Climate Engineering: The Solution to Climate Change? | Editor's Choice | Ammon News

Climate Engineering: The Solution to Climate Change?

[5/19/2018 9:58:24 AM]

AMMONNEWS - With the perpetual rise of carbon concentration in the atmosphere and the inertia of the world’s governments to convert to clean energy, scientists have been proposing unconventional solutions to suppress climate change. One of which is climate engineering.

As ambitious as it may seem, climate engineering (or geoengineering) attempts to manipulate the entire earth’s climate in a way to decelerate or stop the advent of climate change. In theory, by regulating the amount of sunlight we get (known as “Solar Radiation Management”), and the amount of heat-trapping gas particles in the air (referred to as “Carbon Capture and Storage”), we can possibly control our climate. It’s all about controlling energy!

It may sound far-fetched and complex, or even high tech. True, but in principle it is simple: we mimic what happens in nature.

In 1991, when a volcano erupted in Pinatubo, Philippines, a colossal amount of sulfur dioxide was released to the atmosphere amounting to 20 million tons. Dispersed gas particles reflected sunlight back into the outer space, an event which had an effect overspreading the whole earth. It made global temperature averages fall 0.5 c over the span of three years.

Similarly, if we mimic that by artificially spraying sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere, we could possibly achieve similar or even better results of cooling. In a Rutgers University study, researchers found that if we manage to spray 5 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year evenly (a quarter of the amount of Pinatubo), we would cool our planet by 1 c, thus restoring temperature averages to pre-industrial levels cancelling climate change.

We could mimic trees too and construct an artificial lung for our planet. In the future, we may be able to build huge carbon capturing facilities to reduce its concentration in the atmosphere, hence, reducing the energy trapped by it.

In the world we live in today, fear arises from the insufficiency and tardiness of climate action worldwide. While the Paris agreement has set a goal to stop climate change at well below 2 c, many governments are doing little to meet it. In fact, some countries are still actively increasing their carbon footprint and undermining climate talks. Moreover, future projections suggest that even in the most optimistic scenario, where all parties adhere to the agreement, zeroing our emissions will not be enough to achieve the “well below 2 c” goal. We will need more, something to cool the planet, we will need climate engineering.

So far, climate engineering practices do not go beyond small-scale laboratory tests, therefore it is still unknown on how we could apply it on a global scale. On top of that, it is costly to say the least, with some arguing that it is not sustainable. But science never disappoints; this year Bill Gates succeeded not just in stripping CO2 from the air, but also converting it into clean fuel that can be sold. This gives us hope of solving the cost dilemma and overcoming other limitations in implementation and sustainability.
All in all, in the foreseeable future, it does not seem we will be able to depend on climate engineering as a standalone solution for climate change as its science is still in its infancy. Nonetheless, it could become feasible as a supplementary solution to guarantee achieving Paris expectations and saving our planet.

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