Blocking sunlight to cool the Earth will not work

A proposal for solar geoengineering is to inject sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere, similar to what happens after large volcanic eruptions. The smog blanket acts like an umbrella, reducing sunlight and temperatures a percentage to counteract global warming. However, according to the latest study, this will kill crops

Blocking sunlight to cool Earth will not save mankind's agricultural lands from climate change, according to a new study that rejects a leading theory in the prevention of global warming.

The researchers had speculated that injecting particles into the atmosphere would reduce the rise in global temperatures enough to prevent crops from dying.

But scientists who analyze the past effects of volcanic eruptions that cool the Earth proved that protecting the atmosphere harms crops as much as it helps them.

They concluded that any improvement in performance caused by lower temperatures would be nullified by lower productivity due to the reduction of sunlight, which would make the process ineffective as a way to stop global warming.

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A proposal for solar geoengineering is to inject sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere, similar to what happens after large volcanic eruptions. The smog blanket acts like an umbrella, reducing sunlight and temperatures a percentage to counteract global warming. However, according to the latest study, this will kill crops

A proposal for solar geoengineering is to inject sulfate aerosols into the atmosphere, similar to what happens after large volcanic eruptions. The smog blanket acts like an umbrella, reducing sunlight and temperatures a percentage to counteract global warming. However, according to the latest study, this will kill crops

Some previous episodes of global cooling were caused by gases emitted during massive volcanic eruptions.

Some experts believe that humans could inject sulfate aerosols in the upper atmosphere in a similar way.

This could artificially cool the Earth and alleviate the greenhouse warming caused by the increase in carbon dioxide levels.

Rather like using an umbrella to create shade from the sun, experts believe that a global umbrella could, in theory, slow down the warning.

For example, the Mount Pinatubo eruption injected around 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere.

This reduced sunlight by approximately 2.5% and reduced the average global temperature by approximately half a degree Celsius (almost 1 degree Fahrenheit).

This type of solar geoengineering is a proposed method to help humanity manage the impacts of global warming.

However, the findings of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, suggest that this technology may not be as effective as expected.

"Shading the planet keeps things cooler, which helps crops grow better," said lead author Jonathan Proctor, a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

However, plants also need sunlight to grow, so blocking sunlight can affect growth.

"For agriculture, the involuntary impacts of solar geoengineering are of equal magnitude to the benefits," he said.

"It's a bit like doing experimental surgery, the side effects of the treatment seem to be as bad as the disease."

The particles injected into the atmosphere can not stop the damage to crops caused by the increase in global temperatures, according to the latest analysis (stock image)

The particles injected into the atmosphere can not stop the damage to crops caused by the increase in global temperatures, according to the latest analysis (stock image)

The particles injected into the atmosphere can not stop the damage to crops caused by the increase in global temperatures, according to the latest analysis (stock image)

The researchers say that the problem in discovering the consequences of solar geoengineering is that we can not do an experiment on a planetary scale without really deploying the technology.

"The breakthrough here was realizing that we could learn something by studying the effects of giant volcanic eruptions that geoengineering is trying to copy," said Solomon Hsiang, co-author of the study and associate professor of public policy at UC Berkeley.

The team linked the production of corn, soybeans, rice and wheat from 105 countries from 1979 to 2009 to global satellite observations of these aerosols to study their effect on agriculture.

By matching these results with global climate models, the team calculated that the loss of sunlight from a sulfate-based geoengineering program would cancel the expected benefits of protecting crops from extreme heat.

"It's similar to using a credit card to pay another credit card: at the end of the day, it ends where it started without solving the problem," said Dr. Hsiang.

WHAT ARE THE SECONDARY EFFECTS OF THE GEOENGENERATION STRATEGIES?

Scientists have proposed all kinds of solutions to fight against climate change, including several controversial geoengineering strategies.

Among the many include:

Forest repopulationThis technique would irrigate deserts, such as those in Australia and North Africa, to plant millions of trees that could absorb carbon dioxide.

Backing out: This vegetation will also attract the sunlight that the deserts currently reflect in space, and thus contribute to global warming.

Scientists have proposed all kinds of solutions to fight against climate change. Stock Photo

Scientists have proposed all kinds of solutions to fight against climate change. Stock Photo

Scientists have proposed all kinds of solutions to fight against climate change. Stock Photo

Artificial rise of the ocean: Engineers would use long pipes to pump cold, nutrient-rich water up to cool ocean surface waters.

Backing out: If this process stops, it could cause the oceans to rebalance their heat levels and quickly change the climate.

Alkalization of the ocean: This involves accumulating lime in the ocean to chemically increase the absorption of carbon dioxide.

Backing out: The study suggests that it will have little use to reduce global temperatures.

Fertilization of iron in the ocean: The method involves pouring iron into the oceans to enhance the growth of photosynthetic organisms that can absorb carbon dioxide.

Backing out: The study suggests that it will have little use to reduce global temperatures.

Solar radiation management: This would reduce the amount of sunlight the Earth receives, by shooting reflective aerosols based on sulfate into the atmosphere.

Backing out: Carbon dioxide would still accumulate in the atmosphere.

Some previous studies suggested that aerosols could improve crop yields by dispersing sunlight and allowing more sun energy to reach the inner leaves that are usually shaded by the upper leaves of the glass.

This benefit of dispersion seems to be weaker than previously thought.

"We are the first to use real experimental and observational evidence to obtain the total impacts that sulfate-based geoengineering could have on yields," said Dr. Proctor.

"Before starting the study, I thought that the net impact of the changes in sunlight would be positive, so I was quite surprised by the discovery that the scattering of light decreases yields."

Despite the conclusions of the study, Dr. Proctor said: "I do not think we should necessarily cancel solar geoengineering.

"For agriculture, it may not work as well, but there are other sectors of the economy that could benefit substantially."

They did not address other types of geoengineering, such as the capture and storage of carbon dioxide, or issues related to geoengineering, such as its impact on the protective ozone layer of the Earth and who sets the Earth's thermostat.

"Society must be objective about geoengineering technologies and develop a clear understanding of the possible benefits, costs and risks," said Dr. Proctor.

"Currently, the uncertainty about these factors dwarfs what we understand."

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