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Solar geoengineering: helpful or hindering?

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Climate change is nothing new, and it feels as though we have been unable to stop it. While there are many proven ways to combat climate change, such as a reduction in emissions and overconsumption, many of them have not been applied on a large scale. Recently, a new way to fight climate change has been proposed: solar geoengineering. While promising, the technology is a band-aid solution to climate change and is rife with issues.

Volcano erupting

First, what is solar geoengineering? Before diving into the new technology, it is helpful to look at its inspiration. In 1991, Mount Pinatubo exploded in the Philippines. An astounding 15 million tons of sulfur dioxide were released into the air. Over the next 15 months, global temperatures lowered by one degree Fahrenheit. Now, scientists are trying to mimic the eruption's effect by artificially adding sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. The sulfur dioxide will then condense and act as a shield against the sun's rays, thus lowering global temperatures.

Though the proposed technology is a relatively quick and doable solution, the technology is nowhere near usable as of now. Solar geoengineering does not address many of the other effects of climate change, like ocean acidification, and can be dangerous to use. Many geopolitical concerns also arise from the use of solar geoengineering. As of now, the technology is not yet regulated. If desired, one country could implement solar geoengineering, affecting the entire planet and creating tensions internationally.

Overall, the technology, though a possibility for the future, is not at a point where it can be relied upon. Even if it were, solar geoengineering is not the end-all-be-all for our current crisis. Solar geoengineering, and technologies like it, are merely responses to the symptoms of climate change rather than the root causes. If we don't address those first, there will be no way to change our current trajectory toward a warmer and more dangerous planet for us all.

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