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U of C scientist offers better ways to engineer Earth's climate to prevent dangerous global warming
Date:9/7/2010

There may be better ways to engineer the planet's climate to prevent dangerous global warming than mimicking volcanoes, a University of Calgary climate scientist says in two new studies.

"Releasing engineered nano-sized disks, or sulphuric acid in a condensable vapour above the Earth, are two novel approaches. These approaches offer advantages over simply putting sulphur dioxide gas into the atmosphere," says David Keith, a director in the Institute for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economy and a Schulich School of Engineering professor.

Keith, a global leader in investigating this topic, says that geoengineering, or engineering the climate on a global scale, is an imperfect science.

"It cannot offset the risks that come from increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. If we don't halt man-made CO2 emissions, no amount of climate engineering can eliminate the problems massive emissions reductions are still necessary."

Nevertheless, Keith believes that research on geoengineering technologies,their effectiveness and environmental impacts needs to be expanded.

"I think the stakes are simply too high at this point to think that ignorance is a good policy."

Keith suggests two novel geoengineering approaches'levitating' engineered nano-particles, and the airborne release of sulphuric acidin two newly published studies. One study was authored by Keith alone, and the other with scientists in Canada, the U.S. and Switzerland.

Scientists investigating geoengineering have so far looked mainly at injecting sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere. This approach imitates the way volcanoes create sulphuric acid aerosols, or sulphates, that will reflect solar radiation back into space thereby cooling the planet's surface.

Keith says that sulphates are blunt instruments for climate engineering. It's very difficult to achieve the optimum distribution and size of the aerosols in the atm
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Contact: Hollie Roberts
robertsh@ucalgary.ca
403-210-8857
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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