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MacCracken 2009: On the possible use of geoengineering to moderate specific climate change impacts Print E-mail
Monday, 12 October 2009 07:01

On the possible use of geoengineering to moderate specific climate change impacts

Michael C MacCracken 2009 Environ. Res. Lett. 4 045107 (14pp)

Michael C MacCracken
Climate Institute, Washington, DC 20006, USA


Abstract. With significant reductions in emissions likely to require decades and the impacts of projected climate change likely to become more and more severe, proposals for taking deliberate action to counterbalance global warming have been proposed as an important complement to reducing emissions. While a number of geoengineering approaches have been proposed, each introduces uncertainties, complications and unintended consequences that have only begun to be explored. For limiting and reversing global climate change over periods of years to decades, solar radiation management, particularly injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere, has emerged as the leading approach, with mesospheric reflectors and satellite deflectors also receiving attention. For a number of reasons, tropospheric approaches to solar radiation management present greater challenges if the objective is to reduce the increase in global average temperature. However, such approaches have a number of advantages if the objective is to alleviate specific consequences of climate change expected to cause significant impacts for the environment and society. Among the most damaging aspects of the climate that might be countered are: the warming of low-latitude oceans that observations suggest contribute to more intense tropical cyclones and coral bleaching; the amplified warming of high latitudes and the associated melting of ice that has been accelerating sea level rise and altering mid-latitude weather; and the projected reduction in the loading and cooling influence of sulfate aerosols, which has the potential to augment warming sufficient to trigger methane and carbon feedbacks. For each of these impacts, suitable scientific, technological, socioeconomic, and governance research has the potential to lead to tropospheric geoengineering approaches that, with a well-funded research program, could begin playing a moderating role for some aspects of climate change within a decade.

Received 8 May 2009, accepted for publication 12 October 2009
Published 30 October 2009