Technology not enough to limit warming

Engineering initiatives against climate change are not enough to limit global warming in the next decades, research shows.

Governments must commit to lowering their carbon dioxide emissions at the Climate Summit in Paris later this year to make a significant impact on counteracting climate change, a European study has shown.

The report, involving Edinburgh scientists, shows that technologies have potential for helping to mitigate climate change in decades to come. However, they cannot have an impact in the short term.

Engineering approach

Greenhouse gas re-capture is not an easy option to prevent global change. If industrial societies continue to emit fossil carbon and clear forests, the future looks like a series of bad choices.

Professor Stuart HaszeldineSchool of GeoSciences

Engineering techniques considered in the report include carbon capture and storage - in which emissions from industrial plants are captured and stored deep underground; sunlight reflection technology; and ocean fertilisation.

Research by the international team of climate scientists found that it is not yet clear whether any proposed technology could be developed to significantly reduce climate change.

It is also unclear whether the potential impact of climate engineering on society and the environment would be acceptable, or what its impact on ecosystems might be, they say.

Long-term view

Researchers add that scientists should continue to investigate climate engineering techniques to understand what potential they might have.

They conclude, however, that these should not be expected to play a significant role in climate policy for several decades.

The report by the European Transdisciplinary Assessment of Climate Engineering (EuTRACE) was funded by the EU.

It was led by IASS Berlin and involved researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, East Anglia, Exeter and Bristol, and across Europe.

Inventing and constructing climate engineering is too slow, it is not clear who will pay for it or regulate it, and there can be negative impacts on many countries, particularly poorer nations.

Professor Stuart HaszeldineSchool of GeoSciences