Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Guardian, UK - Political inaction on global warming has become so dire that nations must now consider extreme technical solutions - such as blocking out the sun - to address catastrophic temperature rises, scientists from around the world warn today.

The experts say a reluctance "at virtually all levels" to address soaring greenhouse gas emissions means carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are on track to pass 650 parts-per-million, which could bring an average global temperature rise of 4C. They call for more research on geo-engineering options to cool the Earth, such as dumping massive quantities of iron into oceans to boost plankton growth, and seeding artificial clouds over oceans to reflect sunlight back into space.

Writing the introduction to a special collection of scientific papers on the subject, published today by the Royal Society, Brian Launder of the University of Manchester and Michael Thompson of the University of Cambridge say: "While such geoscale interventions may be risky, the time may well come when they are accepted as less risky than doing nothing."

They add: "There is increasingly the sense that governments are failing to come to grips with the urgency of setting in place measures that will assuredly lead to our planet reaching a safe equilibrium."

Professor Launder, a mechanical engineer, told the Guardian: "The carbon numbers just don't add up and we need to be looking at other options, namely geo-engineering, to give us time to let the world come to its senses." He said it was important to research and develop the technologies so that they could be deployed if necessary. "At the moment it's almost like talking about how we could stop world war two with an atomic bomb, but we haven't done the research to develop nuclear fission.". . .

In a strongly worded paper with colleague Kevin Anderson in today's special edition of the society's Philosophical Transactions journal, Bows says politicians have significantly underestimated the scale of the climate challenge. They say this year's G8 pledge to cut global emissions 50% by 2050, in an effort to limit global warming to 2C, has no scientific basis and could lead to "dangerously misguided" policies. . .

Globally, a 4C temperature rise would have a catastrophic impact. According to the government's Stern review on the economics of climate change in 2006, between 7 million and 300 million more people would be affected by coastal flooding each year, there would be a 30-50% reduction in water availability in southern Africa and the Mediterranean, agricultural yields would decline 15-35% in Africa and 20-50% of animal and plant species would face extinction.