Given human ingenuity can humans reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and design our way out of climate-change catastrophe?
There has been a lot of talk these days about a discipline called – Geo-enginnering.
A discipline that proposes large-scale interventions to counteract global warming. So what ideas are geo-engineers proposing?
Also known as climate engineering, geoengineering is an umbrella term for human interventions that change the earth's climate system.
As we enter the anthropocene era, in which human activity is shaping the earth more than natural forces, it can be seen as a way of redesigning the planet.
It could offer a more viable solution to climate change than expecting humans to modify their existing behaviour to reduce emissions.
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlighted geoengineering as a necessary Plan B if temperature rises can't be capped at a manageable level.
There are currently two main approaches under the geoengineering umbrella: carbon-dioxide removal (CDR) and solar radiation management (SRM).
CDR tackles the root cause of global warming by removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere — think carbon capture and storage.
SRM, meanwhile, leaves greenhouse gases untouched, but offsets their impact by reflecting sunlight away from the earth.
The science, which is still largely based on theoretical models, has been criticized for being untested, risky and offering a false promise of salvation in a moment when policy-makers need to make difficult decisions.
However, it may become necessary to use geo-engineering as humans are resistant to changing behaviour.
On that basis, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which demanded urgent global action to stop the planet warming beyond a devastating 1.5 degrees celsius, gives geo-engineering research its tentative approval.
The IPCC tries to steer clear of the term geo-engineering in its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5° C, because it views CDR and SRM completely differently. It regards CDR as a climate-change mitigation measure that is incorporated into nearly all of its safe pathways forward.
SRM is not. It is seen as an offset and not a fix for greenhouse gas emissions, and the science is still uncertain. Nevertheless, the UN-backed panel of scientists says it could still have a place. SRM could "potentially reduce" impact of temperature overshoot
"If mitigation efforts do not keep global mean temperature below 1.5 degrees celsius, SRM (solar radiation modification) can potentially reduce the climate impacts of a temporary temperature overshoot," says the IPCC report, which crunches 6,000 scientific studies to conclude that a global mean temperature increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius is more dangerous than previously thought, and urges governments to take immediate preventative action.
Director: Arthur Rifflet
Photograph Courtesy- Arthur Rifflet