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An overview of the Earth system science of solar geoengineering

Irvine, PJ; Kravitz, B; Lawrence, MG; Muri, H; (2016) An overview of the Earth system science of solar geoengineering. WIREs Climate Change , 7 (6) pp. 815-833. 10.1002/wcc.423. Green open access

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Abstract

Solar geoengineering has been proposed as a means to cool the Earth by increasing the reflection of sunlight back to space, for example, by injecting reflective aerosol particles (or their precursors) into the lower stratosphere. Such proposed techniques would not be able to substitute for mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a response to the risks of climate change, as they would only mask some of the effects of global warming. They might, however, eventually be applied as a complementary approach to reduce climate risks. Thus, the Earth system consequences of solar geoengineering are central to understanding its potentials and risks. Here we review the state‐of‐the‐art knowledge about stratospheric sulfate aerosol injection and an idealized proxy for this, ‘sunshade geoengineering,’ in which the intensity of incoming sunlight is directly reduced in models. Studies are consistent in suggesting that sunshade geoengineering and stratospheric aerosol injection would generally offset the climate effects of elevated GHG concentrations. However, it is clear that a solar geoengineered climate would be novel in some respects, one example being a notably reduced hydrological cycle intensity. Moreover, we provide an overview of nonclimatic aspects of the response to stratospheric aerosol injection, for example, its effect on ozone, and the uncertainties around its consequences. We also consider the issues raised by the partial control over the climate that solar geoengineering would allow. Finally, this overview highlights some key research gaps in need of being resolved to provide sound basis for guidance of future decisions around solar geoengineering.

Type: Article
Title: An overview of the Earth system science of solar geoengineering
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/wcc.423
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/wcc.423
Language: English
Additional information: © 2016 The Authors. WIREs Climate Change published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution‐NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10091183
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