Geo-Engineering: Researching on a Global "Sun Block"
Global Sun Block | Calgary University | March 2010
Faced with the grim reality of global warming, one researcher or the other may have dreamed of coming up with a type of sun block for the planet. This dream may yet come to pass. Canadian scientists are confident that they will be able to turn a new technology, called “solar radiation management” into an effective tool for fighting climate change. Though still in its infancy, the new geo-engineering tool promises to combat global warming faster and many times cheaper than cutting CO2 emissions. However, much research is still needed internationally to determine the technology’s safety and its possible effects on the environment. This means that greater international cooperation on research and development is urgently needed.
The principle behind “solar radiation management (SRM)” is simple enough: Much like a sun block, it is supposed to prevent harmful solar radiation from reaching the earth’s surface in order to preclude further warming. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 demonstrated how the process works out in nature: Within one year, global temperatures fell by half a degree Celsius due to the amount of sulphur present in the atmosphere. Researchers are debating two ways of applying the same principle to global warming: For one, sulphataerosols (light-scattering sulphur particles) are distributed in the stratosphere. They reflect solar radiation back into space and cool the earth’s surface. Or sea salt particles could be spread in the troposphere so that the resulting cloud cover would divert more sunlight from the earth.
Tests in the field are necessary in order to assess the potential of the new technology effectively. Hence international cooperation needs to be strengthened and a global governance body needs to be put in place to warrant oversight. A yearly research budget of $10 million would need to be increased annually so that it reaches one billion dollars by late 2020. These costs pale in comparison to the outlays the international community will face if global warming continues unabated. More…
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community Editorial Team from "Research on Global 'Sun Block' Needed Now" published here by the Calgary University.