Some top scientists are calling for research into blocking the sun’s rays in order to limit global warming. The method, called solar radiation and modification, has long been considered too dangerous to even study.
But now, 60 scientists are breaking from their colleagues and calling for research into the science.
Critics say that this is yet another way that big companies and governments are looking to avoid the realities of global warming, trying to not change any behavior to save the planet and rather look to delay the inevitable.
Advocates of climate action, including many scientists, have long worried that advancing fledgling geoengineering techniques like sucking carbon from the atmosphere or blocking the sun’s rays could distract from enacting tough policies to curb carbon pollution.
The solar radiation and modification method also called “solar geoengineering”, involves spraying aerosol particles into the atmosphere that would reflect sunlight away from the Earth, thereby slowing warming.
In an open letter published Monday, the scientists said they are not supporting the method as a climate change fix, but rather arguing for more studies and field experiments to assess its viability.
“While reducing emissions is crucial, no level of reduction undertaken now can reverse the warming effect of past and present greenhouse gas emissions,” write the scientists, led by Sarah Doherty, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington.
Last year, a separate group of researchers penned a letter calling for an international agreement to ban solar geoengineering and related state-sponsored research. That letter now has more than 370 signatures from scientists in over 50 countries.
The researchers argue that the technology risks becoming a “powerful argument for industry lobbyists, climate denialists, and some governments” to delay cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
Some experts say that solar radiation management also raises concerns about environmental justice because it would be a global climate-altering technology that would directly impact countries of the global south and indigenous people who are already the most vulnerable to climate change.