The White House has opened the door to an audacious plan to block sunlight from hitting the surface of the Earth in a bid to halt global warming.
Despite some scientists warning the effort could have untold side effects from altering the chemical makeup of the atmosphere, President Joe Biden has indicated he is open to the idea.
In a report released Friday by the White House, officials suggested limiting sunlight to rapidly cool the planet, a process known as solar radiation modification (SRM).
The administration added a note of skepticism to the report by noting that Congress ordered it, insisting it has not made any decision on ‘geoengineering’ policy.
President Biden has opened the door to an audacious ‘geoengineering’ plan
The report noted several ways authorities could look to achieve SRM, all of which come with potentially devastating consequences if they backfire.
One method would be to significantly increase the amount of aerosols in the stratosphere, which would reflect the sun’s rays from the planet.
Other ideas floated included increasing cloud coverage over oceans, or reducing the amount of cirrus cloud formations, which reflect solar radiation back to the Earth.
The report noted that undertaking the mammoth task could have severe ramifications weather patterns and food supplies, which would in turn impact biodiversity, geopolitics, and health.
It also suggested that committing to the idea then backtracking and changing course could lead to abrupt warming.
While saying that it was not definitively moving ahead with the plan, the Biden administration insisted in its report that the idea appeared promising.
It said a ‘program of research’ into the practice would ‘enable better-informed decisions about the potential risks and benefits’ of blocking the sun.
The White House added that exploring the idea would also allow a better understanding of ‘the foundational elements of greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and adaptation.’
‘SRM offers the possibility of cooling the planet significantly on a timescale of a few years,’ the report claimed.
While noting the idea could have benefits, the White House maintained that it has made no firm decision over using the risky plan
While some scientists feel the plan could be used as a last resort against climate change, others warn it could have catastrophic consequences on the atmosphere
In a statement accompanying the report, the administration said ‘there are no plans underway to establish a comprehensive research program focused on solar radiation modification.’
Scientists have been split over the potential benefits of the risky plan, with some warning it could result in a catastrophic change in the earth’s atmosphere.
Others, however, claim it could be used as a last resort if fears over climate change are realized in the coming years and decades.
‘The fact that this report even exists is probably the most consequential component of this release,’ said Shuchi Talati, the executive director of the Alliance for Just Deliberation on Solar Geoengineering, to Politico.
‘This report also signals that the U.S. government is supportive of well-governed research, including outdoor experimentation, which I think is quite significant.’
The Biden administration made climate policy one of its central policy platforms in recent years, inserting the issue into other sectors including infrastructure and transportation.
This marked a significant shift in policy from Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, who famously once described climate change as a hoax created by the Chinese.
In its report, the White House doubled down on its commitment to tackling climate issues.
‘Climate change is already having profound effects on the physical and natural world, and on human well-being, and these effects will only grow as greenhouse gas concentrations increase and warming continues,’ the report stated.
‘Understanding these impacts is crucial to enable informed decisions around a possible role for SRM in addressing human hardships associated with climate change.’