by Cassie B.
During the last ice age, huge masses of ice covered the northern
U.S., Canada, northern Europe and northern Asia.
All that ended around
12,000 years ago, but we could be closer to another one than you
think now that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
has received funds from congress for a controversial geoengineering
aims to cool our planet.
David Fahey, the director of NOAA's Earth System Research
Laboratory Chemical Sciences Division, reportedly told staff
that the federal government wished to examine the science behind
geoengineering, something he
described as a "Plan B" for
Along with $4 million in
funding, he was given the go-ahead to study two methods of
approach entails injecting sulfur dioxide or another
aerosol into the stratosphere to shade the planet from more
This concept is
modeled after what occurs naturally when volcanic eruptions emit
huge clouds of sulfur dioxide that have the effect of cooling
In the second
approach, an aerosol of sea salt particles would be used to
enhance the power of low-lying clouds over the ocean to serve as
So many ways
geoengineering can go wrong
However, if we look to the past, there is a lot of evidence that
such an approach might not have the desired effects.
For example, during
Australia's gigantic bushfire in 2019 and 2020, smoke blocked the
sunshine, but the resulting cooling was hardly a success.
Nearly a million metric
tons of smoke did rise into the stratosphere and block sunlight, but
its sunlight-absorbing black carbon particles led temperatures to
warm by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit for six months, something that
is believed to have contributed to the persistent
hole in the ozone over Antarctica.
There was ultimately no
cooling effect in the lowest layer of the atmosphere.
Experts say it would take
a lot more smoke than this to cool the troposphere, which could
cause significant harm to the ozone layer and upper atmosphere.
Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research
used computer models to simulate injecting sulfate aerosols into the
stratosphere, and they found that although it might mitigate some of
the effects of what is known as greenhouse gas-induced climate
change, there would be unintended side effects to contend with
as well, with surface warming of nearly 3 degrees
Fahrenheit occurring roughly every 30 years.
They also found there
would be less winter precipitation across the Mediterranean and
greater summer moisture, while Scandinavia would experience drier
summers and wetter winters.
It's also worth considering that the
eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the
Philippines in 1991 - the 20th century's second-biggest
eruption - injected 20 million tons of these sulfur dioxide aerosols
into the stratosphere, and that only lowered the planet's
temperature by about 1 degree Fahrenheit for about a year until the
particles fell back to Earth.
Moreover, researchers point out that
huge inputs of sulfur dioxide would
be needed to meet their goals, with up to 50 million metric tons
being continuously injected into the stratosphere each year.
Indeed, the idea of geoengineering has grown so controversial that
Fahey recommended changing the terms that are used to describe it to
something more neutral, such as climate intervention...
Fahey also suggested that there were a lot of unknowns that needed
to be solved, and unintended consequences must be explored.
Some smaller nations have
expressed concerns that such an approach could change their weather
or destroy the ozone layer that protects us from harmful radiation
from the sun.
no one knows
for sure if this type of geoengineering would have the desired
effect, the opposite effect, or cause something entirely
If plans for
geoengineering move forward, we could see another ice age
- and the end of life as we know it...
Scientists say that if we experienced
another ice age right now, colder
temperatures wouldn't be our only problem,
huge areas that are
home to hundreds of millions of people would become
uninhabitable and we would lose the agricultural land needed to
support the human race,
...not to mention the big
drop in the sea level that would occur.
How is this a