AGW Observer

Observations of anthropogenic global warming

Papers on geoengineering

Posted by Ari Jokimäki on March 31, 2011

This is a list of papers on geoengineering. Focus is on general papers on the subject. The list is not complete, and will most likely be updated in the future in order to make it more thorough and more representative.

For lots and lots of additional papers, see Oxford Geoengineering Programme’s Reference Library.

Engineering geo-engineering – Fox & Chapman (2011) “This paper reviews the geo-engineering approach to tackling climate change. The failure of the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP15) to obtain a legally binding emissions reduction agreement makes the deployment of geo-engineering solutions an increasingly attractive proposition. This review looks at a variety of global and local approaches to geo-engineering covering solar radiation management and carbon cycle engineering and attempts to assess the feasibility of the technologies from an engineering perspective. However, despite the plethora of ideas generated by the science community, it still appears that much work remains to be done in the initial engineering assessment of these techniques and this is a major hurdle to overcome before any geo-engineering scheme can be fully considered. Hence, the paper concludes by calling for the instigation of national and international programmes of research at the feasibility level, to inform discussions regarding future possible deployment of small scale, local geo-engineering and adaptation measures.” Timothy A. Fox, Lee Chapman, Meteorological Applications, Volume 18, Issue 1, pages 1–8, March 2011. [Full text]

History of climate engineering – Bonnheim (2010) “The modern concept of geoengineering as a response to anthropogenic climate change evolved from much earlier proposals to modify the climate. The well-documented history of weather modification provides a much-needed historical perspective on geoengineering in the face of current climate anxiety and the need for responsive action. Drawing on material from the mid-20th century until today, this paper asserts the importance of looking at geoengineering holistically—of integrating social considerations with technical promise, and scientific study with human and moral dimensions. While the debate is often couched in scientific terms, the consequences of geoengineering the climate stretch far beyond the world of science into the realms of ethics, legality, and society. Studying the history of geoengineering can help produce fresh insights about what has happened and about what may happen, and can help frame important decisions that will soon be made as to whether geoengineering is a feasible alternative to mitigation, a possible partner, or a dangerous experiment with our fragile planet.” Noah Byron Bonnheim, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, Volume 1, Issue 6, pages 891–897, November/December 2010, DOI: 10.1002/wcc.82.

The radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options – Lenton & Vaughan (2009) “Climate geoengineering proposals seek to rectify the Earth’s current and potential future radiative imbalance, either by reducing the absorption of incoming solar (shortwave) radiation, or by removing CO2 from the atmosphere and transferring it to long-lived reservoirs, thus increasing outgoing longwave radiation. A fundamental criterion for evaluating geoengineering options is their climate cooling effectiveness, which we quantify here in terms of radiative forcing potential. We use a simple analytical approach, based on energy balance considerations and pulse response functions for the decay of CO2 perturbations. This aids transparency compared to calculations with complex numerical models, but is not intended to be definitive. It allows us to compare the relative effectiveness of a range of proposals. We consider geoengineering options as additional to large reductions in CO2 emissions. By 2050, some land carbon cycle geoengineering options could be of comparable magnitude to mitigation “wedges”, but only stratospheric aerosol injections, albedo enhancement of marine stratocumulus clouds, or sunshades in space have the potential to cool the climate back toward its pre-industrial state. Strong mitigation, combined with global-scale air capture and storage, afforestation, and bio-char production, i.e. enhanced CO2 sinks, might be able to bring CO2 back to its pre-industrial level by 2100, thus removing the need for other geoengineering. Alternatively, strong mitigation stabilising CO2 at 500 ppm, combined with geoengineered increases in the albedo of marine stratiform clouds, grasslands, croplands and human settlements might achieve a patchy cancellation of radiative forcing. Ocean fertilisation options are only worthwhile if sustained on a millennial timescale and phosphorus addition may have greater long-term potential than iron or nitrogen fertilisation. Enhancing ocean upwelling or downwelling have trivial effects on any meaningful timescale. Our approach provides a common framework for the evaluation of climate geoengineering proposals, and our results should help inform the prioritisation of further research into them.” Lenton, T. M. and Vaughan, N. E., Atmos. Chem. Phys., 9, 5539-5561, doi:10.5194/acp-9-5539-2009, 2009. [Full text]

