Earlier this month the U.S. Global Change Research Program quietly recommended new studies looking into two specific areas of research involving the controversial technology known as geoengineering. The GCRP involves thirteen different federal departments and agencies. The program was created by a presidential initiative in 1989 and became law as part of the Global Change Research Act of 1990. The law called for new research to help “assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
In their efforts to combat the alleged effects of man-made climate change, the scientific community funds research into a variety of fields. Geoengineering is a controversial type of weather modification which has been researched, but, until recently, been considered too unpredictable to attempt on a large scale. Now the GCRP has released a new report detailing the path of research into climate change, including new research on geoengineering.
According to a 2013 congressional report:
The term ‘geoengineering’ describes this array of technologies that aim, through large-scale and deliberate modifications of the Earth’s energy balance, to reduce temperatures and counteract anthropogenic climate change. Most of these technologies are at the conceptual and research stages, and their effectiveness at reducing global temperatures has yet to be proven. Moreover, very few studies have been published that document the cost, environmental effects, socio-political impacts, and legal implications of geoengineering. If geoengineering technologies were to be deployed, they are expected to have the potential to cause significant transboundary effects.
In general, geoengineering technologies are categorized as either a carbon dioxide removal (CDR) method or a solar radiation management (SRM) (or albedo-modification) method. CDR methods address the warming effects of greenhouse gases by removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. CDR methods include ocean fertilization, and carbon capture and sequestration. SRM methods address climate change by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface.Aerosol injection and space-based reflectors are examples of SRM methods. SRM methods do not remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but can be deployed faster with relatively immediate global cooling results compared to CDR methods.