Despite risks, public support for climate engineering

There is strong support among American, British and Canadian public to further research on geoengineering technology, according to a new study.

There is strong support among American, British and Canadian public to further research on geoengineering technology, according to a new study.

Geoengineering is the large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the earth's climate.

Three North American researchers say that 72 percent of respondents to their study were in support of "solar radiation management," a technique that involves the reflection of the Sun's rays away from the Earth. (The point: to reverse, or at least mitigate, global warming.)

So far, most reactions to climate change have been about emissions reduction ("mitigation") or adaptation. But the researchers say the public is interested in humans taking fate into their own hands.

They write (.pdf):

Deliberate large-scale engineering to reduce or offset climate change driven by greenhouse gases represents a third class of options. Known as geoengineering or climate engineering, this third response comprises an array of techniques that can broadly be divided into two very different approaches: carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management.

Solar radiation management involves the injection of sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere to boost the albedo, or reflecting power, or the atmosphere. The concept has been around since the 1960s.

To be clear, the study wasn't about the effectiveness of such a technique -- just about awareness of it. (The International Convention on Biological Diversity last year imposed a non-legally-binding moratorium on the technique until there was "adequate scientific basis" on which to justify it. At risk: biodiversity, sustainability, morality, environmental catastrophe.)

Just over 3,100 respondents -- two-thirds American -- were polled in late 2010. Despite their support of such approaches, three-quarters of respondents agreed that the Earth's climate system was too complicated to be "fixed" with one method, and the majority of them acknowledged that it wasn't a long-term solution to emissions generation by human activity.

Their findings were published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

[via BBC]

Photo: Eric Golub/Flickr

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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