A review of climate geoengineering proposals – Vaughan & Lenton (2009) “Climate geoengineering proposals seek to rectify the current radiative imbalance via either (1) reducing incoming solar radiation (solar radiation management) or (2) removing CO2 from the atmosphere and transferring it to long-lived reservoirs (carbon dioxide removal). For each option, we discuss its effectiveness and potential side effects, also considering lifetime of effect, development and deployment timescale, reversibility, and failure risks. We present a detailed review that builds on earlier work by including the most recent literature, and is more extensive than previous comparative frameworks. Solar radiation management propsals are most effective but short-lived, whilst carbon dioxide removal measures gain effectiveness the longer they are pursued. Solar radiation management could restore the global radiative balance, but must be maintained to avoid abrupt warming, meanwhile ocean acidification and residual regional climate changes would still occur. Carbon dioxide removal involves less risk, and offers a way to return to a pre-industrial CO2 level and climate on a millennial timescale, but is potentially limited by the CO2 storage capacity of geological reservoirs. Geoengineering could complement mitigation, but it is not an alternative to it. We expand on the possible combinations of mitigation, carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management that might be used to avoid dangerous climate change.” Naomi E. Vaughan and Timothy M. Lenton, Climatic Change, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-011-0027-7.

Toward ethical norms and institutions for climate engineering research – Morrow et al. (2009) “Climate engineering (CE), the intentional modification of the climate in order to reduce the effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations, is sometimes touted as a potential response to climate change. Increasing interest in the topic has led to proposals for empirical tests of hypothesized CE techniques, which raise serious ethical concerns. We propose three ethical guidelines for CE researchers, derived from the ethics literature on research with human and animal subjects, applicable in the event that CE research progresses beyond computer modeling. The Principle of Respect requires that the scientific community secure the global public’s consent, voiced through their governmental representatives, before beginning any empirical research. The Principle of Beneficence and Justice requires that researchers strive for a favorable risk–benefit ratio and a fair distribution of risks and anticipated benefits, all while protecting the basic rights of affected individuals. Finally, the Minimization Principle requires that researchers minimize the extent and intensity of each experiment by ensuring that no experiments last longer, cover a greater geographical extent, or have a greater impact on the climate, ecosystem, or human welfare than is necessary to test the specific hypotheses in question. Field experiments that might affect humans or ecosystems in significant ways should not proceed until a full discussion of the ethics of CE research occurs and appropriate institutions for regulating such experiments are established.” David R Morrow et al 2009 Environ. Res. Lett. 4 045106 doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/4/4/045106. [Full text]

Ranking geo-engineering schemes – Boyd (2008) “Geo-engineering proposals for mitigating climate change continue to proliferate without being tested. It is time to select and assess the most promising ideas according to efficacy, cost, all aspects of risk and, importantly, their rate of mitigation. Propelling aerosols into the upper atmosphere or pumping carbon dioxide into the deep ocean are just two schemes that have been proposed to repair the Earth’s climate through geo-engineering (see Box 1). In the absence of adequate reductions in anthropogenic CO2 emissions, geo-engineering has been put forward as the only remaining option that might fix our rapidly changing climate.” Philip W. Boyd, Nature Geoscience 1, 722 – 724 (2008), doi:10.1038/ngeo348. [Full text]

The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering – Barrett (2008) “The focus of climate policy so far has been on reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases. That approach, however, requires broad international cooperation and, being expensive, has been hindered by free riding; so far, little action has been taken. An alternative approach is to counteract climate change by reducing the amount of solar radiation that strikes the Earth—“geoengineering.” In contrast to emission reductions, this approach is inexpensive and can be undertaken by a single country, unilaterally. But geoengineering also has worrying consequences: it may harm some countries; it would not address ocean acidification; it would pose new risks. The fundamental challenge posed by this new technology is not free riding but governance: who should decide if and under what circumstances geoengineering should be used?” Scott Barrett, Environmental and Resource Economics, Volume 39, Number 1, 45-54, DOI: 10.1007/s10640-007-9174-8. [Full text]

Geoengineering: could we or should we make it work? – Schneider (2008) “Schemes to modify large-scale environment systems or control climate have been proposed for over 50 years to (i) increase temperatures in high latitudes, (ii) increase precipitation, (iii) decrease sea ice, (iv) create irrigation opportunities, or (v) offset potential global warming by injecting iron in the oceans or sea-salt aerosol in the marine boundary layer or spreading dust in the stratosphere to reflect away an amount of solar energy equivalent to the amount of heat trapped by increased greenhouse gases from human activities. These and other proposed geoengineering schemes are briefly reviewed. Recent schemes to intentionally modify climate have been proposed as either cheaper methods to counteract inadvertent climatic modifications than conventional mitigation techniques such as carbon taxes or pollutant emissions regulations or as a counter to rising emissions as governments delay policy action. Whereas proponents argue cost-effectiveness or the need to be prepared if mitigation and adaptation policies are not strong enough or enacted quickly enough to avoid the worst widespread impacts, critics point to the uncertainty that (i) any geoengineering scheme would work as planned or (ii) that the many centuries of international political stability and cooperation needed for the continuous maintenance of such schemes to offset century-long inadvertent effects is socially feasible. Moreover, the potential exists for transboundary conflicts should negative climatic events occur during geoengineering activities.” Stephen H Schneider, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 November 2008 vol. 366 no. 1882 3843-3862, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0145. [Full text]

