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Saturday, February 23, 2013


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Guess What? 
Yes, Google did know about Geoengineering. So did Wikipedia! As usual, I am the last to find out about anything!! (except once in life last week). Below is an excerpt of definition for Geoengineering.(see link for complete Article).
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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The concept of geoengineering has two meanings:
  1. The science of measuring and modelling the earth for applications within civil engineering,
  2. climate engineering, climate remediation, and climate intervention[1]
The main use of geoengineering refers to "the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming".[2][3] The discipline divides broadly into two categories, as described by the Royal Society: "Carbon dioxide removal techniques [which] address the root cause of climate change by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphereSolar radiation management techniques [which] attempt to offset effects of increased greenhouse gas concentrations by causing the Earth to absorb less solar radiation." The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2007 that geoengineering options remained largely unproven.[4]
Geoengineering has been proposed as a potential third option for tackling global warming, alongsidemitigation and adaptation.[5] Scientists do not typically suggest geoengineering as an alternative toemissions control, but rather an accompanying strategy.[6] Reviews of geoengineering techniques have emphasised that they are not substitutes for emission controls and have identified potentially stronger and weaker schemes.[7][8][9] However, such is the lifetime of some greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, most notably carbon dioxide, that geoengineering represents the only known method for reducing Earth's temperature to pre-industrial levels in the short term (years to decades).
To date, no large-scale geoengineering projects have been acknowledged publicly, excepting one conducted outside the scientific mainstream by Russ George. Almost all research has consisted of computer modelling or laboratory tests, and attempts to move to real-world experimentation hasproved controversial. Some limited tree planting[10] and cool roof[11] projects are already underway. Ocean iron fertilization has been given small-scale research trials.[12] Field research into sulfur aerosols has also started.[13]
Various criticisms have been made of geoengineering and some commentators appear fundamentally opposed. Some have suggested that the concept of geoengineering presents a moral hazard because it could reduce the political and popular pressure for emissions reduction.[14]Groups such as ETC Group[15] and individuals such as Raymond Pierrehumbert have called for a moratorium on deployment and out-of-doors testing of geoengineering techniques.[16][17] The full effects of various geoengineering schemes are not well understood.


Geoengineering is commonly taken to mean the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change.[2] Geoengineering is distinct from large-scale environmental damage and accidental anthropogenic climate change, which are side-effects of human activity, rather than an intended consequence. Definitions of the term are not universally accepted.[19] The globalextraction of hydrocarbons from the sub-surface using integrated geoscience and engineering technology has been termed 'petroleum geoengineering' as an activity with global impact.[20] The Oxford English Dictionary defines geoengineering as "the deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth's climate, in an attempt to counteract the effects of global warming."

[edit]Proposed strategies

Several geoengineering strategies have been proposed. IPCC documents detail several notable proposals.[31] These fall into two main categories: solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. However, other proposals exist.

[edit]Solar radiation management

Solar radiation management (SRM)[2][32] projects seek to reduce sunlight absorbed (ultra-violet, near infra-red and visible). This would be achieved by deflecting sunlight away from the Earth, or by increasing the reflectivity (albedo) of the atmosphere or the Earth's surface. These methods do not reduce greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, and thus do not seek to address problems such as the ocean acidification caused by CO2. Solar radiation management projects often have the advantage of speedy deployment and effect. Whilegreenhouse gas remediation offers a more comprehensive possible solution to climate change, it does not give instant results; for that, solar radiation management is required.
SRM methods[2] may be:

Significant reduction in ice volume in the Arctic Ocean in the range between 1979 and 2007 years


[edit]Tipping points and positive feedback

Climate change during the last 65 million years. The Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum is labelled PETM.
It is argued that climate change may cross tipping points[35] where elements of the climate system may 'tip' from one stable state to another stable state, much like a glass tipping over. When the new state is reached, further warming may be caused by positive feedbackeffects,.[36] An example of a proposed causal chain leading to runaway global warming is the collapse of Arctic sea ice triggering subsequent release of methane.[37]
The precise identity of such "tipping points" is not clear, with scientists taking differing views on whether specific systems are capable of "tipping" and the point at which this "tipping" will occur.[38] An example of a previous tipping point is that which preceded the rapid warming leading up to the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Once a tipping point is crossed, cuts in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will not be able to reverse the change. Conservation of resources and reduction of greenhouse emissions, used in conjunction with geoengineering, are therefore considered a viable option by some commentators.[39][40][41] Geoengineering offers the hope of temporarily reversing some aspects of climate change and allowing the natural climate to be substantially preserved whilst greenhouse gas emissions are brought under control and removed from the atmosphere by natural or artificial processes.


