Solar Radiation Management Essay

Solar Radiation
Ms. Kristian Tienda Langa
December 11th, 2015
Dr. Takahashi
End of Semesters Presentation
Solar Radiation Management
Global Warming. The words solicit a plethora of images and ideas in many individual’s
mind. The words create a large polarization in even political parties, where the more liberal
parties advocate defeating global warming, while most conservatives disagree with global
warming’s existence. Global warming was even a pivotal point for popular vote winner Al Gore.
Global warming creates the idea of a planet warming up faster than it is supposed to, due to
human error. The public is divided in the debate if global warming, or climate change as most
scientist call it, is occurring, or if human have any involvement in this global change. Science
states the planet is warming at a greater rate than deemed normal, which correlates with an
increase of CO2 and other damaging human altercations that started during the Industrial
Revolution, as Svante Arrhenius started discovering in the early 1900s. Because of this increase
in temperature that is occurring, the majority of society is concerned about what will happen to
planet earth. The scientist and governments concerned about this climate change are finding
ways to either slow the process or decrease it through many means including Solar Radiation
Solar Radiation management has been deemed the “Fast & Cheap” solution to climate
change. Solar Radiation Management uses the sciences of many disciplines, specifically
geoengineering. Geoengineering is the “the intentional large-scale manipulation of the global
environment” (Geoengineering, 1). Climate geoengineering technologies can be divided into
three broad areas: so-called solar radiation management (reflecting sunlight to space),
greenhouse gas removal and sequestration and weather modification. SRM, or Solar Radiation
Management is the route of geoengineering government’s prefer. Solar Radiation Management
comprises various methods that aim at reflecting/diverting solar radiation back into space,
essentially increasing the planet’s albedo (reflectivity of light, lower in summer, higher in winter
with snowfall). This form of geoengineering is what the future will most likely use as a quick fix
to the SRM-Carbon complex. As documented by several scientist like David Keith, carbon
pollution has been one of the largest contributions to the climate change occurring now. Large
amounts of carbon is causing a thinning in the ozone, one of the layers of atmospheres that filters
ultraviolet light, and gradual temperature rise of the planet. The federal government prefers SRM
to reducing carbon because of many reasons including: the difficulty of reducing carbon outputs
in the world, the carbon cycle complexity, and the economic efficiency. Due to this demand,
several scientist have started research to give the government the best solution, which is believed
to be the first major steps towards combating climate change. Right now many projects are being
put forward, and many more will come.
Solar Radiation Management has created the drive for several projects in the scientific
community. Stratospheric Aerosols are currently being marketed by Harvard Prof. David Keith,
who wants to inject aerosol particles of sulfur spray into the air that would reflect light. Keith has
advertised the idea to media outlets like PBS where he was part of an interview explaining that
“It’s certainly not a solution if by solution you mean that solar geoengineering is the only thing
that could be done. If you do not bring the emissions of carbon at the atmosphere to zero, you
can’t have a stable climate. It’s really as simple as that” (PBS Newshour). Keith aims to dispel
the dramatic media of global warming and be blunt to the public about his temporary fix.
Another project created was the idea of Space Mirrors. Arizona State Prof. Roger Angel
proposed that these mirrors were to be put into orbit around the earth and would deflect some
solar sunlight into space. As Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University in Canberra
said, "Roger's always been someone who has lots of wild ideas; some of them are superb, some
of them probably not so good. But he's incredibly creative,” (NPR Telescope Innovator Shines
His Genius On New Fields). As Schmidt predicted, Angel’s efforts have not advanced as far as
the Professor had wished and is not the front running project of Solar Radiation Management.
Moon Dust, another project put forth, was instigated by Iowa State Prof. Curtis Struck, who
proposed mining the dust on the moon to create a shielding cloud that would block out radiation.
Cambridge Prof. Hugh Hunt set a aluminized hydrogen-filled balloon into space as a reflective
screen. Prof. Stephen Salter and Dr. John Latham propose spraying seawater in the atmosphere
to increase the reflectiveness of clouds, blocking light, causing their idea of cloud reflectivity.
