Geoengineering: The risks of desperation

Humans tend to be more interventionist than preventionist.

Geoengineering: The risks of desperation
Photo by Łukasz Łada / Unsplash

Last week the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released its latest report. In sober tones, the panel said it is unlikely we will keep the world from warming beyond 1.5°C (the world has already warmed by 1.1°C).

In most things, humans tend to be more interventionist than preventionist, and I imagine that as the world continues to warm, we’ll begin to seek drastic interventionist measures. These include solar geoengineering, the risky technique of spraying sulfur dioxide and other microparticles into the stratosphere to reflect the sun’s rays and cool the planet. Mexico has already banned this type of experiment after an entrepreneur sold “cooling credits” for balloon flights that released reflective sulfur particles over the nation without seeking scientific or government approval.

As we enter a stage of greater desperation for last-ditch interventions, we need more research into the full implications of Hail Mary solutions. Fortunately, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is beginning to conduct formal research to better understand the potential risks.

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