Technological breakthroughs may one day allow us to deflect some of the Sun’s rays, effectively cooling the planet. While this solution may give us a fighting chance against climate change, researchers believe the process would instead wipe out entire species and ecosystems. The study was published in the journal, Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Some scientists have suggested spraying the Earth’s upper atmosphere with chemicals to reflect a large portion of sunlight from the planet. The process is dubbed solar radiation management and it involves injecting billions of tiny particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunshine back into space, lowering the Earth’s temperature in the process.
This geoengineering scheme, however, is not bulletproof, according to a recent study. If the technique were to be discontinued, the planet would experience a massive surge in heat, which in turn, would have negative effects on plants and animals.
“If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating. So you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually,” said Alan Robock, co-author of the study and a professor at the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Scenarios that would likely interrupt the deflection process might include war, a terrorist attack on the facilities responsible for spraying the chemicals or policy changes, the study notes.
Exposing the planet to an instant surge of warmth would wipe out many mammals, amphibians, corals and land plants.
Scientists have been exploring ‘geoengineering technologies’ to tackle runaway climate change by artificially modifying the planet’s atmosphere.
This technology currently remains untested, although scientists have an idea of how the particles would be inserted into the atmosphere. It is said to replicate the effects of volcanic eruptions and could be deployed by modified airplanes, balloons or other similar crafts.
The Paris agreement saw countries pledge to keep global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above industrial levels, with their goal set at 1.5 degrees. However, this feat alone might not be enough as Earth’s temperatures were estimated to increase by at least 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century. The shift in temperature would kill most crops, cause sea levels to rise, and melt most of the world’s ice.
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