The White House plans to study spraying aerosols such as sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere to combat climate change – a strategy some scientists see as a risky intervention in the atmosphere, but others believe to be a useful last resort to prevent global warming.
This practice, called geoengineering, aims to reflect solar radiation from the stratosphere back into space in order to minimize the rise in temperatures. The White House’s five-year plan was authorized by Congress this year and is being executed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of Energy.
Researchers are divided on whether the risks of geoengineering outweigh the benefits, primarily due to a lack of information on the subject.
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Daniel Cohan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Rice University, said there are more natural, safe and effective ways to fight climate change than geoengineering. But he added that further studies on the subject can reveal the exact magnitude of its cooling benefits and climate risks.
“It seems likely that these techniques could be developed to offset much of the expected warming in the coming decades,” Cohan told Fox News Digital. “But how that would affect regional weather patterns is very uncertain, and that’s likely where there would be huge winners and losers.”
This form of geoengineering involves aircraft releasing aerosols into the atmosphere where they can partially reflect solar radiation. The White House project will not include the flight of planes but will instead study potential impacts. The hypothesis has its roots in documented cases of volcanic eruptions resulting in noticeable drops in temperatures in the surrounding region.
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Harvard professor David Keith said there are growing cases for research efforts that explore the exact impact of geoengineering.
“Using geoengineering will never be ‘necessary’ – it’s a tough choice that people will have differing opinions on,” Keith told Fox News Digital. “I hope the U.S. government will come up with a transparent, high-quality research plan that can advance knowledge in the public interest.”
Diana Furchtgott-Roth, director of the Center on Energy, Climate and the Environment at the Heritage Foundation, said she fully supports the White House research because an effective geoengineering model would be much more affordable. than current efforts to combat climate change. such as environmental regulations and renewable energy.
“It has potentially very significant benefits at a much lower cost,” Furchtgott-Roth told Fox News Digital.
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The downside of geoengineering, several experts note, is that the aerosols released impact only a limited area and must be replenished at a rapid rate to continue a reflection of the sun. Potential risks included unintended cooling of farms that need the sun to grow their crops, as well as intensified storms. Benji Backer, chairman of the American Conservative Coalition, said the Biden administration had better focus on more environmentally friendly policies.
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“One of the worst ways to mess up a weather change is to try to create more weather changes,” Backer told Fox News Digital. “The dilemma of climate change certainly requires solutions that improve our air quality and overall level of pollution, but what we don’t need is overly corrective research that tries to play the hand of God.”
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