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Fix The Climate: Climate Engineering Assessment, Bickel Lane

The working paper used by the Expert Panel is available for download here, the finalized paper has been published in Smart Solutions to Climate Change by Cambridge University Press.

Climate engineering could offer an extremely cheap, fast solution to climate change, according to this comprehensive analysis of its costs and benefits.

An Analysis of Climate Engineering as a Response to Climate Change by Dr. Eric J Bickel and Lee Lane shows that we might be able to cancel out this century’s global warming by spending no more than $5.8 billion, and that climate engineering might be able to achieve as much for the planet as carbon cuts at a fraction of the cost.

Three methods of solar radiation management are explored in this research. Solar radiation management involves bouncing sunlight back into space, to avoid warming.

The authors look at stratospheric aerosol insertion (launching material like sulfur dioxide or soot into the stratosphere to mimic the effects of volcanoes, which create a hazy layer scattering and absorbing sunlight); marine cloud whitening (spraying seawater droplets into marine clouds to make them reflect more sunlight); and the deployment of a space-based sunshade (launching many tiny transparent screens into space that would focus a small amount of the sun's light away from Earth).

Air capture focuses on capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and securing it in land or sea-based sinks. This technology, according to Dr. Bickel and Lane, is not as promising as solar radiation management from a technical or cost perspective. Dr. Bickel and Lane find that the cost of stratospheric aerosol insertion would be in the magnitude of $230 billion, with benefits fifteen-times higher.

Marine cloud whitening with a fleet of unmanned ships would be extremely cheap: for about $5.8 billion, all of the global warming for the century could be avoided, with benefits adding up to about $20 trillion.

Dr. Bickel and Lane conclude: “the results of this initial benefit-cost analysis place the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of those who would prevent such research.”