60 Global Experts Want Ban On Solar Geoengineering
The Tonga underwater volcanic eruption has illustrated a question that has been dogging scientific and climate experts for decades: If the world got unbearably hot, should scientists and governments opt to put sulfur dioxide or similar chemicals into the atmosphere to slow the rate of global warming? Is it ethical to even research such technologies?
Photo Insert: Solar geoengineering is a specific form of albedo modification in which highly reflective particles are introduced into the atmosphere to increase Earth’s albedo, according to Science in the News, a publication of Harvard University.
In an open letter published Monday, Jan. 17, 2022, in the journal WIREs Climate Change, more than 60 researchers from around the globe offered a resounding “no” to both questions. They called for an “international non-use agreement” on so-called solar geoengineering technologies, which would cool the planet by releasing sun-reflecting chemicals into the atmosphere.
The authors want governments to ban outdoor experiments and deployment of solar geoengineering, prohibit national funding agencies from providing financial support, and refuse patents for such technologies.
The signatories included many prominent climate scientists, as well as the writer Amitav Ghosh and Sheila Jasanoff, an expert on science policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Solar geoengineering technology, they say, poses an “unacceptable risk” to the planet’s environment, climate, and most vulnerable people, Shannon Osaka reported for Grist late on Jan. 21, 2022.
“Governments and the United Nations need to take effective political control and restrict the development of solar geoengineering technologies before it is too late,” they wrote.
The prospect of dimming the sun to combat global warming has been in discussion for almost as long as climate change itself. The first report on global warming that was handed to a US president — Lyndon Johnson in 1965 — suggested it as a way to halt rising temperatures without stopping the use of fossil fuels. And in the past few years, attention to the concept has grown.
Last year, the US National Academies of Science created a plan for a research program that would investigate the idea, and a Harvard project planned to test a solar geoengineering balloon in Kiruna, Sweden. The test flight was halted after backlash from Swedish indigenous communities.