Geoengineering a Cooler Planet Could Kill Earth's Animals in an Attempt to Stop Climate Change
In theory, the plan to deflect heat from the sun to cool down the temperature of the Earth makes sense, but according to a new study published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, doing so may have some pretty nasty side effects for our planet.
The way solar geoengineering would work is that scientists would use planes to spray sulphur dioxide into our planet's stratosphere. The chemical compound would convert to sulfate aerosol and would reflect sunlight. The new study suggests that it would not be the deflection process itself that causes harm, but the period after the process was stopped.
"You'd get rapid warming because the aerosols have a lifetime of a year or two, and they would fall out pretty quickly," said study co-author and Rutgers University professor Alan Robock. "And then you'd get all this extra sunlight and you'd quickly go back up to what the climate might have been without the geoengineering."
The plants and animals on this planet adapt to changes in climate, but that's because climate is supposed to change slowly over time. A post-geoengineering rapid warming would throw everything out of whack, raising temperatures and changing precipitation, which could wipe out entire species and destroy ecosystems.
The sudden stoppage of solar geoengineering would be called "termination shock," but Harvard professor David Keith says that it is unlikely that it would ever happen. "A decision to suddenly terminate would have to be near unanimous," he said, explaining that the plan would involve the world's nations.
"The ultimate fear with geoengineering is that we're trying to alter a system that's much too complex for us to truly predict," John Fleming, a staff writer for the Center for Biological Diversity's Climate Law Institute told Wired. "So doing that can put us in a worse situation than we're in already."