Geoengineering could help cool the earth safely, new study suggests

Despite its potential to assuage climate change, climate experts are concerned that solar geoengineering, a term used to describe human intervention in the Earth’s climate system in order to reflect sunlight and thus reduce global warming, would have a negative impact on rainfall and storm patterns in some parts of the world. A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, analyzing what would happen if the sun’s heat was turned down, now suggests side effects would be minimal.

Cooling the Earth enough to eliminate roughly half of warming, rather than all of it, generally would not make tropical cyclones more intense or worsen water availability, extreme temperatures or extreme rain, the Guardian reported. Only a small fraction of places, 0.4%, might see climate change impacts worsened, the study says.

While many are concerned that technological interventions to tackle climate change could deter sustainable efforts to reduce carbon emissions, a UN-approved report on limited climate change published last year suggested that geoengineering may be necessary, although it would come with major uncertainties.

David Keith, a Harvard professor in engineering and public policy, and co-author of the study, said the study’s main message was that “there is the possibility that solar geoengineering could really substantially reduce climate risks for the most vulnerable”.

“I am not saying we know it works and we should do it now,” he was quoted as saying. “Indeed, I would absolutely oppose deployment now. There’s still only a little group of people looking at this, there’s lots of uncertainty.”

The most likely method to mitigate the effects of climate change would involve spraying sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere on a global scale in order to reflect some of the sun’s heat.

However, critics of the study claim that the analysis did not take the ramifications of this course of action into account but looked only at what could happen if the heat of the sun was turned down.

“They focus in this paper on temperature and water availability in different regions,” Alan Robock, a geophysics professor and researcher at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said. “Those are only two things that would change with stratospheric aerosols.”

“We’re not able right now to say whether, if global warming continues, we should ever decide to start spraying this stuff into the stratosphere,” Robock said. “Would solar-radiation management, would geoengineering make it more dangerous or less dangerous?

“That’s the question we have to answer, and we don’t have enough information.”

Source: The Guardian


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