IELTS® Academic Reading Practice 5

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Geoengineering

Under the Paris Agreement, governments have pledged to keep average global warming to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit maximum warming to 1.5°C. Many see these targets as wishful thinking: the planet is already roughly 1°C warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, global greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise and national pledges to cut them fall short of what is needed to hit the 2°C target, let alone 1.5°C.

Faced with this, some think there is a need to turn down the global thermostat using geoengineering. This encompasses a range of possibilities, including technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and others that block incoming solar energy. One concern, however, is that these methods do not deal with the cause of the problem: greenhouse-gas emissions.

Among the most controversial but also effective and affordable geoengineering options are planetary sunshades. By using high-flying aircraft, for instance, to spray a fine mist of mineral or man-made particles into the upper stratosphere, a portion of the sun’s incoming energy could be bounced back out into space before it gets a chance to warm the planet. The decades-old idea is inspired by large volcanic eruptions, like that of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which cooled global temperatures by up to 0.5°C for four years. That event demonstrated that relatively simple sunshades could have a significant effect on global temperatures. Indeed, while climate models project that doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could cause between 1.5°C and 4°C of global warming, the models also suggest that it is theoretically possible to reduce temperatures by an equal amount using a sunshade.

But there are challenges. Stratospheric particles eventually fall back to Earth in rain, so the effect is short-lived. A sunshade would need to be continually resupplied, which is one reason for an international governance framework. If a sunshade were allowed to dissipate while atmospheric CO2 concentrations remained high, global temperatures would rapidly shoot up, with devastating consequences in some regions of the world.  Another problem is the effect of solar geoengineering on the water cycle. Over the past decade, several studies have suggested that sunshades could have a disproportionate effect on rainfall, bringing drought to some regions. But that argument may be oversimplified, according to the new study published in Nature Climate Change .

So far, most studies have modelled a “fully” geoengineered world in which CO2 concentrations are doubled compared with current or pre-industrial levels, and all the resulting warming is counterbalanced by a stratospheric sunshade. Instead, Peter Irvine of Harvard University and his colleagues simulated a partial sunshade. They were able to eliminate half the warming effect of doubled CO2 concentrations while stabilising the water cycle. In a warmer world, due to greenhouse gas emissions, the water cycle is intensified, making drier regions drier and wetter regions wetter, leading to floods and droughts. In their modelled “half-warmed” world, Dr Irvine and his colleagues found that both temperature and precipitation extremes were moderated, which should lead to fewer droughts and floods. The team also looked at how solar geoengineering would affect tropical cyclones. Doubling CO2 concentrations compared with present-day levels increased the cumulative intensity of all tropical cyclones by 17.6%. The partial sunshade brought that increase down to 2.4%. Limitations in the model made it impossible to see if this benefit was equally distributed across different regions, such as the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Another geoengineering option is to spray aerosols high in the stratosphere - a technique known as “stratospheric aerosol injection” – which could cool the planet in a similar way to a large volcanic eruption. When a volcano erupts, it sends an ash cloud high into the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide released in the plume combines with water to form sulfuric acid aerosols, which reflect away incoming sunlight, temporarily cooling the Earth. Artificially introducing aerosols into the atmosphere – via a plane or a high-altitude balloon – could have a similar cooling effect. The idea has never been tested, but previous research using computer simulations suggests that releasing aerosols could help limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. However, an aerosol sunshade would not protect the planet from rising CO2 emissions – which is causing oceans to become more acidic and crops to become less nutritious, among other problems.

The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identifies, for the first time, another potential downfall of the proposed technique: it may not be able to limit warming in the deep ocean. This is because aerosol release could cause rainfall to decrease in some regions, which could influence ocean circulation patterns. The explanation involves two key stages. In the first, the aerosols reduce the amount of rainfall that occurs globally. This change in rainfall is not uniform. In fact, reductions are larger in some key regions – namely, the northern Atlantic Ocean – and this increases the salinity of those ocean areas, making the water more dense. This increase in water density could cause the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC) to speed up, The AMOC is a perpetual conveyor belt that transports heat from the equator up to the North Atlantic. It is part of a wider network of global ocean circulations patterns that transports heat all around the world.

The idea of engineering the climate in order to limit sunlight has been debated by scientists and politicians for more than 50 years, but – apart from studies based on computer simulations – very little field research has been carried out. Some fear that a geoengineered world could come with its own set of environmental and societal challenges, which they say could be comparable to – or even worse than – climate change.

This reading practice simulates one part of the IELTS Academic Reading test. You should spend about twenty minutes on it. Read the passage and answer questions 15-26.
Questions 15-20
Complete the table below.

Choose NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS AND/OR A NUMBER from the passage for each answer.

