In the last few years, it has become clear that carbon emissions are causing catastrophic environmental changes. There are many methods to shift from the overuse of fossil fuels. One of these methods for cooling the Earth is geoengineering. However, scientists and researchers have mixed reviews about this technology. Earlier it was considered to be a scientific taboo. But, with the development of climatic change, geoengineering’s ill effects and opportunities will be more prominent. Read on to learn more about geoengineering and its usage.
Geo-Engineering and its Past Experiments
Geoengineering is conducted in the Earth’s habitual system to modify the consequences of climate shift. This means using techniques to alter the world’s climate to cool the Earth. The methods fall into three divisions — carbon dioxide removal, weather modification, and Solar radiation management. The idea of geoengineering developed in 1965. At that time, scientists recognized the importance of cutting down the generation of greenhouse gases. As a result, publications like New York Times support solar geoengineering to help cut down greenhouse gas emissions.
Is it taking our ecosystems even further away from self-regulation?
Researchers against geoengineering have found solid arguments to prove its disadvantages. Naomi Klein, a climate change advocate, further explains these arguments. Geoengineering does not alter the underlying condition of climate change. It only distracts from the actual conclusion of cutting down the emission of greenhouse gases. She claims that geoengineering needs to be deployed on a larger scale to make a difference. However, there is a massive risk in planetary-scale deployment as the conceivably adverse consequences of geoengineering are still unknown.
Marine cloud brightening
The idea behind this technique is to generate whiter clouds to bounce increased sunlight back to space. It utilizes ships to diffuse salt water into the clouds over the sea. The airborne salt particles promote the formation of water vapor into liquid. With the increase in water droplets formation, an increase in bigger and brighter clouds happens. These clouds are responsible for bouncing back sunlight into outer space. Researchers claim that this technique can revive temperatures and ice coverings. It can also help in addressing the issue of coral bleaching.
Studies show that deflecting the sunlight away from the Earth can cause more adverse effects. Therefore, this method is not an ideal substitute for climate change alleviation. For example, there would be no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions or ocean acidification. On the other hand, solar geoengineering may equalize global average surface temperature following quadrupled carbon dioxide. Scientists also saw it causes the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). It is an unconventional period between two opposite phases of heating and cooling of the ocean surface.
This technique has a reputation as dodgy as the climate. On the other hand, cloud seeding is a method attempting to bring rain to dried farmland. It disperses silver iodide particles or solid carbon dioxide within rain-yielding clouds. The approach has also been adopted in efforts to undermine tropical storms. Militaries and civil governments also adopt this technique from time to time. However, even after conducting regular cloud seeding experiments, researchers are not sure if it works. Tools of the past could not measure liquid droplet size within clouds in real-time. Moreover, the rugged nature of weather makes established, direct investigations almost impracticable.
Preventing ocean acidification
After entering the ocean, carbon dioxide dissolves into saltwater. Ocean acidification occurs due to an enhanced concentration of hydrogen ions and a decrease in carbonate ions. It happens due to the consumption of enhanced quantities of CO2. For millions of decades, the absorption of CO2 occurred in a balanced state. However, the increase in CO2 in the air due to the burning of fossil fuels has changed this balance. Ocean acidification is now responsible for endangering marine and human lives. The most efficient means to restrict ocean acidification is to work on climate shifts. Decreasing the intensity of CO2 would decrease and possibly ultimately prevent the generation of carbonic acid.
Is it a permanent solution to global warming?
There are genuine anxieties about managing, investigating, or even talking about geoengineering. Scientists have often questioned all the geoengineering techniques. For instance, companies are employing iron fertilization investigations in the vast ocean. They dump iron into the sea, stimulating phytoplankton’s growth, which would uproot carbon dioxide out of the air. But there is no full proof of research on the efficacy of this technique. The side effects are also unknown.
Real-world geoengineering experiments
Geoengineering is a technology with a detailed record. Nevertheless, scientists studying geoengineering confess uncertainty. They agree that it is not the best solution to climate change. However, they also feel that it is better to explore all options than sitting idle and see the planet suffer. To overcome this barrier, researchers conduct small-scale experiments in the labs. For example, computer automation consistently confers geoengineering would lessen worldwide temperatures, sea-level increase, and specific climate consequences. Russian scientists were responsible for creating the first real-world outdoor experiment. They installed aerosol dynamos on a car and helicopter. These vehicles then diffused particles from as high as 200 meters. Another exclusive attempt to openly run a geoengineering technique is the SPICE project. It was eventually abandoned. The plan was to elevate particles up a channel to a high-elevation balloon to disseminate them in the stratosphere. However, it caused public controversy.