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EGU: Bespoke geoengineering

Scientists at the European Geosciences Union annual conference in Vienna today proposed the idea of using customised engineering for highly specific purposes – such as reversing sea level rise and preventing hurricanes.

The discussions took place in the first ever geoengineering session at an EGU annual assembly, held in recognition of the fact that it just may be time to start considering the need for a climate emergency response system, should our mitigation efforts fail to work…or indeed, fail to kick off.

Although the concept of manually interfering with the Earth’s climate on a large scale has been the subject of much controversy, not least in the pages of Nature, less attention has been given to such bespoke geoengineering to tackle specific potential impacts.

One such idea, put forward by Oliver Wingenter at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, involved enhancing the ocean with sulphur to prevent or reverse sea level rise.

In a proof-of-concept trial in the Southern Ocean, Wingenter and colleagues showed that fertilizing just 2% of the Southern Ocean could prevent net ice loss and reduce thermal expansion in the region enough to slow sea level rise.

Such drastic interventions might by just what’s needed, given research presented here in seperate press conference this morning by Svetlana Jevrejeva of the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory, which further adds weight to the body of evidence that sea level rise is happening more rapidly than predicted in the IPCC’s latest report. The estimate released today says that it could be as as much as 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) by the end of this century.

Another engineering approach described here today by Stephen Salter at the University of Edinburgh could potentially be used to mitigate hurricanes. Though the idea of weakening hurricanes using technology has been put forward before by people such as Bob Langer at MIT, this design involves spraying tiny submicron drops of sea water into the atmosphere to increase white cloud cover and thereby cool the ocean surface.

Dissipating heat from the ocean surface could lessen the intensity of hurricanes before they reach land, but as with all such conceptual designs, whether the technology would create another suite of unforeseen problems – such as redirecting hurricanes elsewhere – is yet unknown.

Olive Heffernan


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    Travis Johnson said:

    I have heard many ideas about global warming and what we all need to do to solve the problem. I once heard the the earth is as the human body in which we eat an breath. We all have our good and bads times and this seems to be one of the earth bads times. I am not one of those guyes attending meeting and one that expresses big ideas about what needs to be done, but I think that it could be very simple. Who wants to hears about something that is so important and all the important people trying to fix this problem to say that its simple. Like is said before is that the earth is like the human body and when its gets sick like the human body, the earth tries to repair or like the body tries to heal itself. As we all know that just for the common cold its take the body weeks to heal itself and for the earth weeks could be hundreds of years. So for the simple approach we could just let what ever happens happens and let the earth heal itself or like a doctor we could step in and make nec. steps to help out. I have seen on TV where trees are being planted by helicoptor which is a good thing but it like a doctor telling you to take to asprins and call him back in the morning. Any time there a forest fire in the West we all think of it as a great devistation in which people are living there an so it is, but the earth is trying to heal itself. I was once told that how could you explain the spritial if you cant explain the natural. So my solution is simple. The oceans levels are rising and realy this is the bigist problem and all the rest that comes with it. So my suggestion is to in Calf. where there are wild fires every year create gaint sprinkle system to fight against the fires. If the people in the US can pump oil from Alaska we can create pumps to fight fires in Calf. The Artics are full of fresh water, pump this water from there, every desert on earth dont flood it just irrigate it. Here is where new plant life will grow and you will find new cures for disease. In Africa make it such as there is now such thing as a dry season. An there is where you will find those gaint land animals that once died during the dry season. Even China is developing deserts and these places need to be irrigated before its to late. All of this only require only large pump. If you are realy good put the ice back on the glacures where the ice has been lost, pump it back on there on the places where is is has been lost. The rest of the world think that this is a good thing to no longer live in the cold, but it will be a the price of everyone else. The world must think of a way to drop the ocean level, if not it will continue to drop rain accross the plant to get rid of it. Creating mud slids and unstable lands to live. So before the earth starts throughing up let pump her oceans. Before we have a forest fire that we cant afford lets get systems in place to releave the earth of its overheating by irrigating an sprikle systems. Hurricanes will continue to get worse because of the ocean water level. We can create our own tropical forest all over the globe. If we dont most of the world will be lost not to fires a great flood, but to rising water that will cause all of us to climb to higher ground and this will be the greatest deaster.

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