Climatic changes more rapid and extreme than assessed by the IPCC cannot be excluded, because of the possibility of positive earth system feedbacks and thresholds. Do today's policy makers have to take these into account, and if so, are the options different from those considered today? The paper briefly summarizes the types of extreme climatic changes noted in the literature and then evaluates the options to address them in a what-if manner. Different from other studies, which usually look at only one type of measure, we consider a broader portfolio of options: drastic emissions reduction programmes, drawing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere ("carbon dioxide removal"), "emergency cooling" through influencing the radiative balance of the atmosphere ("solar radiation management"), and finally adaptation beyond the options considered seriously today. Politics will have to decide on the choice or mix of "emergency" measures, but research can ensure that such decisions are based on the best scientific information. If through concerted international efforts to mitigate greenhouse emissions low stabilization levels could be reached, such decisions may never have to be made. However, research in support of some form of a "plan B" is now warranted, focusing on those options that have the most positive ratio between potential effectiveness and feasibility on the one hand, and environmental and political risks on the other hand. Such plan should not be limited to one set of options such as geo-engineering and should explicitly take into account not only the relationships between the options but also the wide variety in characteristics of the individual options in terms of effectiveness, feasibility, environmental risks, and political implications.
|Journal||Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change|
|Publication status||Published - 2010|
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