climate change

Efforts to counter global warming might very well lead to the destruction of the world if proper steps are not taken, says a new study. Geoengineering schemes to deflect some of the Sun's rays have a chance of backfiring if they are abruptly discontinued. The effort could eliminate entire species and ecosystems, warns the study.

Co-author Alan Robock of Rutger's University in New Jersey states that the rapid warming action after stopping geoengineering would prove to be a huge threat to the environment.

The magnitude of this could be so huge that it could reverse 50 years' efforts of preserving the environment. Most affected will be amphibians, mammals, corals and land plants locally and globally. The findings of the study were published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

The untested method of solar radiation management works by injecting billions of tiny particles high up into the atmosphere to bounce some of the sunshine back into space. This would lower Earth's surface temperature by a couple of degrees.

In 1991, more than 15 million tonnes of sulphur dioxide were sent into the stratosphere by the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. After that, the planet was cooled by half a degree Celsius for two years.

Climate change
Changes in annual maximum air temperature in 2060–2080 relative to 1985–2005 Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

People who support geoengineering say that it could be quick and effective in ending global warming, which has already started melting big glaciers in Antarctica and Greenland. Sea levels are rising and the seabed is sinking due to climate change as well, apart from several species being led to the brink of extinction.

Storms, heatwaves, droughts, floods and other natural disasters have also increased in frequency due to this phenomenon, which has only caused an elevation of one degree Celsius in the Earth.

While efforts such as reducing greenhouse gases and conserving forests have not proved too effective, scientists are now considering engineered solutions to counter the changes in climate.

The study, led by University of Maryland Christopher Trisos, tested the theory through computer models to find out how the earth would be affected by geoengineering from 2020 to 2070.

They also tested the effects of suddenly stopping these efforts. Findings showed that wildlife would find it very difficult to cope if the temperature increased 10 times faster after the halt. They would be unable to migrate to a place where the conditions are more favourable.

Another hindrance would be that rainfall would be more in warmer places, but animals would not be able to live in such high temperatures. Several plant species would die out due to the increase in temperature.

Although the merits of climate control have not been tested yet, experts agree that in the present condition, it would be foolish not to consider the advantages and disadvantages of geoengineering as a long-term method to stop global warming.