Scientists recommend checkpoint system to guide HVAC research

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The following press release was issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He describes an opinion piece that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that outlines a framework to evaluate and guide research into “marine cloud brightening” – a proposed method of reflecting light. sun away from Earth to mitigate the most severe impacts of climate change. Allison McComiskey, chair of the Department of Environmental and Climate Sciences at the US Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, is one of the co-authors of the PNAS paper.

Courtesy of Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Research into engineering techniques that could one day be used to artificially cool the planet poses some of the most challenging questions facing society today. For climatologists, this tension is compounded by the lack of a widely accepted monitoring framework to guide their research.

Yakima Valley, Washington, by Kyle Field/Clean Technica.

In an opinion piece published in PNAS, a team of scientists led by NOAA and CIRES researchers outlines a framework for evaluating the viability of a method of reflecting sunlight called marine cloud brightening, or MCB. The proposed method would use oceanic sea salt particles to increase the reflectivity of low clouds over certain ocean regions. It is one of several proposed methods under consideration as a temporary measure to limit creeping warming.

Climate scientists agree that the most important steps that can be taken to avoid the worst impacts of climate change are to decarbonize the economy and preserve and restore natural ecosystems that absorb carbon, said lead author Michael Diamond, a RAINCOATS scientist working at NOAA.

Unfortunately, current pledges to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (or 2.7 degrees F). As global climate impacts worsen, interest in climate intervention research is expected to increase. A report 2021 published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine recommended conducting research on methods of climate intervention and further stated that such research should operate under “robust research governance” to objectively assess its value and its risks – a governance that does not yet exist.

“MCB is currently being evaluated as a potentially viable option, so it behooves us to coordinate the many participating institutions and create the structure for a future research program,” said NOAA scientist Graham Feingold.

Led by Diamond and Feingold, a team that includes researchers from NCAR, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the University of Washington is presenting ideas for such a framework. They propose a list of six “checkpoints” that should be continually evaluated during research into marine cloud thinning.

If at any point a research effort demonstrates that a single aspect of the MCB would be technically unfeasible or socially unacceptable, the project would be directed to an “exit ramp” leading to redirection or termination of work.

Among the physical science checkpoints identified by scientists, researchers should develop sufficient confidence that particles of the appropriate size can be generated and delivered to the correct altitude and, once there, act to form particles. cloudy droplets that effectively scatter sunlight. They should also show that MCB activities would not trigger cloudy responses that significantly offset the brightening effect.

Scientists should further establish that sea clouds that can be thinned occur frequently enough to reduce the overall impact of climate change and show that the cooling effect of MCB would be measurable in order to demonstrate that the method works. as expected.

Finally, MCB research should clarify the risks of negative impacts on coastal communities and ecosystems and large-scale disruptions of atmospheric circulations with unintended consequences, such as affecting rainfall patterns in vulnerable regions such as the Amazonia.

In addition to filling science gaps, an equitable governance structure would incorporate input from experts in fields beyond the physical sciences, such as ethics, sociology, and ecology, into decisions about feasibility and funding. of research. For example, if researchers reached a point where there was scientific confidence in the predictability of MCB-influenced precipitation changes, a decision on whether to pursue research would take into account how ecological and societal impacts affect different communities or regions.

“Policy makers and potentially affected communities need a seat at the table to ensure that the information generated by scientists is usable and relevant to their needs,” Diamond said. Although their paper focuses on MCB, the scientists advocate a similar research framework to assess the viability of other proposals for climate intervention, such as the injection of stratospheric aerosols, which would cool the planet by spreading millions of tons of light-reflecting particles in the stratosphere, where the Earth’s protective ozone layer is located.

“While in an ideal world the global community would quickly develop formal governance structures to oversee research and direct funding, the research community must now establish guidelines for itself,” Diamond said.

The research was supported by NOAA’s Earth’s Radiation Budget initiative, CIRES, the National Science Foundation, NASA and the Department of Energy.

Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic physical science research in the United States and works to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit science.energy.gov.

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