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There is international consensus that 'dangerous' climate change must be avoided. Yet without radical changes in energy sources and usage and global economies, it seems highly likely that we will start to experience unacceptably damaging and/or societally disruptive global environmental change later this century. These are changes that so far society seems unable or unwilling to make. What actions can be taken to safeguard future environmental quality, ecosystems, agriculture, economy, and society? A new science -- 'Geoengineering' -- that until recently would have seemed pure science fiction, promises an alternative way of temporarily regaining control of climate.

As this new field has gained in international profile over the last few years, propositions for geoengineering have proliferated. Suggested means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere now span marine and terrestrial biospheres: from enhancing marine productivity and thus carbon removal from the surface ocean by fertilizing with nutrients or increasing the rate of vertical mixing, to genetically modifying plants on land to fix more CO2. Novel technological devices have also been devised that use chemical methods to suck CO2 directly from the air, acting as 'artificial trees'. Propositions for the direct manipulation of the energy budget of the climate system have gained equal prominence, such as injecting sulphate aerosols into the atmosphere, construction of a space-based 'sunshade', and enhancing the reflectivity of low-level clouds. However, despite the effort and scientific ingenuity being brought to bear, many geoengineering schemes remain un-quantified in their effectiveness, particularly at the regional scale; some are extremely unlikely to work at all. All may give rise to undesirable climatic side-effects and pose hidden costs and risks to the environment and to society.

The Bristol Bio-geoengineering Initiative (BRISBI) has been created specifically to subject geoengineering schemes to critical and quantitative assessment, using the same fully coupled general circulation models (GCMs) of the Earth's climate system as used to predict future global warming, as well as ocean and terrestrial carbon cycle models in order to assess carbon cycle feedbacks and the response of atmospheric CO2.

However, BRISBI is more than simply an assessment and evaluation initiative -- we are actively developing (and quantifying) new and innovative schemes that may help us regain control of climate. Of particular interest to BRISBI is the potential role of plants: specifically crops, hence the bio in 'bio-geoengineering'. This is truely multi-disciplinary undertaking, enfolding plant physiologists and geneticists, chemists and material scientists experienced in the characterization of the nano-scale, together with global climate and carbon cycle modellers (see: People). Current projects include taking our recent innovative work on the role of crops in cooling the planet, from the theoretical stage to proof of principle, and ultimately on to field trials and commercial realization.