Global warming is the biggest threat facing humanity. If all else fails, could geo-engineering be the answer?

Solar geo-engineering is controversial. There are strong reasons not to do it. But if current methods of countering global warming fail, then the last resort may be to artificially control the global temperature. The Economist investigates.

If global carbon emissions aren’t cut in time, are there other opportunities to save the world? The Economist explore the role geo-engineering could play in preventing heating in a carbon-rich atmosphere.

Could solar geoengineering counter global warming? by The Economist
Film: The Economist

Understanding climate change

Increased temperatures and severe weather create critical challenges for crop cultivation, economic and social security, and civilisation itself. Global temperatures are rising and weather patterns now carry more energy as a result of more heat being trapped in the earth’s atmosphere.

This heat would normally dissipate into space, leaving the earth’s climate system. But because of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped. This trapped heat both warms the atmosphere and adds additional energy to the earth’s naturally occurring climate systems.

The more carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere, the more heat is trapped, and the greater the impacts of climate change. The climate is already warmer and more violent because of climate change. The scientific consensus is that the climate can only sustain a 1.5 degree increase over pre-industrial levels (IPCC).

Carbon emissions now need to be eliminated by 2050 to prevent breaching this threshold. The challenge is significant, since the world currently burns about 100 million barrels of oil every day.

Impacts on coffee

Global warming is already having an impact on coffee production, with some traditional growing areas now too wet and warm to support coffee crops and many coffee farmers are actively working to mitigate the impacts.

Researchers at London’s Kew Gardens found that up to 60% of the coffee varieties face extinction (Kew Gardens).

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Take action

It’s in the coffee industry’s self interest to take action on climate change.

The team at United Baristas have a longstanding interest in how the UK coffee industry can play its role. We have also been engaged in a project to identify how the coffee industry can best take action, which will be presented at Caffè Culture 2019.

Register to attend the seminar >

Available until 20 August 2021

Updated on 9 February 2020

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