Geoengineering – that is, deliberate actions to modify the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of human-induced climate change – seems to be slowly making its way into the scientific mainstream, if not yet public debate. The Royal Society, an organization whose history is deeply entwined with the founding of modern science, has weighed in, with a report on the current state of knowledge in the area:
Professor John Shepherd, who chaired the Royal Society’s geoengineering study(2), said, “It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing CO2 emissions we are headed for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geoengineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases. Our research found that some geoengineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems – yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them. Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we may have to pay for failure to act on climate change.”
The report, aimed at an interested general audience, represents an accessible, authoritative, current, and reasonably comprehensive look at the issue. They conclude that at least some geoengineering techniques are feasible and likely to be effective. The bad news – some are likely to have a variety of undesirable side effects, including damage to the ozone layer. Nor will methods that somehow interfere with solar radiation levels do anything about Ocean acidification.
But, like the professor said, we’re not leaving ourselves much choice.