- Bill Gates, George Soros, and Dustin Moskovitz among the big names supporting solar geoengineering research
- U.N. report and White House join the call for investigation into solar radiation management's potential to combat climate crisis
- Hundreds of climate scientists express concern, calling solar geoengineering a "dangerous distraction" and advocating for an International Non-Use Agreement
Alright, let's dive deeper into some fascinating developments in the world of climate tech. A few billionaires, such as Bill Gates, George Soros, and Dustin Moskovitz (you know, the Facebook co-founder), have shown interest in something called "solar geoengineering." Sounds like a sci-fi movie, right? Well, it's a pretty controversial concept that involves cooling our beloved planet by bouncing sunlight back into space. Wild, huh?
With Earth getting closer to that not-so-cool 1.5°C temperature increase, people are starting to think we need to speed up research on solar radiation management (SRM), aka solar geoengineering. Hitting that 1.5°C mark is kind of a big deal, because that's when we hit tipping points – those moments when small changes can lead to massive shifts in Earth's entire life support system.
Lately, solar geoengineering has been getting more attention. In late February, over 60 researchers from top institutions published a letter calling for more rigorous study of the strategy, as well as small-scale field experiments. Even a U.N. report suggested it's time to start investigating whether SRM could help combat the climate crisis.
The White House jumped on the bandwagon too, announcing a five-year research plan in October last year to assess ways of modifying the amount of sunlight that reaches the Earth. But not everyone's on board. Hundreds of climate scientists are firmly against these calls for solar geoengineering research and its potential development, warning that normalizing SRM technologies as a possible climate fix could have dangerous and unexpected consequences.
So, what is solar geoengineering, you ask? It refers to a set of speculative technologies designed to cool the Earth. Some of these techniques, like spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, are known to have harmful effects on the environment and human health. However, some climate scientists believe that researching SRM is important to figure out how to balance these risks against a potentially catastrophic rise in Earth's temperature.
The United Nations Environment Program, the world's leading voice on the environment, said in late February that much more research into the risks and benefits of SRM is required before there can be any consideration for its potential deployment. They also emphasized that reducing greenhouse gas emissions must remain the global priority.
It's important to note that researchers calling for rigorous study of SRM are not endorsing solar geoengineering as a climate solution. A 2022 paper outlined arguments against pursuing further research into SRM, concluding that "solar geoengineering at planetary scale is not governable in a globally inclusive and just manner within the current international political system." This paper advocates for an International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering, a call that has since received the backing of hundreds of climate scientists.
Lili Fuhr, deputy director of the Center for International Environmental Law, described solar radiation management or solar geoengineering as "the ultimate false solution." She emphasized that it's not mitigation but a speculative set of proposed technological interventions into the atmosphere. Fuhr also mentioned that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had assessed the controversial technology but ultimately decided not to include it in the summary for policymakers in its latest report.
Harjeet Singh, head of global political strategy at Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 civil society groups, said that all of the challenges related to SRM and solar geoengineering should be seen as "dangerous distractions." So, the debate on solar geoengineering continues, and as Earth's temperature keeps rising, it's definitely a hot topic to keep an eye on.
WOM Money Picks
Be a part of the winning team | 81% Success Rate.