Federal researchers gave poor reviews Tuesday to “geoengineering” strategies that aim to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere or reduce their global warming effects.
A two-volume report issued by the National Research Council (NRC) concluded that, while removing greenhouse gases could help in the fight against climate change, there’s no substitute for dramatic reductions in carbon emissions.
Technologies meant to help the atmosphere reflect heat outward are even worse and pose considerable risks of harm, the NRC said.
“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change,” Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of the journal Science and chairwoman of the NRC committee that issued the report, said in a statement.
“But the longer we wait, the more likely it will become that we will need to deploy some forms of carbon dioxide removal to avoid the worst impacts of climate change,” she said.
If international leaders decide to pursue geoengineering to combat climate change, the research committee said, they would need much more scientific research on the possible methods, their risks and ethical implications.
“Although riskier ideas to lessen the amount of energy absorbed from the sun should not be considered for deployment, they should be studied so that we can provide answers if someday these ideas begin to be considered in attempts to avert catastrophe,” Ralph Cicerone, president of the National Academy of Sciences, of which the NRC is a part, said in a statement.
The research got funding support from the private sector and as government sources including the Energy Department, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and intelligence agencies.
Rhea Suh, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the report reinforces the need to cut carbon pollution.
“There’s absolutely no substitute for slashing fossil fuel emissions in order to prevent catastrophic disruption of the Earth’s climate,” she said in a statement. “But it’s prudent to do research into geoengineering because, for instance, improved carbon dioxide-removal techniques could help reduce such dangerous pollution.”