Sulfur Skies and Fake Trees: Can We Geoengineer Our Way Out of the Greenhouse?

Bridgerland Audubon’s Fall Quarterly Event Sulfur Skies and Fake Trees: Can We Geoengineer Our Way Out of the Greenhouse? Tom Wigley, Climate Scientist National Center for Atmospheric Research Thursday, Nov. 4, 4:40 at the Sunburst Lounge Taggart Student Center, USU Campus Free and open to everyone. Parking at the parking terrace just north of the TSC. Tom Wigley is one of the world’s leading climate scientists. Based at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Tom Wigley is one of a handful of researchers looking seriously at “geoengineering”–the deliberate technological intervention into climate processes in order to cool the planet. Geoengineering ideas include spraying sulfur compounds into the stratosphere and brightening marine clouds with seawater droplets in order to reflect more sunlight back into space, as well as building artificial trees to capture carbon dioxide directly from the air. Could geoengineering buy us more time to reduce emissions? What are the consequences of geoengineering? Is it a last resort or part of a suite of options? Is geoengineering our “best hope” and our “worst nightmare,” as one science writer puts it? Come find out. Tom says this about his talk and his subject: “Geoengineering” is the deliberate technological intervention into climate processes in order to reduce or offset the effects of anthropogenic global warming. There are two different strategies: Solar Radiation Management (SRM), which seeks to reduce the amount of energy coming in from the Sun; and Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) which seeks to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Both are seen as complementary to the more traditional method of reducing future climate change through mitigation, i.e., by reducing the emissions of CO2 either by moving towards carbon-neutral energy sources or by capturing CO2 emissions at their sources and sequestering these in some way. This talk will begin with a review of the state of the climate system. I will then describe modeling strategies that are used for projecting future changes. I will summarize future changes in climate and sea level that might occur in the absence of mitigation policies, and under policies directed towards avoiding dangerous interference with the climate system. I will argue that the task of stabilizing the climate system at an acceptable level may be more difficult that is generally perceived, and that some form of geoengineering may be required. Geoengineering should be viewed primarily as a means of giving more time to develop and implement the technologies required to stabilize the climate, not as a panacea or substitute for mitigation. I will illustrate some geoengineering scenarios using a simple climate model and show that, when geoengineering and mitigation are used in tandem, the possible detrimental effects of geoengineering are minor.” For more information contact Chris Cokinos at chris.cokinos@usu.edu or at 797-2731.

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