And what happens when countries disagree about what it should be?
(Mario Wagner/For The Washington Post)
By Andy Parker and David Keith January 29
Andy Parker is a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. David Keith is a professor of applied science and public policy at Harvard and executive chairman at Carbon Engineering.
Imagine being able to control the temperature of the Earth like a home thermostat, turning it down a few notches to reduce the effects of global warming. That’s the goal of solar geoengineering. By spraying aerosols into the stratosphere, we could block a fraction of inbound sunlight and temporarily cool the Earth.
But just as home thermostats are notorious for setting off domestic squabbles — she bumps it up to 72, he ratchets it down to 64 — solar geoengineering could spark serious conflicts, ranging from sanctions to war between world powers.
The question is: How should we approach technology with such lifesaving potential when it could also disrupt the international order on a scale not seen since the advent of the atom bomb?
Long treated as an illegitimate child of the climate-science community and rarely mentioned in polite company, solar geoengineering is now coming of age. The Royal Society, the oldest scientific academy in the world, mainstreamed the issue with the publication of the seminal report “Geoengineering the Climate” in 2009. Many respected institutions have published their own major reports since then, and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences is scheduled to release one in February. Meanwhile, the first small-scale, real-world experiments are taking shape and, if they can secure funding, could begin within two years.
Global Climate Change