Scientists Consider Spraying Aerosols Into Atmosphere To Combat Global Warming

Sergey Kustov/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

There might be a "sweet spot" for spraying chemicals into the air to block sunlight without dangerous consequences.

A Harvard study published Monday suggests that solar geoengineering could be an effective way of combating global warming. And while many are concerned about the harmful side effects of spraying large amounts of chemicals into the atmosphere, the researchers theorize that there is an optimal “dosage” that could cut increases to global temperature in half without many repercussions.

In their study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the team used computer models to gauge the effects of geoengineering and its potential benefits. The scientists acknowledged that even though their model found a “sweet spot” for blocking sunlight, the long-term effects of the dramatic intervention are uncertain.

“The analogy is not perfect but solar geoengineering is a little like a drug which treats high blood pressure,” said lead researcher Peter Irvine. “An overdose would be harmful, but a well-chosen dose could reduce your risks.”

And the results of their study seem to suggest that a dosage of solar geoengineering could be worth the risk. The technique to halve global warming would also prevent many of the extreme weather conditions brought about by global warming, such as severe hurricanes. This would come at the cost of only .5 percent of land that would experience potentially harmful climate consequences.

“Big uncertainties remain, but climate models suggest that geoengineering could enable surprisingly uniform benefits,” said David Keith, the senior author.

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