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Geo-Engineering Wins Scant Enthusiasm at UN Climate Talks

Science & Tech  (tags: climate, climate-change, climatechange, CO2emissions, conservation, destruction, ecosystems, environment, energy, globalwarming, globalwarming, greenhousegases, pollution, politics, nature, oceans, protection, world, weather, water, Sustainabililty, scien )

- 2023 days ago -
* Dimming sunlight, fertilising seas said too uncertain * U.N. favours focus on known technologies

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JL A (281)
Monday December 3, 2012, 4:04 pm
Geo-engineering wins scant enthusiasm at UN climate talks

Sun, 2 Dec 2012 11:00 GMT

Source: reuters // Reuters

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) spacecraft took this image showing the Sun being partially blocked by Earth on September 6, 2012. REUTERS/NASA/SDO/Handout

* Dimming sunlight, fertilising seas said too uncertain

* U.N. favours focus on known technologies

By Environment Correspondent Alister Doyle

DOHA, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Cheap, short-cut ideas to cool the planet such as shading sunlight are failing to win support from U.N. delegates looking to improve on the slow progress made by existing technologies.

Many scientists say the proposed solutions, known as geo-engineering, are little understood and might have side effects more damaging than global warming, which is projected to cause more floods, heatwaves, droughts and rising sea levels.

"Let's first use what we know," said Christiana Figueres, head of the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat, dismissing suggestions that it was time to try geo-engineering to halt a rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

"There are so many proven technologies we know exist that are tried and true that have not been used to their maximum potential," she told Reuters. "To begin with, the simplest is energy efficiency."

Geo-engineering options include adding sun-reflecting chemicals to the upper atmosphere to mimic the effect of big volcanic eruptions that mask the sun, or fertilising the oceans to promote the growth of algae that soak up carbon from the air.

Among other ideas, a giant mirror could be placed in space to block some sunlight or sea spray could be injected into the air to create clouds whose white tops would reflect sunlight.

"Let's face it, geo-engineering has a lot of unknowns," Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.'s panel of climate scientists, told Reuters on the sidelines of U.N.-led climate change talks among 200 nations in Doha from Nov. 26-Dec 7.

"How can you go into an area where you don't know anything?" he said. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is examining geo-engineering in depth for the first time as part of a major report due in 2013 and 2014.

Still, one study by U.S. scientists in August indicated that planes or airships could carry a million tonnes a year of sun-dimming sulphate materials high into the atmosphere for an affordable price tag of below $5 billion.


That would be far cheaper than policies to cut world greenhouse gas emissions, estimated to cost between $200 billion and $2 trillion a year by 2030, they wrote in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

"If you are looking at solutions you could look at solar energy," said Mira Mehrishi, head of India's delegation in Doha. "It's a little premature to start looking at geo-engineering."

"There's a lot of scepticism" about geo-engineering, said Artur Runge-Metzger of the European Commission. "Research is necessary to see if it could be viable in one way or other."

U.N. negotiations on slowing global warming have been running since a U.N. Climate Convention was agreed in 1992.

One problem is that adding sulphates - a form of pollution - to the air would not slow an acidification of the oceans since concentrations of greenhouse gases led by carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would keep building up.

Some carbon dioxide, absorbed into the oceans, reacts to form carbonic acid. That erodes the ability of creatures from clams or mussels to lobsters and crabs to build their protective shells. In turn, that could disrupt marine food chains.

"You might temporarily delay the warming but you are certainly not going to help the oceans at all," said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, a vice-chair of the IPCC, of using sulphates. "Ocean acidification is a real emerging issue."

A mask of pollution might help some crops by reducing heat stress but it might have other side-effects, for instance, by disrupting Monsoon patterns. That could bring disputes between countries that benefited and others that suffered.

And Van Ypersele said that, if geo-engineering went wrong and needed to be shut down after a few years, there would be a big, damaging jump in temperatures.

Kit B (276)
Monday December 3, 2012, 5:41 pm

True enough. We have not even begun to try what we know could and probably will work, though nothing is going to be a quick fix. Some of these Geo-engineering ideas might just become more effective with less harmful side effects after time for the science to work out the bugs. Currently these ideas have more potential harm than long term good. We have barely started on a path to alternative energy sources, reducing over fishing of the oceans or ending the huge trash and pollution problems that core to all of the global predicaments.

John B (185)
Monday December 3, 2012, 9:35 pm
Thanks J.L. for the post. Much more in depth studies must be done before this concept can be taken seriously. Read and noted.

David C (129)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 8:07 am
Geo-Engineering should be a last resort....I am weary that if we Geo-engineer early it will only give more excuse not to make the necessary changes (reduce, reuse, recycle, clean energy, etc) we MUST do and or may do some just as bad permanent changes to our world.......

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 8:11 am
Very valid concerns Dave. You cannot currently send a star to Dave because you have done so within the last week.

Roger G (154)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 12:07 pm
noted, thanks !

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 2:20 pm
You are welcome Roger!

Rosie Lopez (73)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 2:44 pm
thanks for sharing!!

Sandra B (39)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 2:46 pm

Gloria picchetti (304)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 2:52 pm
We have fooled around with enough nature. Let's wait it out while bringing in wind & solar & dumping fossil fuel & factory farming.

Theodore Shayne (56)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 4:14 pm
Noted & posted. Ocean acidification could be regulated by getting rid of all the factory farms that pollute with so much fertilizer and pesticide contamination. The contamination from the fecal matter that seems to seep into the water systems that empty into the oceans and major aquifers is never dealt with either. Cutting down rainforests; usage of fossil fuels; fracking and drilling; chem trails and HAARP. There are so many things we could regulate if not change outright. Do we have the will to do it?

JL A (281)
Tuesday December 4, 2012, 4:42 pm
Thanks for posting Theodore. Excellent examples of unaddressed issues and the fundamental question to answer, too!

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 7:28 am
Any agreement would be better than none for sure John. You cannot currently send a star to John because you have done so within the last week

greenplanet e (155)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 6:24 pm
Would be better to get to the causes of the problems -- eg industrial greenhouse gas emissions -- and address them.

JL A (281)
Wednesday December 5, 2012, 9:41 pm
You cannot currently send a star to greenplanet because you have done so within the last week.
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