Geoengineering: More to it than simply blocking the sun

Bad news for the climate-Dr. Strangeloves who advocate “solar radiation management.”

Penn State researchers say,

While abrupt cooling [from solar radiation management] may sound like a good idea, it could be more damaging than the increasing temperatures caused by increasing carbon dioxide.

“The rate of cooling can be a problem if it exceeds the capacity of the plants and animals to adapt,” said Sriver.

Another consideration when implementing solar radiation management approaches is that these approaches can require a long-term commitment. The researchers showed that “termination of solar radiation management was found to produce warming rates up to five times greater than the maximum rates under the business-as-usual scenario, whereas sea-level rise rates were only 30 percent higher.

The Penn State media release is below.

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Climate balancing: Sea-level rise vs. surface temperature change rates

Engineering our way out of global climate warming may not be as easy as simply reducing the incoming solar energy, according to a team of University of Bristol and Penn State climate scientists. Designing the approach to control both sea level rise and rates of surface air temperature changes requires a balancing act to accommodate the diverging needs of different locations.

“Basic physics and past observations suggest that reducing the net influx of solar energy will cool the Earth,” said Peter J. Irvine, graduate student, University of Bristol, UK, and participant in the Worldwide Universities Network Research Mobility Programme to Penn State. “However, surface air temperatures would respond much more quickly and sea levels will respond much more slowly.”

Current solar radiation management approaches include satellites that block the sun, making the Earth’s surface more reflective or mimicking the effects of volcanoes by placing aerosol particles in the upper atmosphere.

“These solar radiation management approaches could be cheaper than reducing carbon dioxide emissions,” said Klaus Keller, associate professor of geosciences, Penn State. “But they are an imperfect substitute for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and carry considerable risks.”

How well they work at reducing sea level rise or surface air temperatures depends on how they are implemented.

“Strategies designed to reverse sea-level rise differ from the strategies designed to limit the rate of temperature changes,” said Ryan Sriver, research associate in geosciences, Penn State.

To stop or reverse sea-level rise, the incoming solar radiation would have to be decreased rapidly, but this approach would produce rapid cooling. Adopting a more gradual approach would reduce the risks due to rapid cooling, but would allow for considerable sea-level rise.

The researchers note that people living close to sea level are likely more concerned about sea-level rise than about the rates of surface temperature changes. In contrast, those living far from the oceans, are likely more concerned about rates of surface temperature changes that can influence agricultural or energy usage.

The researchers used a model to analyze the tension between controlling sea level rise and rates of surface temperature changes. They ran 120 scenarios with differing combinations of solar radiation management including one called business as usual, which has no SRM.

They note that their model includes many approximations. For example, it does not include a mechanistic representation of ice sheets. They also did not consider scenarios that combine solar radiation management and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

They report in the current issue of Nature Climate Change that the forcing required to stop sea-level rise could cause a rapid cooling with a rate similar to the peak business-as-usual warming rate.

“While abrupt cooling may sound like a good idea, it could be more damaging than the increasing temperatures caused by increasing carbon dioxide,” said Keller.

“The rate of cooling can be a problem if it exceeds the capacity of the plants and animals to adapt,” said Sriver.

Another consideration when implementing solar radiation management approaches is that these approaches can require a long-term commitment. The researchers showed that “termination of solar radiation management was found to produce warming rates up to five times greater than the maximum rates under the business-as-usual scenario, whereas sea-level rise rates were only 30 percent higher.”

To avoid such harsh changes, should SRM be discontinued, requires a slow phase out over many decades. This places a commitment on future generations.

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The National Science Foundation, Penn State Center for Climate Risk Management and the Worldwide Universities Network at the University of Bristol partially funded this work.

8 thoughts on “Geoengineering: More to it than simply blocking the sun”

  1. Where’s that perfect disclaimer note.
    My own rational observation tells me that we (meaning humans) have a much greater ability to adapt to a warmer climate than a colder one…… Personally , I’ll take a little more Floridian temperature ranges in my mid-Atlantic region, over those of North Dakota or Maine any day, thank you.
    Actually, what this story demonstrates is that nature is all about BALANCE and phenomema and forces that we have NO control over. There is a great deal of damage that must be undone regarding this runaway train of AGW, but it seems the facts (and demonstrable reality) are slowly prevailing, in spite of the best efforts by the Mann-frauds, hoaxers, and totalitarian politicos to exert their total control agenda.

  2. Any sort of climate geoengineering will be open to the law of unintended consequences in a big way. These ideas are not to be followed. I prefer the planet’s natural climate rather than one decreed by some power hungry politico.

  3. No one questions the IPCC statement that increased solar irradiance during periods of high sun spot activity is inadequate to explain the ongoing warming. I don’t believe that Soon and Baliunas claimed that increased irradiance was the explanation, though it has been a long time since I read their article. I think that a lot of scientists have noticed a correlation between sunspot activity and warmth over a period of several centuries and a correlation between sunspot activity and El Nino and La Nina activity. Svensmark has made some attempts to explain the former with his cloudiness model and some think that the pressure of the increased solar wind might add pressure waves to the atmosphere that might explain the latter.

    I do not know the answer and neither does the IPCC. I do know that the IPCC has made no serious attempt to figure out what might actually been happening; they are too focused on proving that humans are bad and deserve punishment and closer scrutiny.

  4. Well, yeah, but changes in solar irrandiance is not believed to affect global warming. I thought they had flogged Soon and Baliunas for suggesting such heresy.

  5. This entire thesis is based on the output from 120 scenario runs of an undocumented and unverified computer model. Why do these idiots insist that these results have any power to predict the future? I seem to remember that when someone did the math using Einstein’s theories, he predicted that Mercury’s orbit should precess. Nobody went to press claiming that precession of Mercury was proven. Scientists went to their observatories to find out it was true. Then, scientists published papers that confirmed the precession and added that this finding was additional proof of the accuracy of the Einstein model.

    Either scientists changed the rules or these guys are not scientists. It sounds like some kid who is trying to get a Masters degree on his way to becoming a scientist should sue for fraud the schools that claim to have taught him science.

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