In an insane attempt to stop global warming the USA contemplates blocking the sun which could kill all life on the planet! Dimming the Sun to Cool the Planet Is a Stupid Idea, Yet We’re Inching Toward It...
f we decide to “solar geoengineer” the Earth—to spray highly reflective particles of a material, such as sulfur, into the stratosphere in order to deflect sunlight and so cool the planet—it will be the second most expansive project that humans have ever undertaken. (The first, obviously, is the ongoing emission of carbon and other heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere.) The idea behind solar geoengineering is essentially to mimic what happens when volcanoes push particles into the atmosphere; a large eruption, such as that of Mt. Pinatubo, in the Philippines, in 1992, can measurably cool the world for a year or two.
The problem is with no sunlight, photosynthesis would stop, but that would only kill some of the plants—there are some larger trees that can survive for decades without it. Within a few days, however, the temperatures would begin to drop, and a significant percentage of animals and humans left on the planet's surface would die soon after. In what many would call a nuclear winter.
We’ve all seen those nuclear bunker apocalypse movies, but is it really possible to survive an all-out nuclear war? Scientists have been trying to answer that question for decades, and the topic gets a bit of renewed attention every time global tensions rise. There are a number of competing theories about the effects of nuclear winter, and depending on the specifics, it just might be possible to ride out a
This scheme, not surprisingly, has few public advocates, and even among those who want to see it studied the inference has been that it would not actually be implemented for decades. “I’m not saying they’ll do it tomorrow,” Dan Schrag, the director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, who serves on the advisory board of a geoengineering-research project based at the university, told my colleague Elizabeth Kolbert for “Under a White Sky,” her excellent book on technical efforts to repair environmental damage, published last year. “I feel like we might have thirty years,” he said. It’s a number he repeated to me when we met in Cambridge this summer.
Others, around the world, however, are working to speed up that timeline. There are at least three initiatives under way that are studying the potential implementation of solar-radiation management, or S.R.M., as it is sometimes called: a commission under the auspices of the Paris Peace Forum, composed of fifteen current and former global leaders and some environmental and governance experts, that is exploring “policy options” to combat climate change and how these policies might be monitored; a Carnegie Council initiative of how the United Nations might govern geoengineering; and Degrees Initiative, an academic effort based in the United Kingdom and funded by a collection of foundations, that in turn funds research on the effects of such a scheme across the developing world. The result of these initiatives, if not the goal, may be to normalize the idea of geoengineering. It is being taken seriously because of something else that’s speeding up: the horrors that come with an overheating world and now regularly threaten its most densely populated places.