Can technology save global warming?


If we want to prevent the worst consequences of climate change, we need to get the global temperature below 2°C. To meet the requirements to make this happen we can choose to either change our behavior or find solutions to reverse the effect of the damage already done. Climate engineering might be able to help reduce the temperature on earth, without changing our lifestyle.

The most prominent techniques of climate engineering are solar radiation management (SRM) and carbon dioxide removal (CDR). SRM refers to offsetting the warming effect of greenhouse gases by reflecting more solar radiation (sunlight) back into space. CDR refers to removing carbon dioxide gas (CO2) from the atmosphere and storing it for long periods of time.

Examples are injecting sulfur particles in the atmosphere (similar to the effect of volcanos) which can reflect sunlight from the earth. Which might be a local solution to reduce global warming in a certain area. Another possible solution is to filter out CO2 from the air simply by planting more trees. But planting more trees, especially the ones that grow fast and absorb more CO2, might have an effect on the ecosystem.

The problem with these techniques is that people can continue as usual and just wait until some technology comes along to solve it all. So, doing nothing to reduce the cause. And nobody can promise that climate engineering is going to work. We also have to think about the social and economic consequences of these techniques. Is climate engineering the solution? And to what? We need to do something about the cause of all the emissions. Because becoming CO2-neutral with a technique that hasn’t been proven yet, is a dangerous strategy.

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