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Geoengineering Techniques Debated by IPCC


700d88901800f60e500f6a706700ca62The IPCC report, released almost two weeks ago, is still one of the leading news across the net. We could not have expected anything different, of course, since the danger that it predicts will affect every one of us. The U.N. Panel of experts as well as international governments are nearly in a state of panic, exploring all possible options, even turning towards geoengineering techniques, a measure which has been a subject of major criticism until now.

It is now perfectly clear to everyone that despite all international efforts to bring down carbon dioxide emissions, the rate with which this is happening is nowhere near as fast as it should be. Total concentrations of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are still rocketing, pollution and smog in urban areas around the world are now so common that people do not even notice them, and diesel vehicle sales are still going up.

In a way, proposals to reach for fast solutions are not completely unexpected, especially when they come from countries with huge oil and gas industries. One such country is Russia, who is desperately trying to make IPCC include geoengineering techniques in their plans of action that should be implemented by the end of 2015.

It does sound a little desperate, especially since in the initial proposals the only similar suggestion was related to capturing and storing carbon underground. Now, the Russian officials actually suggest that IPCC should include various solar radiation techniques, from placing reflective materials over open surfaces to sending sun-mirrors in space. Other methods are spraying the clouds with seawater to trigger a cooling effect by making them more reflective.

Although such techniques could work in theory, even the biggest supporters of geoengineering question the methods, mainly because there is a huge risk that they won’t work, and will simply introduce delays in the efforts of many countries to switch to renewable energy sources. Most of the techniques are still in their experimental stages and the consequences of their implementation are not yet fully assessed.

The only such measure that is currently holding potential for success is the “bio-energy with carbon capture and storage“, which essentially involves growing of carbon dioxide absorbing crops, which after that are burnt to produce energy in power stations. The produced carbon dioxide from the burning is captured and stored underground. A major limitation that is seen here, however, is the huge investment needed in order to adopt the technique on a large scale. In addition, energy plants that could handle the burning of such large quantities of crops are not yet built, and they do not exist in the current plans.

Well, this is plan B, after the not-so-successful plan A to cut down emissions from fossil fuels, and it is only a matter of time before plan C makes it to the news. Which one will be implemented though, remains to be seen.

Image (c) AP

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