Global warming: Is it possible to cool the planet using geoengineering?

According to NASA data, 2016 and 2017 were the warmest years in history, with average temperatures (generally 0.9 and 1 ° C) higher than those recorded in the last 70 years. If nothing is done to circumvent global warming and climate change, the future does not hold a positive scenario for humanity.

Rachel Bidermann, WRI Executive Director and member of the Network of Nature Conservation Experts, explains that several countries have signed the Paris Agreement to contain temperature increases by a maximum of 2 ° C by 2020, but the target is increasingly hard to achieve. “Even if the goal can be met, which seems increasingly unlikely, we are still facing major consequences, such as species extinction, extreme weather events and many other impacts, ” she explains.

While there is still debate about whether or not global warming is in some parts of the globe, scientists are studying ways to control the effects of climate change elsewhere. One such option could possibly be geoengineering.

For researcher Jonathan Proctor of the Department of Agricultural Economics and Resources at the University of California Berkeley, one way would be to mimic the effect that volcanic eruptions have on planet Earth. He and four other scientists published an article in the journal Nature in early August this year with the findings.

Nature-based models

When a volcano erupts, it releases thousands of particles into the atmosphere that eventually partially block sunlight. This gives us a wording of the planet's temperature, which is beneficial in light of the constantly rising temperature scenario. However, there are other factors to consider in this equation.

“Shading the planet keeps things cooler, which helps crops grow better. But plants also need sunlight to grow, so blocking sunlight can affect growth. For agriculture, the impacts of solar geoengineering are equal in magnitude to the benefits, ”said the researcher.

The model proposed by Proctor and his colleague Solomon Hsiang would be the same as opening a large umbrella over the planet. “The problem with finding out the consequences of solar geoengineering is that we can't do a planetary scale experiment without actually deploying the technology. The breakthrough here was to realize that we could learn something by studying the effects of the gigantic volcanic eruptions that geoengineering tries to copy, ”he analyzed in an interview with Berkeley News.

The case of Monte Pinatubo in FIlipinas was one of the inspirations of scientists. In 1991, the volcano released about 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, which reduced the incidence of light by about 2.5% and reduced the global average temperature by approximately half a degree Celsius (almost 1 degree Fahrenheit). .

However, when analyzing the performance of agriculture from 1979 to 2009, it was noted that the lack of sun caused by the released aerosols also impaired the performance of soybean, rice, corn and wheat plantations.

The conclusion remains an old acquaintance of environmentalists and scientists from around the world: Proctor says we need to address the root of the problem and reduce carbon emissions. Rachel Bidermann reinforces the idea: “Only with combined behavioral and structural changes can we stop global warming. We must urgently change the energy matrix and get out of the fossil model. Using renewable and sustainable sources such as solar and wind energy, investing in low carbon agriculture, for example, ”says the executive. If efforts are not enough, then it is good to have geoengineering plans to try to save Planet Earth.

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