Study finds mixed views on use of aerosols to limit climate change

May 15, 2013 by Harriet Jarlett
Study finds mixed views on use of aerosols to limit climate change
Clouds.

Few members of the UK public are comfortable with the idea of injecting aerosols high into the atmosphere to help slow down climate change, a study has found.

People voiced concerns that this type of approach fails to address the basic problem of increasing . They are also nervous about any unintended consequences of such an action.

But most significantly, they say that injecting into the Earth's atmosphere raises problems of international governance and control: who would ultimately be responsible?

The findings are the result of the first UK study to explore the ethics and acceptability of so-called management (SRM) technology, and a proposed for a possible deployment mechanism.

SRM involves injecting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere in a bid to redirect a small percentage of the Sun's light and heat back into space to counteract . This is meant to re-create the global-dimming effects of a .

The technique is highly controversial, because we have no idea how interfering with the climate in this way might affect delicately-balanced ecosystems, or indeed, global weather patterns.

So much so, that the UK's Royal Society and the US among others recommend seeking the public's opinion on the of this type of research. The idea is to find out if there are aspects of this approach which scientists and other experts consider trivial, but which may prove unacceptable for non-experts.

In 2010, the Natural Environment Research Council ran workshops with around 30 people in three cities across the UK, called Experiment Earth, to discuss the moral, ethical and societal implications of SRM.

This latest study, published in Nature Climate Change built upon the findings of Experiment Earth, but focussed specifically on public reaction to a proposal for a small-scale test of a specific geoengineering technique to cool the Earth. The technique, called Stratospheric Particle injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE), was meant to explore the non-trivial challenge of how you might actually deliver aerosols 20 kilometres into the atmosphere.

'There's great value in doing research with the public,' says Dr Karen Parkhill, from the Understanding Risk Research Group at Cardiff University, co-author of the study. 'It's very important to get people's viewpoints, they have a right to be involved and researchers value the different knowledge they have.'

Rather than shoot aerosols into the sky, the scientists behind SPICE suggested running a field trial of a scaled-down one-kilometre pipe and balloon system to spray two bath-loads of fresh water into the atmosphere. This method involves attaching a pipe to a helium-filled balloon which carries it into the atmosphere to spray out a fine mist of particles. The Nature Climate Change study gathered public responses to this proposal.

Not many were happy with the idea of using aerosols to cool the planet. But everyone involved in the discussion groups was willing to entertain the idea that the small-scale test should be pursued. But only if certain conditions are met. These include making sure the technique is safe for anyone living nearby, and for the environment; and that those involved in SPICE were open and transparent about any experiments.

The SPICE team made sure that the tests would be safe for the local population and for the environment. The research councils supporting the project checked this at a so-called stagegate. The research councils and SPICE team also agreed that all results from SPICE would be published immediately according to normal academic practice.

'Generally, in terms of geoengineering and solar radiation management, our participants were not comfortable. But when it came to the test, people's discourse changed. People are prepared to let scientists do some innovative things that might lead to knowledge which could help with climate change,' says Professor Nick Pidgeon, Director of the Understanding Risk Research Group, who led the research.

The study comes in the wake of a paper by researchers at the UK's Met Office. This states that geoengineering could harm the world's poorest citizens the most. Techniques like SRM, which cool the planet unevenly, could have unforeseen and unwanted consequences that would outweigh any climate benefits, like causing droughts in Africa.

The Met Office study suggests that any geoengineering project should be regulated by global governance. This is something Pidgeon and his colleagues demonstrate that the UK public also want established before major innovation in this field goes ahead.

'One of the things I hope comes from doing this research is the idea of transparency in governance,' explains Parkhill. 'At every stage there should be a mechanism for communicating not just to the public but to other scientists, research councils and governments.'

The SPICE project is still active, but the test has now been postponed. Despite this, both Pidgeon and Parkhill think the research councils involved should be encouraged by this latest study as a method for promoting responsible innovation in research. 'Science is always part of society and this was a successful example of using public views in a way that wasn't disruptive of the research,' concludes Pidgeon.

