Geoengineering might cool the Earth, but at what cost?
10 December 2010
Geoengineering – deliberate human intervention in order to change the Earth's environment – is increasingly being suggested as a mechanism for combating climate change.
Professor Katherine Richardson from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and Professor David Karoly from the University of Melbourne will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of different geoengineering strategies at 2.15 pm 10 December at the first Australian Earth System Science Outlook Conference being held by the Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for Earth System Science in the Shine Dome in Canberra.
'The concept of geoengineering arises from the tremendous advances made over the last two decades in the understanding of Earth System Science. The knowledge of how global systems and processes work may give humankind the option of attempting to manipulate these processes,' explains Professor Richardson.
Geoengineering strategies propose either removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or decreasing the Sun’s incoming radiation to reduce the Earth’s warming. Various techniques have been suggested such as capturing carbon dioxide and storing it deep within the earth or the oceans and using giant reflectors or reflective aerosols within the upper atmosphere.
'Many opponents to geoengineering point out that our understanding of the Earth System and its functioning is still far from complete and geoengineering could have unexpected consequences on the global scale. Proponents argue, however, that the risks associated with geoengineering may be the lesser of two evils as climate change becomes ever more pronounced,' said Professor Richardson.
A further concern is that the potential availability of a technological 'fix' may work against efforts to reduce our unsustainable levels of consumption of natural resources.
Geoengineering is one of the issues addressed in the decadal plan developed by the Australian Academy of Science's National Committee for Earth System Science. The plan was launched last night by Chief Scientist of Australia, Professor Penny Sackett.
To live within the Earth's limits – An Australian plan to develop a science of the whole Earth system maps out the establishment of an integrated community of Earth System scientists in Australia who can address the changes that affect the planet as a single, complex dynamic system in which humans are active agents. Copies of the Plan are available upon request.
The Outlook conference is an initiative of the plan and brings together over 100 experts from across a range of disciplines relevant to Earth System Science.
Interviews with speakers or members of the National Committee for Earth System Science can be arranged through the Academy's media contact.
For more information on:
Geoengineering in Nova Science in the News – science.org.au/nova/123/123key.html
Conference program and speakers – science.org.au/events/conferences-and-workshops/earth-system-outlook/
|Event:||First Australian Earth System Outlook Conference and Plan launch|
|Date:||9 and 10 December 2010|
|Where:||Australian Academy of Science's Shine Dome, Gordon street, Acton, Canberra|
Phone: 02 6201 9452 or 0447 679 612