Geoengineering Can Save The Planet From An Imminent Catastrophe

By Charlene Badasie | Published

New research states that a stratospheric aerosol injection, a version of geoengineering, could stop the ice sheets from melting. The destruction of the Earth’s ice sheets and glaciers due to global warming causes the sea-level rise. When this happens, the densely populated coastal regions could become uninhabitable. Carbon emissions need to reach a net negative to prevent this from happening.

Geoengineering Earth’s Climate

There are several ways to mitigate climate change. The most expansive is geoengineering, which involves manipulating the Earth’s climate system to reduce the effects of climate change, either by reducing the amount of sunlight absorbed by the Earth, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, or injecting the atmosphere with a protective layer.

While it is difficult to fully assess how beneficial such interventions will be, a team of international researchers is using simulations to examine the potential effects of a geoengineering on ice sheet melting.

Their findings on the stratospheric aerosol injection were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface.

Injecting Things Into Atmosphere


“Stratospheric aerosol injection, or SAI, would artificially introduce aerosols into the stratosphere by aircraft or high-altitude balloons to create a cooling effect via global dimming and increased albedo – the degree to which Earth reflects sunlight,” lead researcher Professor John C. Moore, at the University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland, said of the geoengineering technique.

Greenland Ice Sheet

Moore, along with study co-author Professor Ralf Greve, at the Institute of Low-Temperature Sciences, Hokkaido University, and their team used a model called SICOPOLIS to examine how the Greenland Ice Sheet would change from 1990 to 2090 under three different scenarios RCP8.5 is the worst-case scenario with no efforts to curb warming.

Some Possibly Tangible Results


RCP4.5 is an intermediate scenario achievable with current efforts, and GeoMIP G4 which is RCP4.5 with additional sulfur dioxide injected into the stratosphere from 2020 to 2070.

Their geoengineering simulations revealed that injecting sulfur dioxide (SAI) would help protect the Greenland Ice Sheet. In the worst-case scenario (RCP8.5), ice loss would lead to about 90 mm of sea-level rise.

In the intermediate scenario (RCP4.5), the loss would result in around 60.6 mm of sea-level rise. However, under the GeoMIP G4 scenario, where SAI is applied, ice loss would be significantly reduced to approximately 37.6 mm of sea-level rise.

Similar results were found when they used a different model called Elmer/Ice. The edges of the ice sheet would benefit the most under the GeoMIP G4 scenario.

Slowing Down Global Warming


Following the study, Greve stated that although the research suggests that SAI could help protect the Greenland Ice Sheet and possibly other ice cover, geoengineering remains controversial.

The main problem is that it deals with the symptoms of global warming without tackling the root causes, which might postpone necessary real-world changes.

Moreover, due to the complexity of Earth’s natural systems, predicting the exact outcomes, both positive and negative, is impossible. There are also concerns about the ecological impacts of geoengineering techniques, which could have massive negative and unpredictable effects on the environment, particularly in the global south.

There Are Concerns

super earth geoengineering

There are also concerns about the need for governance and oversight for geoengineering field trials. In 2022, climate tech company Make Sunsets began releasing weather balloons filled with sulfur dioxide in the Mexican state of Baja.

It was met with widespread concern, and in 2023, the startup announced that it would halt its operations after the local government declared it illegal.

Source: Science Daily

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