Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-85
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-2021-85

  04 Nov 2021

04 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESD.

Exploration of a novel geoengineering solution: lighting up tropical forests at night

Xueyuan Gao1, Shunlin Liang1, Dongdong Wang1, Yan Li2, Bin He3, and Aolin Jia1 Xueyuan Gao et al.
  • 1Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, U.S.
  • 2Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, China
  • 3College of Global Change and Earth System Science, Beijing Normal University, China

Abstract. Plants primarily conduct photosynthesis in the daytime, offering an opportunity to increase photosynthesis and carbon sink by providing light at night. We used a fully coupled Earth System Model to quantify the carbon sequestration and climate effects of a novel carbon removal proposal: lighting up tropical forests at night via lamp networks above the forest canopy. Simulation results show that additional light increased tropical forest carbon sink by 10.4 ± 0.05 petagrams of carbon per year during a 16-year lighting experiment, resulting in a decrease in atmospheric CO2 and suppression of global warming. In addition, local temperature and precipitation increased. The energy requirement for capturing one ton of carbon is lower than that of Direct Air Carbon Capture. When the lighting experiment was terminated, tropical forests started to release carbon slowly. This study suggests that lighting up tropical forests at night could be an emergency solution to climate change, and carbon removal actions focused on enhancing ecosystem productivity by altering environmental factors in the short term could induce post-action CO2 outgassing.

Xueyuan Gao et al.

Status: open (until 29 Dec 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on esd-2021-85', Richard Rosen, 08 Nov 2021 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on CC1', Xueyuan Gao, 19 Nov 2021 reply
      • CC2: 'Reply on AC1', Richard Rosen, 20 Nov 2021 reply
        • AC2: 'Reply on CC2', Xueyuan Gao, 20 Nov 2021 reply

Xueyuan Gao et al.

Xueyuan Gao et al.

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Short summary
Numerical experiments with a coupled Earth System Model show that large-scale nighttime artificial lighting in tropical forests will significantly increase carbon sink, local temperature, and precipitation, and requires less energy than Direct Air Carbon Capture for capturing 1 ton carbon, suggesting that it could be a powerful climate mitigation option. Side effects include the CO2 outgassing after the termination of the nighttime lighting and the impacts on local wildlife.
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