Write your answers in 15-20 on your answer sheet.
Problem Note
Gas emissions Promises made to reduce gas emissions Use of geoengineering
Planetary Sunshades come back to this planet Mist is used to bounce sunlight back
Planetary Sunshades A on the amount of rain In a model word, is stabilized.
Stratospheric aerosol injection Gives no protection from Introduction of atomized liquid into the atmosphere
Geoengineering Does not prevent heating in
Questions 21-26
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the reading passage? In boxes 21-26 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE   if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE   if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN   if there is no information on this.

21. One theory is that energy from the sun is reflected away from Earth’s atmosphere

22. Scientists are convinced that a man-made protective layer would remain in place permanently

23. Geoengineering could reduce the number of tropical storms

24. The emissions from active volcanoes cause an increase in rainfall

25. An atmospheric barrier would not protect the earth from an increase in greenhouse gas

26. In the future increased research into geoengineering is planned


Answer Sheet
1
N/A
2
N/A
3
N/A
4
N/A
5
N/A
6
N/A
7
N/A
8
N/A
9
N/A
10
N/A
11
N/A
12
N/A
13
N/A
14
N/A
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
N/A
28
N/A
29
N/A
30
N/A
31
N/A
32
N/A
33
N/A
34
N/A
35
N/A
36
N/A
37
N/A
38
N/A
39
N/A
40
N/A


Reading Passage Vocabulary
Geoengineering

Under the Paris Agreement, governments have pledged to keep average global warming to “well below” 2°C above pre-industrial levels and to try to limit maximum warming to 1.5°C. Many see these targets as wishful thinking: the planet is already roughly 1°C warmer than it was in pre-industrial times, global greenhouse gas emissions are still on the rise and national pledges to cut them fall short of what is needed to hit the 2°C target, let alone 1.5°C.

Faced with this, some think there is a need to turn down the global thermostat using geoengineering. This encompasses a range of possibilities, including technologies that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and others that block incoming solar energy. One concern, however, is that these methods do not deal with the cause of the problem: greenhouse-gas emissions.

Among the most controversial but also effective and affordable geoengineering options are planetary sunshades. By using high-flying aircraft, for instance, to spray a fine mist of mineral or man-made particles into the upper stratosphere, a portion of the sun’s incoming energy could be bounced back out into space before it gets a chance to warm the planet. The decades-old idea is inspired by large volcanic eruptions, like that of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, which cooled global temperatures by up to 0.5°C for four years. That event demonstrated that relatively simple sunshades could have a significant effect on global temperatures. Indeed, while climate models project that doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could cause between 1.5°C and 4°C of global warming, the models also suggest that it is theoretically possible to reduce temperatures by an equal amount using a sunshade.

But there are challenges. Stratospheric particles eventually fall back to Earth in rain, so the effect is short-lived. A sunshade would need to be continually resupplied, which is one reason for an international governance framework. If a sunshade were allowed to dissipate while atmospheric CO2 concentrations remained high, global temperatures would rapidly shoot up, with devastating consequences in some regions of the world.  Another problem is the effect of solar geoengineering on the water cycle. Over the past decade, several studies have suggested that sunshades could have a disproportionate effect on rainfall, bringing drought to some regions. But that argument may be oversimplified, according to the new study published in Nature Climate Change .

So far, most studies have modelled a “fully” geoengineered world in which CO2 concentrations are doubled compared with current or pre-industrial levels, and all the resulting warming is counterbalanced by a stratospheric sunshade. Instead, Peter Irvine of Harvard University and his colleagues simulated a partial sunshade. They were able to eliminate half the warming effect of doubled CO2 concentrations while stabilising the water cycle. In a warmer world, due to greenhouse gas emissions, the water cycle is intensified, making drier regions drier and wetter regions wetter, leading to floods and droughts. In their modelled “half-warmed” world, Dr Irvine and his colleagues found that both temperature and precipitation extremes were moderated, which should lead to fewer droughts and floods. The team also looked at how solar geoengineering would affect tropical cyclones. Doubling CO2 concentrations compared with present-day levels increased the cumulative intensity of all tropical cyclones by 17.6%. The partial sunshade brought that increase down to 2.4%. Limitations in the model made it impossible to see if this benefit was equally distributed across different regions, such as the Pacific and the Atlantic.

Another geoengineering option is to spray aerosols high in the stratosphere - a technique known as “stratospheric aerosol injection” – which could cool the planet in a similar way to a large volcanic eruption. When a volcano erupts, it sends an ash cloud high into the atmosphere. The sulphur dioxide released in the plume combines with water to form sulfuric acid aerosols, which reflect away incoming sunlight, temporarily cooling the Earth. Artificially introducing aerosols into the atmosphere – via a plane or a high-altitude balloon – could have a similar cooling effect. The idea has never been tested, but previous research using computer simulations suggests that releasing aerosols could help limit global temperature rise to 1.5C. However, an aerosol sunshade would not protect the planet from rising CO2 emissions – which is causing oceans to become more acidic and crops to become less nutritious, among other problems.

