What Is This Study About?

Researchers from Harvard University are planning to send aerosol injections 20 km (approx 12 miles) up into the Earth’s stratosphere as a part of the world’s biggest geoengineering study. This project costs $20m and will launch within weeks. It aims to provide a potential solution to global warming.

world's biggest geoengineering study

By the year 2022, the scientists intend to complete two small scale dispersals as a part of this geoengineering study. The first will consist of water and the second, calcium carbonate particles, which will reflect the sun. In the future, scientists might launch aluminium oxide or diamond dust into the atmosphere. If the tests seem successful, they might use a limestone compound for this purpose. This compound will neither absorb solar radiation nor cause the ozone layer to deplete.

A need for this might arise some day, if climate change goes out of control. The basis of world’s biggest geoengineering study is the atmospheric cooling effect which occurs because of large scale volcanic eruptions.

The Controversy Surrounding The World’s Biggest Geoengineering Study

The Harvard scientists have assured that they will only use minimal amount of compounds and conduct these tests under strict university controls. However, this study has still managed to spark a large amount of controversy. Geoengineering is a complicated branch of science and there have been a lot of questions about its impact and safety concerns. Since this study will require the dispersal of materials at such a large scale, there might be unwanted consequences.

world's biggest geoengineering study

Scientists from Harvard themselves acknowledge that they do not yet know how effective this study might be. In the words of Harvard professor Frank Keutsch , “the prospect of using solar geoengineering in real life can be terrifying”. At this point, there are a large number of questions, such as the parameters involved in the study but most of these questions remain unanswered.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author for the UN’s panel for climate change stresses the need for cutting down emissions. According to him, “Solar geoengineering is not the answer”. A Met Office study conducted in 2013 stated that geoengineering could lead to the development of draught-like conditions over North Africa, specifically Sahel. Due to these reasons, a large number of scientists are currently opposing this idea.

Other Potential Solutions For Global Warming

A major question here is that if geoengineering is not the answer, then what is? A lot of other alternatives are available. Countries like China are making efforts to reduce emissions and to adopt clean energy sources. There are a large number of other methods which can help. These include green buildings, stopping the use of CFCs, reduction in vehicular emission and SPM (suspended particulate matter).

world's biggest geoengineering study

Even if this study is successful, it will only lead to a reduction in the average temperature. The effects of global warming will not be seen as clearly, but the phenomenon will still continue to happen. As long as there are no efforts to curb emissions, climate change will still occur. Therefore, the scientists who are a part of this study have said that it should be seen as a substitute, rather than as a complement for other methods of controlling climate change.

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