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European Commission calls for international discussions on risks of climate engineering

An aircraft crosses the vapor trails of another plane over Frankfurt, Germany. Research into technology to combat climate change remains controversial.
An aircraft crosses the vapor trails of another plane over Frankfurt, Germany. Research into technology to combat climate change remains controversial. Copyright Michael Probst/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Michael Probst/Copyright 2018 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Maria Psara
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The technology has attracted attention recently as countries fail to curb their greenhouse gas emissions.

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The European Commission called on Wednesday for talks at the highest international level on the risks posed by the possible use of climate geoengineering - a contested technology still under development that could help to cool the planet.

"We note that geoengineering is discussed and explored in several parts of the world and that it is considered by some as a potential future response to climate change," Frans Timmermans, the Commission Executive Vice-President told reporters on Wednesday.

"This is an issue with global indications and considerable risks, nobody would do experiments alone within our shared planet."

But what exactly is geoengineering and how it can manipulate the weather?

Researchers are already working on several types of technologies that they think could lower temperatures.

One is called stratospheric aerosol injection, which entails airplanes releasing tiny particles that reflect light back.

But according to some experts, hundreds or even thousands of specialised planes working for years would be needed.

Marine cloud brightening is another technology, which attempts to increase the reflectivity of low clouds with the help of aerosol particles released from boats.

However, an important part of the scientific community is critical of these technologies.

A group of 450 scientists has sent an open letter expressing their concerns, including Frank Biermann, an expert in global governance at Utrecht University, who told Euronews that there is no way of knowing how well the technology will work unless it is deployed on a global level.

"These uncertainties cannot go away by research because in the end, the final impact of these technologies, you will only know when you tried out a planetary scale," he said in an interview.

"You can't really get rid of all the uncertainties by experiments in the lab, but also small-scale experiments cannot really tell you the full story. They cannot tell you really what are the risks that might reveal themselves only when you employ these technologies at planetary scale over many, many years."

Experts are also concerned about the geopolitical risks, particularly if some countries decide to do it alone.

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