Research at the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes has concluded that modifying the properties of the land surface in highly populated areas and in agricultural areas could reduce extreme temperatures in those regions by up to 2 to 3°C.

Most forms of large-scale climate engineering proposed to date, such as spraying sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, fertilising the ocean with iron and even building giant mirrors in space, aim to alter the global climate, have questionable effectiveness and are likely to alter climate systems in unexpected ways. They could make situations worse for some countries.

The modifications studied in this research include lightening buildings, roads and other infrastructure in high population areas and changing crops and engaging in no-till agricultural practices. Many of these types of modification have already been tested and proven to work with little or no risk.

The researchers modelled how changing only the radiative properties of agricultural land and high population areas across North America, Europe and Asia would impact average temperatures, precipitation and extreme temperatures. The results showed small impacts on average temperatures, little change in precipitation – except in Asia – but significant reductions in regional extreme temperatures.