Geoengineering is an ambitious set of experiments proposed by scientists to help mitigate the effects of climate change. And one type in particular, called solar geoengineering, has been the subject of debate. This process involves, among other techniques, injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere to reduce the amount of sun and heat that reaches the planet. The goal? To decrease global temperatures. Proponents argue this process would be inexpensive and effective. Plus, they say, it could limit changes in glacier melt and lessen the intensity of tropical storms. But challengers argue these techniques do not address the underlying issues of climate change, and they worry that solar geoengineering could alter weather systems or possibly even cool the planet too much. They also point to governance issues: Any country could engage these strategies, triggering the possibility of unintended consequences that could affect us all. Is solar geoengineering a radical idea? Or is it likely to emerge as an important, supplemental tool in the fight against climate change?
- Solar geoengineering is just a Band-Aid on top of a larger issue, and it will not address the underlying behaviors, practices, and products that lead to excessive greenhouse gas emissions.
- There are too many possible unintended consequences associated with solar geoengineering, including changing weather patterns, cooling the planet too much, or further depleting the ozone layer.
- Solar geoengineering technologies could fall into the wrong hands: Rogue actors or governments around the world could potentially wield them without the consent of affected communities or nations.
- Solar geoengineering imitates a natural process that already exists. Introducing reflective particles into the stratosphere could mimic the global cooling effect documented after volcanic eruptions, helping to decrease global temperatures.
- Compared to the economic cost of managing global warming, including drought, ocean acidification, and increasingly turbulent tropical storms, solar geoengineering is a more affordable way to mitigate the effects of climate change.
- It is too risky not to test solar geoengineering. Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that as global temperatures continue to rise, the results will be catastrophic for humanity in the decades to come.