Tag Archives: New Zealand

Few would welcome geo-engineering

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Trying to avert dangerously high global temperatures by modifying the climate – geo-engineering – may or may not be possible. It certainly won’t be popular, researchers say. LONDON, 17 January – Geo-engineering – the frustrated climate scientist’s last-ditch solution to global warming – is not likely to be a very popular choice. Members of the public have “a negative view” of deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change, according to new research in Nature Climate Change. Geo-engineering has been repeatedly proposed as a response to the steady build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and increasingly cited as a potential necessity as global emissions from fossil fuels have continued to increase. If political action fails, some scientists reason, then perhaps technology could stop global average temperatures from getting too high. Among these options is the injection of aerosols into the stratosphere to block or dim the sunlight, or the release of reflecting devices in Earth orbit to actually reflect sunlight away from the planet, on the principle that if you can’t turn down the atmospheric temperature, you could at least put up a sunscreen to cool the planet a little. Such ideas have failed to find universal favour in the scientific community, if only because such action could seriously upset rainfall patterns and trigger disaster in the arid parts of Africa.

Consistent reluctance

But until now, nobody has seriously put the question to the public. Ordinary people don’t like the idea, say Malcolm Wright and Pamela Feetham of Massey University in New Zealand, and Damon Teagle of the University of Southampton, UK. They consulted large samples of opinion in both Australia and New Zealand, and found “remarkably consistent” responses from both countries, “with surprisingly few variations except for a slight tendency for older respondents to view climate engineering more favourably,” says Pamela Feetham. The trio report in Nature Climate Change that where there had been engagement with the public, this had been “exploratory, small-scale, or technique-specific.” So the researchers tried another approach, one used by big corporations to evaluate marketing brands. Such approaches use psychological techniques to find out what people associate with different ideas, and have done so successfully for two decades. The researchers systematically examined and compared in a controlled fashion the public reaction to six potential climate engineering techniques, among them, for instance, robot ships that would spray seawater droplets over the ocean to reflect sunlight – it’s called cloud brightening – and air capture, the design of structures to filter CO2 from the air.

Charcoal is popular

They found that people were not in favour of deflecting or blocking sunlight, but were more likely to have positive reactions to techniques that might reduce carbon dioxide levels. “It was a striking result and a very clear pattern”, said Professor Wright. “Interventions such as putting mirrors in space or fine particles in the stratosphere are not well received. More natural processes of cloud brightening or enhanced weathering are less likely to raise objections, but the public react best to creating biochar (making charcoal from vegetation to lock in CO2) or capturing carbon directly from the air.” The message is that if scientists want to save the planet by climate engineering, they had better ask around first. “If these techniques are developed the public must be consulted”, said Professor Wright. “Our methods can be employed to evaluate the responses in other countries and reapplied in the future to measure how public opinion changes as these potential new techniques are discussed and developed.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Trying to avert dangerously high global temperatures by modifying the climate – geo-engineering – may or may not be possible. It certainly won’t be popular, researchers say. LONDON, 17 January – Geo-engineering – the frustrated climate scientist’s last-ditch solution to global warming – is not likely to be a very popular choice. Members of the public have “a negative view” of deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change, according to new research in Nature Climate Change. Geo-engineering has been repeatedly proposed as a response to the steady build-up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and increasingly cited as a potential necessity as global emissions from fossil fuels have continued to increase. If political action fails, some scientists reason, then perhaps technology could stop global average temperatures from getting too high. Among these options is the injection of aerosols into the stratosphere to block or dim the sunlight, or the release of reflecting devices in Earth orbit to actually reflect sunlight away from the planet, on the principle that if you can’t turn down the atmospheric temperature, you could at least put up a sunscreen to cool the planet a little. Such ideas have failed to find universal favour in the scientific community, if only because such action could seriously upset rainfall patterns and trigger disaster in the arid parts of Africa.

Consistent reluctance

But until now, nobody has seriously put the question to the public. Ordinary people don’t like the idea, say Malcolm Wright and Pamela Feetham of Massey University in New Zealand, and Damon Teagle of the University of Southampton, UK. They consulted large samples of opinion in both Australia and New Zealand, and found “remarkably consistent” responses from both countries, “with surprisingly few variations except for a slight tendency for older respondents to view climate engineering more favourably,” says Pamela Feetham. The trio report in Nature Climate Change that where there had been engagement with the public, this had been “exploratory, small-scale, or technique-specific.” So the researchers tried another approach, one used by big corporations to evaluate marketing brands. Such approaches use psychological techniques to find out what people associate with different ideas, and have done so successfully for two decades. The researchers systematically examined and compared in a controlled fashion the public reaction to six potential climate engineering techniques, among them, for instance, robot ships that would spray seawater droplets over the ocean to reflect sunlight – it’s called cloud brightening – and air capture, the design of structures to filter CO2 from the air.

