Scientists seek international authority on climate geoengineering

The inauguration on October 30, 2013 of sun mirrors (Solspeilet) set up on the hillside above Rjukan, Norway, to reflect sunligh
The inauguration on October 30, 2013 of sun mirrors (Solspeilet) set up on the hillside above Rjukan, Norway, to reflect sunlight down on the town square

US scientists and legal experts are calling for a strong, international authority to regulate any man-made interventions meant to combat global warming, amid fears that the technology could be harmful to the environment.

The field known as is not currently regulated by any institution or treaty, Edward Parson, professor of at the University of California, Los Angeles, explained Saturday.

"If some nations decide this year to embark on a crude untested experimental attempt to do it, we cannot prevent it," Parsons said in San Jose, California at the American Society for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual meeting.

The lawyer called for creation of an international institution with authority to make decisions related to geoengineering, adding that "some favor a UN body, some favor smaller discussions among great powers or some favor a transnational NGO."

Geoengineering, which covers an array of climate manipulation, includes everything from reflecting sunlight from the Earth's surface to sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

The topic made headlines last week when the US National Academy of Sciences released two reports by a committee of experts calling for more research into geoengineering and warning that the , at present, could pose significant risks.

The scientists also emphasized that the technology could be no substitute for reducing , the most sound approach to fighting .

But geoengineering should be explored in depth, in case of need in the future, the committee said.

Marcia McNutt, who led the 16-person committee, told the conference that "the governance mechanism should be open, be transparent and should involve the civil society on deciding where is the dividing line for these experiences."

"If the US starts to talk about this, we can have other nations joining in," said McNutt, editor in chief of the journal Science and the former president of the American Geophysical Union.

Such institutions are necessary before large-scale geoengineering experiments can be conducted, she said, adding that small-scale research could be carried out in the meantime.

Committee member Lynn Russell of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, said that reflecting sunlight from the earth, a process known as albedo, still requires greater understanding before being implemented.

The committee concluded that research was "not sufficient to decide if albedo modification could be useful at the current or the future time," she said, adding that it recommended against the practice presently, while calling for much-needed research.

Riley Duren, an engineer with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that volcanic eruptions were the closest thing in nature to geoengineering techniques aimed at reducing solar radiation and warming.

But, he said, "we are not currently prepared to monitor the next large volcanic eruption in terms of its impacts on the upper atmosphere."

"Current observation systems are not designed to detect, attribute or monitor geoengineering activities," he said.


Explore further

Advent of geoengineering may help lower temperature of debate over climate change

Journal information: Science

© 2015 AFP

Citation: Scientists seek international authority on climate geoengineering (2015, February 15) retrieved 21 August 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-02-scientists-international-authority-climate-geoengineering.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
806 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 15, 2015
"If some nations decide this year to embark on a crude untested experimental attempt to do it, we cannot prevent it," Parsons said in San Jose, California at the American Society for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual meeting.


Some folks just prefer to keep their heads buried in the ground, a crude untested experiment has been going on for well over a decade. One needs only to look up to see the obvious.


Feb 15, 2015
Geoengineering attempts should be wary of 'blowback' in case of miscalculation or insufficient understanding of climate interactions. That some folks are seriously considering attempting this at our current level of understanding should scare the rest of us. Climate does not respect borders and one can easily see a war resulting from a botched attempt at climate modification.

Feb 15, 2015
We are already doing one uncontrolled experiment with our climate by releasing so much co2; and we may already be past a tripping point that could lead to disaster. If we aren't regulating c02 then we shouldn't be regulating fixes. It's a pretty absurd idea that someone can get rich facking the earth while they want to arrest scientists for just running an experiment seeding the ocean with iron.

Feb 15, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Feb 15, 2015
Climate does not respect borders and one can easily see a war resulting from a botched attempt at climate modification.

I think this is precisely why scientists want some control over this. The longer we wait to actually act on climate change, the more likely it is that some country will try to take matters into their own hands. So China gets more precipitation while Russia or India suffer through droughts caused by China's geoengineering. The only way geoengineering could possibly succeed (and there's plenty of reasons to believe it won't succeed) is to have a global government oversee it and have enough firepower to enforce it. Those who argue to delay action seem, therefore, to be arguing for that one global government that they all claim to abhor.

Feb 15, 2015
The end result of all this is that the average citizen will need U.N. permission and expensive permits to change the color of the shingles on his or her roof, while the US, Russia, and China will just go ahead and do whatever they damn well please as usual.

Feb 15, 2015
NO,NO,NO,NO,NO, There is too much data manipulation and cheating as it is.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more