Reuters, March 2021
The National Academies of Science on Thursday called for the United States to pursue research into solar geoengineering to cool the Earth’s atmosphere but urged caution given that it could have risky, unintended consequences.
There is no international agreement setting standards for geoengineering, large-scale interventions that scientists say could affect precipitation patterns, agricultural productivity and food supplies worldwide. Commonly proposed solar geoengineering strategies include spraying reflective aerosols into the atmosphere to mimic how ash clouds cool the planet after large volcanic eruptions. Other strategies include thinning high-altitude clouds to allow more heat to escape, and brightening low-altitude marine clouds to reflect additional solar energy.
The report recommends research be conducted in coordination with other nations, under strong governance, and alongside other climate mitigation efforts, such as reducing greenhouse gases.
“We’re in the midst of a climate crisis. The impacts of climate change are growing, and the challenge in front of us is to limit those impacts,” said Peter Frumhoff, the director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists and one of the committee members involved in the report.
The report on solar geoengineering is “an effort to lay the groundwork for more informed decisions about whether or not these approaches should be considered part of the set of tools in our toolkit,” he said. “It’s important to understand the full suite of responses to climate change, given how close we are to catastrophic risks.”