advancing the mitigation of Climate Change and Global Warming through Geoengineering education and research

Geoengineering

What is Geoengineering?

Geoengineering or Climate Engineering is the intentional large-scale manipulation and modification of the Earth’s climate and environment to prevent further Climate Change, slow down and reverse Global Warming, and mitigate their effects on our civilization and biosphere. Geoengineering approaches include Solar Radiation Management, Carbon Dioxide Removal and a diverse array of Climate Change mitigation and adaptation methodologies.  

Geoengineering: An Important Part of a Comprehensive Strategy to Mitigate Climate Change and Global Warming

Although Geoengineering our climate (See NASA’s Dynamic Earth video describing Earth’s climate below) might seem unthinkable, human civilization has been intensely modifying our climate and environment for well over a century. Climate engineering, to mitigate the build-up of atmospheric carbon dioxide due to the use of fossil fuels, has been a focus of scientists since the 1960s (Keith, 2000). The unfortunate truth is that Climate Change and Global Warming are devastating our planet and geoengineering appears to be a necessary solution to prevent further damage such as sea-level rise, Arctic warming, loss of glaciers, record temperatures, severe drought, superstorms, increased wildfires, coral reef and marine seabird die-offs, and climate-related extinctions. In our civilization’s effort to find a solution to Climate Change and Global Warming, geoengineering should not be considered the only solution, but rather an important part of a comprehensive, integrated, international program that mitigates the effects of Global Warming and addresses the root causes of Climate Change (i.e., carbon dioxide emissions, consumptive lifestyles, human population growth, unsustainable practices, degradation of natural ecosystems, etc.).

NASA’s Dynamic Earth. Courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

In the last 20 years, dedicated geoengineering researchers have made incredible advances  and developed a range of sensible approaches to solve this existential problem. Many of these geoengineering solutions such as restoring ecosystems (natural climate solutions), amending soils with carbon (burying bits of charcoal in agricultural fields), capturing carbon dioxide at power plants, and making remote areas of the ocean more reflective (by spraying seawater droplets into the air or by blowing tiny bubbles of air into surface waters) are relatively safe and have the potential to mitigate Global Warming and protect our biosphere.

It is the goal of Geoengineering.global to educate the public and advance climate engineering research and the use of these critically important technologies and solutions.

Young boy picking rice in Aileu ricefields. Photo by Martine Perret/UNMIT 26 Sept 2008
Child eating lunch at the Juba Orphange, Juba, November 19 2006.
Girl planting tree

Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide

Since the year 1750, the burning of fossil fuels, cement production, deforestation, and other land-use changes have added over 555 billion metric tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis). These human activities have changed the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 278 ppm (parts per million) in 1750 to 415 ppm in 2021 (https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/carbon-dioxide/). In 2017, it was found that humans have raised the temperature of the planet by about 1°C or 1.8°F since pre-industrial times (Allen et al, 2018, IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C, Chapter 1). Because average temperatures on land tend to be higher than temperatures over ocean waters, many countries around the planet have experienced temperatures of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Sea turtle
Coral reef fish
Grouper

Global Warming

Global Warming has already resulted in more frequent land and marine heatwaves and increases in the frequency of heavy precipitation events and droughts. At temperatures of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, 6% of insects, 8% of plants and 4% of vertebrates are predicted to lose over half of the area in which they normally live. If temperatures reach 2°C above pre-industrial levels, there will be decreases in the frequency of cold weather events with substantial increases in heat waves, exceptionally hot days, extreme drought, precipitation and water deficits, heavy precipitation events, floods, and the number of very intense cyclones. Increases in poverty, especially in Africa and Asia, and risks in the global supply of food, water, and energy are also predicted. At 2°C, 18% of insects, 16% of plants and 8% of vertebrates are predicted to lose over half of their natural range. The probability of losses to ocean and fisheries productivity and as well as damage to ecosystems including coral reefs, kelp forests, mangroves, seagrass beds, and wetlands is significantly greater at 2°C (Hoegh-Guldberg et al, 2018, IPCC Special Report Global Warming of 1.5°C, Chapter 3).

