It may sound a lot like science fiction, but new research suggests that human beings may be able to “dim the sun” to reduce the effects of climate change on Earth. CNN reports that a new study from researchers at Harvard and Yale claims that a process called stratospheric aerosol injection could slash global warming by 50 percent.
Stratospheric aerosol injection involves spraying the earth’s lower stratosphere with sulfates up to 12 miles. If you’re wondering how the sulfates are going to get there, the researchers propose using balloons, a high-altitude aircraft, or large naval-style guns.
They also claim that the approximate cost of this project will be $3.5 billion for the initial setup and then $2.25 billion for maintenance each year for 15 years. The study describes that price tag as “remarkably inexpensive.”
Despite noting the “inexpensive” billion dollar price, they don’t make any solid guarantees that the process will work as they describe SAI as “hypothetical” at this stage.
“We make no judgment about the desirability of SAI,” the text of their research reads. “We simply show that a hypothetical deployment program commencing 15 years hence, while both highly uncertain and ambitious, would indeed be technically possible from an engineering perspective.”
Since all living things on Earth need the sun to survive, a process that artificially blocks its rays sounds like it could have some negative side effects. The disadvantages of SAI is covered in the research as well. The authors of the report published in the journal Environmental Research Letters disclose that if implemented, SAI could undermine agricultural cycles and trigger extreme weather conditions or droughts. These are all consequences of global warming which makes its credibility as a solution for climate change seem less solid.
Some experts who are critical of the idea are also refuting the notion that it will be “inexpensive.”
“From the point of view of climate economics, solar radiation management is still a much worse solution than greenhouse gas emissions: more costly and much more risky over the long run,” said Philippe Thalmann of the École, an expert in climate change economics at the Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.
As CNN notes, stratospheric aerosol injection won’t reduce the amount of fossil fuel emissions in the atmosphere. If that’s not addressed, SAI will just be a “band-aid” on a gaping wound that future generations will still have to take care of, says David Archer of the Department of Geophysical Science at the University of Chicago.
“If a future generation failed to pay their climate bill they would get all of our warming all at once,” he said.