Geoengineering is Either Too Much or Not Enough

A new study by climate scientists at the University of Bristol shows that there simply may not be the right amount of geoengineering to satisfy and help everyone, and that any geoengineering that takes place will affect different areas differently.

Geoengineering has long been heralded by some as the saviour for our warming planet, but previous studies have never fully satisfied the needs of everyone. Using average global temperatures as a baseline, normal levels may return to one are but inadvertently leave another warmer and another cooler.

Geoengineering 101

Geoengineering is the concept of deliberately manipulating Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming. This can mean anything from seeding the atmosphere or oceans with chemicals to bring about a desired reaction such as more carbon eating life forms or creating more rain-bearing clouds.

There are other, more experimental ideas, such as seeding the atmosphere with reflective particles to minimize the sunlight that reaches the surface, and even further, such as placing reflecting panels in low orbit to achieve the same outcome.

No large scale projects have so far taken place due to technological failings or public outcry, though research is constantly ongoing.

Can’t Please Everyone

The analysis by the researchers from the University of Bristol suggest that increasing the geoengineering strength implemented around the world force most regions to become drier and others to become wetter.

For example, according to their research, with increased geoengineering the United States became increasingly dry while Australia became wetter. The US only returned to normal conditions under half strength geoengineering while Australia only returns to normal conditions under full strength geoengineering.

Pete Irvine, lead author on the paper, points out there are likely to be disagreements over any future geoengineering schemes: “If there is a large amount of global warming in the future there would be no strength of geoengineering that would be best for everyone: some may be better off without any geoengineering while others may do better with a large amount.”

However, the work does offer some way forward. Co-author Dan Lunt added: “Our simulations indicate that it might be possible to identify a strength of geoengineering capable of meeting multiple targets, such as maintaining a stable mass balance of the Greenland ice sheet and cooling global climate, but without reducing global precipitation below normal amounts or exposing significant fractions of the Earth to unusual climate conditions.”

As a personal aside, I wouldn’t mind Australia becoming wetter for a few years.

Source: University of Bristol

Image Source: NASA

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