Now Cambridge is setting up a centre for climate repair? I hope they come up with a catchier name, lest someone show up with a broken bike. Human interventions in the climate system, broadly defined, have been going on throughout the Holocene, and may have made noticable changes to climate prior to 1850, a common start-date for global warming simulations. But the scale of interventions over the last 50 years is astounding. And if carbon emissions continue apace (which is to say, accelerating) my colleagues believe that we will put enough CO2 in the air to surpass 2°C warming in as little as a decade.
What to do? The easiest, lowest risk option is radical production system change, like reducing energy demand, reversing deforestation, eating differently, and so on. Mitigating warming, adapting wherever necessary. It’s certainly possible, but looks unrealistic as a panacea. Another option is to accelerate our economic development, grow as rapidly as possible, and trust in invention. This is clearly a high-risk strategy leaving no room for failure, which would be anything less than a miraculous negative emissions technology (NET) that is effective, unintended-consequence-free, and cheap. The most realistic option lies somewhere in the middle: a strategy that encourages innovating new NETs and growing wealth, particularly for the poorest, while taking reasonable steps now to protect the environment as a hedge against our failure to find a miracle solution to general environmental system collapse.