According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), the average global temperature on earth has increased by about 0.8° Celsius since 1880. The possibility of reducing global temperatures as compared to pre-industrial times cannot happen anytime soon. Scientists have been looking for a quick solution to fix the situation.
Research focused on various geo-engineering solutions. One of the most-talked-about methods is Solar Radiation Management. It is in its infant stage of research, but has already paved way for much controversies and criticism. Also known as Solar Geo-engineering, this method involves preventing some of the sun's rays from hitting the planet's surface, forcing them instead go back up into the space. Sometimes nature also does the same. Debris from the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, for example, lowered the planet's average surface temperature for a year or two afterwards.
There are several proposals on how to implement this technique. One group of scientists are planning to inject aerosols into the atmosphere and cool the planet. Small-scale experiments have already begun in the US state of Arizona. But, the potential for a single country to deploy the technology unilaterally could have potentially devastating impacts in other regions.
Other options include marine cloud brightening. Under this technique, scientists seek to spray sea droplets into clouds and make them more reflective and lighter. Brighter clouds can reflect more sunlight back into space. But, all these methods are not free from harm. Injecting billions of reflective particles into the stratosphere could help cool an overheating planet, but would also alter the intensity of tropical storms. Scientists opine that depending on the hemisphere in which such aerosols are sprayed, hurricanes in the North Atlantic may become stronger or weaker. Other potential side-effects of dimming the sun's radiation would be changes in regional rainfall patterns and even disruption of the monsoons. If the system fails, a sudden warming may also occur.
Thus, there is a dire need to identify sustainable ways to implement Solar Geo-engineering methods to cool mother earth, which cause zero harm to her. If scientists succeed in finding such a eco-friendly method, several questions need to be answered - Who should pay for the research? How can we ensure transparency in the research and results be made known to the public? How can we make sure that this research do not make politicians and policy makers run away from their duty to put forth regulations to cut down emission of green house gases?
An international regulation is also need of the hour to oversee the deployment of large-scale solar geo-engineering schemes. A wide global conversation on this topic is necessary and organisations like the UN should take up the matter. If the plan succeeds, it will be one of the greatest advancements in science ever known to the world.