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A group of 12 scholars from across the developing world – including Prof Nelson Torto from the African Academy of Sciences – made an unprecedented call for developing countries to lead on the research and evaluation of solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering.
Solar radiation management is a controversial idea for reducing some of the impacts of climate change. The leading proposal would involve spraying tiny reflective particles into the upper atmosphere, filtering the sun’s energy to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes.
The consequences of solar geoengineering are still uncertain and developing countries could be most affected by its use. SRM would lower global temperatures and so could reduce some of the harmful effects of climate change that affect poor countries, such as higher temperatures, changes to rainfall patterns and stronger tropical cyclones. But it could have unexpected and damaging side effects, could cause international tensions and could distract policymakers from cutting carbon emissions. Without leadership from the Global South, Northern voices will set the policy agenda and developing countries will be left behind.
Most research to date has taken place in Europe and North America. The Comment in Nature argues that developing countries have the most to gain or lose from SRM and should be central to international efforts to understand the technology.
The Comment’s co-signatories are a diverse group of distinguished scientists and NGO leaders, all of whom ran pioneering workshops to expand discussion of SRM in their countries or regions: Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Pakistan, the Pacific, the Philippines and Thailand.
Prof Nelson Torto, the Executive Director of the African Academy of Sciences, whose organisation helped organise the first major workshop on SRM in Kenya, said: “Climate vulnerable countries have the most to gain from SRM – also the most to lose if it goes wrong. This is far too important an issue to be left to the world’s rich countries”
Dr Atiq Rahman, Director of the Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies and the Comment’s lead author, agreed: “Clearly SRM could be dangerous but we need to know whether, for countries like Bangladesh, it would be more or less risky than passing the 1.5C warming goal agreed by the UNFCCC. This matters greatly to people from developing countries and our voices need to be heard”.
The AAS ran an engagement workshop in Kenya in June 2017. The workshop was the first of its kind held in Kenya and aimed to spark a conversation on what SRM might mean for Africa.