A solar shield could save us from climate change. But its sudden collapse would doom the planet

Jan 22, 2018

By Katie Langin

Last year, the planet was plagued by powerful hurricanes, blistering fires, and temperatures that ranked as some of the hottest on record—ratcheting up concern that we’re already knee-deep in climate change. To stave off the heat, some scientists have proposed blanketing Earth in a sheet of sunlight-reflecting particles called aerosols. This solar shield could cool the planet and buy us time, but a new study suggests that if politicians turned off the hypothetical cloud, they could plunge the planet into a sudden ecological Armageddon.

The idea of injecting aerosols into the atmosphere first came to prominence in 2006, when Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist Paul Crutzen argued that scientists should actively explore the possibility. He said it would be similar to what happens naturally following some volcanic eruptions. For example, the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption cooled the planet by 0.5⁰C, after spewing some 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. The gas created a sulfate aerosol cloud that reflected sunlight back to space for 2 years.

But injecting aerosols would require constant maintenance—and continuous global support. If a severe drought, a new government, or an economic downturn triggered its sudden collapse, the planet would rapidly warm to the steamy temperatures we otherwise would have been facing. “The minute you stop it you get the full force of the total emissions you’ve put out and that are still in the atmosphere,” says Camille Parmesan, a climate change biologist at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom and the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the new study.

Continue reading by clicking the name of the source below.

3 comments on “A solar shield could save us from climate change. But its sudden collapse would doom the planet

  • @OP – But injecting aerosols would require constant maintenance —and continuous global support. If a severe drought, a new government, or an economic downturn triggered its sudden collapse, the planet would rapidly warm to the steamy temperatures we otherwise would have been facing. “The minute you stop it you get the full force of the total emissions you’ve put out and that are still in the atmosphere,” says Camille Parmesan, a climate change biologist at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom and the University of Texas at Austin who was not involved in the new study.

    This is a “magic sticking plaster” pseudo-solution, to try to buy time for the polluting industries to carry on polluting!

    Only those with no understanding of the scale of the energies involved and size of the blocking areas required, to reduce global warming, would consider it feasible!

    These aerosols would would themselves also have cumulative damaging effects on the oceans and the biosphere and would do nothing to remedy ocean acidification!



    Report abuse

  • By the very act of dealing with global warming we can, if we’re clever, act also about sustainability into the far future, and act about energy security and its associate politically inspired wars and even the air quality of every city, too.

    What on earth’s commends this singular nonsense?



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.