Cooling the Planet by Dimming the Sun: Massive Threat

A new study shows that cooling the planet by dimming the sun could pose a great threat to numerous animal and plant species around the world. Specialists indicate that spraying chemicals in the upper atmosphere of our planet might not be such a good idea. The chemicals are meant to reflect most of the sunlight away from Earth. In this way, scientists hope that we will be able to diminish global warming once and for all.

However, this controversial geoengineering technique can pose a wide range of big risks. If at some point, for some reason, researchers would stop using the technique, we would confront with a rapid surge in heat. This would have catastrophic effects on animals and plants. The new study was published on January 22, highlighting the effects of the geoengineering system. It was published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Cooling the planet via solar engineering might be a mistake

Alan Robock of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick is the co-author of the study. He indicates that the geoengineering system might stop and if this happens, it could have devastating consequences. The study indicates that the system needs to be stopped gradually in order to prevent disasters. However, there are certain scenarios which might prevent this. In case the facilities engaged in spraying are affected due to war, political changes of heart or terrorist attack, there will not be a gradual stop of the system.

Robock argues that we should not risk when implementing this because in case it stops, it could trigger massive floods or droughts all over the world. The geoengineering technology is expanding while our planet is getting closer to surpass the safe levels of climate change. When trying to artificially modify how reflective the Earth is, this can lead to unprecedented disasters.

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Numerous governments have promised to take care of the global warming problem, keeping tabs on global average temperatures. Under the Paris agreement on climate change, they have established to diminish pollution in such a way that temperatures would decrease to reach 2 degrees Celsius above the industrial levels. Furthermore, they aim for 1.5 degrees Celsius.

This is a bold goal, and it takes a lot of effort to be able to accomplish it. Hence, many countries around the globe have implemented new regulations to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, in case these countries’ plans do not ramp up rapidly, our planet might warm by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The sunset

Specialists indicate that if the geoengineering system were to fail, we would all suffer as the planet gets warmer.

Diminishing the effects of climate change

In case this happens, most of our planet’s ice would melt, increasing sea levels, triggering crop failures and extreme weather. The last year’s terrible floods, droughts, and hurricanes have indicated that the Earth has already warmed over 1 degree Celsius above the industrial levels. This bad news should encourage us to recycle, reuse and diminish the use of fossil fuels. However, even if this is an easy thing to say, it may be harder for us to do it.

If we were to spray Sulphur dioxide and other chemicals into Earth’s upper atmosphere, this would create a cloud of sulfuric acid. The cloud would reflect some of the sunlight. Hence, our planet would cool down. The technology is largely untested, mimicking the effects of volcanic eruptions. Furthermore, this technology could be installed with balloons, airplanes or other devices.

Several scientists are of the opinion that the implementation of this system could bring changes to fundamental earth processes. It is hard to predict all the consequences, but it will clearly signify the beginning of a lot of problems. Weather patterns would change, shifting the focus of Asia’s monsoons. Species of animals and plants would terribly suffer, probably being forced to adapt to new weather conditions. This could lead to the extinction of several species of plants and animals.

On the other hand, supporters of the technology argue that countries’ regulations will not be enough to help them fulfill the Paris agreement goal. Their new policies won’t help them curb emissions fast enough. Hence, they will be unable to keep global warming with safe levels. In this case, policymakers should prepare a whole lot of solutions to find out which is the best to protect life on Earth.

Technological proposals

There are other technological proposals which can help us deal with climate change effects. For instance, if we were to refuse the geoengineering technique, we could use the one where all the greenhouse gases are sucked from the air. The technology implies sucking the carbon dioxide and the rest of the greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and storing them underground.

Irrespective of the solution we choose to diminish climate change effects, specialists should test them several times and develop more research on them. In this way, we will find out whether these solutions are appropriate for use without impacting life on our planet. If the risks weigh more than the benefits, then specialists should not implement geoengineering.

Robock argues that we need to find out as soon as possible whether this is a good idea or no, in order to emphasize the mitigation. Ben Kravitz is a climate scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington. He claims that scientists need to inform the wide public whether solar radiation management does not work. In case people will rely on this technique and then find out that it does not work, the whole planet will suffer.

Study authors have agreed to continue studying the implications of solar engineering. To learn the benefits and the drawbacks, they would have to analyze the current emissions trajectories. Furthermore, they also have to establish the costs for such technology while also thinking about its availability.

Summing up

Cooling the planet by using solar engineering could severely affect life on Earth. Scientists indicate that this technology might not benefit animals and plants. In case the geoengineering system stops for some reason, the entire planet will get hot very quickly. This could lead to numerous disasters, affecting several species which won’t be able to adapt anymore.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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