The new study, published in Nature Geoscience, identifies, for the first time, another potential downfall of the proposed technique: it may not be able to limit warming in the deep ocean. This is because aerosol release could cause rainfall to decrease in some regions, which could influence ocean circulation patterns. The explanation involves two key stages. In the first, the aerosols reduce the amount of rainfall that occurs globally. This change in rainfall is not uniform. In fact, reductions are larger in some key regions – namely, the northern Atlantic Ocean – and this increases the salinity of those ocean areas, making the water more dense. This increase in water density could cause the “Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation” (AMOC) to speed up, The AMOC is a perpetual conveyor belt that transports heat from the equator up to the North Atlantic. It is part of a wider network of global ocean circulations patterns that transports heat all around the world.

The idea of engineering the climate in order to limit sunlight has been debated by scientists and politicians for more than 50 years, but – apart from studies based on computer simulations – very little field research has been carried out. Some fear that a geoengineered world could come with its own set of environmental and societal challenges, which they say could be comparable to – or even worse than – climate change.

 
IELTS Academic Reading Tips for Success
These are general tips that will appear on all reading questions.

Tips to improve your reading speed
To get a high score on the IELTS reading section, you need to have a fast reading speed. To have a fast reading speed, you need to improve your vocabulary and practice dissecting sentences. One strategy to dissect a sentence is to look for the subject and verb of the sentence. Finding the subject and verb will help you better understand the main idea of said sentence. Keep in mind, a common feature of a IELTS reading passage is to join strings of ideas to form long compound sentences. This produces large chunks that students have a hard time absorbing. Do not get overwhelmed by its length, just look for the subject and verb, the rest of the ideas will flow.

Keep in mind, having a slow reading speed makes skimming or scanning a reading passage more difficult. The process of quickly skimming through a reading passage for specific keywords or main ideas is a requirement for you to employ successful reading strategies to improve your IELTS reading score. In other words, skimming and scanning are critical skills to ensure you complete all questions in the allotted time frame.
IELTS Reading Strategies
Once you can read and comprehend a passage with a rate of, at least, 220 words per minute, you'll be ready to start implementing our strategies. All too often, students spend too much time reading the passages and not enough time answering the questions. Here is a step by step guide for tackling the reading section.

  1. Step 1: Read questions first

    One of the most common mistakes that candidates make when approaching the reading exam is reading every single word of the passages. Although you can practice for the exam by reading for pleasure, "reading blindly" (reading without any sense of what the questions will ask) will not do you any favors in the exam. Instead, it will hurt your chances for effectively managing your time and getting the best score.

    The main reason to read the questions first is because the type of question may determine what you read in the passage or how you read it. For example, some question types will call for the "skimming" technique, while others may call for the "scanning" technique.

    It is important to answer a set of questions that are of the same question type. You'll need to determine which question type you want to tackle first. A good strategy would be to start with the easier question type and move on to more difficult question types later. The Easiest question types are the ones where you spend less time reading. For example, the Matching Heading question type is an easier one because you only need to find the heading that best describes the main idea of a paragraph. An example of a difficult question type would be Identifying Information. For this question type, you'll need to read each paragraph to find out if each statement is TRUE, FALSE, or NOT GIVEN according to the passage.

    Here is a table that lists the difficulty levels for each question type. Use this table as a reference when choosing which question type you want to tackle first.

    Difficulty level Question Type
    Easy Sentence Completion
    Short answer
    Medium Matching Features
    Multiple choice
    Matching Headings
    Summary, Table, Flow-Chart Completion
    Difficult Matching Sentence Endings
    Matching Information
    Identifying Information (TRUE/FALSE/NOT GIVEN)
    Identifying Viewer's claims (YES/NO/NOT GIVEN)

  2. Step 2: Read for an objective

    After you've read the questions for the passage, you will be able to read for an objective. What does this mean? For example, if you come across a question that includes the year "1896", you can make a note of when this year comes up in the text, using it to answer the question later on. There are two reading techniques that will help you stay on track with reading for an objective. The first one, skimming, is best defined as reading fast in order to get the "gist", or general idea, or a passage. With this technique, you are not stopping for any unfamiliar words or looking for specific details. The second technique, scanning, is best defined as reading for specific information. With this technique, you are not reading for the overall gist, but rather, specific information. Notice how each of these techniques has a specific objective in mind. This will help you find information more quickly.

  3. Step 3: Take notes

    As you're reading for an objective, you should also be making notes on the margins of the passage, placing stars next to key information, or underlining things that you believe will help you answer the various questions. This will make it easier for you to check back when you are asked certain things in the questions. Choose whichever note-taking system is right for you - just make sure you do it!

  4. Step 4: Answer wisely

    After you've read the questions, read the passage, and have taken any appropriate notes, you you should have located the part of the text where you where you need to read carefully. Then just read carefully and think critically to determine the correct answer.

IELTS Reading Question Types
 
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