We are entering the final days of COP27, the United Nations’ annual climate summit, and it’s safe to say that this year’s edition was a disappointment – to say the least. He was widely criticized by climate experts and activists for his sponsorship of Coca-Cola, the world’s leading plastic polluter.
Moreover, like many climate summits in the past, little action has actually been taken in terms of concrete climate action and policies. In fact, arguably the biggest decisions to combat climate change were not made at COP27, but at G-20 summit between the United States and China. Similarly, the US government also indicated last month that it was looking at one of the most controversial and significant approaches to date in combating climate change.
On October 13, the White House announced that it is funding a A five-year research plan In one of the most controversial proposals to combat climate change out there: Geological engineeringor technologies and innovations that can be used to artificially modify the Earth’s climate.
The report will be devoted specifically to a form of geoengineering known as solar radiation management. This is a technology that basically involves spraying a fine mist into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight away from the Earth. The idea is that once that is reversed, there will be less heat and temperatures will drop.
The research plan will model how SRM affects the atmosphere and assess its feasibility as a potential technique used to “manage climate risks in the near term”. In other words: we want to know whether or not we should include this in the “break glass in case of climate catastrophe” box.
While this sounds a little crazy, the world has actually witnessed unintended SRM before after large volcanic eruptions throw huge amounts of gas and debris into the atmosphere and block out the sun. The 1816 eruption of Tambora in Indonesia led to what became known as the “year without a summer” across Europe and North America after temperatures dropped as much as 3°C.
For some context, the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement included a target to keep temperatures from rising by 2°C (with an extended target of 1.5°C). We totally smashed the bed). So the controlled version of SRM is often seen as a viable way to prevent the worst climate disasters. Even the United Nations recognized B The potential of this technology in COP27— to the chagrin of many activists who staunchly oppose geoengineering.
“Geological engineering is a sign of industrial despair,” He said during a session at the Climate Summit.
Regardless, it’s a radical and potentially life-saving research plan—one that some of its oldest and most ardent proponents believe is cause for celebration.
“I was pleased to hear that the US government is funding a five-year research plan,” Stephen Salter, professor emeritus at the University of Edinburgh and marine engineer, told The Daily Beast. It is an indication that they are, finally, taking the problem seriously.
for decades, Salter advocated geoengineering As a viable tactic to deal with the world’s worsening climate issues. He has even invented several devices and systems that can address these problems such as the “Salter Basin,” which was set up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2007 and which he said could lower ocean temperatures enough to prevent the formation of powerful storms.
Salter was also one of the first researchers to propose SRM as a way to smooth the earth. However, all his proposals and ideas fell on deaf ears due to what he described as the “stupidity of the decision-makers” in the government. He has quite a bit of an ax to grind when it comes to this: In 2005, he was The UK government rejected his proposal To use SRM to prevent overheating of the sea.
This is why the White House’s willingness to invest in solar geoengineering research is such a big deal. The US government knows that we may have to resort to incredibly radical experimental measures in order to stop the climate catastrophe: blocking out the sun. If the United States does, many other countries may follow suit.
“It’s like the airbags in your car. You’ll never want to use it, but you’ll be glad to have it when you do.“
– Andrew Dessler, Texas A&M
“I hope that [the five-year-research plan] People in other countries will be encouraged and that some of the money will go to engineering and not just governance where most of it goes now.”
But, of course, such a procedure does not come without risks. Critics of geoengineering warn that it could have unintended consequences that spread across the globe. After all, when you spray aerosols into the atmosphere, they will spread. You will feel its effects Everywhere No matter where you first sprayed it. This can lead to the butterfly effect of catastrophic events.
For example, temperatures can drop so low that crops are lost – something we’ve seen before in the year without summer. Changes in the atmosphere can also intensify weather events such as storms. Some research suggests that solar geoengineering could be, as well Diseases spread.
But Salter believes the stakes are often exaggerated. The SRM, he asserts, is also a fully reversible system that can be stopped with “one mouse click” after which “the effects will go away at the next rain shower”. SRM is just going to be a tactic that helps us buy time while we try to tackle issues like reducing carbon emissions.
Also, the five-year research plan from the White House will also look into risks and risks associated with solar geoengineering. When we use a method like this, it won’t be without extensive modeling. We’ll have at least a rough estimate of what would happen if that happened.
Moreover, we may be at greater risk if we do nothing at all.
“It’s like the airbags in your car,” Andrew Dessler, director of the Texas Center for Climate Studies at Texas A&M University, told The Daily Beast. “You’ll never want to use it, but you’ll be glad to have it when you do.”
Dessler believes that although we should do everything we can now to limit global temperature rise by aggressively reducing carbon emissions, it is best to have solar geoengineering systems in place in case we need them in the future. To do this, then, we need to start researching the approach now — so we know what to expect when we need to use it.
“You can imagine a scenario where it’s 2040. Climate change is out of control. People suddenly realize, holy crap, this is terrible,” he said. “You have to do something right away. In this case, SRM may be the least bad option.
“This is not the way you want to deal with the problem,” he added. “The right way to deal with the problem is to start lowering your emissions right away, so you don’t get yourself into this situation. But I definitely see a path in the future where we need to spread it.”
As the saying goes, bad times call for drastic measures. What do you say then that the US government decided to put some skin in the game and fund research and resources in solar geoengineering?
At the recent UN climate summit, Secretary-General António Guterres declared that the world was in “Highway to climate hell.“Not only have we failed to reach the 1.5°C threshold set by the Paris climate agreement, but we are well on our way to exceeding the 2°C target as well.
This means that we increasingly find ourselves with limited choices. With our backs against the wall, the ocean rising to our feet, and the planet burning around us, we may have no choice but to hit the airbag—and pray it saves us all.
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