Full Title: Geoengineering the Climate: An Overview of Solar Radiation Management Options
Author(s): William C.G. Burns
Publication Date: March 1, 2012
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The feckless response of the global community to climate change has led to increasingly serious consideration of the potential role of geoengineering as a potential means to avert a “climate emergency,” such as rapid melting of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, or as a stopgap measure to buy time for effective emissions mitigation responses. The overarching purpose of climate geoengineering proposals is to intervene in the climate system by deliberately modifying the Earth’s energy balance to reduce potential temperature increases and ultimately stabilize temperatures at levels lower than currently projected. A number of recent studies have concluded that geoengineering schemes could potentially mitigate the climatic impacts associated with a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels from pre-industrial levels.
Climate geoengineering options can be divided into two broad categories: solar radiation management (SRM) methods and carbon dioxide removal (CDR) methods.
This article will focus solely on SRM methods. The primary rationale for doing so is a personal belief that CDR schemes are less likely to prove viable as a response to climate change, and thus are far less likely to be deployed. The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the primary SRM geoengineering options currently being discussed in the science and policy communities as a means of framing the remaining articles in this issue. In this pursuit, the article examines the potential effectiveness of the main schemes being discussed, and discusses potential negative impacts of these approaches in terms of specific technologies and more generally.