The concept of geoengineering (or climate engineering,climate remediation, and climate intervention) refers to "the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system, in order to moderate global warming". The discipline divides broadly into two categories, as described by the Royal Society:
Geoengineering could replicate the cooling effects of a massive volcanic eruption as a tool to reduce climate change. Photo via Wikimedia Commons
One proposed experiment would have used a balloon-tethered pipe to pump sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere and block a portion of solar radiation from reaching earth. Image via Wikimedia Commons/Hugh Hunt
Now, for the first time, a team of scientists has specifically analyzed the immediate financial costs of employing such a technique. Their results, published yesterday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, might be seen as encouraging by advocates of geoengineering—but depressing for everyone hoping to limit greenhouse gas emissions.
A cost analysis of the technologies needed to transport materials into the stratosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight hitting Earth and therefore reduce the effects of global climate change has shown that they are both feasible and affordable.Published today, 31 August 2012, in IOP
Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, the study has shown that the basic technology currently exists and could be assembled and implemented in a number of different forms for less than USD $5 billion a year.
Professor Apt continued: “We hope our study will help other scientists looking at more novel methods for dispersing particles and help them to explore methods with increased efficiency and reduced environmental risk.”
The researchers make it clear that they have not sought to address the science of aerosols in the stratosphere, nor issues of risk, effectiveness or governance that will add to the costs of solar radiation management geoengineering.