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Published August 13, 2010 08:46 AM

'Cheap' solar geoengineering plans may have unintended consequences

Researchers warn that individual countries looking to go it alone with 'cheap' solutions to regional climate change could inflict negative impacts on the rest of world

Large-scale 'geoengineering' interventions to alter the climate, such as increasing cloud cover to deflect solar radiation, may not work on a global scale, a new study has warned.


As climate change predictions worsen and international negotiations prove slow and unambitious, 'quick, techno-fix' solutions to alter the world's climate are gaining support.

However, an analysis of the most discussed technique - solar radiation management (SRM), which involves changing the amount of incoming energy from the sun by using aerosols to create clouds or deflecting solar rays with mirrors - says it could create a conflict of interest between countries.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience by researchers from Carnegie Mellon and Oxford Universities, says it may not be possible to simultaneously control both temperature and precipitation levels with SRM. As such, attempts to reduce solar radiation in one region are likely to have knock-on effects in others.

'Cheap' solutions

The authors of this most recent study said as climate change impacts worsened individual countries might start unilaterally jumping on 'cheap' geoengineering solutions.

'Doing SRM is likely to be cheap,' said Professor Granger Morgan, head of Carnegie Mellon's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, 'so there is risk that a single nation or region might start doing it to solve a local or regional climate problem, and impose the impacts on all of us.'

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