Tatsat Chronicle Magazine

Could geoengineering really help us solve the climate crisis?

October 6, 2021

The cost-benefit analysis of geoengineering against carbon reduction is dependent on one’s time horizon. The higher the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of carbon removal, the sooner cooling is undertaken

With Greta Thunberg and the Extinction Rebellion demonstrators spearheading the charge for urgent climate action, attention is once again being drawn to geoengineering. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we will not be able to keep temperature below 1.5°C without adopting extreme measures. Is it time to take a closer look at the possibility of acting in the world’s climate on purpose? Former UK chief scientific adviser David King is leading an effort to build a “hub for climate restoration” at the University of Cambridge. Investigating “approaches that might be utilised to repair the damaged climate,” a range of procedures commonly referred to as geoengineering, would be one of the main focuses.

The Carbon Neutral Futures Initiative at the University of Cambridge is led by Emily Shuckburgh, who says there are a variety of alternatives to investigate. “Some things we [as a society] would certainly not want to do,” she says, referring to any geoengineering action that would disturb weather patterns. Solar radiation management, or solar engineering, is a distinct technique that has gotten a lot of attention in recent years. This might entail injecting aerosols into the atmosphere to act as a huge sunscreen for the planet. Solar geoengineering was given a cautious welcome by the Royal Society a decade ago. The strategy, it added, might have harmful consequences on weather systems and would have to be maintained on a continuous basis. The society’s study, on the other hand, determined that it merited further research.

In the years that followed, research on solar radiation management exploded, with more than 500 papers published on solar geoengineering. According to a recent study, the strategy could successfully reduce warming without having a negative impact on rainfall patterns as a side effect.