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Boffins: Give up on CO2 cuts, only geoengineering can work

Ordinary eco-efforts a foolish distraction

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Top British climate boffins have said that the only practical hope for arresting global warming is the use of "geoengineering" - techniques intended to reduce the effects of CO2 emissions, as opposed to reducing the CO2 emissions themselves.

The scientists add that not only are large emissions cuts politically and diplomatically unfeasible, but that geoengineering would actually be cheaper and easier.

The new arguments come from Professor Peter Cox, Met Office Chair in climate system dynamics at Exeter Uni, and Hazel Jeffery, a major bigwig at the UK Natural Environment Research Council. The pair presented the case for geoengineering in an article for Physics World yesterday.

Following on from a recent review of geoengineering techniques carried out for the Royal Society, Cox and Jeffery outline the various strategies which have been put forward - generally efforts to remove carbon from the atmosphere or to reflect sunlight back into space.

According to the two scientists, so-called "conventional mitigation" - that is, the curbing of CO2 emissions - is highly unlikely to be implemented effectively by the whole human race, and even if it is it won't work.

Even if global CO2 emissions are cut by 50% by 2050, this now seems unlikely to be enough to keep global warming below 2°C this century ... global CO2 emissions have continued to climb despite growing concerns over climate change. Given that conventional mitigation now appears insufficient to avoid dangerous climate change, do we have a plan B? This is the motivation for geoengineering.

Cox and Jeffery say that most climate scientists have until lately refused to discuss geoengineering as it might seem to allow continued or even increased carbon emissions - generally seen as totally unacceptable among specialists in the field.

Discussion of geoengineering proposals remained taboo among mainstream climate scientists until 2006... The primary reason there has been so little debate about geoengineering amongst climate scientists is concern that such a debate would imply an alternative to reducing the human carbon footprint.

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