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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.

Deirdre Fulton

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.


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