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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Thinking the unthinkable
Scientists at a conference hosted by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, in Cambridge UK, plan to spend the next two days attempting to think the unthinkable in order to establish what macro-engineering options may offer realistic alternatives to the Kyoto Protocol if the mechanisms, for cutting concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, proposed under the 10-year old protocol fail to achieve the support needed in order to enter into force.

Alternatives under discussions will include:

* "sequestering" (storing) carbon dioxide, for example in the oceans, by removing it from the air for storage, or by improved ways of locking it up in forests

* "insolation management" - modifying the albedo (reflectivity) of clouds and other surfaces to affect the amount of the Sun's energy reaching the Earth

* climate design, for example by long-term management of carbon for photosynthesis, or by glaciation control

* impacts reduction, which includes stabilising ocean currents by river deviation, and providing large-scale migration corridors for wildlife.

Each alternative will be considered against a range of criteria including cost, feasibility, effectiveness, environmental impacts, safety + equity.

The hope is that this debate will help to focus minds on identifying + initiating effective mitigation measures while limiting further, potentially catastrophic delay, and encouraging governments to get to grips with tackling the threat posed by climate change.