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Solar Geo-Engineering

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Science and Technology

 

Source: LM

 Context: The article discusses solar geoengineering as a potential solution to combat the adverse effects of climate change.

 

What is Solar geoengineering?

Solar geoengineering, also referred to as solar radiation management (SRM) describes a set of proposed approaches to reflect sunlight (back to space) to rapidly cool the Earth.

Within solar geoengineering, researchers are considering two main approaches.

 

Different SRM methods:

 

  • Stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI):It involves injecting tiny reflecting particles, known as aerosols, into the upper atmosphere to cool the planet.
  • Marine cloud brightening (MCB):It would use sea salt to stimulate cloud formation over the ocean, which would also help reflect sunlight in the region.

 

Why is solar geoengineering being considered?

The Paris Agreement’s target requires limiting global temperature increase well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.

For this, nations need to bring net global CO2 emissions to zero by no later than mid-century.

 

Potential of Solar Geo-Engineering:

  • The process is cost-effective, with an estimated cost of $18 billion a year for each degree of cooling achieved.
  • Whereas, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to achieve similar cooling effects will require much more money.

 

Implications of Solar Geo-Engineering:

Implications Description
1. Polar Warming and Ice Melt Solar geo-engineering may cool tropical zones but could lead to temperature increases around the poles, accelerating permafrost and sea ice melting.
2. Impact on Monsoon Patterns Geo-engineering might affect monsoon patterns in different regions, potentially disrupting crucial rainfall and weather systems.
3. Moral hazard The danger is that the technology will become an excuse to slow emissions reductions and stop moving toward a low-carbon economy
4. Little is known about its impacts Research to scope the risks and potential of solar geoengineering has mostly been conducted through computer-based modelling and natural observations (volcanic eruption).
5. Uncoordinated Efforts The ease of implementing solar geo-engineering poses a risk of uncoordinated efforts by countries or private entities, which could have unforeseen consequences on global weather patterns.
E.g., Private companies like “Make Sunsets” conduct unregulated experiments by releasing sulphur dioxide gas into the atmosphere.

 

The USA’s plan:

  • The USA stated that public or private actors could carry out activities such as injecting aerosols and MCB to reflect more sunlight into space.
  • It called for research to enable better-informed decisionsabout the potential risks and benefits of the tool as part of its climate policy, in addition to mitigation and adaptation.

 

Way ahead:

Because solar geoengineering has global implications, its consideration as a climate response requires –

  • Effective international governance/ Mechanisms for oversight.
  • Outdoor experimentation and funding for experiments should come only from governments.
  • Ways to involve the public in decision-making.

 

Conclusion:

Given the ethical and environmental risks these activities can present, atmospheric experiments to assess these technologies deserve timely public scrutiny and debate.

Even as researchers assess the potential feasibility and effectiveness of geoengineering approaches, mitigation and adaptation must remain our first-line solutions.

 

Insta Links:

Cooling the Earth down

 

Mains Links: 

What is solar Geoengineering? Discuss the benefits and shortcomings linked with this technology.