The U.S. government is actively exploring ways to modify the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth in order to temporarily address the impacts of global warming.
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is coordinating a five-year research plan to study these methods, known as solar geoengineering, according to CNBC.
Recently, USA Today released a fact check to decry claims that toxic chemicals, or “chemtrails,” are being added to the atmosphere as a form of geoengineering, remarking that there is “no evidence” to support this.
However, reports have now come out revealing that Congress directed the development of a man-made climate research plan in its 2022 spending plan, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.
The Biden Administration also approved research funds for solar geoengineering, committing between $100 million and $200 million over five years for this research.
Some scientists and climate leaders believe that this research is necessary to determine the best way to balance the risks of solar geoengineering against the potential risks of a catastrophic rise in Earth’s temperature.
It is estimated that it would cost $10 billion per year to run a program that cools the Earth by 1 degree Celsius.
Some experts caution that these types of interventions, such as the injection of aerosols, could be toxic and potentially destabilizing, and may not be fully within human control. In fact, geoengineering could represent a new type of warfare.
A startup company called Make Sunsets has announced that it has sent weather balloons into the stratosphere, aiming to release reflective sulfur particles as a form of solar geoengineering, according to MIT Technology Review.
Solar geoengineering involves the deliberate manipulation of the climate by reflecting sunlight back into space, similar to what occurs naturally after a volcanic eruption.
This approach is highly controversial, as there is limited understanding of the potential consequences and side effects of such large-scale interventions, and there are concerns that they could disproportionately impact certain regions, leading to geopolitical conflicts.
Scientists and engineers have been researching solar geoengineering, a potential solution to climate change, for over 50 years.
However, few real-world experiments have been conducted due to the associated risks, such as sudden changes in precipitation patterns, harm to the ozone layer, and the destruction of agriculture.
During a volcanic eruption, sulfur is emitted into the troposphere, about 10 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
Solar geoengineering involving sulfur would involve injecting it into the stratosphere, more than 20 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, which is not a natural occurrence.
This raises concerns about the possibility of removing injected sulfur dioxide from the stratosphere and the potential negative effects on health, as exposure to sulfur dioxide can cause irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Exposure to this gas can also pose a risk to human, animal, and plant health.
Sunlight is essential for life on Earth, and scientists report that the Earth has only warmed by around 0.7 degrees Celsius over a hundred-year time span. Geoengineering experiments are highly controversial and carry significant risks. There are serious concerns about the potential negative effects on human health and the environment. Given the potential dangers and unknown consequences of solar geoengineering, it is important to carefully consider the risks and benefits before pursuing any further experiments in this field.