The Biden administration moves ahead with new research on how to reflect sunlight away from the Earth. As part of a five-year research plan, the White House is studying methods for altering the amount of sunlight reaching Earth to reduce global warming.
While the proponents claim it has the potential to reduce the destructive effects of climate change, and possibly even refreeze the poles, critics contend that it may harm the health of humans. It is expected that the research plan will evaluate climate interventions, including spraying aerosols into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight back into space and will also include research goals.
According to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, these types of climate interventions may have an impact on the atmosphere and the Earth. The research plan was ordered by Congress to be produced in its 2022 spending plan.
Some of the techniques, such as spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, are known to have harmful effects on the environment and human health. But scientists and climate leaders who are concerned that humanity will overshoot its emissions targets say research is important to figure out how best to balance these risks against a possibly catastrophic rise in the Earth’s temperature, according to CNBC.
This particle mist is believed to reflect the sun upward, thereby shading the earth.
The process has worked before – although accidentally. After the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, thousands of tons of sulfur dioxide were released. This temporarily lowered the global temperature by 0.5°C.
According to researchers at Yale University, the injection method could potentially help refreeze the poles.
The White House should lead the research initiative, according to Chris Sacca, director of climate technology investment fund Lowercarbon Capital. Sacca said to CNBC, “Sunlight reflection has the potential to safeguard the livelihoods of billions of people, and it’s a sign of the White House’s leadership that they’re advancing the research so that any future decisions can be rooted in science not geopolitical brinkmanship.”
In an interview, Sacca said he donated to support research in the field, but he has no financial interest in the idea outside of philanthropic support. He said he believes there should be no private business models in space.
The Natural Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Defense Fund, and the Union of Concerned Scientists have all expressed support for sunlight reflection research, and Keith has consulted with a new group he advises titled the Climate Overshoot Commission, an international group of scientists and lawmakers that evaluates climate interventions for a warming world beyond what the Paris Climate Agreement has recommended.
Modifying the reflection of sunlight is not the solution to climate change. The priority is still the reduction of emissions. Janos Pasztor, executive director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative, claimed, “You cannot judge what the country does on solar-radiation modification without looking at what it is doing in emission reductions, because the priority is emission reductions. Solar-radiation modification will never be a solution to the climate crisis.”
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