PerspectiveAtmospheric Science

A Test for Geoengineering?

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Science  29 Jan 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5965, pp. 530-531
DOI: 10.1126/science.1186237

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Scientific and political interest in the possibility of geoengineering the climate is rising (1). There are currently no means of implementing geoengineering, but if a viable technology is produced in the next decade, how could it be tested? We argue that geoengineering cannot be tested without full-scale implementation. The initial production of aerosol droplets can be tested on a small scale, but how they will grow in size (which determines the injection rate needed to produce a particular cooling) can only be tested by injection into an existing aerosol cloud, which cannot be confined to one location. Furthermore, weather and climate variability preclude observation of the climate response without a large, decade-long forcing. Such full-scale implementation could disrupt food production on a large scale.

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