Geoengineering techniques have received quite a bit of attention over the past decade. One of the main reasons for this, is that they could potentially present a fast and very effective mean to prevent devastating climate change.
But, as it now turns out, this statement is nothing more than a claim, or an assumption, without a proof. Scientists from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany, developed a 3D computer model, which shows that five of the most popular geoengineering techniques could actually make climate change worse, rather than the other way round.
The findings of the research appeared yesterday in the Journal Nature Communications and most definitely poked quite a number of people, who thought that there is a fast and easy solution to handling excessive carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. By running a relatively simple, or OK, not extremely complex earth system model, the authors were able to demonstrate that common geoengineering techniques are quite ineffective in a long run. In addition, the team demonstrated that actually there is a huge possibility that the effect is reversed and our “tweaking” of the environment might have severe consequences.
The five techniques that they tested are extremely common. These include afforestation, artificial ocean upwelling, ocean iron fertilization, ocean alkalinization and solar radiation management. We have told you about each one of them and some point or another, but here are some details related to the model outcome.
Afforestation, or the process through which deserts are turned into irrigated areas, would cause the newly planted trees to absorb incoming light and therefore prevent deserts from reflecting it back to space. Ocean upwelling, another one of the examined techniques, is the process where pipes pump cold water at great depth and deposit it on the surface. Initially, it was expected that this technique would encourage photosynthetic organisms to grow on the surface. However, in order to be effective, it has to be run continuously. If it is stopped, the oceans will return their balance, and climate change will be even more drastic.
Moving on to ocean alkalinization, where lime is deposited in the ocean to increase the carbon absorption abilities and ocean iron fertilization, which should stimulate the growth of photosynthetic organisms. Both techniques were found to be extremely ineffective in reducing temperatures. The last one, solar radiation management, where sulfate-based aerosols are pumped into the atmosphere so that incoming light is dimmed, supposingly causing cooling of the Earth. Here the researchers established that this will not prevent the accumulation of carbon dioxide, therefore if ever the particles disappear or the measure is stopped, the consequences would be devastating.
The conclusions are very clear. Even if all these techniques are applied continuously, the reduction in warming would be not more than 8%, while if stopped, climate change would accelerate. Bottom line is, there is no easy way out. We should keep trying to cut down emissions and forget about the magic trick that will bring everything back to the way it was.
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