London, September 1 : Over fears that the world is not doing enough to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, scientists are seriously thinking about the idea that humans may have to alter the global climate artificially with mega-engineering projects, to save the world from a potential catastrophe.
According to a report in The Independent, the Royal Society, UK, will launch a study later this year aimed at reviewing the possibility of saving the planet by "geoengineering" the climate on the grandest scales imaginable.
Geoengineering encompasses schemes such as fertilizing the oceans with iron filings to draw down CO2 from the atmosphere, creating more reflective clouds, or even pumping vast quantities of sulphate particles into the air to simulate volcanic eruptions that cut out sunlight and lower global temperatures.
A growing disillusionment with the ability of governments to reduce CO2 emissions has forced scientists to come up with a possible last-ditch technological fix to avert global catastrophe.
"Global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, so there is inevitably interest in technologies that may be able to provide a 'fix'," said Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society.
It's not clear which of these geoengineering technologies might work, still less what environmental and social impacts they might have, or whether it could ever be prudent or politically acceptable to adopt any of them.
"None of these technologies will provide a 'get out of jail free card' and they must not divert attention away from international efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases," said Lord Rees.
According to Professor Ken Caldeira of Stanford University, it was important to plan now for the possibility of having to use geoengineering.
"Every year, CO2 emissions continue to climb. Reducing CO2 emissions requires individual sacrifice in the here and now for the public good of the distant future," he said.
"If we start soon, we can phase in climate engineering slowly and cautiously, and back off if something bad happens. The least risky thing to do is to start testing soon," he added.