Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding deforestation remain the two main ways to mitigate, at least in the near future, what is (or at least should be) the primary human concern of the twenty-first century: global warming. But for a second, try to reverse the picture, and imagine getting rid of the problem at its root. Here, the solution – according to some scientists – can be called solar geoengineering.
With the Federal Appropriations Act 2022 – signed in March by US President Joe Biden – the United States is developing a research plan in this direction, investing in one of the most controversial areas to combat the climate crisis. The goal of the document approved by the White House is to give life – through a collaboration between the Office of Science and Technology Policy, NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) and the Department of Energy – to an interagency group to coordinate research in this rarely talked about area. .
Solar geoengineering is a type of climate engineering that includes a range of different approaches. The goal, however, is the same: to counteract global warming of our planet through artificial formulations. How? Reflect sunlight, so as to reverse the current trend of rising temperatures.
How does solar geoengineering work?
Among the proposals that attracted the attention of the scientific community the most There is one presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. The idea behind the project is to install a giant array of “space bubbles” that would act as a shield floating in space and reflecting sunlight directed toward Earth. Bubbles will be produced and collected directly in space, forming a large raft deflecting between our planet and the Sun (to be exact at the L1 Lagrangian point, where the gravitational forces cancel out); A thin-film-like material will be used in its construction and the plant will be close to a large area such as Brazil.
Unlike many projects proposed in the past in the field of solar geoengineering, the . project “Space Bubbles” It is a kind of spatial protection: for this reason, it will not present a contraindication associated with the risk of impact on the terrestrial biosphere. In fact, the topic of limiting sun exposure has long been a taboo among scholars, and some argue that it should remain so.
There is no shortage of skepticism regarding the potential side effects on the environment, the high costs of these technologies and concerns that these negative effects could suffer – unevenly – in different countries around the world. It is hard to imagine coordinated global governance to organize and manage engineering solutions of similar size (and that affect everyone).
The spread of solar geoengineering
However, funded projects around the world are multiplying in this direction. Harvard Solar Geoengineering Research Program, among the most funded in the world, has the backing of Bill Gates and has received $2.5 million from the Open Philanthropy Foundation, created by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz. Fellow Mark Zuckerberg’s Scrooge – who has an estimated net worth of $14 billion – is personally involved in geoengineering discussions on Twitter and actively participates in discussions regarding global governance of virtual “sun canopy” facilities.
The goal is to create the conditions for a fertile ground in the future that will allow harmony and the common good, without benefiting the ecosystem of some countries at the expense of others. In this sense, effective international pluralism will be a necessary condition.
However, many governments have already mobilized at the individual level. according to Harvard University surveyand public funding agencies in Japan, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, India, Sweden, China, Germany, Norway and Finland all supported research projects related to solar geoengineering over the decade 2008-2018.
In particular, Europe has long been the world’s leading player in combating climate change by “manipulating” the sun, at least until the middle of the last decade. In 2014, it invested a total of about 4 million euros, but has since slowed down by handing the wand to American philanthropists.
In this scenario, there is no shortage of solidarity initiatives. Decimals box – managed under Grading Initiative United Kingdom – Awarded about $1 million in grants to help scientists in developing countries analyze the effects of solar geoengineering. The program aims to help researchers from countries particularly vulnerable to climate change “play a more important role in assessing and debating” the issue.
The projects include a plan to assess the impact of engineering interventions on solar radiation. In particular, about the potential ramifications in terms of sandstorms in the Middle East, drought in South Africa, water security in Bangladesh and the spread of cholera in South Asia.
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