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Scientist of the Week: Steven Smith

Thu, 10/25/2012 - 8:17am
Lily Barback, Associate Editor

Image: Pacific Northwest National LaboratoryEvery Thursday, Laboratory Equipment features a Scientist of the Week, chosen from the science industry’s latest headlines. This week’s scientist is Steven Smith from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. He and a team found that temporarily reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth could potentially stave off some of the worst effects of climate change but the researchers are uncertain of its outcome.

Q: What made you interested in studying how shading may aid the fight against climate change?

A: Much of my research involves examining the role of aerosols and other pollutant gases in long-term scenarios, including greenhouse gas emission reduction scenarios, so examining this topic was a natural extension of previous work. After hearing a number of discussions about this issue, I became interested in the question of why we might need to use these solar radiation management techniques.

Q: What are the future implications of your research and findings?

A: Perhaps the largest implication is that the potential need for solar radiation management is largely not under our control, it depends on the properties of the climate system. For example, this depends on the climate sensitivity, or how much the Earth warms per doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations.

Q:  What is the take home message of your research and results?

A: While it may be possible that society in the future may decide to use solar-radiation management techniques, we do not understand their effects well enough now to do this now.

Q:  What is next for you and your research?

A: We don't have specific plans for this particular line of work. In somewhat related work, I am continuing to examine the impact of conventional pollutant emissions on climate over the next several decades.

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