Scientists evaluate Earth cooling strategies with geoengineering simulations

A group of international scientists led by Cornell University is evaluating – more rigorously and systematically than ever – if and how the stratosphere could be made a little more “brighter ”, reflecting more incoming sunlight so that an ever warmer Earth will maintain It’s neat.

Their work is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Solar radiation modification – or solar geoengineering, as it is sometimes called – is a potential strategy for climate change mitigation which involves injecting sulphate aerosols into the stratosphere, so that more sunlight bounces off the Earth’s atmosphere. In conjunction with other strategies, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, this could help keep the planet’s temperature from rising too high.

“Even if we act aggressively on climate change, it will get even worse,” said lead author Doug MacMartin, senior fellow and senior lecturer at Cornell’s School of Engineering and faculty member at the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. “We face tough decisions in the coming decades about whether or not to complement other climate change mitigation strategies with sunlight reflective methods.”

While cooling the climate using a known pollutant may reduce some of the impacts of climate change, it would also have other effects, from changes in precipitation to acid rain, leading to trade-offs which remain unclear.

There would also be significant challenges regarding how the world would make deployment decisions. A more systematic assessment of these trade-offs, comparing the impacts associated with a range of different choices, could inform these decisions.

“Anyone who has never heard of this strategy before, the first reaction should be ‘Wow, you can’t be serious. It sounds awful,’” MacMartin said. “And it’s possible, but climate change isn’t good either. We may have passed the easy fix stage. If we want to be able to provide future decision makers with the best possible information, we need to weigh the risks of using this technology against the risks of not using it.”

In the article, the scientists list several scenarios that explore different choices and present new climate model simulation results. These scenarios assume that the deployment could begin in 2035, and the effects of this choice are assessed by comparing with a start date a decade later. Other scenarios explore risks such as abrupt termination or temporary outages.

MacMartin said this framework represents a significant step forward from previously conducted simulations that were not always deliberately designed to inform future policy, and generally simulated only one long-term pathway.

Cornell Atkinson and the Countrywide Science Foundation supported this research .

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