As Paris climate goals recede, geoengineering looms larger

News Hour

Even if you are terrified of heights, jumping out of a plane with a makeshift parachute may begin to look like a good idea once you know the aircraft is running out of fuel.

That, arguably, is akin to the mindset of climate scientists and policymakers brainstorming in Berlin this week on how to compensate for humanity’s collective failure to curb the greenhouse gases — caused mainly by burning fossil fuels that drive global warming.

In 2015, 195 nations miraculously, if belatedly, vowed to cap the rise of the Earth’s average surface temperature at “well below” two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and to make a good-faith effort to hold the line at a 1.5 C.

But the Paris Agreement did not mandate how or when to hit those targets.

With a single degree Celsius of warming so far, a crescendo of impacts — including tropical storms engorged by rising seas, along with deadly heatwaves, fires and droughts — suggest that time is not on our side and that the range of options is narrowing.

“It has become very clear that getting to 2 C, and especially 1.5 C, is very dependent on our ability to remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere,” Naomi Vaughan, a climate scientist at the University of East Anglia, told the opening plenary of the Climate Engineering Conference 2017.

Indeed, 90 percent of projections in the UN climate science panel’s most recent report that would keep the planet under the 2 C threshold depend heavily on such “negative emissions”. (The others assume greenhouse gas emissions peaked in 2010, when in fact they are still climbing.)

“It is a matter of considerable concern that we are not sure how to do this” on the scale needed, Myles Allen, head of the University of Oxford’s Climate Research Programme, told AFP.

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