Solar geoengineering is the climate solution that could trigger war

Solar Geoengineering: A Potential Climate Change Solution That Could Lead to Conflict

Solar geoengineering is a concept that could help combat the effects of climate change, specifically the rising temperatures, heatwaves, flooding, and crop failures experienced by vulnerable populations across the world. The process involves deploying a fleet of aircraft to spray a fine mist of sun-blocking particles into the earth’s atmosphere, effectively reducing temperatures and providing relief to parched populations. However, while the process is theoretically possible, security officials and members of the U.S. intelligence community fear that it could lead to a military response and even trigger conflict between nations.

Geoengineering exercises undertaken last year by national security officials aimed to manage the tensions that could arise should a country decide to undertake solar geoengineering. While it is cheaper and faster compared to other methods of combatting the effects of climate change, the technique could weaken the sun’s power across the globe, not just above the country that deployed it. Thus, a single country’s decisions could shape the fate of the entire world, leading to concerns that it could be weaponized by a country against an adversary or threatened in a way that could cause fear or panic among populations.

Although the science behind solar geoengineering is evolving, global discussions haven’t kept up, resulting in the largely unregulated use of the technology internationally. While the United States is leading the research, other countries such as China and India are also working on it. The lack of global coordination on geoengineering is resulting in increasing anxiety about the risks of disagreements, and national intelligence estimates are warning that the absence of regulations could mean that “state or nonstate actors will independently develop or deploy the technology — possibly covertly — in a manner that risks conflict if other nations blame them for a weather disaster they believe was caused by geoengineering.”

In his novel, “The Ministry for the Future,” Kim Stanley Robinson envisions a future in which India decides unilaterally to deploy solar geoengineering in defiance of a global ban after a heat wave kills 20 million of its citizens. Some policymakers argue that as the discussion evolves, tensions could worsen between industrialized nations responsible for the bulk of historic carbon emissions and less industrialized countries often hit hardest by climate change.

Solar geoengineering has the potential to concentrate power in rich countries or nonstate actors in the global north, says Ajay K. Sood, the principal scientific adviser to the Indian government. Conversely, in the global south, solar geoengineering may appear appealing given the context of dire climate consequences faced by them. However, even basic research, such as outdoor small-scale tests, could become controversial in some areas, let alone full-scale deployment.

The technology necessary to hack the atmosphere is not complicated, scientists say. Airplanes would spray sulfur into the sky at high altitude. Done right, the material would condense, reflecting a portion of the sun’s rays and shielding the Earth. That would mimic the cooling effect observed after volcanic eruptions, which also spew sulfur into the atmosphere.

Solar geoengineering has the potential to combat the effects of climate change, but its deployment raises serious concerns about the potential for conflict between nations. Global discussions need to evolve rapidly to regulate the use of solar geoengineering to prevent potential military conflicts, tensions between nations, and ethical issues. While there is a need to deploy the technology to combat the effects of climate change, regulations must be put in place to ensure it is used in a responsible and safe manner.

Climate engineering, also known as geoengineering, is a controversial set of technologies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change. Some advocates argue that it could help prevent the worst impacts of global warming, while others worry about unintended consequences and ethical concerns. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I recommend reading the article “Can Climate Engineering Help Prevent Climate Change?“. This well-researched and balanced piece explores the potential benefits and drawbacks of various geoengineering strategies, from carbon dioxide removal to solar radiation management.