Radical solutions to climate change might save lives, but a commentary in the October 2018 issue of the journal Nature Climate Change calls for caution because geoengineering still lacks a “clean bill of health.”
With global fossil-fuel emissions reaching an all-time high and the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, climate experts have become increasingly interested in “climate engineering,” a set of ambitious and largely undeveloped technologies that could artificially counteract global warming. One proposed approach, called solar radiation management (SRM), would reduce incoming sunlight by injecting tiny aerosol particles into the stratosphere or by brightening clouds. Other approaches would directly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Even if some combination of these worked, scientists warn that the climate wouldn’t be the same as it was before climate change. And those differences might make a big difference for global health, ecologists Colin Carlson and Christopher Trisos argue in the Nature Climate Change article. The article was written while both were postdoctoral fellows at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), a unique University of Maryland center funded by the National Science Foundation that brings together science of the natural world with science of human behavior and decision-making.
So far, Carlson and Trisos say, almost nothing is known about the potential health consequences of such geoengineered “solutions.”
“We’re a step before saying these technologies will probably save lives or saying they’re too dangerous to use,” says Carlson. “Right now, what we know is climate and disease are already closely linked, and that raises basic questions about climate engineering. Now, we need answers.”
Carlson gives the example of malaria, a disease mostly confined to the tropics today, but was once widespread in Europe and North America. Recently, scientists found that malaria transmits best at cooler temperatures. In some projections, SRM would disproportionately cool off the tropics–and that might make malaria worse.
“But it’s all guesswork–we can qualitatively talk through possible risks, and that’s what we do here. But we can’t make any judgements without solid, quantitative evidence. And no one’s run those models yet. There’s no data to go off.”
Carlson and Trisos hope to shed some light on these issues over the next two years. They are part of an international, interdisciplinary team that has been recommended for a $50,000 grant from the DECIMALS Fund (Developing Country Impact Modelling Analysis for SRM), which was launched by the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative to help scientists understand how SRM could affect the “global south”–a term that refers to less developed countries. Eight projects will receive DECIMALS grants that will be announced in October. The fund is administered by The World Academy of Sciences.
“Links between climate change and health are often complex, so climate engineering may impact health in unexpected ways,” says Trisos, now a research affiliate at the African Climate and Development Initiative. “Governments have pledged to prevent ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ with the climate system, so it’s critical that we can compare public health risks from climate change to those from climate engineering, in order to decide if climate engineering should even be considered.”
Carlson and Trisos’ DECIMALS research proposal was put together in collaboration with lead researchers Shafiul Alam and Mofizur Rahman (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh) and includes epidemiologist Shweta Bansal (Georgetown University), climatologist Alan Robock (Rutgers University), and world-renowned microbiologist and cholera expert Rita Colwell (University of Maryland, formerly the ninth director of the National Science Foundation).
Their team is designed to produce important results on a fast deadline.
“Climate scientists, ecologists and public health researchers are increasingly working together to understand what climate change means for infectious diseases,” says Trisos. “We’re lucky to take advantage of that partnership to tackle a problem this complicated–and this urgent.”
In a perfect world, understanding the possible health impacts of climate engineering might help policymakers make the right call, if other options seem limited. But Carlson says there’s another reason this work is important.
“From a public health standpoint, we’re not likely to be the ones making the call about climate futures. But we want to know what’s coming if climate engineering does happen, and we want to be prepared, first in places like Bangladesh that might have the most to gain but also have the most to lose.”
Bangladesh is the world’s hot spot for cholera and has led the global research program to prevent the disease for several decades, with medical care reducing fatalities from 50 percent to less than 5 percent. Climate change will only increase the pressure that countries like Bangladesh face from infectious diseases like cholera and malaria.
“Whether or not the climate engineering ‘button’ gets pushed, the research we do here still helps us,” Carlson explains. “We’re building our toolbox and getting better at predicting cholera and malaria, and that should save lives, whatever climate change looks like.”
Receive an email update when we add a new CLIMATE ENGINEERING article.
The Latest on: Climate engineering
via Google News
The Latest on: Climate engineering
- We Must Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere to Limit Climate Change: Here's How We Can Do It on November 8, 2018 at 4:27 am
This special report underscores the importance of innovations for effective carbon dioxide removal (CDR) and other geoengineering or climate engineering methods to slow down global warming. In this co... […]
- Gregory V. Jones: Climate change, agriculture and society on November 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm
That kind of intervention is typically called geo-engineering or climate engineering. Geo-engineering is somewhat like organ transplantation — best avoided if at all possible, but potentially better t... […]
- Industrial Climate Engineering: Cabinet Cooler Line on October 29, 2018 at 7:20 am
Description: These new units are primarily used to cool data centers, outdoor telecom cabinets, and electronic and mechanical equipment shelters (E-Houses). Due to the internal heat load, these cabine... […]
- Five geoengineering solutions proposed to fight climate change on October 18, 2018 at 4:00 am
So what ideas are geoengineers proposing? Also known as climate engineering, geoengineering is an umbrella term for human interventions that change the earth's climate system. It can be seen as a rede... […]
- Climate engineering emerges as Global Warming solution on October 8, 2018 at 10:11 am
Incheon (South Korea): Dismissed a decade ago as far-fetched and dangerous, schemes to tame global warming by engineering the climate have migrated from the margins of policy debates towards centre st... […]
- Africa: As Climate Risks Rise, Scientists Call for Rules On Solar Engineering on October 7, 2018 at 2:29 am
London — Technologies to reflect some of the sun's rays away from Earth, as a way to cool future runaway climate change, are moving closer to becoming a reality, and rules are needed now to govern the... […]
- There’s Another Way to Combat Climate Change — But Let’s Not Call it Geoengineering on October 3, 2018 at 11:58 am
Geoengineering, or “climate engineering” manages solar radiation and removes ... author of this article), argues that these strategies will be necessary to combat climate change, but cannot substitute ... […]
- As climate risks rise, scientists call for rules on solar engineering on October 2, 2018 at 4:21 am
An aerial view of the Villanueva photovoltaic (PV) power plant operated by Italian company Enel Green Power in the desert near Villanueva, Mexico. The plant covers an area the size of 40 football fiel... […]
- As climate risks rise, scientists call for rules on solar engineering on October 1, 2018 at 9:28 am
Technologies to reflect some of the sun's rays away from Earth, as a way to cool future runaway climate change, are moving closer to becoming a reality By Laurie Goering LONDON, Oct 1 (Thomson Reuters ... […]
via Bing News