Geoengineering Not the Solution to Climate Change
Geoengineering, or the attempts to cause a large-scale manipulation of the Earth's climate, is not the solution to climate change, according to new research. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to the global climate problem, and curbing our carbon dioxide emissions is really our best bet to combat its effects.
Researchers with the US National Academy of Sciences say in their new two-volume report that while in theory geoengineering may seem like a good idea, it's actually both "irrational and irresponsible."
"Climate intervention is no substitute for reductions in carbon dioxide emissions and adaptation efforts aimed at reducing the negative consequences of climate change," the researchers wrote. "However, as our planet enters a period of changing climate never before experienced in recorded human history, interest is growing in the potential for deliberate intervention in the climate system to counter climate change."
Two popular examples of geoengineering that are gaining attention are carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and albedo modification, which involves making Earth more reflective to the Sun's rays so warming is diminished. For example, scientists might send mirrors into space or put sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere.
CDR seems pretty self-explanatory, tackling the root of the problem - that is, removing large concentrations of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and locking it away underground or in the oceans. And while CDR has the advantage of being a less risky option, it's also very costly and a long way off from making the kind of impact we need.
On the other hand, albedo-modification techniques could be applied now and at less cost, however, its effects would only be only temporary and have serious unknown consequences. What's more, other impacts of carbon emissions like ocean acidification would continue anyway, and if the technique were ever discontinued, rapidly rising temperatures could cause cataclysmic events.
"That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change," committee chair Marcia McNutt, said in a news release. "But the longer we wait, the more likely it will become that we will need to deploy some forms of carbon dioxide removal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."