A geophysiologist’s thoughts on geoengineering – Lovelock (2008) “The Earth is now recognized as a self-regulating system that includes a reactive biosphere; the system maintains a long-term steady-state climate and surface chemical composition favourable for life. We are perturbing the steady state by changing the land surface from mainly forests to farm land and by adding greenhouse gases and aerosol pollutants to the air. We appear to have exceeded the natural capacity to counter our perturbation and consequently the system is changing to a new and as yet unknown but probably adverse state. I suggest here that we regard the Earth as a physiological system and consider amelioration techniques, geoengineering, as comparable to nineteenth century medicine.” James Lovelock, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 13 November 2008 vol. 366 no. 1882 3883-3890, doi: 10.1098/rsta.2008.0135. [Full text]

Geoengineering: Encouraging Research and Overseeing Implementation – Cicerone (2006) No abstract Ralph J. Cicerone, Climatic Change, Volume 77, Numbers 3-4, 221-226, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-006-9102-x. [Full text]

The pathological history of weather and climate modification: Three cycles of promise and hype – Fleming (2006) No abstract.” James Rodger Fleming, Historical Studies in the Physical and Biological Sciences, 2006, Vol. 37, Number 1, pps 3-25. [Full text]

Geoengineering the Climate: History and Prospect – Keith (2000) “Geoengineering is the intentional large-scale manipulation of the environment, particularly manipulation that is intended to reduce undesired anthropogenic climate change. The post-war rise of climate and weather modification and the history of U.S. assessments of the CO2-climate problem is reviewed. Proposals to engineer the climate are shown to be an integral element of this history. Climate engineering is reviewed with an emphasis on recent developments, including low-mass space-based scattering systems for altering the planetary albedo, simulation of the climate’s response to albedo modification, and new findings on iron fertilization in oceanic ecosystems. There is a continuum of human responses to the climate problem that vary in resemblance to hard geoengineering schemes such as space-based mirrors. The distinction between geoengineering and mitigation is therefore fuzzy. A definition is advanced that clarifies the distinction between geoengineering and industrial carbon management. Assessment of geoengineering is reviewed under various framings including economics, risk, politics, and environmental ethics. Finally, arguments are presented for the importance of explicit debate about the implications of countervailing measures such as geoengineering.” David W. Keith, Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, Vol. 25: 245-284 (Volume publication date November 2000), DOI: 10.1146/ [Full text]

Earth systems engineering and management – Schneider (2001) “Imagine that we could let the world’s economy continue to grow, bring the disadvantaged classes up from poverty and at the same time not threaten the atmosphere or global ecosystems with unprecedented build-up of greenhouse gases and the projected climatic risks of such growth. Earth systems engineering and management may just be such a panacea, some have suggested. But could we anticipate the costs or ever truly predict the consequences?” Stephen H. Schneider, Nature 409, 417-421 (18 January 2001) | doi:10.1038/35053203. [Full text]

Geoengineering Earth’s radiation balance to mitigate CO2‐induced climate change – Govindasamy & Caldeira (2000) “To counteract anthropogenic climate change, several schemes have been proposed to diminish solar radiation incident on Earth’s surface. These geoengineering schemes could reverse global annual mean warming; however, it is unclear to what extent they would mitigate regional and seasonal climate change, because radiative forcing from greenhouse gases such as CO2 differs from that of sunlight. No previous study has directly addressed this issue. In the NCAR CCM3 atmospheric general circulation model, we reduced the solar luminosity to balance the increased radiative forcing from doubling atmospheric CO2. Our results indicate that geoengineering schemes could markedly diminish regional and seasonal climate change from increased atmospheric CO2, despite differences in radiative forcing patterns. Nevertheless, geoengineering schemes could prove environmentally risky.” Govindasamy, B., and K. Caldeira (2000), Geophys. Res. Lett., 27(14), 2141–2144, doi:10.1029/1999GL006086. [Full text]

The economic diplomacy of geoengineering – Schelling (1996) “‘Geoengineering’ is a new term, still seeking a definition. It seems to imply something global, intentional, and unnatural. For the radiation balance, geoengineering may be fifty years in the future; today’s means may be out of date then, and the future means are not yet known. It might immensely simplify greenhouse policy, transforming it from an exceedingly complicated regulatory regime to a problem in international cost sharing, a problem that we are familiar with. Putting things in the stratosphere or in orbit can probably be done by exo-national programs, not depending on the behavior of populations, not requiring national regulations or incentives, not dependent on universal participation. It will involve merely deciding what to do, how much to do, and who is to pay for it.” Thomas C. Schelling, Climatic Change, Volume 33, Number 3, 303-307, DOI: 10.1007/BF00142578.

