No rush to engineer world climate

A just held evidence session for the House of Commons showed no great enthusiasm to rush into trying to geo engineer the world’s climate although there was a strong suggestion that we should start feasibility studies now, rather than possibly doing something drastic and improperly evaluated in response to a crisis


Asked about the feasibility of putting space mirrors into orbit, to reflect some of the sun’s insolation back into space, Dr Dan Lunt from the University of Bristol responded that the project would require “Several trillion 60 cm mirrors, five times further out that the moon is”, and the project would cost “Several trillion dollars”. Dr Brian Iddon, a member of the Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills select committee, responded that, “I would put them in the Sahara Desert to turn water into steam to generate power”. Asked about the possibility of sun shades, Dr Lunt said that this too would require trillions of 60 cm “Thin disks”, and that if it went wrong, he did not think it would be possible to retrieve them.

Professor Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution talked a little about his idea of injecting inert dust particles into the stratosphere, and mentioned that others were studying the possibility of constructing high altitude, tethered wind platforms which could be used both to inject particles and generate electric power. He estimated costs of about $1 billion a year, and said they could be deployed, “Relatively quickly”, but feared that there might be un anticipated bad effects.

Dr Vicky Hope from the Met Office said that their modelling work showed that making favourable changes in one place, was liable to cause severe problems in others, which could be permanent, and the general consensus of all present was that aiming for carbon reduction was the only sensible course to follow and that any kind of geo engineering was full of “Unknown knowns”.

Tom Shelley

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