26 march 2021

Should Solar Geoengineering Be a Tool to Slow Global Warming, or is Manipulating the Atmosphere Too Dangerous?

A new National Academies report is focusing attention on the controversial possibility of cooling the climate by reflecting sunlight away from Earth.

By Bob Berwyn, Inside Climate News, March 26, 2021

The risks of the climate crisis are so urgent that the United States, in cooperation with other countries and under strict rules, should study the possibility of temporarily cooling the planet through solar geoengineering, a report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says.

The report focuses on adding reflective particles to the upper atmosphere to bounce the sun’s heat back to space, brightening low-altitude clouds over the ocean to make them more reflective or thinning wispy cirrus clouds so that they trap less heat on the surface of the planet.

Supporting research into those possibilities shouldn’t be equated with actually implementing them, the NAS committee members involved with the report emphasized, adding that such studies should not detract from the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And scientists “need to be open to terminating” geoengineering research if findings indicate that such manipulations of the atmosphere would carry undue risk of dangerous consequences, they said.

“It’s kind of surreal to even be talking about this,” said Ambuj Sagar, who studies science and technology policy at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and was part of the committee that compiled the report. “You can’t be doing climate policy without thinking about geoengineering, and the more you get into it, the more complex it is. It raises all kinds of issues with international politics and governance."

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