The idea of reflective sheeting, the adding of reflective plastic sheets covering 67,000 mi2 of
desert each year between 2010-2070, has been proposed in order to reflect the Sun’s energy
(Zion Light). Crops and Agriculture have been pitched to play a role to. Through bioengineering,
crops can be genetically engineered to have higher albedo (reflectivity), in order to reflect more
ultraviolet light back into the atmosphere. Several more known projects are being proposed to
the Royal Society and National Research Council currently, are being discussed right not in the
Paris World Climate Summit, where the positives and negatives are being weighed.
Controversies occur in every field of science, including the SRM sect of geoengineering.
Some individuals in society fear chemtrails, which a visible trail left in the sky by an airplane or
military aircraft. Concerns range from the idea that they could exacerbate global warming to
conspiracies that the government has secretly been dumping harmful substances on the land,
poisoning the American public. Others believe that the government is pumping money into these
quick fixes that Dr. David Keith admits are, without taking the time and money on more reliable
and long term solutions. People believe that the government rather invest in this than decrease
CO2 emissions, due to greedy congressman and a damaging economic blow. Some see
engineering nature is not our place. Humans have already messed with Earth enough or the Earth
is on its natural course and that altering the earth in any way could disturb the natural order or
accelerated order occurring now. In relation to the conspiracy of harmful chemicals in
chemtrails, these solutions are believed to possibly harm the atmosphere, such as Stratospheric
Aerosols that spray more sulfur into the ozone. Greater sulfur could induce an issue in the sulfur
cycle, and not enough research can show the lasting effects. Many oppositions must be addressed
and looked through before any Solar Radiation Management program could ever be
Though there is much controversy over any Solar Radiation Management plan, a ‘BandAid’ is what is necessary for the current situation happening. Twelve chunks of icebergs are
currently melting near the Paris World Climate Summit, designed by artist Dercy, so that the
urgency is made known to the officials attending the summit. Solar Radiation Management is
going to be one of the only measures that the government will be willing to take any time soon
due to a stubborn economic and social base. McClellan measured that only $2-8 Billion would be
needed to fund whichever project the governance of the globe wishes to push forward, which
compared to the $10 Billion our governments spends each day, is peanuts. Less than one day of
spending going towards a proactive cause is worth the opportunity cost. Though long terms plans
must be drafted, and CO2 emissions must be dramatically curtailed, SRM projects are the best
key to decrease further increase in the earth’s temperature, which can cause catastrophic
ecological and meteorological events. While these programs are being implemented, further
negotiations and scientific research can be focused on a long term goal. Though right now,
before we can have accurate treatment, we need to stop the bleeding.
Work Cited
McClellan, Justin, James Sisco, Brandon Suarez, and Greg Keogh. "Cost Analysis."
Springer Reference (2011): 1-87. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation, 27 July 2011.
Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
Jones, Nicola. "Solar Geoengineering: Weighing Costs of Blocking the Sun's Rays." By Nicola
Jones: Yale Environment 360. Yale, 9 Jan. 2014. Web. 7 Dec. 2015.
Cleetus, Rachael, Adam Markham, Alden Meyer, and Erika Spanger-Siegfried. "Global
Warming." Union of Concerned Scientists. Union of Concerned Scientist, 2015. Web. 9
Dec. 2015
Keith, David. "Introduction." Introduction. Geoengineering. Dordrecht: Springer, 2006. 1. Print.
Keith, David. "A Cheap but Dangerous Global Warming Fix." PBS. PBS, 16 July 2015. Web. 10
Dec. 2015.
Palca, Joe. "Telescope Innovator Shines His Genius On New Fields." NPR. NPR, 23 Aug. 2012.
Web. 8 Dec. 2015.
Lights, Zion. "An Overview of Geoengineering | Permaculture Magazine." An Overview of
Geoengineering | Permaculture Magazine. Hyden House Ltd, 2012. Web. 9 Dec. 2015.
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