Climate change: Can geoengineering satisfy everyone?

Sep 15, 2010
Climate change: Can geoengineering satisfy everyone?

Reflecting sunlight from the Earth by geoengineering would undoubtedly cool the climate, but would different countries agree on how much to reflect? Research by climate scientists at the University of Bristol shows that the impact of geoengineering would be felt in very different ways across the world.

Previous studies of approaches, aimed at averting dangerous climate change, have shown that although the average global temperature could be restored to 'normal' levels, some regions would remain too warm, whereas others would 'overshoot' and cool to much. In addition, average rainfall would be reduced.

This new study looked at the impacts of different strengths of geoengineering, from full strength (sufficient to return global average temperatures back to normal), through to no geoengineering. 

Reporting in Geophysical Research Letters, the researchers looked at how the impacts caused by these different strengths of geoengineering differed from region to region, using a comprehensive climate model developed by the UK Met Office, which replicates all the important aspects of the , including the atmospheric, ocean and land processes, and their interactions.

Their analysis revealed that with increasing geoengineering strength, most regions become drier while others buck the trend and become increasingly wet. For example, the USA became drier with increasing geoengineering, and returned to normal conditions under half-strength geoengineering, whereas Australia became wetter, returning to normal conditions only for full strength geoengineering 

Pete Irvine, lead author on the paper, points out there are likely to be disagreements over any future geoengineering schemes: “If there is a large amount of global warming in the future there would be no strength of geoengineering that would be best for everyone: some may be better off without any geoengineering while others may do better with a large amount.”

The team suggest that global average figures are too simple a measure to assess the impacts of geoengineering, and that decision makers of the future need to consider a variety of impacts, such as on regional precipitation, sea-level response, global crop yield before deciding whether embarking on geoengineering would be the right choice.

However, the work does offer some way forward. Co-author Dan Lunt added: “Our simulations indicate that it might be possible to identify a strength of geoengineering capable of meeting multiple targets, such as maintaining a stable mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet and cooling global climate, but without reducing global precipitation below normal amounts or exposing significant fractions of the Earth to unusual climate conditions.”

Explore further: TRMM Satellite calculates Hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo rainfall

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Geoengineering plan is criticized

Aug 24, 2007

U.S. scientists criticized a geoengineering proposal that would emulate volcanic eruptions as a means of combating global warming.

Time to lift the geoengineering taboo

Sep 01, 2009

Hot on the heels of the Royal Society's Geoengineering the Climate report, September's Physics World contains feature comment from UK experts stressing the need to start taking geoengineering - deliberate interv ...

Whiter clouds could mean wetter land

Jun 28, 2010

One proposed emergency fix to halt global warming is to seed clouds over the ocean to make them more reflective, reducing the solar radiation absorbed by the Earth. But the scheme could also change global rainfall patterns, ...

Global sunscreen won't save corals

Jun 16, 2009

Emergency plans to counteract global warming by artificially shading the Earth from incoming sunlight might lower the planet's temperature a few degrees, but such "geoengineering" solutions would do little to stop the acidification ...

Recommended for you

Tropical Depression 9 forms in Gulf of Mexico

16 hours ago

Tropical Depression Nine formed over the western Bay of Campeche, Gulf of Mexico and is forecast to make a quick landfall on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. NOAA's GOES-East Satellite captured the birth of the ...

$58 million effort to study potential new energy source

21 hours ago

A research team led by The University of Texas at Austin has been awarded approximately $58 million to analyze deposits of frozen methane under the Gulf of Mexico that hold enormous potential to increase ...

And now, the volcano forecast

22 hours ago

Scientists are using volcanic gases to understand how volcanoes work, and as the basis of a hazard-warning forecast system.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rwinners
not rated yet Sep 17, 2010
This article would be a lot more interesting if it actually described 'geoengineering' and gave some numbers to go along with the projections.