Researchers warn of disastrous consequences of geo-engineering plan to curb global warming
09 January 2014
Researchers have warned that attempts to reverse the impacts of global warming by injecting reflective particles into the stratosphere could worsen the impact on the environment.
According to a new study, the idea, seen as a last-ditch effort to rein in runaway climate change, could cut rainfall in the tropics by 30 per cent.
The intervention could impact rainforests in South America and Asia.
The journal Environmental Research Letters has published the research.
The concept of curbing temperature rise by blocking sunlight is not new, scientists have been debating it for many years now.
While some of the ideas had been dismissed as crazy notions, others are under serious consideration.
Among the more credible plans is the use of reflective particles called aerosols to reflect solar radiation away from the earth.
A natural example of this is the plumes of ash that rise into the stratosphere, with eruption of volcanoes, as with Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991.
Now a team at the University of Reading has modelled the impacts of a large-scale injection of sulphur dioxide particles at high altitudes around the equator.
According to Dr Andrew Charlton-Perez, one of the co-authors of the paper, geo-engineering could cause a new unintended side-effect over a large part of the planet.
He added that the risks from this kind of geo-engineering were huge, like a reduction in tropical rainfall of 30 per cent would, for instance, could parch Indonesia to the extent that even the wettest years would be equal to drought conditions now.
He points out the ecosystems of the tropics were among the most fragile on earth and if such plans were executed, changes would happen so quickly there would be little time for people to adapt.