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Climate engineering: Minor potential, major side effects
Date:2/25/2014

re changes in the Earth system without climate engineering, based on the high-CO2 emission scenario used by the UN IPCC.

Even under ideal conditions assumed in the simulations, the potential benefits of the various climate engineering methods were limited. Only a continuous reduction of solar radiation could prevent the Earth from warming significantly. The afforestation of the Sahara and the Australian outback, however even caused some additional global warming: "The forests removed carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but at the same time the earth's surface became darker and could store more heat," Dr. Keller explains of this phenomenon. All of the other techniques showed significant side effects, too. For example, the fertilization of the oceans allowed plankton to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, but also changed the size of ocean oxygen minimum zones.

Another important question for the researchers: What happens if climate engineering is stopped after a few decades for technical or political reasons? "For several methods we saw a rapid change in the simulated climate when climate engineering ended," says Dr. Keller. For example, if after 50 years the sun's rays were no longer partially blocked, the Earth warmed by several degrees within a few decades. "This change would be much faster than the current rate of climate change, with potentially even more catastrophic consequences," says Keller.

The study is the basis for further research in the priority program "Climate Engineering: Risks, Challenges, Opportunities?" of the German Research Foundation (DFG), coordinated by co-author Prof. Dr. Andreas Oschlies from GEOMAR. "In addition to natural science studies, we also want to learn more about the potential social, political, legal and ethical aspects of proposed climate engineering methods. For one thing, this study clearly shows that there would always be many losers in addition to possible winners. Some side effects would even affect fu
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Contact: Jan Steffen
jsteffen@geomar.de
Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Source:Eurekalert

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