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The Imminent Reality of Solar Geoengineering: A Call to Policymakers

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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The Imminent Reality of Solar Geoengineering: A Call to Policymakers

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The Advent of Solar Geoengineering

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As the world grapples with the escalating consequences of climate change, scientific communities are exploring innovative solutions. One such solution, solar geoengineering, specifically stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI), is gaining traction. This method involves injecting small particles into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, thus counteracting some aspects of climate change. Some climate researchers suggest that this approach could potentially reduce global warming and extreme weather events, with the possibility of implementation within the next five years. However, this raises the question of preparedness among policymakers for such a technologically advanced countermeasure.

Scaling Down to Start Up

According to a report published on Technology Review, a subscale deployment of solar geoengineering could produce noticeable changes in the stratosphere and have a non-negligible impact on the climate. While the climate effects could be small, the geopolitical implications could be significant. However, this approach is opposed by some groups due to its potential to trigger a backlash, disrupt global governance, and be exploited by fossil fuel interests. Full-scale deployment, which requires a fleet of novel aircraft, is considered both imprudent and unlikely.

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Dealing with Backlash and Ethical Dilemmas

A company called Make Sunsets is currently attempting to use SAI to mitigate global warming, however, this has prompted backlash from experts, tribal communities, and environmentalists. As reported by High Country News, concerns revolve around potential negative impacts such as acid rain, respiratory damage, and abrupt changes to the water cycle. The company's actions have also raised questions about tribal consent, environmental impact, and potential erosion of trust in the field of solar geoengineering.

The Protective Effect of SAI on Ice Sheets

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A study covered by Science Daily used simulations to examine the potential effects of SAI on ice sheet melting. The study showed that SAI of sulfur dioxide would have a protective effect on the Greenland Ice Sheet, limiting ice loss and potential sea-level rise. However, the report also highlighted the contentious nature of geoengineering and the need for more comprehensive studies to address the root causes of global warming, rather than just its symptoms.

Immediate Scientific Scrutiny Required

An article on DevX emphasises the urgent need for scientific scrutiny of solar geoengineering, or solar radiation modification (SRM). It discusses the potential impact of SRM in cooling the Earth's surface and the ethical, political, and environmental aspects associated with it. The article also underscores the challenges and potential risks of large-scale aerosol spraying and the importance of a thorough evaluation before considering this as a solution to global warming.

Concluding Thoughts

As the world stands on the precipice of potentially ground-breaking climate change countermeasures, the need for immediate and comprehensive research into solar geoengineering is apparent. Policymakers must confront the challenges this presents sooner rather than later. While the potential benefits are significant, the risks and ethical dilemmas must not be overlooked. Solar geoengineering could be a part of the solution to global warming, but it must be coupled with efforts to address the root causes of climate change.

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