Some geoengineering techniques, such as cool roof techniques, can be achieved at little or no cost, and may even offer a financial payback.[42] IPCC (2007) concluded that reliable cost estimates for geoengineering options had not been published.[4] More recently, early research into costs of solar radiation management have been published.[43] This suggests that "well designed systems" might be available for costs in the order of a few hundred million dollars per year.[44] These are much lower than costs to achieve comprehensive reductions in CO2 emissions[citation needed]. Such costs would be within the budget of most nations, and even a handful of rich individuals.[45]
In their 2009 report Geoengineering the climate the Royal Society adjudged afforestation and stratospheric aerosols as the methods with the "highest affordability" (meaning lowest costs). Furthermore stratospheric aerosol injection, having the highest effectiveness and affordability, would be the nearest approximation to the "ideal method", with the (significant) disadvantage of high uncertainties considering safety and unwanted side effects. While afforestation scored highly for safety, it was found to be of limited effectiveness for treating climate change (see Table 5.1, Figure 5.1., pages 48–49)[2]

[edit]Ethics and responsibility

Climate engineering would represent a large-scale, intentional effort to modify the environment, which differ from inadvertent climate change through activities such as burning fossil fuels. Intentional climate change is viewed very differently from a moral standpoint.[46] This raises questions of whether we as humans have the right to change the climate, and under what conditions this right obtains. Furthermore, ethical arguments often confront larger considerations of worldview, including individual and social religious commitments. For many, religious beliefs are pivotal in defining the role of human beings in the wider world. Some religious communities might claim that humans have no responsibility in managing the climate, instead seeing such world systems as the exclusive domain of a Creator. In contrast, other religious communities might see the human role as one of "stewardship" or benevolent management of the world.[47] The question of ethics also relates to issues of policy decision-making. For example, the selection of a globally agreed target temperature is a significant problem in any geoengineeringgovernance regime, as different countries or interest groups may seek different global temperatures.[48]
What most ethicists, policy-makers, and scientists agree on is this: Solar radiation management is an incomplete solution to global warming.[49] The possible option of geoengineering may reduce incentives to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. It is argued that geoengineering could be used to 'buy time' before drastic climate change happens, allowing mitigation and adaptation measures more time to be implemented and work.[50] But the opposition points out that the resources spent on geoengineering could be used for mitigation and efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Geoengineering also does not resolve other issues related to increasing levels of carbon dioxide.

Political viability

It has been argued that regardless of the economic, scientific and technical aspects, the difficulty of achieving concerted political action on climate change requires other approaches.[51] Those arguing political expediency say the difficulty of achieving meaningful emissions cuts[52]and the effective failure of the Kyoto Protocol demonstrate the practical difficulties of achieving carbon dioxide emissions reduction by the agreement of the international community.[53] However, others point to support for geoengineering proposals among think tanks with a history of climate change skepticism and opposition to emissions reductions as evidence that the prospect of geoengineering is itself already politicized and being promoted as part of an argument against the need for (and viability of) emissions reductions; that, rather than geoengineering being a solution to the difficulties of emissions reductions, the prospect of geoengineering is being used as part of an argument to stall emissions reductions in the first place.[54]
Geoenginering poses several challenges in the context of governance because of issues of power and jurisdiction.[44] Geoengineering as a climate change solution differs from other mitigation and adaptation strategies. Unlike a carbon trading system that would be focused on participation from multiple parties along with transparency, monitoring measures and compliance procedures; this is not necessarily required by geoengineering. Bengtsson[55] (2006) argues that "the artificial release of sulphate aerosols is a commitment of at least several hundred years". This highlights the importance for a political framework that is sustainable enough to contain a multilateral commitment over such a long period and yet is flexible as the techniques innovate through time. There are many controversies surrounding this topic and hence, geoengineering has been made into a very political issue. Most discussions and debates are not about which geoengineering technique is better than the other, or which one is more economically and socially feasible. Discussions are broadly on who will have control over the deployment of geoengineering and under what governance regime the deployment can be monitored and supervised. This is especially important due to the regional variability of the effects of many geoengineering techniques, benefiting some countries while damaging others. The challenge posed by geoengineering is not how to get countries to do it. It is to address the fundamental question of who should decide whether and how geoengineering should be attempted – a problem of governance.

