An interesting story I read on the BBC website yesterday entitled ‘Can painting a mountain restore a glacier?’. A local community in Peru are painting a mountain white using lime, industrial egg white and water. The aim being to change the surface albedo (a measure of how strongly an object reflects light). Whitewashing the mountain will mean the sunlight is reflected off the surface (rather than being absorbed) and thus cooling the microclimate hopefully making conditions more favourable for the disappearing glacier. Will this be enough to save the glacier – who knows! A couple of degrees lower could be enough to slow or holt the decline, at least in the short-term. Of course it will not change the regional decline of glacier coverage in the Andes.
Geoengineering is the scientific term used to describe deliberately manipulating physical, chemical, or biological aspects of the Earth system. If mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation (increasing capacity to cope with climate impacts) fail then large scale geoengineering may be required as a last resort to reduce major negative consequences of climate change. A position statement on geoengineering the climate system from the American Geophysical Union (AGU) of which I belong can be found here. Elsewhere the Royal Society of London has published a comprehensive report (details found on this page) that also advocates extreme caution in the possible use of such approaches and their feasibility while encouraging research efforts in this interesting area.