Efficacy of geoengineering to limit 21st century sea-level rise

posted Aug 30, 2010, 5:41 AM by Aslak Grinsted   [ updated Aug 21, 2011, 11:56 PM ]
A space mirror shading from the sun is one proposed method of geo-engineering. Credit: metoffice.
Geoengineering has been proposed as a feasible way of mitigating anthropogenic climate change, especially increasing global temperatures in the 21st century. The two main geoengineering options are limiting incoming solar radiation, or modifying the carbon cycle. Here we examine the impact of five geoengineering approaches on sea level; SO2 aerosol injection into the stratosphere, mirrors in space, afforestation, biochar, and bioenergy with carbon sequestration. Sea level responds mainly at centennial time scales to temperature change, and has been largely driven by anthropogenic forcing since 1850. Making use a model of sea-level rise as a function of time-varying climate forcing factors (solar radiation, volcanism, and greenhouse gas emissions) we find that sea-level rise by 2100 will likely be 30 cm higher than 2000 levels despite all but the most aggressive geoengineering under all except the most stringent greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. The least risky and most desirable way of limiting sea-level rise is bioenergy with carbon sequestration. However aerosol injection or a space mirror system reducing insolation at an accelerating rate of 1 Wm−2 per decade from now to 2100 could limit or reduce sea levels. Aerosol injection delivering a constant 4 Wm−2  reduction in radiative forcing (similar to a 1991 Pinatubo eruption every 18 months) could delay sea-level rise by 40–80 years. Aerosol injection appears to fail cost-benefit analysis unless it can be maintained continuously, and damage caused by the climate response to the aerosols is less than about 0.6% Global World Product.

Citation: J. C. Moore, S. Jevrejeva, A. Grinsted. Efficacy of geoengineering to limit 21st century sea-level rise.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; doi:10.1073/pnas.1008153107 [PDF] [supp-info]