It's time to study and maybe even test the idea of cooling the Earth by injecting sulfur pollution high in the air to reflect the sun's heat, says a first-of-its-kind report from the National Academy of Sciences that was released on Tuesday.
Sulfur injection would be a short-term fix for a for a long-term problem, says The Washington Post. Carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries, while aerosol particles fall to the surface in just a couple of years.
“You’d get whiter skies. People wouldn’t have blue skies anymore,” says Alan Robock, a Rutgers University climate scientist who was not on the academy committee that wrote the report. “Astronomers wouldn’t be happy, because you’d have a cloud up there permanently. It’d be hard to see the Milky Way anymore.”
The committee believes what's needed is "dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions" and that it's premature to deploy any sunlight-reflecting technologies.
But “it’s worth knowing more about them,” including any problems that might make them unworkable, says Ken Caldeira, a geoengineering researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a member of the panel.
“If there’s a real showstopper, we should know about it now,” Caldeira says, rather than discovering it later when society might be facing a climate emergency and desperate for a solution.
Panel chairwoman Marcia McNutt, editor of the journal Science and former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, says the public should read this report "and say, 'This is downright scary.' And they should say, 'If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.'"