Exploring Solar Radiation Management: A Potential Short-term Climate Cooling Solution Amidst Rising Global Temperatures

As the planet faces unprecedented heating, with 2023 marked as the hottest year on record, Solar Radiation Management (SRM) has emerged as a controversial method to cool the Earth. This technique involves reflecting the Sun’s rays back into space to lower global temperatures, with methods ranging from orbiting mirrors to injecting sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. While offering a potential short-term cooling solution, SRM is fraught with uncertainties regarding its environmental side effects, potential to alter weather patterns, and implications for international cooperation and climate policy.

  • 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded, surpassing the previous record set in 2016.
  • Solar Radiation Management (SRM) proposes cooling the Earth by reflecting sunlight back into space.
  • Techniques include deploying giant mirrors and increasing cloud reflectivity, with the most studied method being the injection of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere.
  • The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, which cooled global temperatures by about half a degree Celsius, serves as a model for stratospheric sulfur dioxide injection.
  • Both the European Commission and the White House released reports in 2023 calling for more research into SRM.
  • The UN Environment Program described SRM as the only short-term solution to global warming.
  • Critics highlight potential side effects like changes in sky color, unpredictable weather patterns, and damage to the ozone layer.
  • SRM doesn’t address CO2-related issues like ocean acidification.
  • Concerns exist about unilateral action by nations and the possibility of SRM being used to delay greenhouse gas emission reductions.
  • The cost of aerosol injection SRM could be tens of billions of dollars annually per degree Celsius of cooling.
  • There’s currently no international framework for cooperation on SRM.

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