Spraying reflective particles into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and then stopping it could exacerbate the problem of climate change, according to new research by atmospheric scientists at the University of Washington.
Carrying out geoengineering for several decades and then stopping would cause warming at a rate that will greatly exceed that expected due to global warming, according to a study published Feb. 18 in Environmental Research Letters.
“The absolute temperature ends up being roughly the same as what it would have been, but the rate of change is so drastic, that ecosystems and organisms would have very little time to adapt to the changes,” said lead author Kelly McCusker, who did the work for her UW doctoral thesis.
The study looks at solar radiation management, a proposed method of geoengineering by spraying tiny sulfur-based particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight. This is similar to what happens after a major volcanic eruption, and many experts believe the technique is economically and technically feasible. But continuous implementation over years depends on technical functioning, continuous funding, bureaucratic agreement and lack of negative side effects.