"Just because we’re desperate doesn’t suddenly make solar geoengineering a good idea."
Do Not Disturb
While it offers an intriguing potential balm for climate change, some experts are concerned about the risks posed by geoengineering — a mostly-hypothetical group of ideas to cool the planet, often by blocking light from the Sun.
In a CNN report about the solar geoengineering efforts of a startup called Make Sunsets, which last year released two six-foot helium balloons intended to release sulfur dioxide into the Earth's stratosphere, critics rang alarm bells.
"Just because we’re desperate doesn’t suddenly make solar geoengineering a good idea," Center for International Environmental Law wonk Lili Fuhr told CNN, "because the risks are so immense."
Those risks include everything from the potential for harming rain patterns to affecting crops to concerns that it might damage the ozone layer as it repairs itself following successful bans on ozone-depleting chemicals.
As Oxford physics professor Raymond Pierrehumbert told CNN, even initial geoengineering success could have its drawbacks if not maintained because it could, as he put it, result in a "termination shock" effect, releasing even more pent-up ill effects that have been "waiting in the wings, ready to slap the Earth in the face."
Concerns about what would happen if geoengineering becomes a widespread practice are geopolitical, too — it would, as sustainability expert Frank Biermann of the Netherlands Utrecht University told CNN, require "countries have to collaborate forever," even in spite of wars. Given that we can barely keep NATO afloat and that the accords determined by the Paris environmental agreement are viewed more as suggestions than rules, the concept of perpetual geoengineering cooperation seems almost comical.
Can You Not
With all those serious issues and many others on their minds, nearly 400 scientists in 2021 called on the global community to enact an "international non-use agreement" for solar geoengineering, putting a stop to further development on the technology "before it is too late."
While the tech continues to attract interest thanks to groups like Make Sunsets, many critics refuse to rethink their opposition.
"It’s very risky. It cannot be governed. It’s unethical," Biermann said. "And it is one of the biggest dangers in the current climate policies."
Because geoengineering hasn't really been done before, unintended consequences could abound — and that's a gamble many scientists say isn't worth it.
More on climate shenanigans: Scientists Unveil Plan to Mount Cannons on the Moon to Fight Climate Change