• A CONVERSATION WITH PHILIP RASCH, PhD, CHIEF SCIENTIST FOR CLIMATE AT THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST NATIONAL LABORATORY

    by Erica Rex Dr. Philip Rasch focuses on understanding the connections between clouds, chemistry, and the climate. He co-chairs the Atmospheric Model Working Group of the Community Climate System Model project. Dr. Rasch and his team create mathematical models of what the Earth’s climate might look like in the future by varying their assumptions about conditions such as carbon dioxide concentration and temperature. Each of the scenarios created using these models provides insights into what we can do to ameliorate climate change. Among other things, Dr. Rasch has explored the possibilities of geoengineering with aerosols in the stratosphere. This week, The Hot Zone spoke with Dr. Rasch about his work. THZ: How viable or realistic is it to imagine using aerosols to reduce the effects of climate change? Dr. Rasch: It is a philosophical issue, among other things. We know

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  • GEOENGINEERING THE CLIMATE II:  THE DOWN SIDE

    by Erica Rex Despite its great potential for remedying the climate crisis, once put into practice, geoengineering may turn out the way of many panaceas. A great idea in theory, and an expensive disaster in practice. In the 21 August 2009 issue of the journal Science, scientists Gabriele C. Hegerl of the Grant Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Susan Solomon of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in Boulder, Colorado, point out some of the downsides. They write: “ [By] focusing on limiting warming, the debate creates a false sense of certainty and downplays the impacts of geoengineering solutions. Discussions of “dangerous” levels of interference with the climate system often use warming as a proxy for the seriousness of greenhouse gas–induced climate change. However, climate change impacts are driven not only by temperature changes, but also by change in other

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  • ALBEDO YACHTS AND ALGAE BLOOMS: CURES FOR THE EARTH’S MAN-MADE FEVER?

    by Erica Rex Question: since we’re the ones responsible for breaking the climate, shouldn’t we be the ones to fix it? This is exactly the question posed by climate scientists at the The Royal Society, a hallowed UK institution whose past members include such luminaries as Sir Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Last week, the society issued a study called “Geoengineering the Climate: science, governance and uncertainty.” The study points out that it is likely the Earth will warm two degrees this century, unless global greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to 50% of 1990 levels by 2050. A carbon-reducing diet of this magnitude would put us around the 175 parts per million (ppm) range. Today’s levels are around 388 ppm. The absolute peak – the concentration at which global warming will become irreversible, even if we stop emitting greenhouse gases

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  • THE HOT ZONE

    Welcome to The Hot Zone, a climate change and global warming blog sponsored by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Astrobiology Magazine. Last year, James Hansen, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Adjunct Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, wrote these words: “Our home planet is dangerously near a tipping point at which human-made greenhouse gases reach a level where major climate changes can proceed mostly under their own momentum.” What does this mean? If the climate is a car we’re driving on a mountain road, we’ve arrived at its highest pass. We’re beginning our descent. But we’ve neglected the brakes. The highway department never installed any guard rails alongside the sheer granite cliffs. And on top of this, we forgot to check the power steering

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