Geo-engineering and climate control

Source: The post is based on the article “Geo-engineering and climate control” published in the Business Standard on 30th November 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Climate Change.

Relevance: About geoengineering solutions to climate change.

News: A recent sci-fi novel(Ministry of the Future) describes what will happen in the future if countries fail to implement a carbon mitigation programme.

What are the key highlights from the novel on India and Climate Change?

-The novel appreciated the efforts of the Indian government such as spraying sulphur dioxide on clouds in the Indian Ocean. As this spraying would reduce solar radiation and bring the temperature down.

-A massive heat wave will strike Uttar Pradesh which will kill millions. The generations to come will face severe and relatively long heat episodes, floods, droughts and water uncertainty, more storms, sea-level rise, biodiversity loss and much more.

-The novel proposes measures to cope with the consequences of catastrophic climate change.

What is Geoengineering?

Geoengineering is an umbrella term for various experimental technologies designed to deliberately alter the climate system to reduce the impacts of global warming.

Geo-engineering basically compensates for the significant shortfall in mitigation options that are necessary to keep temperature rise below the agreed target level.

What are the various Geoengineering solutions to combat climate change?

Cloud seeding: Read here

Stratosphere aerosol injection (SAI): Most aerosols cause atmospheric cooling, either by directly reflecting incoming solar radiation or indirectly through their impact on clouds. For example, anthropogenic aerosols alone have cooled global surface temperatures by up to 0.8 °C over the last century.

They are short-lived in the atmosphere and more regionally variable relative to longer-lived emissions, like carbon dioxide. But there is very little scientific data to assess the impact and the uncertainty.

Solar Radiation Modification (SRM): Read here

Any SAI or SRM action will have cross-border effects.

What needs to be kept in mind while promoting geoengineering solutions?

-The nations must accept that geoengineering is a precautionary measure and it should not dilute the pressure on major emitters to do more to reduce their carbon emissions.

-The process of establishing a credible multilateral process for dialogue and decision must start soon because the risk of wrong decisions is very high.

What determines the success of geoengineering solutions?

The success of geoengineering solutions depends on a) A cooperative scientific research process to analyse the available information for major volcanic eruptions that altered solar radiation, b) The governments must plan and evaluate pilot experiments and multilaterally approve them, c) The world needs to agree on a global agreement that prohibits unilateral action and sets up a process for a multilateral agreement on geoengineering initiatives.

European Commission can take the lead in this as it will require an inter-country mechanism even for its own inter-membership decision on this issue.

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