Trinity Fellow and Professor of Engineering Dynamics and Vibration at Cambridge, Hugh Hunt, reflects on his experience at COP28, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Professor Hunt co-organised an events series by Cambridge’s Centre for Climate Repair to promote geoengineering techniques intended to cool the planet.
The final agreement of COP28 signalled ‘the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel era.’ For Professor Hunt, it’s too little, too late.
Why did you attend COP28?
The Centre for Climate Repair (CCR) is working with a team of scientists and activists from Finland, Operaatio Arktis, who will visit Cambridge in spring 2024.
At COP28 we promoted the cause of geoengineering and forged connections to help fund our work on carbon dioxide (CO2) removal and solar reflectivity.
What is ‘climate repair’?
There are three strands:
Reduce – we must stop burning fossil fuels.
Remove – we must lower atmospheric CO2 levels to below 350ppm (currently at 420ppm) and methane levels too must be reduced. Both CO2 and methane are powerful greenhouse gases that are responsible for climate change
Refreeze – we must find ways to cool the planet, particularly the poles where ice is melting fast. Emissions reductions and CO2 removal alone are not sufficient.
Cloud brightening is an idea that has been floated (no pun intended!) in climate engineering for some time. It’s best done over the ocean by seeding clouds with a spray of salt water to encourage tiny droplets to form. The resulting cloud reflects radiation away from the earth, producing a cooling effect.
It is one of several geoengineering techniques known as solar radiation management. Like stratospheric aerosols, space mirrors, and painting roofs white, increasing the albedo or reflectivity of clouds would reduce the amount of radiation reaching the earth’s surface.
What did you achieve at COP28?
We are growing the reach of the Centre for Climate Repair in Cambridge and extending our impact globally. For example, Operaatio Arktis has adopted ‘climate repair’ in its mission statement.
How long have we got to tackle climate change?
We have run out of time to achieve 1.5C (the Paris Agreement) and 2C is as good as dead. This means that we’ll see increases in heat waves and floods, stress of water supplies, crop failures, forest fires, sea level rise, coral bleaching, permafrost melting, methane release …
Many of these things can be managed by climate intervention, including albedo enhancement. There are plenty of grounds for optimism so long as we recognize the inadequacy of the old paradigm of emissions reductions alone. We have to face up to the new paradigm of climate intervention.
Read more on the website for the Centre for Climate Repair.