Winnipeg, MB

14°c Clear

Full Forecast

Science & Technology

The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

There is no last-minute scientific solution to fix climate change: study

Posted: 06/4/2014 1:36 PM | Comments: 0

Last Modified: 06/4/2014 4:56 PM


  • Print

VANCOUVER - There is no scientific silver bullet that will save the world from the effects of climate change, says a new study.

Over the past two years, a team of Canadian and American researchers has evaluated the potential for so-called geo-engineering to address global warming.

They looked at approaches already widely in place like forest and soil management, as well as more controversial ideas such as ocean fertilization and solar radiation management.

What they found is that none of these — or even all of them together — compare to the impact of reductions in human-generated greenhouse gas emissions.

"Politicians don't say directly 'Don't worry, technology will come along and save us,' but it's implied by the continual delay of doing any real climate policy," said Jonn Axsen, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University's School of Resource and Environmental Management and one of six authors of the study.

The outlook for that last-minute scientific solution is not good, he and his colleagues found.

"There is no silver bullet. There's no technology fix," Axsen said Wednesday. "There's no button that we're going to press some day to reduce the warming that we're going to experience. what we need to do is have climate policy now and start creating real action now.

The team looked at the cost, feasibility and ecological risks of each approach. They also factored in the ability to govern each, the ethics and public acceptance.

They also looked at reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency, conservation and changes in vehicle fuel.

"Abatement of greenhouse-gas emissions should remain the focus of climate-change policy," said the peer-reviewed study, published in the latest issue of the journal Frontier in Ecology and the Environment.

"Given their associated uncertainties and risks, climate engineering strategies best serve as complements to abatement."

Improved management of forests and agriculture are already gaining ground. They are of relatively low risk and generate the least ethical concerns, the study found.

Likewise, there are carbon capture and storage projects now in place on a small scale in some regions, to capture large CO2 releases and prevent their release into the atmosphere by funnelling them into storage, usually deep underground.

Ocean fertilization and solar radiation management are more controversial.

Also called "global cooling," solar radiation managment means reducing the heating effect of the sun on Earth. In theory, aerosols sprayed into the atmosphere, outer-atmosphere reflectors or even whitening the surfaces of cities and oceans could reduce that radiant heat.

In ocean fertilization, proponents believe a large deposit of iron-ore in the deep seas will cause an algae bloom that captures carbon and takes it to the ocean floor as it decays. The practice is unproven.

Canada unwittingly became Ground Zero for ocean fertilization research when an unauthorized experiment was carried out off the B.C. coast in July 2012.

The Haida Salmon Restoration Corp. dumped more than 100 metric tonnes of iron into the ocean near Haida Gwaii, hoping it would boost salmon returns and lead to carbon capture profits.

Jason McNamee, who was a director of the corporation, said despite the outcry and controversy, geo-engineering research will continue.

Greenhouse gas emissions show no sign of slowing down, he said. The human population is on course to hit 10 billion by 2050, consumption patterns continue to grow and there is currently no realistic alternative to fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, global fisheries continue to decline, he said.

"It seems that action is required to find methods to reduce our impact on future generations," McNamee said.

"With respect to ocean fertilization we do not know what the risks truly are because there is such a profound paucity of data."

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.