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Scientists Warn Against Geoengineering: Do Not Play God With Earth To Reverse Global Warming

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Experts have been warning about the serious consequences of a warming planet and are calling for actions that could curb the unwanted effects of climate change.

Besides reducing carbon emissions, there is the idea of using technology to counteract global warming.

Geoengineering, the deliberate manipulation of environmental processes to counter the effects of climate change, is being considered as a potential last-ditch option to avoid the worst effects of global warming given the challenges of reducing the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Two newly released reports from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) have, however, shown that geoengineering, or climate intervention, is not that all favorable among scientists.

The reports focused, in particular, on two strategies for intervening on climate change: capturing and storing some of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide that has already been emitted, and reflecting more sunlight away from the planet so there would be less heat.

The NAS panel said that carbon dioxide removal poses relatively low risk but it can be costly. It would also take a very long time before it could have a significant effect on the planet's climate if it would be pursued globally. The panel likewise said that research is needed for the development of efficient ways to remove the greenhouse gas and keep it, so it would remain out of the atmosphere.

Known as solar radiation management, the second option is more controversial compared with carbon dioxide removal. The concept largely focuses on the idea of dispersing chemicals such as sulfates high in the atmosphere so they could reflect sunlight in a manner that would mimic the effect of volcanic eruption.

While the second option, also called albedo modification, is relatively inexpensive and could quickly lower the planet's temperature, it could have unwanted effects on the Earth's weather pattern, which could potentially bring drought to some regions or be used as a weapon by governments or certain individuals.

Injecting these chemicals into the atmosphere would not also remove carbon, which can persist for a very long time and pose other consequences such as the acidification of the oceans.

"Albedo modification strategies could rapidly cool the planet's surface but pose environmental and other risks that are not well understood and therefore should not be deployed at climate-altering scales; more research is needed to determine if albedo modification approaches could be viable in the future, " NAS said.

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