Rutgers University

Press Releases

Climate Engineering, Once Started, Would Have Severe Impacts If Stopped, Rutgers Study Says

c31f0156da137e39b965_RobockNR17RobockAlan4738N.jpg
Alan Robock, distinguished professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Credits: Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University
c31f0156da137e39b965_RobockNR17RobockAlan4738N.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Facing a climate crisis, we may someday spray sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere to form a cloud that cools the Earth, but suddenly stopping the spraying would have a severe global impact on animals and plants, according to the first study on the potential biological impacts of geoengineering, or climate intervention.

The study was published online today in Nature Ecology & Evolution. The paper was co-authored by Rutgers Distinguished Professor Alan Robock, research associate Lili Xia and postdoc Brian Zambri, all from the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Other co-authors were from the University of Maryland, Yale University and Stony Brook University.

“Rapid warming after stopping geoengineering would be a huge threat to the natural environment and biodiversity,” Robock said. “If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating, so you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually, and it is easy to think of scenarios that would prevent that. Imagine large droughts or floods around the world that could be blamed on geoengineering, and demands that it stop. Can we ever risk that?”

Sign Up for E-News

Geoengineering means attempting to control the climate in addition to stopping the burning of fossil fuels, the main cause of global warming, Robock said.

While scientists have studied the climate impacts of geoengineering in detail, they know almost nothing about its potential impacts on biodiversity and ecosystems, the study notes.

The geoengineering idea that’s attracted the most attention is to create a sulfuric acid cloud in the upper atmosphere as large volcanic eruptions do, Robock said. The cloud, formed after airplanes spray sulfur dioxide, would reflect solar radiation and cool the planet.

But airplanes would have to continuously fly into the upper atmosphere to maintain the cloud because it would last only about a year if spraying stopped, Robock said. He added that the airplane spraying technology may be developed within a decade or two.

In their study, the scientists used a global scenario with moderate cooling through geoengineering, and looked at the impacts on land and in the ocean from suddenly stopping it. They assumed that airplanes would spray 5 million tons of sulfur dioxide a year into the upper atmosphere at the Equator from 2020 to 2070.

That’s the annual equivalent of about one quarter of the sulfur dioxide ejected during the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, Robock said.

The spraying would lead to an even distribution of sulfuric acid clouds in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. And that would lower the global temperature by about 1 degree Celsius (about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) – about the level of global warming since the Industrial Revolution began in the mid-1800s. But halting geoengineering would lead to rapid warming – 10 times faster than if geoengineering had not been deployed, Robock said.

The scientists then calculated how fast organisms would have to move to remain in the climate – in terms of both temperature and precipitation -- that they are accustomed to and could survive in, he said.

“In many cases, you’d have to go one direction to find the same temperature but a different direction to find the same precipitation,” Robock said. “Plants, of course, can’t move reasonably at all. Some animals can move and some can’t.”

He noted that national parks, forests and wildlife refuges serve as sanctuaries for animals, plants and other organisms. But if rapid warming forced them to move, and even if they could move fast enough, they may not be able find places with enough food to survive, he said.

One surprising side effect of rapidly starting geoengineering would be an El Niño warming of the sea surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which would cause a devastating drought in the Amazon, he said

“We really need to look in a lot more detail at the impact on specific organisms and how they might adapt if geoengineering stops suddenly,” he said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - May 23, 2018




The Jaffe Briefing will not publish from Thursday through Monday. A great Memorial Day to all!


OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

SEASIDE HEIGHTS - Sex can be an almost-religious experience, but it seems a bit excessive to copulate under a statue of the Virgin Mary in a Catholic church's outdoor prayer garden. Yet, that's where ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 22, 2018




The Jaffe Briefing will not publish from Thursday through Monday. A great Memorial Day to all!


MANVILLE - If marijuana becomes legal in New Jersey, here's another town where you won't be able to buy it: Manville. The mayor and council unanimously voted to prohibit any sale of weed - recreational and medicinal - within Manville's borders. The ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 21, 2018




The Jaffe Briefing will not publish from Thursday through Monday. A great Memorial Day to all!


STATEWIDE - Should public school students be allowed to attend schools in other towns? That's the big, controversial question in a lawsuit filed against the state that looks to end what some consider to be the worst school segregation in the nation. The ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 18, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

IN COURT - Sounds like a cheesy thing to do, but the NJ Turnpike Authority has gone to court for years trying to stop a pizzeria chain whose logo is suspiciously similar to our beloved Garden State Parkway sign. Sure, nobody wants drivers searching for an on-ramp to end ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 17, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

MOUNTAINSIDE - Oh, where to begin describing this 46-page lawsuit against two Mountainside cops? A detective sergeant placing his testicles on co-workers' food. And throwing poop-smeared toilet tissue at them. And defecating in someone's boots. And taunting with a dildo dubbed "Big Blue" he liked to wave in cops' faces, as he chased ...

The Jaffe Briefing - May 16, 2018

OUR TAKE ON THE NEWS IN NEW JERSEY

ATLANTIC CITY - Happy days are here again, as the state's once gasping gaming resort is expecting sports betting will rake in $150 million to $175 million a year in new, glorious profits - courtesy of your pals on the U.S. Supreme Court. Moreover, ecstatic Stockton University officials believe, this recharged gambling mecca will bring in a whole new ...

Rutgers Athletics Signs Dyehard Fan Supply to New Multi-Year Agreement

May 21, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ -  Rutgers Athletics has selected Dyehard Fan Supply, an event and retail merchandise marketing and e-commerce company, as the official merchandising partner for the Scarlet Knights in a new multi-year agreement.Dyehard will handle game day and event merchandising for Rutgers Athletics.

“We’re excited to expand gameday merchandising options and elevate ...

Newark man given 22-year sentence for kidnapping, sexual asault of Rutgers student

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A Newark man was sentenced Friday to 22 years in prison for the 2016 kidnapping and sexual assault of a Rutgers University student on the school campus in New Brunswick.

Michael Knight, 40, of Newark must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he is eligible for parole, Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey said in a statement today.

Superior Court Judge ...

Rutgers center battles noise pollution nationwide

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ  - Eric Zwerling got a call this week from a man was living next to a fitness center, complaining he repeatedly heard the loud thud heavy free weights and medicine balls hit the floor.

The man was recovering from having a pace maker in his chest and wondering of the impact of the noise from the gym.

“I’ve received thousands of calls,” said Zwerling, ...

OPINION

Here's How to Help Protect Young Athletes from Injury: Let Them Play Multiple Sports

May 1, 2018

Dear TAPInto New Brunswick:

One of the responsibilities that parents take most seriously is protecting their children from injury, whether it is buckling seat belts in a car or wearing a helmet while riding a bike. And when their kids become teenagers and want to participate in sports or other activities, parents do everything they can to keep their sons and daughters from getting ...

Department of Human Services Awards Teens for Creativity in Celebrating Their Family Tree

May 24, 2018

(TRENTON) - The New Jersey Department of Human Services on Wednesday honored 12 New Jersey high school and middle school students for their winning entries in the 2018 New Jersey Teen Media Contest, which celebrated the students’ artistic and written word portrayal of how their family tree may look.

The contest hosted by the department’s Division of Family Development focused on ...