For many years now, experts have been proposing the adoption of geoengineering schemes meant to help bring global temperature down to more manageable levels. However, engaging in such efforts could have serious repercussions, which scientists are currently analyzing in depth.
In short, geoengineering refers to manipulating the planet's climate at a global scale. This can be achieved with a variety of approaches, but all of them carry risks and imply secondary effects that are not necessarily desirable.
What scientists are trying to do now is discover which of these approaches is the safest for us, while at the same time remaining efficient and achieving the objective for which it was selected. This effort is proving to be extremely complex and intricate.
The need for geoengineering would disappear entirely if politicians would commit themselves to changing the way society is ran. Everyone knows that resources are limited, that our model of consumption is flawed and wasteful, and yet monetary interests take precedence.
The main issue with geoengineering is that the secondary implications of various methods have been analyzed only in passing. Given the amount of controversy the very though of applying geoengineering causes, this is not such a good thing.
“It's ground zero right now for understanding the climate response to geoengineering,” explains University of Washington research scientist Cecilia Bitz, one of the few experts in the country investigating the prospective impacts of multiple geoengineering schemes.
“There have only been a couple dozen papers in the literature, and you'll be surprised to know that it's a rarity to have an ocean GCM [general circulation model] in the model,” the scientist explains.
The leading geoengineering solution at this time is the release of volcanic aerosols (such as those in volcanic ash) into the upper atmosphere. This is “the equivalent of Mount Pinatubo going off every year,” Bitz explains, referring to the larges eruption recorded in recent times.
She and her team are studying a wide range of aerosol implementation methods, using Texas Advanced Computing Center's Ranger supercomputer, with funds from the US National Science Foundation.
“We only have one planet. Meteorologists and climate scientists do not have laboratories with test tubes or accelerators,” adds Rutgers University leading geoengineering researcher Alan Robock.
“And we cannot 'mess with' the only planet we have to test its responses to making stratospheric clouds or brighter oceanic clouds, so we use models of the climate system – computer simulations of how the climate would respond to these forcings,” he adds, quoted by Daily Galaxy.