Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Oceans cover roughly 70 percent of the globe. Their acidification makes it difficult for fish, shellfish, and marine plantlife to flourish. (Photo: Raul Lieberwirth/flickr/cc)

Geoengineering Schemes Sound Too Good to be True? That's Because They Are.

Study finds that 'technofixes' won't be enough to save the planet's oceans in a world where CO2 emissions continued to climb.

As a historic heat wave ravages the Middle East and glaciers continue rapidly melting into the sea, a "thought-experiment" devised by German researchers has demonstrated—yet again—that the best way to avoid the effects of catastrophic climate change is to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

According to a paper (pdf) published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, geoengineering "technofixes" such as carbon dioxide removal (CDR)—a yet-unproven technology designed to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere—wouldn't be enough to save the planet's oceans in a world where CO2 emissions continued to climb. 

The study, led by Sabine Mathesius of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, imagined a world that went on burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate—and then adopted a CDR technique in order to mitigate global warming. 

"Our study clearly shows that if the global community follows a business-as-usual CO2 emissions scenario into the future, even massive deployment of CDR schemes cannot reverse the substantial impacts of these emissions on on the marine environment," the paper reads.

"Thus," it continues, "our findings contribute to the growing body of evidence supporting the view that immediate and ambitious action to reduce CO2 emissions is the most reliable strategy for avoiding dangerous climate change, ocean acidification, and large-scale threats to marine ecosystems."

A report issued last month by the European Transdisciplinary Assessment of Climate Engineering, a consortium of 14 academic and research institutions from Germany, the UK, France, Austria and Norway, similarly found that geoengineering methods—including CDR—are "no quick fix" for climate change.

"It would be irresponsible, based on all we know so far, to expect climate engineering to significantly contribute to solving the problem of climate change in the next several decades," said Mark Lawrence, that project's coordinator and scientific director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies-Potsdam.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
We need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Rev. Barber Says West Virginians Are Ready for 'Non-Violent Sit-Ins' Against Manchin for Abetting GOP Voter Suppression

"This is a moral issue, a constitutional issue, and we're gonna stand and fight against it—even if we gotta go to jail."

Jake Johnson, staff writer ·


'Sorely Disappointed' by Court Ruling, Pipeline Foes Demand Biden 'Act Immediately to Stop Line 3'

"Every day President Biden refuses to stop the Line 3 pipeline is a slap in the face to environmental justice communities and a renewed breaking of his promises on climate and Indigenous rights."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·


300+ Progressive Groups Urge Corporations to Ditch ALEC for Pushing Voter Suppression Bills

"If corporations really believe in protecting our democracy and the right to vote, they must end their affiliation with ALEC," said one advocate.

Kenny Stancil, staff writer ·


Reality Winner's Release From Federal Prison Met With Calls for Full Pardon for the NSA Whistleblower

Winner will serve the rest of her five-year sentence under the supervision of a halfway house.

Julia Conley, staff writer ·


Analysis Highlights Biden Proposal to End $84 Billion Gift to Big Oil Buried in Trump Tax Scam

"We can stop this insane corporate welfare and use it to pay for a renewable energy future."

Andrea Germanos, staff writer ·