Geo-Engineering Alternatives

Geoengineering might be a terrible idea, but it could also be the only option if efforts to slow carbon dioxide emissions maintain to fail, according to a new report by The Royal Society in London .

Broadly defined, geoengineering is any effort to counteract climate change on a huge scale. It includes two main approaches--pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (such as by increasing the growth of algae that take up carbon dioxide) or somehow decreasing the rate at which the sun heats the earth (such as by shading the planet or increasing the reflectivity of clouds).

In both cases, scientist doesn't know what might go wrong with the proposed schemes--their scale is unparalleled. According to John Shepherd, who chaired the new Royal Society's study, "used irresponsibly or without regard for possible side effects, geoengineering could have catastrophic consequences similar to those of climate change itself."

Yet if climate change starts to get out of control, we may be left with no alternatives. "Geoengineering and its consequences are the price we may have to pay for failure to act on climate change," Shepherd adds.

he study analyzed the planned geoengineering alternatives to decide which are most likely to work without disastrous consequences. Notably, one loom advocated publicly by Energy Secretary Steven Chu--painting roofs white to reflect sunlight--didn't come out well.

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