• Priyal Jain

The Atmospheric Warfare

Will something radical get us out of the near-approaching existential crisis? The world releases about 43,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year. But the question is does carbon dioxide heat the planet on its own? No, not directly. Carbon Dioxide starts heating the planet when it gets trapped in the atmosphere and is then emitted as infrared radiation.

The University of Oxford defines geoengineering as the deliberate large-scale intervention in the earth‘s natural system to counteract climate change.

Now there are a lot of ways we can go about this large-scale cooling process however the one which we talk about in this article is the Stratospheric Aerosol Injections or the Stratospheric Aerosol Scattering method.

The Mount Pinatubo Volcano erupted on June 15, 1991, and the eruption reduced the temperature of the earth by 1 degree Fahrenheit and reduced sunlight by 2.5 per cent. This also lowered the earth’s temperature for four years.

Geoengineering is scientists trying to mimic this to counter rising temperatures.

There were studies conducted at Harvard under the Solar Geoengineering Research Programme on how this would be done where they talked about various methods including the Stratospheric Aerosol Injections. They put forward the idea of building a fleet of 95 planes that would make 60,000 flights a year and releasing sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere, scattering a part of sunlight back into space and hence cooling the earth.

So the question is, is it a plane farting over your head? Yes, it can be framed that way. This study suggests that after 15 years the world may cool by 0.3 per cent.

However, the other side of the coin is that as most scientists suggest, its effect on agriculture is going to be massively destructive. It could massively disrupt crop production which in turn would lead to lesser production yield.

Another problem with geoengineering is that it does not tackle the problem of ocean acidification. The ocean’s composition is changing every day, and the carbon content is increasing dramatically as the ocean absorbs one-fourth of the carbon emissions from the atmosphere. The reason why geoengineering won't help with the problem of ocean acidification is that geoengineering is meant to reflect the sun rays back into space and not remove the atmospheric carbon through Stratospheric Aerosol Injections.

Regardless of any situation, solar geoengineering could not be a substitute for cutting carbon dioxide pollution. Instead, it could only be a potential supplement.

The decision about whether or not to go ahead with geoengineering is immensely crucial and difficult as it may be an excellent Plan B but also turn out to be the worst decision made by the manatee which would lead to the destruction of the Earth.