Pursuing Geoengineering for Atmospheric Restoration

Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 26, p. 67, Summer 2010

10 Pages Posted: 17 Aug 2014

See all articles by Robert B. Jackson

Robert B. Jackson

Duke University

James E. Salzman

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management; University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law

Date Written: August 15, 2010

Abstract

Geoengineering is fraught with problems, but research on three approaches could lead to the greatest climate benefits with the smallest chance of unintentional environmental harm. The authors propose a model for thinking about geoengineering based on the concept of restoration, suggesting the term “atmospheric restoration.” Under this model geoengineering efforts are prioritized based on three principles: to treat the cause of the disease itself, to reduce the chance of harm, and to prioritize activities with the greatest chance of public acceptance.

Based on these principles, the authors propose three forms of geoengineering that could provide the greatest climate benefits with the smallest chance of unintentional harm to the environment. Forest protection and restoration is an opportunity available now. The other two, industrial carbon removal and bioenergy linked to carbon capture and storage, need extensive research to make them effective and to reduce their costs. These options will be cheaper than most forms of geoengineering and will provide many additional benefits, including improved air and water quality, national security, balance of trade, and human health.

Our climate is already changing, and we need to explore at least some kinds of carbon-removal technologies, because energy efficiency and renewables cannot take CO2 out of the air once it’s there. Some scientists increasingly argue that we need to do research on sunshade technologies as a backup plan if climate change starts to accelerate dangerously. This argument has merit. However, the sooner we invest in and make progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions today and promote ways to restore the atmosphere through carbon-scrubbing technologies in the future, the less likely we are ever to need global sunshades. The principle of atmospheric restoration should guide us in curing climate change outright, not in treating a few of its symptoms.

Suggested Citation

Jackson, Robert B. and Salzman, James E., Pursuing Geoengineering for Atmospheric Restoration (August 15, 2010). Issues in Science and Technology, vol. 26, p. 67, Summer 2010, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2481248

Robert B. Jackson

Duke University ( email )

100 Fuqua Drive
Durham, NC 27708-0204
United States

James E. Salzman (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management ( email )

4670 Physical Sciences North
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-5131
United States

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - School of Law ( email )

385 Charles E. Young Dr. East
Room 1242
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1476
United States

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