NPS Alaska glacial pool
Aerial Columbia Glacier, Prince William Sound, Chugach National Forest, Alaska.
An ice penetrating radar is deployed from a string of kayaks to survey a section of the Petermann glacier in Greenland. Three scientists, working in partnership with Greenpeace fit a radar transmitter, receiver and antennas to a chain of four kayaks, to obtain valuable data on the processes operating over floating ice shelves. This will reveal more of the complex nature of the ice thickness, basal melt-rates and insight into the breakup at the front section of Petermann. The scientists are Jason Box, Richard Bates and Alun Hubbard, the three took turns to paddle the kayaks whilst running the radar, over the carefully selected 25 kilometer course along a meltwater channel which runs down the middle of the glacier's floating ice shelf. Kayaking the occasionally hazardous route they were careful to stop just short of a 'whirlpool' which Dr Bates had previously cast with a CTD, finding it to reach the seawater currents in the fjord, 60m below. The team of scientists are on board the Arctic Sunrise during the 1st leg of Greenpeace's 3 month long Arctic Impacts expedition, to document the effects of climate change on the Arctic environment ahead of the Copenhagen summit which will be held in December 2009

Technical notes.
1. The entire route was seaward of the glacier's grounding line and therefore on the 'floating tongue' of the glacier which floats in seawater in the Petermann fjord.
2. The transmitter is installed inside the green un-manned kayak (pictured with solar panel). The receiver in the forward red kayak paddled by scientists Hubbard and Bates.
3. The two 40m antennas (inside the orange rubber hosing) were floated in the water attached to rope between the kayaks.
4. The ice radar works by sending short, discrete bursts of radio waves in the High Frequency range at very high power (4kV pulses) which 'bounce' off internal and basal reflectors creating return waves. A broadband digital spectrum analyser at the receiver decodes and records this information from th

Why Geoengineering or Climate Engineering is Necessary

Despite the progress our civilization has recently made in trying to understand Climate Change and developing solutions to mitigate and adapt to Climate Change, ” current emissions continue to grow at a rate consistent with a high emission future without effective climate change mitigation policies ” (IPCC, 2019: The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate) (See Figure 1 in the Appendix below). In addition, the ” transformative governance, international and transboundary cooperation ” needed to effectively mitigate this global crisis seems largely absent. Considering all of the cultural, economic, technological, political and international obstacles preventing the unity needed to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions, it seems likely that it will take decades before significant progress is made in this area. Based on this, geoengineering combined with the advancement and use of logical, low carbon energy solutions such as nuclear energy, appears to be the best option to mitigate Climate Change while supplying our civilization with the energy and materials needed in this critical, transitional period of time.

NASA's satellite fleet in orbit. Courtesy of NASA.
NOAA-Weather-Balloon-20K
A weather station on the water. Courtesy of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Geoengineering: A Range of Approaches to Remove Carbon Dioxide and Counteract Global Warming

Most of the current impacts to our civilization and biosphere have been related to Global Warming (the heating up of our planet). Carbon dioxide, however, is causing the warming due to the Greenhouse Effect. Carbon dioxide is also causing the acidification of our oceans and freshwater bodies which will have devasting impacts on aquatic ecosystems and the resources they provide. Geoengineering or climate engineering has a range of approaches to remove carbon dioxide from our atmosphere and counteract Global Warming by cooling the planet. It is our mission to help advance the use of geoengineering approaches and technologies to give our society more time to transition to low carbon energies and sustainable ways of living.

References

  1. Allen, M.R., O.P. Dube, W. Solecki, F. Aragon-Durand, W. Cramer, S. Humphreys, M. Kainuma, J. Kala, N. Mahowald, Y. Mulugetta, R. Perez, M. Wairiu, and K. Zickfeld, 2018: Framing and Context. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Portner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Pean, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.
  2. Hoegh-Guldberg, O., D. Jacob, M. Taylor, M. Bindi, S. Brown, I. Camilloni, A. Diedhiou, R. Djalante, K.L. Ebi, F. Engelbrecht, J. Guiot, Y. Hijioka, S. Mehrotra, A. Payne, S.I. Seneviratne, A. Thomas, R. Warren, and G. Zhou, 2018: Impacts of 1.5°C Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Portner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Pean, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.
  3. IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.
  4. IPCC, 2019: The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.
  5. Keith, D.W., 2000. Geoengineering the climate: History and prospect. Annual review of energy and the environment25(1), pp.245-284.

Appendix

Greenhouse Gas Emmissions 1970 to 2010 IPCC, 2014. Climate Change 2014. Mitigation of Climate Change Figure 5.2.1

Figure 1. Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (in gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide per year) per region from 1970 to 2010. OECD Countries include the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Graph Reference  

Figure 5.2 in IPCC, 2014. Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Edenhofer, O., R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlomer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel and J.C. Minx (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

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