Bremen, 29 April 2021. OHB System AG, a subsidiary of the German space and technology group OHB SE, has joined forces with eight research institutes from five different countries to establish a competence network on the subject of space-based geoengineering. Participating institutions include the University of Bremen (Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) and Institute for Theoretical Philosophy), the Alfred Wegener Institute Bremerhaven (Paleoclimate Dynamics), Cranfield University (Astrodynamics and Mission Design), TU Delft, the University of Patras (Applied Mechanics Laboratory), NHL Stenden (Communications and Multimedia Design), the University of Utrecht (Institute of Marine and Atmospheric Research) and the University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt (Aerospace Engineering). The research areas that are covered range from aerospace engineering, atmospheric research and climate modelling to communication sciences and ethics. In addition to building up sound knowledge on climate change and geoengineering, the objectives of the consortium also include the exchange and open discussion with other experts, political decision-makers and the general public.
Reduction of emissions makes only slow progress
Although there has been a scientific consensus for decades that man-made climate change exists and poses a threat, efforts to reduce climate-damaging emissions are making only slow progress. In order to bridge the time until climate neutrality is achieved and to mitigate the harmful consequences of climate change, various technical methods have been proposed in the past to intervene in the Earth's climate system. These methods are commonly summarised under the term “geoengineering” or “climate engineering”.
Global impacts require differentiated consideration
OHB has been working on the topic of geoengineering since 2018. As part of various internal studies, a concept for partially shading the Earth from space has been developed and the topic of geoengineering has been analysed in its entirety. Since geoengineering is intended to mitigate the effects of climate change on a global scale, not only technical and financial but also political, social and ecological aspects must be taken into account when developing concrete concepts.
To take account of this fact, OHB has sought contact with experts from various countries and with different backgrounds. These experts are contributing their own specialist knowledge to the consortium as well as offering their students the opportunity to participate in the form of project work and theses. "Our goal is not to promote any specific geoengineering concept, but to investigate the viability of the general idea," Tomas Hamann, Project Manager at OHB, points out. "To do this, we are working with a diverse group of researchers to get a detailed, comprehensive and objective picture." This approach not only illuminates individual geoengineering concepts from different angles, but also creates a variety of opportunities to draw the attention of different target groups to the topic of geoengineering and to initiate discussions outside the specialist community. To present the latest project status and exchange results, the members of the consortium meet monthly in virtual meetings.
Open discourse with different audiences
In parallel with the activities in the geoengineering consortium, OHB is investigating different geoengineering concepts with the goal of comparing them to each other. Publications in specialist magazines, workshops and open discussion rounds are also planned for a later date. Geoengineering technologies are still a source of anxiety for many people," points out Marco Fuchs, CEO of OHB. "Their concern is understandable, but humanity is threatened by climate change and we have not really made much progress with the measures taken so far to limit or reverse global warming. That is why we need to get a discussion going."