An interdisciplinary assessment of climate engineering strategies

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Abstract

Mitigating further anthropogenic changes to the global climate will require reducing greenhouse-gas emissions (“abatement”), or else removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and/or diminishing solar input (“climate engineering”). Here, we develop and apply criteria to measure technical, economic, ecological, institutional, and ethical dimensions of, and public acceptance for, climate engineering strategies; provide a relative rating for each dimension; and offer a new interdisciplinary framework for comparing abatement and climate engineering options. While abatement remains the most desirable policy, certain climate engineering strategies, including forest and soil management for carbon sequestration, merit broad-scale application. Other proposed strategies, such as biochar production and geological carbon capture and storage, are rated somewhat lower, but deserve further research and development. Iron fertilization of the oceans and solar radiation management, although cost-effective, received the lowest ratings on most criteria. We conclude that although abatement should remain the central climate-change response, some low-risk, cost-effective climate engineering approaches should be applied as complements. The framework presented here aims to guide and prioritize further research and analysis, leading to improvements in climate engineering strategies.

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