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Climate Engineering, also referred to as geoengineering, is the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of reducing global warming. Climate engineering has two categories of technologies- carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management.
Geoengineering, geological engineering, engineering geology, or geotechnical engineering deals with the discovery, development, and production and use of subsurface earth resources, as well as the design and construction of earth works. Geoengineering is the application of geosciences, where mechanics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geology are used to understand and shape our interaction with the earth. Geoengineers work in areas of
(1) mining, including surface and subsurface excavations, and rock burst mitigation;
(2) energy, including hydraulic fracturing and drilling for exploration and production of water, oil, or gas;
(3) infrastructure, including underground transportation systems and isolation of nuclear and hazardous wastes; and
(4) environment, including groundwater flow, contaminant transport and remediation, and hydraulic structures.
Professional geoscience organizations such as the American Rock Mechanics Association or the Geo-Institute and academic degrees such as the bachelor of geoengineering accredited by ABET acknowledge the broad scope of work practiced by geoengineers and stress fundamentals of science and engineering methods for the solution of complex problems.
Geoengineers study the mechanics of rock, soil, and fluids to improve the sustainable use of earth’s finite resources, where problems appear with competing interests, for example, groundwater and waste isolation, off-shore oil drilling and risk of spills, natural gas production and induced seismicity.
Edward Teller (Hungarian: Teller Ede; January 15, 1908 – September 9, 2003) was a Hungarian-born American theoretical physicist who, although he claimed he did not care for the title, is known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb". He made numerous contributions to nuclear and molecular physics, spectroscopy (in particular, the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects) and surface physics.
Society's emissions of carbon dioxide may or may not turn out to have something significant to do with global warming--the jury is still out. As a scientist, I must stand silent on this issue until it's resolved scientifically. As a citizen, however, I can tell you that I'm entertained by the high political theater that the nation's politicians have engaged in over the last few months. It's wonderful to think that the world is so very wealthy that a single nation--America--can consider spending $100 billion or so each year to address a problem that may not exist--and that, if it does exist, certainly has unknown dimensions.
This is especially dramatic given that contemporary technology offers considerably more-realistic options for addressing any global warming effect than politicians and environmental activists are considering. Some of these may be far less burdensome than even a system of market-allocated emissions permits. One particularly attractive approach involves diminishing slightly--by about 1 percent--the amount of sunlight reaching the earth's surface in order to counteract any warming effect of greenhouse gases.
This is not a new concept and certainly not a complex one. Nature does this routinely: In 1991, the large Philippine volcano Mount Pinatubo threw myriad fine particles into the upper atmosphere, where they scattered small fractions of the sun's light and heat back into space. We already know that the eruption of Mexico's El Chichon a decade earlier induced cooling in the Northern Hemisphere by about one-quarter as much as the average prediction of the global warming expected by 2100 (assuming no politically imposed limits on emissions).
In 1979, physicist Freeman Dyson, in his characteristically prescient manner, proposed the deliberate, large-scale introduction of such fine particles into the upper atmosphere to offset global warming, which he thought even then would eventually become a human concern. Some of my colleagues and I have recently surveyed the current technological prospects for such an introduction. We estimated the costs involved and presented our results last August at the Twenty-second International Seminar on Planetary Emergencies. The most expensive such "geoengineering" option appears to be the one long ago proposed by Mr. Dyson, which may cost as much as $1 billion a year. More technologically advanced options along the same lines might cost $100 million.
"Perhaps one of the surprises of this analysis is the relatively low costs at which some of the geoengineering options might be implemented." Indeed, the director of the U.S. Global Change Research Program's Coordination Office has been promoting such geoengineering for three decades. But for some reason, this option isn't as fashionable as all-out war on fossil fuels and the people who use them.
The following Federal entities participate in the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). Representatives from each of these agencies constitute the Subcommittee on Global Change Research of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources within the National Science and Technology Council. To learn more about the role each agency plays in the context of USGCRP, please click
The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) was established by Presidential Initiative in 1989 and mandated by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990 to develop and coordinate “a comprehensive and integrated United States research program which will assist the Nation and the world to understand, assess, predict, and respond to human-induced and natural processes of global change.”
