From Meteorology to Mitigation: Understanding Global Warming



About Lesson 11

We have seen that adaptation is one of the means of dealing with climate change impacts. Indeed, we will have to adapt to some changes that are in store. However, adaptation alone is unlikely to represent an adequate response to the challenges posed by climate change. That leaves only mitigation of climate change itself as an alternative. Fundamentally, there are two different forms of mitigation that have been widely considered —reduction of carbon emissions and geoengineering. Geoengineering attempts to offset the climate changes themselves through other means of human intervention in the climate system. In this lesson, we will look in more detail at the various geoengineering schemes under consideration.

Video: The Home Stretch - part 1 (1:35)

Home Stretch Part 1
Click Here for Transcript of Home Stretch Part 1 Video

The NCAA tournament, which currently just went beyond the sweet 16 into the Elite Eight shows we're in the home stretch of the NCAA tournament. We're also in the home stretch of this course. It's the latter half of the second half. We've talked about the basic science behind climate and climate change. We've talked about the model projections under various possible scenarios of future carbon emissions, and we've talked about the potential impacts of those emissions, so now we're going to talk about the issue of what to do about this problem. We will consider a few different possibilities. Right now, we've started talking about adaptation, what adaptive measures can we take to adapt to the changes that are coming and in fact we are already committed to some amount of future climate change no matter what we do with our emissions so some degree of adaptation will be necessary. And so we've been talking about adaptive measures we can make in the area of water supply agriculture dealing with sea level rise and other impacts of climate change, but beyond adaptation what can we do to deal with the problem of climate change?

Credit: Dr. Michael Mann

Video: The Home Stretch - part 2 (2:24)

Home Stretch Part 2
Click Here for Transcript of Home Stretch Part 2 Video

What can we do to deal with the problem of climate change? Well, we can try to mitigate it, and there are actually two different approaches that have been widely discussed in recent years. One of them that's quite controversial is so-called geoengineering, so one possibility is we try to engineer our way out of climate change by perturbing the climate system in other ways to offset the warming due to increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. So we'll talk about that concept of geoengineering and what it might be able to accomplish and what the potential pitfalls are. Finally, if we don't consider geoengineering as a viable solution to the problem, that leaves us with only one solution to stemming the problem at its source which is the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations themselves, and so our final lesson of the course will be talking about mitigating greenhouse emissions. Carbon emissions cross every sector of society, every sector of modern civilization from energy supplied at transportation, to agriculture, to buildings, construction of buildings, to waste management. So clearly if we're going to decrease carbon emissions we need to consider potential actions across all sectors of our modern economy and modern civilization, and so we'll talk about those details, and we'll see if it indeed is possible to decrease emissions in a way that is consistent with stabilizing greenhouse gas concentrations at a level below that where we will start to see some of the more dangerous impacts that we've talked about in this course. And so it isn't coincidental that the titlist course is from meteorology to mitigation. We started with the basic science, the basic meteorology and atmospheric science of climate change, and now as we finish up the course we're going to take the problem all the way through the issue of solutions, or what we do about the problem.

Credit: Dr. Michael Mann

What will we learn in Lesson 11?

By the end of Lesson 11, you should be able to:

  • Summarize the geoengineering schemes that have been considered in the context of climate change mitigation; and
  • Evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of different geoengineering schemes

What will be due for Lesson 11?

Please refer to the Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates.

The following is an overview of the required activities for Lesson 11. Detailed directions and submission instructions are located within this lesson.

  • Project #2 due.
  • Begin Project #3: Suppose you had 3 minutes to talk to your local congressperson about climate change. What would you tell him/her? Record a 2-3 min video, which will be available to the class to discuss and critique.
  • Participate in Lesson 11 discussion forum: Geoengineering.
  • Read:
    • Dire Predictions, p. 192-193
    • Keith 2001, Crutzen 2006, and Robock 2008. (Registered students can access the readings in the Lesson 11 module in Canvas.)


If you have any questions, please post them to our Questions? discussion forum (not e-mail), located under the Home tab in Canvas. The instructor will check that discussion forum daily to respond. Also, please feel free to post your own responses if you can help with any of the posted questions.