Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Research on global 'sun block' needed now, experts argue

Date:
January 28, 2010
Source:
University of Calgary
Summary:
Internationally coordinated research and field-testing on "geoengineering" the planet's atmosphere to limit risk of climate change should begin soon along with building international governance, scientists argue.

Internationally coordinated research and field-testing on 'geoengineering' the planet's atmosphere to limit risk of climate change should begin soon along with building international governance of the technology, say scientists from the University of Calgary and the United States.

Collaborative and government-supported studies on solar-radiation management, a form of geo-engineering, would reduce the risk of nations' unilateral experiments and help identify technologies with the least risk, says U of C scientist David Keith, in an article published in the Jan. 27 online edition of Nature. Co-authors of the opinion piece are Edward Parson at the University of Michigan and Granger Morgan at Carnegie Mellon University.

"Solar-radiation management may be the only human response that can fend off rapid and high-consequence climate change impacts. The risks of not doing research outweigh the risks of doing it," says Keith, director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy's energy and environmental systems group and a professor in the Schulich School of Engineering.

Solar-radiation management (SRM) would involve releasing megatonnes of light-scattering aerosol particles in the upper atmosphere to reduce Earth's absorption of solar energy, thereby cooling the planet. Another technique would be to release particles of sea salt to make low-altitude clouds reflect more solar energy back into space.

SRM should not take the place of making deep cuts in industrial greenhouse gas emissions and taking action to adapt to climate change, Keith and his American colleagues stress. However, they say: "We must develop the capability to do SRM in a manner that complements such cuts, while managing the associated environmental and political risks."

The scientists propose that governments establish an international research budget for SRM that grows from about $10 million to $1 billion a year between now and the end of 2020. They urge that research results be available to all and risk assessments be as transparent and international as possible to build sound norms of governance for SRM.

Long-established estimates show that SRM could offset this century's predicted global average temperature rise more than 100 times more cheaply than achieving the same cooling by cutting emissions, Keith notes. "But this low price tag raises the risks of single groups acting alone, and of facile cheerleading that promotes exclusive reliance on SRM."

SRM would also cool the planet quickly, whereas even a massive program of carbon dioxide emission cuts will take many decades to slow global warming because the CO2 already accumulated in the atmosphere will take many years to naturally break down. The 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, for example, cooled the planet by about 0.5 degrees Celsius in less than a year by injecting sulphur into the stratosphere.

But a world cooled by managing sunlight will present risks, the scientists note. The planet would have less precipitation and less evaporation, and monsoon rains and winds might be weakened. Some areas would be more protected from temperature changes than others, creating local 'winners' and losers.'

"If the world relies solely on SRM to limit (global) warming, these problems will eventually pose risks as large as those from uncontrolled emissions," they warn.

Field tests of SRM are the only way to identify the best technologies and potential risks, Keith says. He and the American scientists propose carefully controlled testing that would involve releasing tonnes -- not megatonnes -- of aerosols in the stratosphere and low-altitude clouds.

"If SRM proves to be unworkable or poses unacceptable risks, the sooner we know the less moral hazard it poses; if it is effective, we gain a useful additional tool to limit climate damages.."

Responsible management of climate risks requires deep emission cuts and research and assessment of SRM technologies, the scientists say. "The two are not in opposition. We are currently doing neither; action is urgently needed on both."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Calgary. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Calgary. "Research on global 'sun block' needed now, experts argue." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127134243.htm>.
University of Calgary. (2010, January 28). Research on global 'sun block' needed now, experts argue. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127134243.htm
University of Calgary. "Research on global 'sun block' needed now, experts argue." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100127134243.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Facebook Says The DEA's Fake Accounts Go Too Far

Facebook Says The DEA's Fake Accounts Go Too Far

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) Facebook says the DEA violated its Terms of Service and that such impersonations damage the integrity of the site. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Court Ruling Means Kids' Online Activity Could Be On Parents

Newsy (Oct. 17, 2014) In a ruling attorneys for both sides agreed was a first of its kind, a Georgia appeals court said parents can be held liable for what kids put online. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

Raw: Cruise Ship Returns to US Over Ebola Fears

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) A Caribbean cruise ship carrying a Dallas health care worker who is being monitored for signs of the Ebola virus is heading back to Texas, US, after being refused permission to dock in Cozumel, Mexico. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

Spanish Govt: Four Suspected Ebola Cases in Spain Test Negative

AFP (Oct. 17, 2014) All four suspected Ebola cases admitted to hospitals in Spain on Thursday have tested negative for the deadly virus in a first round of tests, the government said Friday. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins