Analyzing a Geoengineering Scheme
Solar radiation management (SRM) via injection of sulfur particles in the form of aerosol in the stratosphere seems to be the geoengineering scheme most likely to be tested on a large scale and implemented at present, and so is the topic of this assignment. In this scheme, the amount of radiation, including heat, the Earth receives will be diminished by the sulfur aerosol, which scatter it back to space.
The aerosol, if the scheme pushes through, will be pumped in the amount of tens of megatonnes every four years high up in the stratosphere, where the aerosol is sure to be circulated uniformly and quickly around the globe and remain in the atmosphere for a long enough period of time before falling back to Earth.
SRM strategies such as this one do not address any existing environmental problem but rather work to counter the effects of these environmental problems on climate, which, given how little headway the international community has made in reducing global emissions since the Kyoto protocol, we may very possibly utilize if greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere at their present rate. Three big reasons make the implementation of this scheme possible: it is cheap, it is very effective, and it can be easily done. In their January 2010 paper in Nature, Keith, Edward Parson and M.
Granger Morgan estimate the annual cost of delivering the aerosol to the stratosphere at US$1,000 a tonne, or a few billion dollars per year, equivalent to only a fraction of GDP for any reasonably rich country. Delivery could be done by the use of conventional aircraft, such as in a method being developed by Keith. Finally, the effects of this scheme can be felt in months. However, the dangers of this scheme are too terrible and too many that I believe SRM, at least in its present form, should not be implemented as a solution to climate change, except only under extreme duress.
First in the many dangers of SRM I can present in this limited space that should be addressed if it will be implemented is the fate of the sulfur particles after their life span: How can the sulfur be removed safely from the atmosphere? Because this sulfur will fall back as acid rain, which will only worsen the acidification of oceans in the scenario when SRM is most likely to be used. Secondly, how and to what extent does SRM affect life and Earth processes? SRM works by reducing incoming radiation, and as a result both precipitation and evaporation will lessen.
Will SRM lead to droughts and water shortages in mainland areas? Will the general drop in surface temperature due to SRM drastically affect temperature-sensitive species, or even cause these to be extinct? Thirdly, how do we keep ourselves and our environment from being too dependent on SRM? Sulfur aerosols are said to have a destructive effect on the ozone layer; supposing that SRM is to be lifted as other measures to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases succeed, how will we protect ourselves from the increased amount of incoming UV radiation?
Last and most importantly, who will decide when and how SRM methods will be run, and how will that entity be regulated? It seems that SRM has the potential to be politically explosive due to its cheapness and ease of implementation as well as its hidden dangers, such as when one country jumps the gun and does SRM without consulting other countries, or when unforeseen circumstances that may or may not be due to SRM lead to bickering between sovereign nations. There are so many questions about SRM, but there are no definite answers as of present.
We’ll have to wait and see what further research and events bring before we can truly decide on SRM. Works Cited 1. Keith, David W. , Parson, Edward and Granger, M. Morgan. “Research on global sun block needed now. ” Nature 463 (2010): 426-427. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. Blackstock, Jason J. and Long, Jane C. S. “The Politics of Geoengineering. ” Science 327 (2010): 527. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. Tollefson, Jeff. “Geoengineers get the fear. ” Nature 464 (2010): 656. Web. 5 Apr. 2010. Wood, Graeme. “Re-Engineering the Earth. ” The Atlantic (2009): n. pag.Sample Essay of EduBirdie.com