Should We Artificially Cool the Planet?

With climate change rapidly approaching the point of no return, researchers are working fervently to find solutions to mitigate the amount of damage it will cause.

Not to get pessimistic, but it’s unlikely that we will be able to make the massive global changes necessary within the next decade to avoid a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C, thanks to the turtle-like speed of policymakers. Climate change is already causing pockets of chaos around the globe, and its effects are only going to get worse.

Could Solar Geoengineering Fight Climate Change?

So if we can’t get our acts in gear in time, what will we do? One option scientists are considering is solar geoengineering. This would require us to inject the stratosphere with sulphur dioxide, a compound naturally emitted from volcanoes. The sulphur dioxide would reflect some of the sun’s heat away and reduce temperature rise.

This would slow the rate at which our planet is warming while we figure out how to deal with our massive carbon dioxide problem. Geoengineering could potentially be the Hail Mary pass that saves us at the eleventh hour. But it doesn’t come without its own dangers.

Illustration of influence of sulfur dioxide emitted by volcanic activity

There are a lot of concerns about infusing our atmosphere with more chemicals. Isn’t praying aerosols into the atmosphere part of what got us into this mess in the first place? There are concerns about sulphur dioxide contributing to ozone depletion, although it remains unclear how much of an effect this particular process would have on our ozone. Aerosol sulphur dioxide would also whiten the sky, so it would become a little bit less blue.

We would still have to deal with the massive amounts of carbon dioxide building up beneath the stratosphere. Arctic melting, rising sea levels and ocean acidification would still continue, albeit at a reduced rate.

Solar geoengineering is not a cure-all solution—it’s just a temporary fix until we get our acts together. And yet, we may get to the point where it is our best option for saving the planet (and the life on it).

The effect of this process on weather patterns is also highly controversial. If we eliminated global warming entirely through geoengineering, it could drastically alter storm and rainfall patterns in parts of the world.

There are major uncertainties about the environmental, social and ecological impact of this technology. Of course, a recent study suggests that by simple mitigating the effects of global warming, we could avoid shifting weather patterns in a severe way. Either way, we can all agree that we would be far better off if we accelerated our climate change-fighting efforts before it’s too late.

Panorama of Yosemite Valley at sunset

This technology is scary, yes. But in these dire times, we can’t afford to leave any stone unturned. While no one wants to run the risk of using unproven technology to mitigate global temperature rises, it’s important that scientists consider all avenues in case of absolute catastrophe.

In the meantime, let’s make sure that we don’t get to the point where we need to use them. We need to all take global ACTION. Now.

Take Action

If we want to mitigate a climate disaster, we need our governments to step up or step aside. Join over 54,000 Care2 members and sign and share the petition demanding that the Trump administration that it’s time to stop denying and start taking real action on climate change.

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.


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Anna R
Anna R2 days ago

Thanks for posting

Thomas M
Thomas M10 days ago

thanks for posting

Sarah A
Sarah A14 days ago

thanks for sharing

Sarah A
Sarah A20 days ago

Thank you

Carla G
Carla G29 days ago

thank you for sharing

Ruth Lugo
Ruth Lugoabout a month ago

thank for article

Leo C
Leo Custerabout a month ago

Thank you for sharing!

Naomi D
Naomi Dreyerabout a month ago

Sally Andrews' comment is upsetting.

Sally A
Sally Andrews1 months ago

Global warming is fake news... Ask the American Weather Bureau why they manipulated historic temperature data.

Leo C
Leo Custer1 months ago

Thank you for sharing!