Charcoal is popular

They found that people were not in favour of deflecting or blocking sunlight, but were more likely to have positive reactions to techniques that might reduce carbon dioxide levels. “It was a striking result and a very clear pattern”, said Professor Wright. “Interventions such as putting mirrors in space or fine particles in the stratosphere are not well received. More natural processes of cloud brightening or enhanced weathering are less likely to raise objections, but the public react best to creating biochar (making charcoal from vegetation to lock in CO2) or capturing carbon directly from the air.” The message is that if scientists want to save the planet by climate engineering, they had better ask around first. “If these techniques are developed the public must be consulted”, said Professor Wright. “Our methods can be employed to evaluate the responses in other countries and reapplied in the future to measure how public opinion changes as these potential new techniques are discussed and developed.” – Climate News Network

Trans-Pacific flights harm climate most

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have found that emissions from aircraft overflying part of the Pacific are causing the highest production of ozone, a short-lived greenhouse gas. LONDON, 7 September – If you’re planning on taking a flight but you’re worried about the volume of greenhouse gas emissions your aircraft journey will cause, don’t – whatever you do – fly to or from Australia or New Zealand. A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used a global chemistry/transport model to find out which parts of the world are particularly sensitive to the creation of ozone: they then investigated which individual flights created the most ozone. Results of the MIT research which are published in the journal Environmental Research Letters show that an area of the Pacific, about 1,000 km east of the Solomon Islands, is the most sensitive to aircraft emissions. The study found that in this region 1kg of aircraft emissions results in an extra 15kg of ozone being produced over a year, a figure five times higher than the sensitivity in Europe and nearly four times that in North America. But a large part of Australia, southeast Asia and an area stretching right across to Madagascar off the east cost of Africa are also rated as being highly sensitive to emissions. Ozone is a potent but short-lived greenhouse gas with comparable short-term effects to those of carbon dioxide, produced when emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – such as nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide – interact with sunlight. Ozone’s production and destruction is therefore heavily dependent on the particular state of the atmosphere, and its effects are localised – felt in specific regions at specific times. More than 80,000 individual flights around the world were analysed. The researchers found that the 10 highest ozone-producing flights either originated in, or were destined for, New Zealand or Australia. Top of the league for the highest amount of ozone generated – 25,300 kg worth – is a flight from Sydney to Mumbai.

Detours possible

Other high-scoring flights include Sydney-Honolulu, Auckland-Seoul and Brisbane-Bangkok. Steven Barrett, the lead author of the study, told Climate News Network that the amount of ozone produced by flights alters depending on the time of the year – with the autumn period causing the most ozone pollution. “There have been many studies of the total impact of civil aviation emissions on the atmosphere but there is very little knowledge of how individual flights change the environment,” says Barrett. “The places that the sensitivities are highest now are the fastest-growing regions in terms of civil aviation growth, so there could potentially be ways to achieve significant reductions in the climate impact of aviation by focusing on re-routing aircraft around the particular regions of the world where ozone formation is highly sensitive to NOx emissions.” But while this might mean less ozone, it would mean more of another greenhouse gas being emitted into the atmosphere. “Of course, longer flights are going to burn more fuel and emit more CO2, so there will be a trade=off between increasing flight distance and other climate impacts, such as the effect of ozone,” says Barrett. “The scientific underpinning of this trade-off needs further investigation so that we have a better understanding and can see whether such a trade-off can be justified.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Scientists have found that emissions from aircraft overflying part of the Pacific are causing the highest production of ozone, a short-lived greenhouse gas. LONDON, 7 September – If you’re planning on taking a flight but you’re worried about the volume of greenhouse gas emissions your aircraft journey will cause, don’t – whatever you do – fly to or from Australia or New Zealand. A team of researchers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) used a global chemistry/transport model to find out which parts of the world are particularly sensitive to the creation of ozone: they then investigated which individual flights created the most ozone. Results of the MIT research which are published in the journal Environmental Research Letters show that an area of the Pacific, about 1,000 km east of the Solomon Islands, is the most sensitive to aircraft emissions. The study found that in this region 1kg of aircraft emissions results in an extra 15kg of ozone being produced over a year, a figure five times higher than the sensitivity in Europe and nearly four times that in North America. But a large part of Australia, southeast Asia and an area stretching right across to Madagascar off the east cost of Africa are also rated as being highly sensitive to emissions. Ozone is a potent but short-lived greenhouse gas with comparable short-term effects to those of carbon dioxide, produced when emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – such as nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide – interact with sunlight. Ozone’s production and destruction is therefore heavily dependent on the particular state of the atmosphere, and its effects are localised – felt in specific regions at specific times. More than 80,000 individual flights around the world were analysed. The researchers found that the 10 highest ozone-producing flights either originated in, or were destined for, New Zealand or Australia. Top of the league for the highest amount of ozone generated – 25,300 kg worth – is a flight from Sydney to Mumbai.

Detours possible

Other high-scoring flights include Sydney-Honolulu, Auckland-Seoul and Brisbane-Bangkok. Steven Barrett, the lead author of the study, told Climate News Network that the amount of ozone produced by flights alters depending on the time of the year – with the autumn period causing the most ozone pollution. “There have been many studies of the total impact of civil aviation emissions on the atmosphere but there is very little knowledge of how individual flights change the environment,” says Barrett. “The places that the sensitivities are highest now are the fastest-growing regions in terms of civil aviation growth, so there could potentially be ways to achieve significant reductions in the climate impact of aviation by focusing on re-routing aircraft around the particular regions of the world where ozone formation is highly sensitive to NOx emissions.” But while this might mean less ozone, it would mean more of another greenhouse gas being emitted into the atmosphere. “Of course, longer flights are going to burn more fuel and emit more CO2, so there will be a trade=off between increasing flight distance and other climate impacts, such as the effect of ozone,” says Barrett. “The scientific underpinning of this trade-off needs further investigation so that we have a better understanding and can see whether such a trade-off can be justified.” – Climate News Network