Quantcast

National Academy of Sciences Says Geoengineering Is Not the Answer to Climate Change

Climate

Geoengineering, the deliberate, large-scale technological manipulation of the Earth's systems, has been proposed for years as a panacea to dealing with climate change. However, many of the proposed technologies are only in their infancy and extremely expensive. Researchers have repeatedly concluded that such schemes are not the answer to climate change because they will either be futile or even further disrupt the climate.

The reports look at two geoengineering technologies: Carbon dioxide removal and albedo-modification. Carbon dioxide removal involves enhancing or mimicking the "natural processes that already remove about half of the world's carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year." Unfortunately, all of the technologies—such as ocean iron fertilization and direct air capture of carbon—are far too immature and expensive to solve the current crisis, according to the NAS press release.Yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) affirmed previous researchers' findings with the release of two reports on climate intervention through geoengineering. Its conclusion: "There is no substitute for dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the negative consequences of climate change."

Albedo-modification technologies, "which aim to increase the ability of Earth or clouds to reflect incoming sunlight," are relatively inexpensive "compared with the costs of transitioning to a carbon-free economy" and the technology is readily available. However, albedo modification would only temporarily mask the warming effect of greenhouse gases and "would not address atmospheric concentrations of CO2 or related impacts such as ocean acidification," concludes report.

In order to be effective, the technologies would have to be deployed around the world and "sustained indefinitely" with "severe negative consequences if they were to be terminated." Additionally, albedo modification poses secondary effects on the ozone layer, precipitation patterns, terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and human health with many unknown consequences. The committee that produced the report says they "pose considerable risks and should not be deployed at this time."

The committee said "It would be 'irrational and irresponsible' to implement sustained albedo modification without also pursuing emissions mitigation, carbon dioxide removal or both." The NAS committee opposed deployment of these technologies, but recommended further research.

“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change," said committee chair Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey. “But the longer we wait, the more likely it will become that we will need to deploy some forms of carbon dioxide removal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change."

Many environmental groups, including Friends of the Earth, support the current geoengineering moratorium agreed upon through the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010 by 193 countries due to its environmental, social, cultural and economic risks.

"Geoengineering presumes that we can apply a dramatic technological fix to climate disruption," said Ben Schreiber, Friends of the Earth Climate and Energy Program director. "Instead of facing the reality that we need to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, lower our consumption levels and rapidly transition to renewable energy, some hope to simply reengineer the climate, the land and the oceans to theoretically slow down and reverse climate disruption.

"The side effects of geoengineering interventions are unknown and untested. One country's experiments, therefore, could have devastating effects on other countries and the global climate system."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Serena and Venus Williams have been known to follow a vegan diet. Edwin Martinez / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Whitney E. Akers

  • "The Game Changers" is a new documentary on Netflix that posits a vegan diet can improve athletic performance in professional athletes.

  • Limited studies available show that the type of diet — plant-based or omnivorous — doesn't give you an athletic advantage.

  • We talked to experts about what diet is the best for athletic performance.

Packed with record-setting athletes displaying cut physiques and explosive power, "The Game Changers," a new documentary on Netflix, has a clear message: Vegan is best.

Read More Show Less
An illegally trafficked tiger skull and pelt. Ryan Moehring / USFWS

By John R. Platt

When it comes to solving problems related to wildlife trade, there are an awful lot of "sticky widgets."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be both good and bad.

On one hand, it helps your body defend itself from infection and injury. On the other hand, chronic inflammation can lead to weight gain and disease.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Dan Nosowitz

It's no secret that the past few years have been disastrous for the American farming industry.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Gavin Van De Walle, MS, RD

Medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil are fats that have risen in popularity alongside the ketogenic, or keto, diet.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Bijal Trivedi

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report on Nov. 13 that describes a list of microorganisms that have become resistant to antibiotics and pose a serious threat to public health. Each year these so-called superbugs cause more than 2.8 million infections in the U.S. and kill more than 35,000 people.

Read More Show Less
Rool Paap / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

By Franziska Spritzler, RD, CDE

Inflammation can be good or bad depending on the situation.

Read More Show Less

By Joe Vukovich

Under the guise of responding to consumer complaints that today's energy- and water-efficient dishwashers take too long, the Department of Energy has proposed creating a new class of dishwashers that wouldn't be subject to any water or energy efficiency standards at all. The move would not only undermine three decades of progress for consumers and the environment, it is based on serious distortions of fact regarding today's dishwashers.

Read More Show Less