A United Nations body is investigating controversial methods to avert runaway climate change by re-engineering the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere, in a bid to achieve the global carbon levels laid down in the Paris agreement.
“Within the Paris agreement there’s an implicit assumption that there will need to be greenhouse gases removed,” said Phil Williamson, a scientist at the U.K.’s University of East Anglia, who worked on the report. “Climate geoengineering is what countries have agreed to do, although they haven’t really realized that they’ve agreed to do it.”
Large-scale geoengineering could include pouring nutrients into oceans to save coral habitats or spraying tiny particles into the Earth’s atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays back into space. Geoengineering proposals have been shunned in the past because of their unpredictable consequences on global ecosystems.