Stratospheric Aerosol Injection is a form of Geoengineering, which is being considered because the climate situation is getting desperate, with extremely high temperatures in the Antarctic, and massive bush fires around the world.
It involves injecting particles into the upper atmosphere. There are problems with using this technique to modify climate – some technical and some political and some both. This post describes some of them. It incorporates parts of an earlier post on this site.
1) We have to rely on models for our predictions and understanding of weather, climate and ecology, and models can be wrong.
2) The system we would be trying to modify is complex and not predictable in specific. So we do not know the exact results of putting the particles into the stratosphere – we would have to find out through doing.
3) The chances are high that some areas would suffer significant weather changes after the particles reached the stratosphere and these changes would not be uniform. The effects usually discussed are changes in rainfall. For example protecting Europe could lead to major drought in north Africa.
4) Geoengineering is based in social systems which are also complex systems, and GE could disrupt those systems and their balances.
5) For example, unintended bad weather effects could lead to massive people movements, which as we know can be considered potential ‘take overs’ and increase social stresses and tensions….
6) This together with unpredictability, might lead to accusations of weather warfare, whether it was or not, and this might then spill over into more orthodox forms of warfare.
7) GE is cheap in some sense, in that it might only cost billions a year to implement. While this suggests rogue corporations or states could begin GE, it also suggests that there could be fights over funding. Would those who contributed the most want the best results for their countries as opposed to others?
8) GE requires some form of international governance to avoid arguments, which has been shown to be hard to establish even with simpler objectives
9) I have not seen any viable self-supporting GE proposals. Nearly all of them require massive tax-payer subsidies, and some appear to need massive cross-national governance and regulation. We could give massive subsidies to private enterprise and hope they do they job without any oversight, but I doubt that will appeal even to the pro-corporate-power lobby. There is no apparent profit in Geoengineering, other than the potential to threaten people with bad weather. So it is unlikely that corporations would persist with it.
10) GE once begun must be continued, but warfare, or economic collapse could lead to rapid discontinuation, and hence extremely rapid climate change, which might further reduce biodiversity, as the change would be so rapid. Decline in biodiversity = decline in ecological stability.
11) It is extremely likely that once GE was implemented, people in power would breathe a sigh of relief and say “oh we don’t have to stop burning fossil fuels anymore”, so the situation gets worse, but they stay in power.
12) The rational solution to climate change is to lower emissions – we have known this since the 1980s at least. We have the technology to do this now, and it largely seems to work. That we don’t do this, shows we have a destructive set of social organisations and rivalries, and GE will be implemented within this destructive organisation and probably further destruction.
13) The assumption of GE is that it is easier to modify the complete climate and bio ecologies of the planet without serious unintended effects, than it is to lower emissions. This, in practice seems unlikely.
14) GE does not stop or ameliorate the results of high levels of CO2, thus ocean acidification and ocean death would continue – which would be calamitous.
15) The particles which people usually suggest we use are sulphites, these have the potential to further damage the ozone layer. There are plenty of other ecologically destructive actions GE does not ameliorate or stop.
16) People who support GE tend to be those who deny we should do anything about climate change, consequently the likelihood of point the points about continuing destruction, rather than lessening it, increases.
Short summary: Stratospheric Aerosol Injection is a largely uncontrollable, unpredictable process embedded in destructive social organisations, that will delay any chances of fixing climate change. Fixing climate change requires changing our social organisation and reducing emissions.