For those Mars terraforming advocates, you’ll find an interesting read from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

A Belfer Center study group has looked at solar geoengineering – not for the Red Planet but for the Blue Marble – Earth.

DSCOVR spacecraft view of the entire sunlit side of Earth.
Credit: NASA

The factsheet comes from the center’s Technology and Public Purpose Project.





Risks and uncertainties

As explained in the report, solar geoengineering has the potential to reduce climate impacts around the globe, but it also carries its own risks and uncertainties.

“The science and the governance are very challenging. The question at issue now is not about deployment,” the report notes. “It is about whether there should be a serious research effort on solar geoengineering to advance understanding on the efficacy, benefits, and risks, and to identify strategies that might make it safer.”

Credit: Courtesy of SOHO/[instrument] consortium. SOHO is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.



Moral hazard, slippery slope

Proposed solar geoengineering technologies for the Earth include:  marine cloud brightening, cirrus cloud thinning, space-based techniques, and stratospheric aerosol scattering.

There are a number of policy issues for consideration, including:

For one, the study observes, there is serious concern that talking about, researching, and/or deploying solar geoengineering will reduce incentives to cut emissions—this problem is often referred to as “moral hazard.” It is highly likely that some fossil fuel interests will seek to exploit solar geoengineering to block mitigation.

Additionally, there is also concern that research on solar geoengineering could create powerful constituencies in favor of eventual deployment. Such a potential for socio-technical lock-in is sometimes called a “slippery slope.”

To read the full factsheet on Solar Geoengineering, go to:

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