Researchers have found that large-scale, international efforts to regulate the climate by modifying properties of the land surface in highly populated and agricultural areas could be very successful.
The study from the University of New South Wales suggests that this type of climate engineering could reduce extreme temperatures by up to 3 degrees Celsius in North America, Europe, and Asia.
Examples of such modifications include transforming buildings, roads, and other infrastructure to lighter colors that absorb less heat and engaging in no-till farming.
These particular climate engineering strategies have been tested and are effective. Some of the other proposed techniques of regulating the climate, such as injecting aerosols into the atmosphere or building giant mirrors in space, have not been proven to work and are likely to shift the climate in unexpected ways.
“Extreme temperatures are where human and natural systems are most vulnerable,” said co-author Andy Pitman. “Changing the radiative properties of land helps address this issue with fewer side effects.”
“This research suggests that by taking a regional approach, at least in temperate zones, policy and investment decisions can be pragmatically and affordably focused on areas of greatest need.”
The researchers modelled the effects of changing the radiative properties of high population areas and agricultural land across North America, Europe, and Asia. They found little change in average temperatures or in precipitation, yet found substantially lower extreme temperatures.
“Regional land-based climate engineering can be effective but we need to consider competing demands for land use, for instance for food production, biodiversity, carbon uptake, recreational areas and much more before putting it into effect,” said lead author Prof Sonia Seneviratne.
“We must remember land-based climate engineering is not a silver bullet, it is just one part of a possible climate solution, and it would have no effects on global mean warming or ocean acidification. There are still important moral, economic and practical imperatives to consider that mean mitigation and adaptation should still remain at the forefront of our approach to dealing with global warming.”
The study is published in Nature Geoscience.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer
Image Credit: Francisco Moreno (Unsplash)