May we engineer the climate? – Bodansky (1996) “Not only is the science of climate engineering uncertain; the legal issues are also highly uncertain. Although existing international law does not specifically limit the freedom of states to undertake climate engineering, the international community would likely demand a say should climate engineering move from the realm of speculation to concrete proposals. The experience of other environmental regimes, however, suggests that developing an international decision-making mechanism would be difficult, and that the international community might opt for a simple prohibition on climate engineering on grounds of ‘precaution’.” Daniel Bodansky, Climatic Change, Volume 33, Number 3, 309-321, DOI: 10.1007/BF00142579.

Geoengineering: Could— or should— we do it? – Schneider (1996) “Schemes to modify large-scale environment systems or to control climate have been seriously proposed for over 50 years, some to (1) increase temperatures in high latitudes, (2) increase precipitation, (3) decrease sea ice, (4) create irrigation opportunities or to offset potential global warming by spreading dust in the stratosphere to reflect away an equivalent amount of solar energy. These and other proposed geoengineering schemes are briefly reviewed from a historical perspective. More recently, many such schemes to advertently modify climate have been proposed as cheaper methods to counteract inadvertent climatic modifications than conventional mitigation techniques such as carbon taxes or pollutant emissions regulations. Whereas proponents argue cost effectiveness, critics of geoengineering argue that there is too much uncertainty to either (1) be confident that any geoengineering scheme would work as planned, or (2) that the many decades of international political stability and cooperation needed for the continuous maintenance of such schemes to offset century long inadvertent efforts is problematic. Moreover, there is potential for transboundary conflicts should negative climatic events occur during geoengineering activities since, given all the large uncertainties, it could not be assured to victims of such events that the schemes were entirely unrelated to their damages. Nevertheless, although I believe it would be irresponsible to implement any large-scale geoengineering scheme until scientific, legal and management uncertainties are substantially narrowed, I do agree that, given the potential for large inadvertent climatic changes now being built into the earth system, more systematic study of the potential for geoengineering is probably needed.” Stephen H. Schneider, Climatic Change, Volume 33, Number 3, 291-302, DOI: 10.1007/BF00142577.

Ethics and intentional climate change – Jamieson (1996) “In recent years the idea of geoengineering climate has begun to attract increasing attention. Although there was some discussion of manipulating regional climates throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the discussion was largely dormant. What has reawakened the conversation is the possibility that Earth may be undergoing a greenhouse-induced global warming, and the paucity of serious measures that have been taken to prevent it. In this paper I assess the ethical acceptability of ICC, based on my impressions of the conversation that is now taking place. Rather than offering a dispassionate analysis, I argue for a point of view. I propose a set of conditions that must be satisfied for an ICC project to be morally permissible and conclude that these conditions are not now satisfied. However, research on ICC should go forward so long as certain other conditions are met. I do not intend this to be the last word on the subject, but rather the first word. My hope is that others will be stimulated to think through the ethics of ICC.” Dale Jamieson, Climatic Change, Volume 33, Number 3, 323-336, DOI: 10.1007/BF00142580. [Full text]

Geoengineering the climate – MacCracken (1991) “Although much can be done to limit greenhouse gas emissions by conservation, improvements in efficiency, and use of alternative technologies, the use of fossil fuels at rates even sharply reduced from US per capita values will lead to rapidly increasing global concentrations of greenhouse gases. The available alternatives then become adapting to the changes, switching to alternative energy sources (e.g., solar, nuclear), or actively taking control of atmospheric composition and/or the climate. This note reviews options for geoengineering the climate.” MacCracken, M.C., UCRL-JC-108014. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, June 1991. [Full text]

Climate Stabilization: For Better or for Worse? – Kellogg & Schneider (1974) “Even if we could predict the future of our climate, climate control would be a hazardous venture.” W. W. Kellogg; S. H. Schneider, Science, New Series, Vol. 186, No. 4170. (Dec. 27, 1974), pp. 1163-1172. [Full text]


2 Responses to “Papers on geoengineering”

  1. Watching the Deniers said

    Great list again, thanks Ari.

  2. John said

    This is really scary stuff. The Japanese power companies said that there would be no problem building nuclear reactors in an earthquake zone and now we have idiots who are not only prepared to swear that they know all about a small part of the world like Japan but can put their hands on their hearts and swear that geo-engineering the entire globe is possible! Has someone let a whole bunch of con-men out of the asylum? See Blue Haze, Brown Clouds and the need to stop Geoengineering before it begins. .

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