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The geoengineering debate: Can imitating volcanic eruptions combat climate change?

A new study suggests launching particles into our atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions could cause climate chaos around the world
A new study suggests launching particles into our atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions could cause climate chaos around the world
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A new study suggests launching particles into our atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions could cause climate chaos around the world
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A new study suggests launching particles into our atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions could cause climate chaos around the world

Over recent years, the once controversial idea of combatting climate change through geoenginnering has slowly been gaining popularity, with some scientists suggesting it could be an important tactic in fixing our global warming problems. New research from the University of Exeter is now offering evidence that this untested approach could in fact cause climate chaos, resulting in both more drought and tropical cyclones around the globe.

One of the key geoengineering strategies floated by scientists is inspired by the effects of volcanic eruptions. When a volcano erupts it launches particles into the stratosphere that reflect sunlight and temporarily cool the planet before falling back to Earth.

Unsurprisingly, this idea is controversial, but it is being quite seriously explored by many scientists and policymakers. A recent Harvard study, for example, has identified a particle that could be the safest and most effective candidate for launching into the atmosphere.

While some studies suggest the technique would be effective in reducing the global temperature, and even potentially improving crop yields, the global climate effects remain unknown – and, according to Naomi Klein, ultimately untestable.

"…you could not conduct meaningful tests of these technologies without enlisting billions of people as guinea pigs – for years. Which is why science historian James Fleming calls geoengineering schemes 'untested and untestable, and dangerous beyond belief',"writes Klein.

A new study from the University of Exeter uses complex climate modeling to simulate the global effects of the most popular form of localized atmospheric geoengineering called stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI).

The results were significant and broad, with aerosol injection into the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere reducing tropical cyclone frequency in the North Atlantic and causing drought in the Africal Sahel region, while aerosol injection in the Southern Hemisphere would cause the opposite effect, increasing tropical cyclone frequency in the North Atlantic.

"Our results confirm that regional solar geoengineering is a highly risky strategy which could simultaneously benefit one region to the detriment of another," says lead author on the paper, Anthony Jones.

Some scientists are already calling for small-scale experiments in these geoengineering techniques, but Jones and his research team see this as shortsighted and drastically misunderstanding the risk of affecting weather systems outside of the local climate that is being specifically targeted.

"It is vital that policymakers take solar geoengineering seriously and act swiftly to install effective regulation," says Jones.

It's a minefield of a research area with opinions oscillating from continuing the research cautiously as a long-term emergency back-up plan to Naomi Klein's assertion that geoengineering research is dangerous and will result in "life-changing consequences".

The new study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: University of Exeter

15 comments
aki009
"Geoengineering" the climate is like plastic surgery. Do so at your own peril, as things will never go back to the way they were even if you stop. (insert Human Ken Doll picture here)
WilliamSager
Perhaps a better debate is where and how are we going to make a volcano.
aksdad
Interesting conundrum: Naomi Klein believes the climate models when they say that human CO2 emissions are rapidly warming the planet, but is unpersuaded by them when they say that injecting aerosols will mitigate warming. We skeptics on the other hand consistently point out that the general circulation models are severely deficient at modeling climate, which is consistent with what the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report demonstrated. Any projections based on GCMs are no more likely to be accurate than prophesies based on examination of sheep entrails.
Reddog
The Climate Alarmists want you to believe the sky is falling. There have been 7 ice ages so far followed by global warming - confirmed by the 'Vostok Ice Core Samples'. This is due to 10,000 year solar sunspot cycles followed by latency. So there's nothing you can do about it. You won't mitigate it you won't stop it. And most geothermal activity is underwater anyway - that is how most carbon gets in the atmosphere. But even that's a red herring: Water vapor is the primary greenhouse gas not C02: The later is offset by reforestation since plants breathe it and create oxygen. The hysteria emanates from a loud minority of leftist watermelons and crackpots who want to shut down western civilization and redistribute your wealth. It will be stolen by central banks and loaned to the third world at usurious rates they can never repay; so when it comes time to pay the piper, they can plunder the natural resources of quisling debtor states.
Bob
A few years ago, to counter global warming, I postulated a short lived jet fuel additive that would make jet contrails more reflective during daylight hours and the additive would not be used during night flights. If for some reason the effects were negative, it could be discontinued immediately with no long lasting effects. I got a polite email back from Richard Branson that he was not interested. To much political liability? I don't know. On a side note, I've noted several area weather stations are reporting slightly warmer temperatures than they did 30 years ago. I also noted that 30 years ago these stations were primarily surrounded by farm land. Now they are surrounded by streets, shopping centers and subdivisions. Is much of the global warming data biased? It would appear so.
piperTom
Imagine a gaggle of politicians... No, not the ideal wise and selfless sort from movies. The actual people that gain power in the political systems that we really have. And then include the lobbyists. Now, it THIS the sort of crowd you want to hand power over the climate?
otto17
Growing up in the ‘50s I looked forward to autumn, piling up leaves, jumping into them from a step ladder (yes we were allowed to do stupid things; that’s how we learned not to do them), and the smell of the burning leaves. Alas, the scientists killed that joy with warnings of the returning global cooling and mini ice-age if we didn’t control the particles we were sending into the atmosphere which were filtering out the sun’s rays. So the governments passed laws against burning the leaves. I miss those days. Then came global warming and I admonished my children that the global warming was probably due to the fact we could no longer burn leaves, but no one would listen… until now? Solution: screw the idea of inventing man-made volcanos; wipe the burning leaves laws from the books and grant an old man a final autumn with the smell of burning leaves. Apparently, according to 20th century scientists, that will cool things down, but now, half a century later, this will save the world instead. Until of course 50 more years from now we will realize that man is the cause of a new global warming threat. In my life I only dreamed of becoming that influential. By all means listen to the scientists; they know best. They will probably try to figure out a way to poke the Yellowstone Caldera. Good luck to you all!
watersworm
@ piperTOM ; "To hand power over the climate" ??? Waow, at last Man becomes the equal of GOD!
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Moving agriculture and population out of the desserts would be a much more effective use of money. This would have the greatest effect on returning radiation to space.
Don Duncan
We can all be thankful that we don't suffer under a world govt., i.e., we have anarchy. We are told total anarchy is chaos but that has not been the case. The so-called wild-west was stateless and contrary to the statist propagandistic history, it was not wild, unorganized, or chaotic. Imagine the world controlled by one political entity. A policy to experiment with world climate could be easily forced on everyone. If it turned out to be based on overly confident, arrogant bureaucratic hubris (politics as usual), the whole world would be in danger. Who would be to blame? TPTB who do what they always do, use their power? Or the masses who keep empowering them, resulting in disastrous consequences? When will they ever learn? When will people stop trusting strangers and trust themselves? When will people self-govern, self-organize, self-control? Isn't that politically mature? Isn't choosing rulers self-enslavement? Shouldn't we act like sovereign individuals?
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