Mar 21, 2020 - Energy & Environment

Geoengineering might work best in small doses

Photo: Kryssia Campos/Getty Images

A study suggests solar geoengineering could work most effectively by trying to blunt half of expected global warming, rather than all of it.

Why it matters: Government policies to cut carbon emissions aren't on target to keep warming below dangerous levels, so geoengineering may eventually be necessary. By aiming for a more modest offset of the warming to come, researchers may be able to maximize the benefits while minimizing the risks.

How it works: Solar geoengineering involves trying to directly cool the climate by injecting aerosols into the atmosphere, which would reflect incoming sunlight.

Details: The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, used computer models to conclude that putting enough aerosols into the stratosphere to cut expected warming in half appeared to hit the sweet spot of slowing climate change without inadvertently making it worse in some regions.

"When used at the right dose and alongside reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, stratospheric aerosol geoengineering could be useful for managing the impacts of climate change."
— Peter Irvine, University College London, lead author

Go deeper: Climate change's surprise twist

Go deeper

Hardly anyone talks about climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Politicians, corporations, the media and activists are talking about climate change more than ever — but most Americans are not.

Be smart: If you’re reading this on social media, you’re probably the exception, not the rule. Just 9% of Americans talk about climate change often, surveys by Yale and George Mason University indicate.

Industry officials offer mixed messages on climate policy

A top business trade association official and the CEO of a major pipeline company said Tuesday they want the federal government to do more on climate change — but they’re not actually backing any such plans.

Driving the news: Marty Durbin, a top official at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Williams Company CEO Alan Armstrong, speaking at a Bipartisan Policy Center event Tuesday, both said they think the government should create an economy-wide policy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill Gates says coronavirus will set back climate change innovation

Bill Gates speaking at the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in India in 2019. Photo: Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Bill Gates said in a "TED Connects" interview Tuesday the coronavirus will "delay the urgent innovation agenda that exists over in climate,” but not irrevocably.

Driving the news: "I have freed up a lot of time to work on climate," the billionaire philanthropist said. "I have to say for the last few months that’s now shifted and until we get out of this crisis, COVID-19 will dominate and some of the climate stuff, although it will still go on, it won’t get that same focus.”