The page you are looking for is temporarily unavailable.
Please try again later

Tech & Science Geoengineering: The quick, and potentially catastrophic, fix for climate change

00:50  05 june  2018
00:50  05 june  2018 Source:

'Catastrophic' flash floods hit outside Baltimore; crews conduct water rescues

  'Catastrophic' flash floods hit outside Baltimore; crews conduct water rescues A state of emergency was declared in Maryland as "catastrophic" flash floods and dramatic water rescues unfolded amid heavy rains.A state of emergency was declared in Maryland on Sunday as "catastrophic" flash floods and dramatic water rescues unfolded in and around Ellicott City amid heavy rains.

Geo-engineering can involve putting reflective particles in the sky to reduce solar radiation.© Provided by ABC News Geo-engineering can involve putting reflective particles in the sky to reduce solar radiation.

Proposals for geoengineering projects sound like something out of science fiction.

Pumping aerosols into the upper atmosphere to make clouds more reflective, for example. Or fertilizing oceans with iron to promote the growth of plankton and algae so they consume more carbon dioxide.

Then there are proposals to plant vast swathes of trees in desert areas, or brighten clouds above marine areas to prevent ocean warming.

They sound like drastic interventions because that's what geoengineering is: the active and intentional modification of the climate.

Are Jupiter And Venus Messing With Earth's Climate?

  Are Jupiter And Venus Messing With Earth's Climate? Our planet is in a remarkably circular orbit around the Sun, but as new research points out, Earth's orbit sometimes experiences a slight jolt, thanks to the combined gravitational influence of Jupiter and Venus. Incredibly, this cycle has been going on for at least 215 million years - and one scientist suggests it could possibly have influenced the trajectory of life on this planet, according to the new study published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Earth, as seen from the International Space Station.

As the Paris agreement target of limiting global temperature rise to two degrees or less seems increasingly improbable, there has been renewed interest in solutions that once seemed morally challenging, or difficult to contemplate.

To proponents, like Cambridge University's Hugh Hunt, geoengineering could mitigate the worst aspects of climate change, and provide time to look for more permanent solutions.

"It's a little bit like someone with lung cancer - we're not going to give you a transplant if you're going to carry on smoking," he said.

"Geoengineering will buy us some time, until we get this sorted out."

Dare not speak its name

Dr Hunt is currently investigating the construction of huge updraft towers in the desert, and using the air flows to generate electricity while stripping the airstream of greenhouse gasses.

A parasitic fungus figured out how to take over ants’ bodies in multiple climates

  A parasitic fungus figured out how to take over ants’ bodies in multiple climates The only thing scarier than a mind-controlling fungus is a mind-controlling fungus that has adapted its behavior to its environment. Time to welcome Ophiocordyceps to…Time to welcome Ophiocordyceps to your nightmares. It’s a genus of fungus, colloquially known as cordyceps, that lives in tropical and temperate climates. Rather than getting by in its own body, it prefers to take control of the body of a forest ant, then eat its host alive.

He previously worked on a project named SPICE — Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering — which looked at sending a tethered balloon 20km above to earth to seed aerosols into the stratosphere.

In theory, the particles would change the optical properties of sunlight, reflecting more solar radiation into space and reducing global temperatures.

The idea was to emulate natural volcanic events, like the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which caused global cooling of one degree for about a year.

Intellectual property concerns were among the reasons SPICE and its balloon fell back to earth, figuratively speaking.

"It was closed down because it was deemed to be controversial," he said.

Dr Hunt is concerned about the lack of research into geoengineering solutions, which he says could leave the international community seriously unprepared if any country decided to act unilaterally.

Government's $500m Great Barrier Reef package may have limited impact amid climate change

  Government's $500m Great Barrier Reef package may have limited impact amid climate change The Federal Government's $500 million package for the Great Barrier Reef will help tackle local problems like water quality. But without climate action, questions are being asked about whether the windfall will save the reef.

"If they could be made to work, they could be quite cheap - the development time can be short, and the cost low," he said.

"It's like the Voldemort of climate change - it shall not be mentioned.

"My view is if something is going to be done, best we know how to do it safely. I think we should be allowing experiments, but I'm in a very small minority.

Adaptation on the Great Barrier Reef

They may seem far fetched, but geoengineering projects have already been proposed for areas in Australia's backyard.

One of the markers of global climate change is the health of the world's coral reefs, which are particularly sensitive to changing temperatures.

Following two consecutive years of mass coral bleaching, a team of researchers at the Sydney Institute of Marine Science last year proposed altering the clouds above the reef in a bid to save the delicate coral communities below.

They advocated "marine cloud brightening", making larger and more reflective clouds over the ocean to cool the water underneath.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) chief scientist David Wachenfeld said the authority has already undertaken local action to improve the resilience of the reef to climate change, which he said was "far and away the greatest threat" to its survival.

Spain's new leader appoints cabinet with majority of women

  Spain's new leader appoints cabinet with majority of women Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez named his cabinet on Wednesday, with women taking most of the posts at the top of government for the first time in the country's history.Sanchez, whose Socialist party holds just 84 of 350 parliamentary seats, was propelled into office on Friday after an unlikely alliance of anti-austerity and nationalist parties backed his bid to unseat Mariano Rajoy's conservatives over a corruption scandal.

Although they are much smaller in scope than those proposed by geoengineering advocates like Dr Hunt, Dr Wachenfeld said the GBRMPA had already looked at adaptation and marine park management to reduce human impact on the reef, include altering turtle nesting habitats to ensure greater numbers survive each year.

"These areas can certainly still recover if we do the right thing in terms of global mitigation of climate change and local actions to improve resilience," he said.

"We need to try harder, do more and act now."

'What happens if we screw it all up?'

Summer ice in the Arctic is now so thin that researchers last year sailed in small yachts rather than large ice breaking ships.

Scientists say as much as 50 gigatons of methane trapped under the Arctic could be released into the atmosphere if — or when — the protective permafrost completely melts, rapidly speeding up global climate change.

The upshot of this and other climatic developments, according to Dr Hunt, is the need to urgently look at solutions that would otherwise seem unthinkable.

But he is not closed to the very real risk of catastrophe that geoengineering poses, pointing out that there are "hundreds" of potential adverse impacts. Most importantly, there is no "Planet B" if we get it wrong.

"The obvious ones are pumping something up high into the atmosphere and we know so little about the upper atmosphere - whatever we put up there has got to be safe," he said.

"What happens if we screw it all up? What happens if we accidentally switch off the Indian monsoon?"

Besides this, there is the risk the projects do not work at all, or are not as effective as advertised.

But Dr Hunt said this required more research and thought applied to the topic.

"I don't know which is worse - a seven metre sea level rise or geoengineering.

"That's putting it in a very pointed way, but we've got to think hard about this.

"It could be that there should be absolutely no way we ever do this. But that's why we've got to do the research."

The rate of Antarctic melting has nearly tripled in the past five years .
The latest data paints a troubling picture of melting in Antarctica, showing the rate is now three times greater than prior to 2012.An international team of polar scientists found that melting in Antarctica has jumped sharply from an average of 76 billion tonnes per year prior to 2012, to around 219 billion tonnes each year between 2012 and 2017.

—   Share news in the SOC. Networks

Topical videos:

This is interesting!