Sunset over a city

Climate group calls for a global geoengineering moratorium

Image credit: Lucian Dachman | Unsplash

Experimental geoengineering methods should be halted until further research can be conducted, according to the Climate Overshoot Commission.

The Commission’s latest report said the world will likely exceed the target to keep temperature rises within 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

“It depends on what we do,” said Pascal Lamy, the former chief of the World Trade Organization (WTO), who currently leads the Commission.

To prevent it, the authors have called on governments to act now by phasing out fossil fuels, preparing for extreme weather events and fostering carbon capture and storage projects. 

The report also warned against controversial technologies such as geoengineering – large-scale interventions on the Earth’s climate systems with the aim of counteracting climate change. This term includes a wide variety of proposals, from regrowing trees to placing mirrors in space or seeding clouds to reflect sunlight.

The authors of the report believe governments should impose a temporary ban on these technologies until they can be reviewed by experts. At the moment, there is no global agreement regulating this controversial technology, despite its consequences being unknown.

“Countries should adopt a moratorium on the deployment of solar radiation modification and large-scale outdoor experiments that would carry the risk of significant transboundary harm,” it said.

This pause should be used to allow academics to investigate the possibilities of geoengineering, particularly solar radiation management, which are technologies that aim to reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the Earth.

“There is an increasing international discussion of solar radiation management. But the danger is of unintended consequences and transboundary consequences,” Lamy said.  

Mark Maslin, professor of earth system science at University College London, who was not involved with the panel, said many scientists had strong feelings about geoengineering.

“Solar radiation management [efforts] are dangerous experiments and will cause unpredictable climate change because the distribution of solar energy across the Earth is what creates our dynamic climate,” he told The Guardian.

“Reducing the solar energy in one region will change how the atmosphere and oceans move energy from the tropics to the poles in unpredictable ways. A strong international moratorium against solar radiation management is required to ensure no country or company tries to ‘fix climate change’ with disastrous consequences.”

In 2021, E&T magazine asked a group of experts their thoughts on geoengineering and whether it can be considered a viable solution to global warming.  

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