Control and predictability problems

The full effects of various geoengineering schemes are not well understood.[18] Matthews et al.[61] compared geoengineering to a number of previous environmental interventions and concluded that "Given our current level of understanding of the climate system, it is likely that the result of at least some geoengineering efforts would follow previous ecological examples where increased human intervention has led to an overall increase in negative environmental consequences."

Side effects

The techniques themselves may cause significant foreseen or unforeseen harm. For example, the use of reflective balloons may result in significant litter,[65] which may be harmful to wildlife.
Ozone depletion is a risk of some geoengineering techniques, notably those involving sulfur delivery into the stratosphere.[66]
The active nature of geoengineering may in some cases create a clear division between winners and losers. Most of the proposed interventions are regional, such as albedo modification in the Arctic.[67]
There may be unintended climatic consequences, such as changes to the hydrological cycle[68] including droughts[69] or floods, caused by the geoengineering techniques, but possibly not predicted by the models used to plan them.[70] Such effects may be cumulative or chaotic in nature, making prediction and control very difficult.[71]

[edit]Unreliable systems

The performance of the interventions may be inconsistent due to mechanical failure, non-availability of consumables or funding problems.

[edit]Effect on sunlight, sky and clouds

Managing solar radiation using aerosols or cloud cover will change the ratio between direct and indirect solar radiation. This may affect plant life[78] and solar energy.[79] There will be a significant effect on the appearance of the sky from aerosol projects, notably a hazing of blue skies and a change in the appearance of sunsets.[80] Aerosols may affect the formation of clouds, especially cirrus clouds.[81]

Implementation issues

There is no general consensus that geoengineering is safe, appropriate or effective, for the reasons listed above. Other environmentalists see calls for geoengineering as part of an explicit strategy to delay emissions reductions on the part of those with connections to coal and oilindustries.[96][improper synthesis?]]
Due to the radical changes caused by geoengineering interventions, legal issues are also an impediment to implementation. The changes resulting from geoengineering necessarily benefit some people and disadvantage others. There may therefore be legal challenges to the implementation of geoengineering techniques by those adversely affected by them.[99]

[edit]Evaluation of geoengineering

Most of what is known about the suggested techniques is based on laboratory experiments, observations of natural phenomena and oncomputer modelling techniques. Some geoengineering schemes employ methods that have analogues in natural phenomena such asstratospheric sulfur aerosols and cloud condensation nuclei. As such, studies about the efficacy of these schemes can draw on information already available from other research, such as that following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. However, comparative evaluation of the relative merits of each technology is complicated, especially given modelling uncertainties and the early stage of engineering development of many geoengineering schemes.[100]
Reports into geoengineering have also been published in the United Kingdom by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers[8] and the Royal Society.[9] The IMechE report examined a small subset of proposed schemes (air capture, urban albedo and algal-based CO2 capture schemes), and its main conclusions were that geoengineering should be researched and trialled at the small scale alongside a widerdecarbonisation of the economy.[8]
The Royal Society review examined a wide range of geoengineering schemes and evaluated them in terms of effectiveness, affordability, timeliness and safety (assigning qualitative estimates in each assessment). Similarly to Lenton and Vaughan,[7] the report divided schemes into "carbon dioxide removal" (CDR) and "solar radiation management" (SRM) approaches that respectively address longwave and shortwave radiation. The key recommendations of the report were that "Parties to the UNFCCC should make increased efforts towards mitigating and adapting to climate change, and in particular to agreeing to global emissions reductions", and that "[nothing] now known about geoengineering options gives any reason to diminish these efforts".[9] Nonetheless, the report also recommended that "research and development of geoengineering options should be undertaken to investigate whether low risk methods can be made available if it becomes necessary to reduce the rate of warming this century".[9]
In a 2009 review study, Lenton and Vaughan evaluated a range of geoengineering schemes from those that sequester CO2 from the atmosphere and decrease longwave radiation trapping, to those that decrease the Earth's receipt of shortwave radiation.[7] In order to permit a comparison of disparate techniques, they used a common evaluation for each scheme based on its effect on net radiative forcing. As such, the review examined the scientific plausibility of schemes rather than the practical considerations such as engineering feasibility or economic cost. Lenton and Vaughan found that "[air] capture and storage shows the greatest potential, combined with afforestation, reforestation and bio-char production", and noted that "other suggestions that have received considerable media attention, in particular "ocean pipes" appear to be ineffective".[7] They concluded that "[climate] geoengineering is best considered as a potential complement to the mitigation of CO2 emissions, rather than as an alternative to it"

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