Climate change hack to reflect sunlight would cool Earth but kill crops, study finds
August 10, 2018 12:53 PM NPT
Earth at high risk of extreme weather events even if Paris Agreement commitments are met
Aug 10: Earth is witnessing a shift in climate. Recent research has suggested that many parts of the Earth could become completely inhospitable to humans because of extreme weather conditions over the next century.
Scientists had recently revealed a new "hack", a final and desperate attempt to cool down the Earth in the future. The idea is to replicate the effect that the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption had on the planet, notes a report by the Washington Post.
A year after the mega eruption, Earth saw a considerable level of cooling almost everywhere. It was attributed to the dust and ash that was spread out through out the Earth in the upper atmosphere. Light and heat were reflected away from the planet, cooling it down.
Climate scientists want to do the same using aerosols. It is not possible to switch volcanoes on and off at will but aerosols can be spread over an area, they suggested. The chemical will reflect sunlight away from the planet, cooling the lower layers. But, a new study has found that the environmental costs of doing something like this could be way too expensive.
Food crops, for example, would escape the current heat stress but would miss out on sunlight used for photosynthesis. The advantages are clearly overshadowed by the disadvantages, the study has found.
Jonathan Proctor, of the University of California at Berkeley and the lead author of the paper, notes that "If we think of geoengineering as experimental surgery our findings suggest that the side effects of treatment are as bad as the original disease."
The report, however, notes that the very technology that can miraculously spew sulphur dioxide doesn't even exist yet, living only in presentations and papers.
Also, there is a political and ethical angle to this issue. Who has the right to modify the entire Earth's atmosphere like that? The Post points out that the US has taken on a decidedly "isolationist" agenda wherein it seems to be attacking even close allies. The US government's official stance on global warming is that it is a hoax, so who then would take up this project of albedo modification?