Geoengineering, as an approach for managing climate change, is still very much in the realm of theory. The best-studied option in the scientific literature - the proposal to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere - has only a small handful of modeling studies that predict the climate response along with the potential side effects. Continued vigorous research, experimental as well as theoretical, on the candidate geoengineering approaches is required to quantify and narrow the existing uncertainties, and to establish the probabilities for negative, down-stream side effects.
Targeted research may quickly improve the informational basis upon which to weigh the risk of action to the risk of inaction. The fundamental questions that must be answered for each approach include:
What is the expected timeframe and magnitude of the global climate response to the proposed geoengineering action?
What are the immediate, ancillary (positive and negative) consequences associated with the action?
What are the long-term risks associated with sustained implementation of the strategy for greenhouse warming mitigation, e.g., from years to decades? What are the immediate and long-term financial, material, and personnel demands for this strategy? How scalable and reversible is this strategy?
Is the risk of unintended consequences distributed evenly or would some regions of the world pay a higher price? The complexity of the climate system ensures that there will be winners and losers if climate is intentionally managed using the schemes proposed to date. How will the losers be identified and compensated? How do each of the suggested geoengineering strategies compare on a cost/ tonne-CO2 basis? The current literature regarding global climate modeling studies to evaluate the effects of reduced solar flux and the proposed projects to extract CO2 from the atmosphere does not provide a common metric for comparing costs.
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