted that deployment of such a radical scheme by researchers at one of the world’s top universities shows how urgent the climate change problem has become.

Scientists from the United States National Academy of Sciences in October 2018 have also launched a study into sunlight reflection technologies, including their feasibility, impacts and risks, and governance requirements. However, some contend it could encourage delay in emission reductions.

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