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Counteracting the climate effects of volcanic eruptions using short-lived greenhouse gases

Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, Bjørn Hallvard Samset, Keith P Shine

A large volcanic eruption might constitute a climate emergency, significantly altering global temperature and precipitation for several years. Major future eruptions will occur, but their size or timing cannot be predicted. We show, for the first time, that it may be possible to counteract these climate effects through deliberate emissions of short-lived greenhouse gases, dampening the abrupt impact of an eruption. We estimate an emission pathway countering a hypothetical eruption 3 times the size of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. We use a global climate model to evaluate global and regional responses to the eruption, with and without counteremissions. We then raise practical, financial, and ethical questions related to such a strategy. Unlike the more commonly discussed geoengineering to mitigate warming from long-lived greenhouse gases, designed emissions to counter temporary cooling would not have the disadvantage of needing to be sustained over long periods. Nevertheless, implementation would still face significant challenges.

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