Lesedauer: 5 Minuten

By Tyler Folts

Climate engineering is a hotly debated topic in the scientific community. Many scientists differ in their views of climate engineering and if it is a viable option to reduce the impacts of climate change. 

Climate engineering is the intentional intervention in the earth’s climate systems to counter climate change. There are two main methods that have been focused on in the climate engineering field, solar radiation management and greenhouse gas removal. 

Solar Radiation Management

The main goal of solar radiation management (SRM) is to reflect solar energy from the sun back into space before the energy can be trapped by greenhouse gasses. 

There are two forms of SRM that are being researched. The first is ground level SRM, which includes things like white roofs on buildings or more reflective crops. It can also include marine cloud brightening. This would take saltwater particles from the ocean and place them into the cloud layer, hopefully making the marine clouds brighter and expanding their longevity.

The second way to implement SRM is through stratospheric aerosol injection. Fleets of aircraft would inject aerosols like sulfur dioxide or calcium carbonate into the stratosphere, the second layer of the earth’s atmosphere. This could potentially replicate the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption. 

Greenhouse Gas Removal

Greenhouse gas removal could be a strategy with less engineering required like planting more trees or removing greenhouse gasses. Direct air capture uses chemical reactions to pull carbon dioxide from out of the atmosphere. 

Some of these methods have already begun to be used in efforts to thwart climate change. A direct air capture (DAC) system has been operating in Switzerland since 2017. The removed carbon dioxide is stored and later used for crop fertilizer. 

Systems like these are also commonly used at power generation plants. When these plants release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, portions of the gasses are immediately captured and stored by the company.

Viability of Climate Engineering

Scientists are still in debate over whether these engineering methods will be able to mitigate climate change impacts. Other ideas like giant space mirrors that reflect the sun’s rays have crept into the conversation as well.

There are many unknown variables that cause scientists to hesitate before accepting climate engineering as a solution. Solar radiation management, if not performed correctly could alter the earth’s water cycle and cause widespread droughts. 

While greenhouse gas removal efforts have been growing, they are not developed enough to produce substantial change. Scientists also argue that there is a high potential for conflicts due to the nature of altering the earth’s natural climate

However, experts say that any large-scale climate engineering solution is still a few decades away, though climate engineering is advised by scientists not to be a last-ditch effort.

Previously viewed as science fiction, climate engineering continues to creep into the conversation of solutions. Scientists are beginning to feel the pressure of climate change. They urge that if climate engineering is implemented, it be done incrementally so it will be monitored and successful.