Geoengineering To the Rescue – Maybe

The solution to climate change may be found in a feat of engineering mastered by Ray-Ban decades ago, apparently. A report released last week says that, along with other geoengineering technologies, giant “sun shades” could theoretically return global temperatures to the levels before the Industrial Revolution in a matter of years…but at an unknown – possible disastrous – price.

The report, discussed on Friday at the U.N. climate conference in Urban. South Africa, says reflecting sunlight back to space before it reaches earth could solve the global warming crisis and end all this renewable energy nonsense once and for all, according to the Associated Press.

Dubbed “Solar Radiation Management” or SRM, this technology would consist of various methods of reflection, such as brightening clouds with seawater, painting roofs white, and spraying aerosols in the stratosphere.

“SRM technologies would take effect relatively quickly and their cost could be comparatively low, and they could reduce some of the most significant effects of climate change,” reads the study, led by Britain’s Royal Society, the Environmental Defense Fund and TWAS, the Italy-based academy of sciences for the developing world. The final report is the result of three days of talks last spring—the climax a yearlong discussion of geoengineering’s potential effects among scientists, philosophers and legal scholars spanning 22 countries, according to the AP.

While the study appears to be good news, don’t buy that SVU just yet.The report also confirms what we already suspected: the potential side effects of geoengineering could be really, really bad.

“Solar radiation management technologies are high-risk and extremely dangerous and they should be treated under international law like nuclear weapons – except, unlike nuclear weapons, we have an opportunity to ban their testing and their proliferation before the technology is fully developed, rather than trying to prevent their proliferation after the fact,” environmentalist Silvia Ribeiro, of the Canada-based ETC-Group, said to the AP.

The U.N. seems to agree, with over 190 countries consenting to a geoengineering ban in order to protect the planet’s biodiversity.

But the new report acknowledges the possibility that such tactics might be necessary, in light of the “progress” made since talks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions began some 20 years ago.

“The slow progress of international climate negotiations has led to increased concerns that sufficient cuts in greenhouse gas emissions may not be achieved in time to avoid unacceptable levels of climate change,” the report said.

But that doesn’t mean we should give up reducing carbon dioxide emissions, says John Shepherd, a British oceanographer from the University of Southampton and a lead author of the report.

“This would buy time for people to make the transition to a low-carbon economy,” he said to the AP.

Shepherd might seem a little optimistic, but so are we.

The above is an assignment for an environmental journalism class where I was asked to write a blog post for an existing green blog. I chose TreeHugger, so that’s why I link back to the blog as “we”. I don’t actually think I am a writer for them, but maybe someday. 

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