can a protective shield made of aerosols protect us from climate change?

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There is now almost consensus that global warming is a serious problem. In science, admittedly, more than in politics, but the recognition that something needs to be done is widespread. Researchers at the Climate Intervention Biology Working Group are currently investigating a somewhat adventurous measure: a kind of aerosol shield that is supposed to protect the earth from excessive solar radiation.

Global warming

Aerosol cloud for climate protection
The Climate Intervention Biology Working Groupis directed by Michigan State University and Stony Brook University in New York and describes itself as a “team of internationally recognized experts in climate research. The group has been meeting every month since September 2019 and has since been working on the aerosol idea, which runs under the working title “solar radiation modification”. The idea of ​​partially reflecting the sun's rays back into space is not new in and of itself. The proposal from Michigan State University and Stony Brook University in New York focuses on a method that uses an artificial aerosol cloud in the stratosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Theoretically, this cloud could be artificially enlarged and reduced and moved at will, to protect certain regions and achieve a specific temperature target. How exactly this should happen is not really clear yet.

The aerosol idea itself has been discussed several times, for example in an article from 2018 in the journal Environmental Research Letters , in which it was discussed how the earth could be cooled by chemicals introduced into the atmosphere. However, other contributions pointed to the possible limits and dangers of such projects.

Effects need to be investigated
Research on the method is still in the early stages. However, the researchers consider the solution to be relatively easy to implement. " The costs and technology needed to reflect the sun's heat back into space are currently more attainable than other climate intervention ideas like absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, " explains the team. However, there are also potential problems such as uneven distribution of aerosols (which would affect local ecosystems), effects on rainfall, possible acid rain and effects on UV radiation on the earth's surface.

One major uncertainty is the general impact of aerosol intervention on Earth's ecosystems. Global warming is already affecting animals and plants, and the additional effects of aerosols are difficult to predict.

" There is a dearth of knowledge about the effects of climate intervention on ecology ", says Phoebe Zarnetske, head of the group. “ As scientists, we need to understand and predict the positive and negative effects it could have on the natural world, identify key knowledge gaps, and begin to predict what impacts it may have on terrestrial, marine, and freshwater species and ecosystems if it were adopted in the future, "she continues.

Action has to be taken
The group is currently working on adapting an existing geoengineering model from Rutgers University in such a way that the effects (positive as well as negative) of the aerosol intervention can be modeled.

" While climate models have become quite advanced in predicting climate outcomes of various geoengineering scenarios, we have very little understanding of what the possible risks of these scenarios might be for species and natural systems, " says Jessica Gurevitch from Stony Brook University, who at cooperates with the investigation.

The group emphasized that regardless of the ultimate utility of the method of the method, a way must be found to minimize the effects of climate change.


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