by Susanne Posel
Scientists and members of academia are asking whether or not geoengineering could offset or reverse the changing weather patterns by intentionally spraying reflective alumina particles into the planet’s atmosphere.
The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released a report warning of the “considerable risks” geoengineering would cause and the practice “should not be deployed at this time.”
The NAS explained: “Strategies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere are limited by cost and technological immaturity, but they could contribute to a broader portfolio of climate change responses with further research and development.”
The theory encapsulates mimicking “the effects of a volcanic eruption” to create a “thin haze [that] would reflect sunlight, cooling Earth’s surface. Our planet would literally be shinier when seen from space.”
Referred to as albedo-modification techniques (AMT), and also known as solar radiation management (SRM), have been observed to “to increase the ability of Earth or clouds to reflect incoming sunlight; pose considerable risks and should not be deployed at this time.”
Researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) added: “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. 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.”
According to the report: “If society ultimately decides to intervene in Earth’s climate, any actions should be informed by a far more substantive body of scientific research, including ethical and social dimensions, than is presently available. Decisions regarding deployment of carbon dioxide removal technologies will be largely based on cost and scalability, and research is needed to make current options more effective, more environmentally friendly, and less costly. Conversely, any future decision about albedo modification will be judged primarily on questions of risk, and there are many opportunities to conduct research that furthers basic understanding of the climate system and its human dimensions — without imposing the risks of large-scale deployment — that would better inform societal considerations.”
Instead of geoengineering schemes, the researchers offer other suggestions on how to use technology to mitigate climate change effects:
- Land-management approaches such as forest restoration and low-till agriculture are mature, readily deployable technologies with well-known environmental consequences.
- Enhanced weathering processes on land and in the ocean to accelerate natural removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have only been carried out on a limited scale with intermediate technological readiness. Ocean-based approaches in particular carry significant environmental and socio-political risks.
- Ocean iron fertilization is an immature technology whose high costs and technical and environmental risks currently outweigh the benefits.
- Approaches in which biomass is converted to heat, electricity, or liquid or gas fuels followed by CO2 capture and sequestration are limited by the availability of land for biomass cultivation and the need to transport it to processing facilities.
- Direct air capture of carbon is an immature technology with only laboratory experiments carried out to date and demonstration projects in progress. Technologies for storing the captured carbon are at an intermediate stage, but only prototypes exist and are not at the scale required for significant sequestration.
Through observational data, it was surmised that AMT “would only temporarily mask the warming effect of greenhouse gases and would not address atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or related impacts such as ocean acidification. In the absence of CO2 reductions, albedo-modification activities would need to be sustained indefinitely and at increasingly large scales to offset warming, with severe negative consequences if they were to be terminated. In addition, albedo modification introduces secondary effects on the ozone layer, precipitation patterns, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and human health, with unknown social, political, and economic outcomes.”
Indeed, AMT is “irrational and irresponsible” and further research is necessary to decipher “a basic understanding of the climate system” and the limits of current technologies that would be deployed under SRM operations.
In 2010, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity asserted that experiments on the earth’s weather patterns must be halted until more research can be conducted to confirm their positive effects.
Furthermore, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said there is no accord on how the phenomenon of climate hacking and changing global temperature would affect extreme weather that is currently being created.
These respected scientists said: “The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been reported to be losing mass at accelerating rates. However, at present there is no scientific consensus on whether these reported accelerations result from variability inherent to the ice-sheet-climate system, or reflect long-term changes.”
Geoengineering, or climate hacking , is praised by some as a way to buy “the world time to prevent warming above 2C, and that we should look at it seriously in case everything goes pear-shaped with our climate.”
Several scientists are being funded by Bill Gates to implement various cooling methods into the atmosphere. Gates has become the biggest private sector funder of geoengineering projects.
David Keith of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, and Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution are collaborating with experts in the field of energy, economists and policymakers to present detailed information regarding the technical and intellectual properties of using chemicals to cool the temperature of the planet.