Can the equivalent of a man-made volcanic eruption every 2-3 years save us from the negative impacts of climate change? Geoengineering solutions such as this were the topic of our recent FOSEP discussion with Dr. Tom Ackerman from UW’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Injecting 8 megatons on sulfur into the stratosphere every 2-3 years would increase the reflectivity of the atmosphere, potentially slowing the warming of the earth. We could also make an impact on global warming by increasing the reflectivity of the clouds by 30% or launching sunshades into space to cover a total area of 1700 x 1700 km.
But even if the technology exists to move forward with these ideas, should we? Climate change is a complex international issue that will produce winners and losers. Who will make decisions about the course of action?
One final note: these proposed geoengineering solutions would not reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. They could only potentially control the temperature. Increasing CO2 levels have major potential consequences for ocean acidification. And if we ever stopped the geoengineering solution, the temperature would likely quickly rebound to where it had been if we had done nothing.
For a discussion of moral issues in geoengineering, see this 1996 work by Dale Jamieson.
What do you think of geoengineering? Use the technology we have? Need more research?