Climate-change technology risks 'catastrophic' outcome – report
Risky and unproven climate-changing technologies could have “catastrophic consequences” for the earth and humankind if used irresponsibly, according to a new report.
Yet without drastic further cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, a geoengineering solution may offer the only hope of saving the world from disastrous run-away global warming, experts warned.
A report by the Royal Society, Britain’s leading academic institution, looks at the feasibility and potential dangers of technologies designed to cool the earth.
They include artificial “trees” that suck carbon dioxide out of the air, and spraying sulphate particles high in the atmosphere to scatter the sun’s rays into space. The scientists concluded that, although some approaches were possible, they had not yet been properly researched and posed serious potential dangers for the planet.
Professor John Shepherd, who chaired the Royal Society geoengineering working group, said: “It is an unpalatable truth that unless we can succeed in greatly reducing carbon dioxide emissions we are heading for a very uncomfortable and challenging climate future, and geoengineering will be the only option left to limit further temperature increases.
“Our research found that some geoengineering techniques could have serious unintended and detrimental effects on many people and ecosystems – yet we are still failing to take the only action that will prevent us from having to rely on them.
“Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we have to pay for failure to act on climate change.”
He added: “None of the geoengineering technologies so far suggested is a magic bullet, and all have risks and uncertainties. It is essential that we strive to cut emissions now, but we must also face the very real possibility that we will fail. If plan B is to be an option in the future, considerable research and development of the different methods, their environmental impacts and governance issues, must be undertaken now.
“Used irresponsibly or without regard for possible side effects, geoengineering could have catastrophic consequences similar to those of climate change itself. We must ensure that a governance framework is in place to prevent this.”
However, West Midlands Friends of the Earth’s campaigner Chris Crean said: “Geoengineering is no silver bullet – it won’t solve climate change. The different options will take time to develop, risks need to be properly researched, and if we use geoengineering at all it must be in addition to making deep cuts in the amount of carbon dioxide we produce in the first place.
“We haven’t got time to play Russian roulette with the future of the planet. If we have any hope of avoiding runaway climate change rich countries must reduce their emissions dramatically and quickly, as well as providing billions of pounds to enable developing countries to grow cleanly.
“Investing in green industries will slash carbon emissions, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and lead us out of recession towards a clean, stable and prosperous global economy. We must subject all of these ideas to a full cradle to grave carbon, monetary, social and biodiversity analysis before we give them any form of green light.”