Abstract

Greenhouse gas emissions urgently need to be reduced. Even with a step up in mitigation, the goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 °C remains challenging. Consequences of missing these goals are substantial, especially on regional scales. Because progress in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions has been slow, climate engineering schemes are increasingly being discussed. But global schemes remain controversial and have important shortcomings. A reduction of global mean temperature through global-scale management of solar radiation could lead to strong regional disparities and affect rainfall patterns. On the other hand, active management of land radiative effects on a regional scale represents an alternative option of climate engineering that has been little discussed. Regional land radiative management could help to counteract warming, in particular hot extremes in densely populated and important agricultural regions. Regional land radiative management also raises some ethical issues, and its efficacy would be limited in time and space, depending on crop growing periods and constraints on agricultural management. But through its more regional focus and reliance on tested techniques, regional land radiative management avoids some of the main shortcomings associated with global radiation management. We argue that albedo-related climate benefits of land management should be considered more prominently when assessing regional-scale climate adaptation and mitigation as well as ecosystem services.

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Acknowledgements

The study was initiated during a sabbatical by S.I.S at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and developed in the context of the European Research Council (ERC) ‘DROUGHT-HEAT’ project funded by the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (grant agreement FP7-IDEAS-ERC-617518). S.J.P. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council’s Special Research Initiative for the Antarctic Gateway Partnership (Project ID SR140300001). We acknowledge comments from P. Irvine.

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Affiliations

  1. Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

    • Sonia I. Seneviratne
    • , Annette L. Hirsch
    • , Edouard L. Davin
    • , Martin Hirschi
    •  & Micah Wilhelm
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, and Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    • Steven J. Phipps
    •  & Markus G. Donat
  3. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia

    • Steven J. Phipps
  4. ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, and Climate Change Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

    • Andrew J. Pitman
  5. CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere, Tasmania, Australia

    • Andrew Lenton
  6. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, WA, USA

    • Ben Kravitz

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Contributions

S.I.S. designed the study together with S.J.P. and A.J.P. S.J.P. performed the climate model experiments with inputs from S.I.S. A.L.H. conducted complementary simulations. S.J.P., M.G.D., S.I.S. and M.H. performed the analyses. S.I.S., E.D. and M.W. compiled Table 1. S.I.S and A.J.P. wrote the first version of the manuscript. All authors commented on the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Sonia I. Seneviratne.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-017-0057-5