Geoengineering Comes with Huge Risks

Over the coming decades, we’re going to learn what kind of impact global warming is going to have on planet Earth. If the impact is as severe as some scientists are predicting, countries might take drastic action to stabilize temperatures. But scientists from Concordia University and the Carnegie Institution think that tinkering with the Earth on a global scale – or geoengineering – is very bad idea, and could make the problem much worse.

In order to defend against global warming, some novel ideas have been proposed; here are a few: building a fleet of satellites to shade the planet, using mirrors to reflect light away, or releasing light-reflecting particles into the atmosphere to cool temperatures.

According to this new study, published in the June 4 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, these projects could provide relief from rising temperatures, but they could worsen the situation if the projects fail or were suddenly halted. Even though temperatures would be cooled, greenhouse gas emissions would continue to rise. And if the projects failed, we could experience rates of warming 20 times what we are experiencing today.

For an analogy, let’s say you want to keep your car cool, and put shades over the windows. If you take the shades off in the heat of the day, the car will heat up much more quickly than if you let it warm up slowly in over the course of the morning. This kind of drastic temperature increase would put even more of a strain on resources, wildlife, and human populations.

Here’s what one of the researchers, Ken Caldeira, had to say:

“Many people argue that we need to prevent climate change. Others argue that we need to keep emitting greenhouse gases,” Caldeira said. “Geoengineering schemes have been proposed as a cheap fix that could let us have our cake and eat it, too. But geoengineering schemes are not well understood. Our study shows that planet-sized geoengineering means planet-sized risks.”

The researchers aren’t ruling out these kinds of megaprojects entirely, but they emphasize cutting down emissions as quickly as possible, not hoping to rely on a silver bullet.

Original Source: Carnegie Institution News Release