Researchers found that small doses of solar geoengineering could safely cool the planet’s climate system without any significant risk to any region.
The researchers likened the injecting of these small doses to the administering of blood pressure medication.
Solar geoengineering, also known as solar radiation management, refers to the idea of deliberately manipulating the Earth’s environment or climate system, to counteract the effects of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The concept, which mimics the natural process and effects of volcanic eruptions, works by spraying sulfuric acid into the lower stratosphere to block or reflect the sun’s heat back to space and, thus, reduce global warming.
The sulfur would be combined with water vapor to form sulfate aerosols, which would then block about 1 percent of the sunlight on the Earth’s surface. Climate experts and scientists believe such a method to be a cheap and easy way to stop the rising of atmospheric temperature.
However, they are also concerned that higher levels of solar geoengineering application could also cause unintended climatic consequences, such as the worsening of climate change in some parts of the world, including changes in rainfall patterns, extreme precipitation, and the availability of water.
Now, using a sophisticated high-resolution computer model, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences found that cutting global temperature rise in half, instead of all of it, could safely slow down global warming without causing unwanted side effects.
According to the researchers, the way to do this is to apply only small doses of sulfate particles into the Earth’s atmosphere. As a result, only 0.4 percent of the land on Earth would see climate change getting worse, the model suggested. What’s more, not only did it slow down climate change but it also managed to counteract over 85 percent of the increase in the severity of hurricanes.
“An overdose would be harmful, but a well-chosen dose could reduce your risks. Of course, it’s better to not have high blood pressure in the first place but once you have it, along with making healthier lifestyle choices, it’s worth considering treatments that could lower your risks,” said Peter Irvine, lead author of the study and Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
The study conducted alongside scientists from MIT and Princeton University was published in the journal Nature Climate Change on March 11.