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Geoengineering To Mitigate Climate Change

The American Meteorological Society recently issued a statement regarding the feasibility of geoengineering our climate to mitigate climate change.

Geoengineering could lower greenhouse gas concentrations, provide options for reducing specific climate impacts, or offer strategies of last resort if abrupt, catastrophic, or otherwise unacceptable climate-change impacts become unavoidable by other means. However, research to date has not determined whether there are large-scale geoengineering approaches that would produce significant benefits, or whether those benefits would substantially outweigh the detriments. Indeed, geoengineering must be viewed with caution because manipulating the Earth system has considerable potential to trigger adverse and unpredictable consequences.

Geoengineering proposals fall into at least three broad categories: 1) reducing the levels of atmospheric greenhouse gases through large-scale manipulations (e.g., ocean fertilization or afforestation using non-native species); 2) exerting a cooling influence on Earth by reflecting sunlight (e.g., putting reflective particles into the atmosphere, putting mirrors in space, increasing surface reflectivity, or altering the amount or characteristics of clouds); and 3) other large-scale manipulations designed to diminish climate change or its impacts (e.g., constructing vertical pipes in the ocean that would increase downward heat transport).

The American Meteorological Society recommends:

1. Enhanced research on the scientific and technological potential for geoengineering the climate system, including research on intended and unintended environmental responses.
2. Coordinated study of historical, ethical, legal, and social implications of geoengineering that integrates international, interdisciplinary, and intergenerational issues and perspectives and includes lessons from past efforts to modify weather and climate.
3. Development and analysis of policy options to promote transparency and international cooperation in exploring geoengineering options along with restrictions on reckless efforts to manipulate the climate system.

Geoengineering will not substitute for either aggressive mitigation or proactive adaptation, but it could contribute to a comprehensive risk management strategy to slow climate change and alleviate some of its negative impacts.

SF writers Niven and Pournelle had an interesting idea in their 1974 classic The Mote in God's Eye. To mitigate climate problems on a recently settled planet, natural vulanism was harnessed to achieve atmosphere control.

Potter was doing most of the talking and all the pointing. "Those twin volcanoes; d'ye see them, Mr. Renner? D'ye see yon boxlike structures near the peak of each one? They're atmosphere control. When yon volcanoes belch gas, the maintenance posts fire jets of tailored algae into the air stream. Without them our atmosphere would soon be foul again."

The earliest sfnal proposal that I know about for radically altering our climate for the better comes from the 1894 story A Journey in Other Worlds by John Jacob Astor IV.

"GENTLEMEN: You know that the objects of this company are, to straighten the axis of the earth, to combine the extreme heat of summer with the intense cold of winter and produce a uniform temperature for each degree of latitude the year round.
(Read more about Global Climate Control)

Via LiveScience.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 7/23/2009)

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