Geoengineering and the manipulating of the Earth’s climate could, according to some, be an effective way of protecting us from climate change. But now scientists warn that these proposed methods could have devastating consequences to plant and animal life.
In a new study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, several environmental scientists from Rutgers University in the United States warn about the possible consequences of geoengineering and deliberate climate manipulation. A particularly attentive method is to spray sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to create clouds that reflect sunlight, to mimic the effects of very power vulcanic eruptions.
In the long term, it could help cool down the Earth, but the technology, according to the researchers behind the new study, could be devastating to animals and plants if the method is used but then suddenly and abruptly discontinued.
“If geoengineering ever stopped abruptly, it would be devastating, so you would have to be sure that it could be stopped gradually, and its easy to think of scenarios that would prevent that. Imagine large droughts or floods around the world that could be blamed on geoengineering, and demands that it stops. Can we ever risk that?,”
– Alan Robock, professor of environmental science at Rutgers University, and one of the researchers behind the study.
The researchers have calculated a global scenario where five million tons of sulfur dioxide would be sprayed all over the world annually. The period of the scenario extends from the year 2020 to the year 2070, and then the global annual mean temperature should have fallen to one degree Celsius. But if the process is suddenly ended, the temperature would increase again ten times faster than if geoengineering was never used, according to the researchers.
The researchers also calculated how well animals and plants could adapt to rapid temperature changes. They analyzed how fast animals would need to move from one area to another to adapt to the regional climate endowments. They found that most animal species would have it very difficult to adapt to a sudden and rapid climate change.
Concluding that the extreme and rapid changes in the climate resulting from geoengineering will make it harder for species to adapt and survive. That implementing geoengineering efforts and rapid termination of the climate intervention would be detrimental to plants and animals.
Christopher H. Trisos et al. Potentially dangerous consequences for biodiversity of solar geoengineering implementation and termination