This shows a sunset in the Arctic. A new study at Harvard explores the feasibility of using cautious and targeted solar geoengineering to counter the loss of Arctic sea ice.
Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

Solar geoengineering can be tailored to reduce inequality or to manage specific risks, study suggests

October 21, 2012

By tailoring geoengineering efforts by region and by need, a new model promises to maximize the effectiveness of solar radiation management while mitigating its potential side effects and risks. Developed by a team of leading researchers, the study was published in the November issue of Nature Climate Change.

Solar geoengineering, the goal of which is to offset the global warming caused by greenhouse gases, involves reflecting sunlight back into space. By increasing the concentrations of aerosols in the stratosphere or by creating low-altitude marine clouds, the as-yet hypothetical solar geoengineering projects would scatter incoming solar heat away from the Earth’s surface.

Critics of geoengineering have long warned that such a global intervention would have unequal effects around the world and could result in unforeseen consequences. They argue that the potential gains may not be worth the risk.

“Our research goes a step beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to explore how careful tailoring of solar geoengineering can reduce possible inequalities and risks,” says co-author David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School. “Instead, we can be thoughtful about various tradeoffs to achieve more selective results, such as the trade-off between minimizing global climate changes and minimizing residual changes at the worst-off location.”

The study—developed in collaboration with Douglas G. MacMartin of the California Institute of Technology, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and Ben Kravitz, formerly of Carnegie and now at the Department of Energy—explores the feasibility of using solar geoengineering to counter the loss of Arctic sea ice.

Read more: Solar geoengineering can be tailored to reduce inequality or to manage specific risks, study suggests — phys.org.

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