Explore further: NOAA establishes 'tipping points' for sea level rise related flooding

More information: Pidgeon, N. et al. Deliberating stratospheric aerosols for climate geoengineering and the SPICE project, Nature Climate Change 3, 451-457 (2013), published online 14 April 2013, doi:10.1038/nclimate1807

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User comments : 11

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mememine69
1.9 / 5 (17) May 15, 2013
Science won't say their "CO2" climate crisis is real as they say like to say comet hits are so at the very least their crisis is unquestionably exaggerated and 28 years of "maybe" from science PROVES it "won't be" a real crisis. Science didn't lie! You goose stepping believers, news editors and politicians lied and claimed it WILL happen, science never has said it WILL happen, only might.
The only crisis you remaining doomers have to worry about is how your grandkids will explain your Reefer Madness-fear mongering to their kids. REAL planet lovers welcome the good news of crisis being exaggerated, as for the rest of you; maybe you just hated Humanity.
Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.
runrig
3.5 / 5 (11) May 15, 2013
The only crisis you remaining doomers have to worry about is how your grandkids will explain your Reefer Madness-fear mongering to their kids.


I'd far rather have to explain that to my Grandkids - than that we sat there wringing our hands and did nothing to try and mitigate it - in large part because of people like yourself.
Birger
3.5 / 5 (8) May 15, 2013
A regional SRM to reduce the rapid thawing of thearctic and its permafrost makes sense, since huge amounts of methane will otherwise enter the atmosphere.
The unintended consequences of such regional aerosol production can hardly be worse than the boosted greenhouse effect from the methane!

BTW I see that mememine is ignoring the news about CO2 reaching 400ppm in the atmosphere.
antialias_physorg
4.6 / 5 (8) May 15, 2013
Geoengineering - just no. There is no plan B. There is no way to get this stuff out of the atmosphere if something goes wrong. And as the article points out: it's just fiddling with the symptoms without addressing the causes. in essence once it's tsarted we'll just have to keep on dumping more of that stuff into the atmosphere. Anyone who doesn't see a problem with this must be blind.

And have you EVER heard of ANY technology working smoothly and without unintended side effects on the first try? Me neither.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (5) May 15, 2013
Science won't say their "CO2" climate crisis is real as they say like to say comet hits are so at the very least their crisis is unquestionably exaggerated and 28 years of "maybe" from science PROVES it "won't be" a real crisis. Science didn't lie! You goose stepping believers, news editors and politicians lied and claimed it WILL happen, science never has said it WILL happen, only might.


Woo woo......
deepsand
3.4 / 5 (15) May 16, 2013
Science won't say their "CO2" climate crisis is real as they say like to say comet hits are so at the very least their crisis is unquestionably exaggerated and 28 years of "maybe" from science PROVES it "won't be" a real crisis. Science didn't lie! You goose stepping believers, news editors and politicians lied and claimed it WILL happen, science never has said it WILL happen, only might.
The only crisis you remaining doomers have to worry about is how your grandkids will explain your Reefer Madness-fear mongering to their kids. REAL planet lovers welcome the good news of crisis being exaggerated, as for the rest of you; maybe you just hated Humanity.
Occupywallstreet now does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by politicians.

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.
antigoracle
1.6 / 5 (14) May 16, 2013

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.

Says the AGW idiot who has the comprehension of a turd.
deepsand
3.3 / 5 (17) May 16, 2013

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.

Says the AGW idiot who has the comprehension of a turd.

More TROLL CRAP.
Neinsense99
3.2 / 5 (9) May 26, 2013

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.

Says the AGW idiot who has the comprehension of a turd.

I've seen more erudite discourse from inebriated bonobos.
antigoracle
1.7 / 5 (12) May 26, 2013

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.

Says the AGW idiot who has the comprehension of a turd.

I've seen more erudite discourse from inebriated bonobos.

Hmmm.. bonobos, that's certainly a step up from your usual cult of idiotic AGW Alarmist turds. Maybe they will have better luck showing you what a lie AGW is, but then again being smarter than you offers no guarantee.
deepsand
3.2 / 5 (16) May 26, 2013

You really do have an exceedingly limited vocabulary, not unlike that of a 'bot.

Says the AGW idiot who has the comprehension of a turd.

I've seen more erudite discourse from inebriated bonobos.

Hmmm.. bonobos, that's certainly a step up from your usual cult of idiotic AGW Alarmist turds. Maybe they will have better luck showing you what a lie AGW is, but then again being smarter than you offers no guarantee.

Well, that was certainly erudite. :rolleyes:

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