Local weather scientists are something however satisfied

The United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s leading voice on the environment, said in late February that far more research into the risks and benefits of SRM was needed before considering its potential use.

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Billionaires like Bill Gates, George Soros and Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz have all expressed interest in “solar geoengineering,” a deeply controversial idea that would cool the Earth by reflecting sunlight back into space.

There are growing calls to accelerate research into solar radiation management (SRM), sometimes commonly referred to as solar geoengineering, particularly as the planet nears exceeding the 1.5 degree Celsius temperature limit.

This temperature threshold is generally considered to be critically important because so-called tipping points become more likely beyond this threshold. Tipping points are thresholds where small changes can lead to dramatic changes in the entire life support system of the earth.

Solar geoengineering, which has long been opposed by environmental organizations, has been pushed back into the climate policy discourse in recent months.

In late February, over 60 researchers from prominent institutions released a letter calling for a more thorough investigation of the strategy and small field trials, while a UN report suggested it was time to start investigating whether SRM could be combated of the virus could contribute to climate crisis.

The White House also announced last October that it was moving forward with a five-year research plan to study ways to alter the amount of sunlight reaching Earth.

However, hundreds of climate scientists are firmly opposed to spreading calls for solar geoengineering research and its potential development.

They have warned in an open letter that the increasing normalization of SRM technologies as a possible climate solution is a cause for concern – one that could have dangerous and unexpected consequences.

What is solar geoengineering?

Solar geoengineering, or SRM, refers to a speculative set of technologies developed to cool the Earth. Some of the techniques involved, such as spraying sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, are known to have adverse effects on the environment and human health.

Nonetheless, some climate scientists, concerned that humanity will exceed its emissions targets, say further research on SRM is important to determine how best to balance these risks against a potentially catastrophic rise in Earth’s temperature.

It’s not mitigation. It is a very speculative set of proposed technological interventions in the atmosphere.

Lili Fuhr

Deputy Director of the Center for International Environmental Law

The United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s leading voice on the environment, said in late February that far more research into the risks and benefits of SRM was needed before considering its potential use.

UNEP acknowledged that SRM is not yet ready for large-scale deployment, stressing that there is no substitute for urgent and massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions “which must remain the global priority”.

Certainly, researchers calling for rigorous study of SRM are not advocating solar geoengineering as a climate solution.

However, arguments against further exploration of SRM were previously made in a 2022 paper, which concludes that “planetary-scale solar geoengineering is not governable in a globally inclusive and equitable manner within the current international political system.”

The paper advocates an international Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering, a call that has since garnered the support of hundreds of climate scientists.

Lili Fuhr, associate director of the Center for International Environmental Law, called solar radiation management, or solar geoengineering, “the ultimate wrong solution.”

“It’s not mitigation,” Fuhr said during a media briefing earlier this month. “It’s a very speculative set of proposed technological interventions in the atmosphere.”

Fuhr stressed that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessed the controversial technology but ultimately decided not to include it in the summary for policymakers in its latest report.

Instead, the world’s top climate scientists concluded “that we know far too little about it [and] it comes with novel risks and damage to ecosystems and people,” she added.

“I think the word geoengineering only comes up about twice in the Working Group III report, and it’s just to say that we don’t use the term geoengineering,” IPCC Working Group III co-chair Jim Skea said during the same briefings

“Many of our authors couldn’t bear to use the words solar radiation management and insisted on calling it solar radiation modification because they don’t like it,” Skea said.

“Dangerous Distractions”

The IPCC Working Group III report, released in April last year, focused on mitigating climate change and evaluated methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

It warned that the fight to meet 1.5 degrees Celsius has reached the ‘now or never’ realm, while reiterating the fact that all the tools and know-how needed to tackle the climate crisis are at hand Are available.

Regarding Fuhr’s comments on solar geoengineering, Skea said, “You are absolutely right, it is not about mitigation, and any references to SRM contained in the three working group reports are scattered across the three working group reports of very different dimensions.”

“All we were asked to do was look at legal and ethical aspects, which we actually did at our international chapter,” he added.

Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at the Climate Action Network, which includes more than 1,500 civil society groups, said all challenges related to SRM and solar geoengineering should be viewed as “dangerous distractions”.

— CNBC’s Catherine Clifford contributed to this report.

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