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SOURCE: Inside Climate News
DATE: March 26, 2021
SNIP: The risks of the climate crisis are so urgent that the United States, in cooperation with other countries and under strict rules, should study the possibility of temporarily cooling the planet through solar geoengineering, a report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says.

The report focuses on adding reflective particles to the upper atmosphere to bounce the sun’s heat back to space, brightening low-altitude clouds over the ocean to make them more reflective or thinning wispy cirrus clouds so that they trap less heat on the surface of the planet.

Supporting research into those possibilities shouldn’t be equated with actually implementing them, the NAS committee members involved with the report emphasized, adding that such studies should not detract from the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And scientists “need to be open to terminating” geoengineering research if findings indicate that such manipulations of the atmosphere would carry undue risk of dangerous consequences, they said.

It’s kind of surreal to even be talking about this,” said Ambuj Sagar, who studies science and technology policy at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, and was part of the committee that compiled the report. “You can’t be doing climate policy without thinking about geoengineering, and the more you get into it, the more complex it is. It raises all kinds of issues with international politics and governance.”

The Academies’ report recommends a research budget of $100 million to $200 million for the next five years, as a “minor part of the overall U.S. research portfolio related to climate change.” For now, it says, research should not be focused on a path toward deployment, but on understanding how solar geoengineering fits with all the options for responding to climate change.

Solar geoengineering only makes sense in tandem with cutting emissions, because solar geoengineering doesn’t actually address the buildup of greenhouse gases that warms the climate. It only masks some of the symptoms for as long as the measures are active. Temperatures would rebound dangerously fast when atmospheric manipulation ends. A 2015 report from the Academies concluded that geoengineering is no substitute for emissions reductions, and that none of the proposed interventions are ready for deployment.

The topic of geoengineering has surfaced with increasing frequency in recent years. A few months ago, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said their latest budget included $4 million to study what they called a “Plan B” for climate change. In 2013, NBC and others reported that U.S. intelligence agencies helped fund a previous National Academy of Sciences study assessing geoengineering risks.

Most recently, an experiment called SCoPEx, led by the Keutsch Group at Harvard and planned for June in the sky above Sweden, has been portrayed both as a crucial step toward better understanding solar geoengineering, or as a dangerous slip down a slope leading to a potential Icarus moment for humanity, with the illusion of control over nature ending in a fiery crash.

The first step of SCoPEx is to launch a balloon to test instruments that could be used to measure how reflective particles work in a small area and affect the adjacent atmosphere.

Even that small step is worrisome, said Linda Schneider, of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a nonprofit group with ties to the German Green Party.

“What civil society currently is worried about is that the new NAS report will be used to legitimize Harvard’s SCoPEx project,” she said. “It’s notable how the first thing they highlight is the need for a massive expansion of research. We maintain that it is an untestable technology and the real impacts and consequences would only be felt once the technology would actually be deployed, and then there is no going back.”

[Ed Note: Studying geo-engineering legitimizes it and makes it a possibility in people’s minds. We all know that if it worked to reduce global temperatures, those in power and the oil companies would use it as an excuse to keep destroying the planet with industrialism and fossil fuels. The whole idea is psychotic and is a moral hazard: time spent researching geo-engineering should instead be spent figuring out a humane path for ending industrial civilization.]