What GAO Found
Few geoengineering experiments or modeling studies have been conducted, and major uncertainties remain on the efficacy and potential consequences of geoengineering approaches. GAO’s review of relevant studies and discussions with selected experts indicated that relatively more laboratory and field research relevant to certain CDR approaches exists, although most of this research was not designed to apply to geoengineering.
In contrast, few modeling studies or field experiments have focused on SRM approaches, according to experts and recent studies. Experts identified only one SRM field experiment with published results—a 2009 Russian experiment that injected aerosols into the middle troposphere to measure their reflectivity. Experts, as well as relevant studies, identified several major uncertainties in need of further investigation for CDR and SRM.
Federal agencies identified 52 research activities, totaling about $100.9 million, relevant to geoengineering during fiscal years 2009 and 2010. GAO’s analysis found that 43 activities, totaling about $99 million, focused either on mitigation strategies or basic science. Most of the research focused on mitigation efforts, such as geological sequestration of CO2, which were identified as relevant to CDR approaches but not designed to address them directly.
GAO found that nine activities, totaling about $1.9 million, directly investigated SRM or less conventional CDR approaches. Officials from interagency bodies coordinating federal responses to climate change indicated that their offices have not developed a coordinated strategy, and believe that, due to limited federal investment, it is premature to coordinate geoengineering activities.
However, federal officials also noted that a large share of existing federal climate science research could be relevant to geoengineering. Agencies requested roughly $2 billion for such activities in fiscal year 2010. Without a coordinated federal strategy for geoengineering, it is difficult for agencies to determine the extent of relevant research, and policymakers may lack key information to inform subsequent decisions on geoengineering and existing climate science efforts.
Talk about a win-win situation. Compressed carbon dioxide may be more suitable than water for fracturing methane-rich rock – a finding that could help the growing hydraulic fracturing industry extract more natural gas from spent fields. And because the carbon dioxide is then trapped below ground, the discovery could also spur the development of large-scale carbon sequestration.
Natural gas production has soared worldwide in recent years as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking – a process of injecting pressurised water into shale formations to fracture the rock and release massive amounts of natural gas trapped inside.
He says that shale has a greater affinity for CO2 than methane. When CO2 is injected into a depleted shale formation – even one that has previously been fracked – the rock will release more methane because pockets of the gas chemically trapped within the shale will be released in favour of the more chemically attractive CO2.
A 2006 study by the US Department of Energy assessed geologic sequestration options in the US Midwest. It found that saline aquifers offer by far the greatest potential carbon storage capacity – around 470 gigatonnes – but shale beds that have been fractured for methane production came in second, with the potential to hold 45 gigatonnes.
Mark Zoback, a geophysicist at Stanford University, California, says fractured shale beds may be a safer place to sequester carbon dioxide than saline aquifers where the injection of the waste gas into an already highly pressurised environment could trigger small earthquakes.
A study earlier this year also pointed out that fracking might unintentionally reduce the suitability of some saline aquifers for CO2 storage because it is often shale that forms an impermeable seal above the aquifer, preventing the gas from escaping back to the surface. Fracking the shale compromises the quality of the seal by opening up fractures.
Talk about the law of unintended consequences. Cracking open solid rock in a bid to squeeze out natural gas could spoil future efforts to store the carbon dioxide we release from burning fossil fuels.
Scientists involved in carbon capture and storage (CCS) are said to be "angry and depressed" at the UK government's slow progress on the issue.
A UK-wide £1bn competition to design and build commercial CCS systems has been beset with problems and delays.
A leading Scottish expert in the field, Prof Stuart Haszeldine, has claimed urgent progress is needed as part of the fight against global warming.
The UK government said it remains committed to CCS.
It is understood a decision on the next stage of the competition is likely to be made at the turn of the year.
Coal and gas-fired power stations provide much of the world's electricity, but they also produce huge amounts of greenhouse gas such as CO2, which contribute towards global warming.