There are a great many serious risks that will accompany the possible use of various geoengineering techniques, a new study published the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution earlier this week has found.
To be more specific, the study found that if the large-scale spraying of sulphur dioxide (or other particles) into the atmosphere was undertaken that there would extreme risks related to the possibility of disruptions to such a program.
In other words, if utilizing the spraying of reflective chemicals into the atmosphere (as a means of reducing heat gain from sunlight) was undertaken on a large-scale then the potential would be there for disruptions caused by war, economic problems, politics, espionage, etc., to produce devastating effects on agriculture — and on the world in general.
So, to say that again, if such a course of action was pursued then it would mean that it couldn’t be stopped or interrupted, for any reasons at all, without massive consequences to the livability of the world — owing to the inevitability of a very rapid surge in temperatures in some (most?) regions.
“If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating. So you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually, and it is easy to think of scenarios that would prevent that,” explained study co-author Alan Robock, of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
“Imagine large droughts or floods around the world that could be blamed on geoengineering, and demands that it stop. Can we ever risk that?” Robock continued.
Which leads directly to one of the other major problems with so-called “geoengineering” — the inability to precisely control (engineer) outcomes. “Geo-gambling” is probably closer to the actually reality of the large-scale use of approaches such as sulphur dioxide spraying into the atmosphere — what happens, after all, when such an approach results in greatly reduced rainfall within a large nuclear-armed nation, for instance?
With tens of millions of people starving as the result of an “engineered” action taken by competitor countries, its clear that heads would likely end up rolling, one way or another. Factor in the reality that such events would be occurring against a backdrop of falling global agricultural yields, increasing water scarcity, the growing scarcity of important mined fertilizers, and a fast shifting global geopolitical environment, and it seems clear that perhaps “geoengineering” is much more of a crapshoot than a sure bet.
Reuters provides more information: “Research into ‘geoengineering’ — technologies that could potentially deal with runaway climate change by artificially modifying how reflective the earth is, or sucking excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere — is on the upswing as the world edges closer to moving beyond what are seen as relatively safe levels of climate change. Under the Paris agreement on climate change, countries have pledged to keep global warming to well below 2° Celsius above industrial levels, with an aim of 1.5° Celsius.”
A bit of a detour here, before continuing — It is very, very arguable that a temperature rise of 1.5° Celsius is by no means “safe.” It’s also more or less apparent at this point that even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to cease completely today that temperatures would still climb beyond that figure owing to what’s already been pumped into the atmosphere, and seemingly activated feedback loops.
“But unless national plans to curb emissions are ramped up quickly, the Earth is expected to warm by at least 3° Celsius by the end of the century (Author’s note: And very possibly far more than that) — a level expected to melt much of the world’s ice and spur worsening crop failures, extreme weather and sea level rise.
“…Spraying sulphur dioxide and other particles into the planet’s upper atmosphere would create a cloud of sulphuric acid that reflects some of the sun’s rays, cooling the planet, researchers say. The largely untested technology mimics the effects of volcanic eruptions, and could be deployed with modified airplanes, balloons, or other delivery devices, they say.
“But critics warn that it could change fundamental earth processes in hard-to-predict and potentially hugely problematic ways, such as shifting the focus of Asia’s monsoons. Supporters of the technology say countries will not curb their emissions fast enough to keep global warming within relatively safe levels, so solutions need to be prepared and tested in order found to protect lives.”
Is something actually a “solution” though if it ends up making the situation worse? The world certainly isn’t obliged to give humans a “solution” to a “problem” (though many involved in the tech world and in engineering now seem to believe so), so it may well be a reality that if emissions aren’t curbed rapidly over the next decade or two that the world is gearing up for a severe population crash — one that wouldn’t look all that different from a distance than the population crashes that generalist species almost always experience after a period of rapid expansion in favorable circumstances.