Nav: Home

Uncertainties related to climate engineering limit its use in curbing climate change

December 08, 2016

Climate engineering refers to the systematic, large-scale modification of the environment using various climate intervention techniques. However, a new study by VTT and the Finnish Meteorological Institute suggests that the uncertainties associated with climate engineering are too great for it to provide an alternative to the rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate engineering has been proposed as a rapid and cost-effective means of mitigating climate change. It has been suggested that climate engineering could be used to postpone cuts to greenhouse gas emissions while still achieving the objectives of limiting global warming to under 2 degrees, as set in the Paris Climate Agreement. However, according to a recent study, the uncertainties associated with climate engineering are currently so great that it cannot be regarded as a substitute for, or a way of postponing, emission cuts.

According to the study's results, climate engineering would allow very little additional emissions during the coming decades. "Climate engineering could have side-effects which become visible only after it is started. This means that huge uncertainty surrounds the method and it might have to be abandoned very quickly," says Professor Hannele Korhonen of the Finnish Meteorological Institute. "If emission cuts were postponed due to climate engineering, a halt in climate engineering would place the two-degree objective beyond reach," says Tommi Ekholm, a Senior Scientist at VTT.

If, in addition to mitigating global warming, we also want to prevent the acidification of oceans by carbon dioxide, climate engineering could substitute for emission reductions only in greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide. Our results show that the limitations imposed by climate objectives and the available means of combating climate change could have a major impact on the optimal climate change mitigation measures.

Major risks related to climate engineering


Climate engineering could cool the climate by reflecting the sun's radiation back into space, for example by changing the characteristics of clouds or imitating particle cover in the stratosphere caused by volcanic eruptions. The advantage of these methods lies in their rapid cooling effect and reasonably low costs. However, such methods involve major risks, such as the weakening of monsoon rains and the knock-on effects on food production in Asia and Africa.

A sudden halt to the use of such methods, due to issues such as major negative effects, would also lead to rapid climate change, to which ecosystems and societies would have difficulty in adapting. "This means that the possibly large cooling potential of climate engineering should not be used as a reason to postpone unavoidable cuts in greenhouse gas emissions," summarises Hannele Korhonen.
-end-
The study was published in the journal Climatic Change and was funded by the Academy of Finland. Research scientists from VTT and the Finnish Meteorological Institute collaborated on the project.

Publication: Ekholm, T. & Korhonen, H. (2016): Climate change mitigation strategy under an uncertain Solar Radiation Management possibility. Climatic Change, http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1828-5

Further information:


VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd
Tommi Ekholm, Senior Scientist
tommi.ekholm@vtt.fi, +358 40 775 4079

Finnish Meteorological Institute
Hannele Korhonen, Professor
hannele.korhonen@fmi.fi, +358 40 8424 852

Further information on VTT:

Olli Ernvall
Senior Vice President, Communications
+358 20 722 6747
olli.ernvall@vtt.fi
http://www.vtt.fi

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd is the leading research and technology company in the Nordic countries. We use our research and knowledge to provide expert services for our domestic and international customers and partners, and for both private and public sectors. We use 4,000,000 hours of brainpower a year to develop new technological solutions. VTT in social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter @VTTFinland.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland

Related Greenhouse Gas Emissions Articles:

Atmospheric pressure impacts greenhouse gas emissions from leaky oil and gas wells
Fluctuations in atmospheric pressure can heavily influence how much natural gas leaks from wells below the ground surface at oil and gas sites, according to new University of British Columbia research.
Decrease in greenhouse gas emissions linked to Soviet Union's collapse
As the authors posit, the collapse of the Soviet Union led to decreasing meat product consumption, abandonment of cultivated land, and restructuring of food sales chains; which, in turn, elicited a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.
New rider data shows how public transit reduces greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions
In a paper published in Environmental Research Communications, University of Utah researchers Daniel Mendoza, Martin Buchert and John Lin used tap-on tap-off rider data to quantify the emissions saved by buses and commuter rail lines, and also project how much additional emissions could be saved by upgrading the bus and rail fleet.
Natural-gas leaks are important source of greenhouse gas emissions in Los Angeles
Liyin He, a Caltech graduate student, finds that methane in L.A.'s air correlates with the seasonal use of gas for heating homes and businesses
Rainfall changes for key crops predicted even with reduced greenhouse gas emissions
Even if humans radically reduce greenhouse gas emissions soon, important crop-growing regions of the world can expect changes to rainfall patterns by 2040.
Shifting away from coal is key to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, PSU study finds
The United States could fulfill its greenhouse gas emission pledge under the Paris Climate Agreement by virtually eliminating coal as an energy source by 2024, according to new research from Portland State University.
Farm manure boosts greenhouse gas emissions -- even in winter
Researchers have shown, for the first time, that manure used to fertilize croplands in spring and summer can dramatically increase greenhouse gas emissions in winter.
Keeping roads in good shape reduces greenhouse gas emissions, Rutgers-led study finds
Keeping road pavement in good shape saves money and energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, more than offsetting pollution generated during road construction, according to a Rutgers-led study.
Changes in agriculture could cut sector non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50 percent
The agricultural sector is the world's largest source of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions, and IIASA-led research has found that changing agricultural practices and a shift in diet away from meat and dairy products could reduce the sector's emissions by up to 50 percent by 2050 compared to a situation without mitigation efforts.
Big increase in economic costs if cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are delayed
Stronger efforts to cut emissions of greenhouse gases should be undertaken if global warming of more than 1.5 Celsius degrees is to be avoided without relying on potentially more expensive or risky technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface.
More Greenhouse Gas Emissions News and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

In & Out Of Love
We think of love as a mysterious, unknowable force. Something that happens to us. But what if we could control it? This hour, TED speakers on whether we can decide to fall in — and out of — love. Guests include writer Mandy Len Catron, biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, musician Dessa, One Love CEO Katie Hood, and psychologist Guy Winch.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#542 Climate Doomsday
Have you heard? Climate change. We did it. And it's bad. It's going to be worse. We are already suffering the effects of it in many ways. How should we TALK about the dangers we are facing, though? Should we get people good and scared? Or give them hope? Or both? Host Bethany Brookshire talks with David Wallace-Wells and Sheril Kirschenbaum to find out. This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News. Related links: Why Climate Disasters Might Not Boost Public Engagement on Climate Change on The New York Times by Andrew Revkin The other kind...
Now Playing: Radiolab

An Announcement from Radiolab