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About Solar Radiation Management


Solar radiation management (SRM) has emerged as a potential tool to counter the effects of global warming by reflecting sunlight back into space.


GS I: Geography

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Solar Radiation Management
  2. Advantages of Solar Radiation Management (SRM)
  3. Disadvantages of Solar Radiation Management (SRM)

About Solar Radiation Management

Solar Radiation Management (SRM) is a climate engineering technique aimed at mitigating global warming by reducing the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface. It involves various methods to reflect or block incoming sunlight, including:

  • Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI): This method involves injecting reflective particles, such as sulfate aerosols, into the stratosphere to scatter and reflect sunlight back into space, simulating the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions.
  • Marine Cloud Brightening (MCB): MCB involves spraying fine droplets of substances, like seawater, into low-level marine clouds to enhance their reflectivity. This increases the clouds’ ability to reflect sunlight, leading to a cooling effect.
  • Space Sunshades: This approach proposes the placement of large mirrors or screens in space, either in orbit around the Earth or at Lagrange point 1, to block or deflect sunlight before it reaches the Earth’s surface. This would decrease the amount of solar energy absorbed by the Earth.
Each of these methods has its own advantages and challenges:
  • SAI is based on replicating the cooling effect of volcanic eruptions but requires regular injection of particles and may have potential side effects on ozone depletion.
  • MCB focuses on enhancing the reflective properties of marine clouds but is dependent on specific weather conditions and has limited regional applicability.
  • Space sunshades offer more control over the amount of sunlight blocked but are complex, expensive, and raise concerns about space debris and long-term maintenance.

Advantages of Solar Radiation Management (SRM):

  • Rapid temperature reduction: SRM techniques could provide a relatively quick reduction in global temperatures, offering temporary relief from extreme climate events.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Depending on the method used and the scale required, SRM approaches could be cost-effective compared to other climate mitigation options, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reversibility: SRM techniques have the potential to be reversible on short timescales. If the deployment of SRM is stopped or adjusted, the effects can be mitigated or reversed relatively quickly.

Disadvantages of Solar Radiation Management (SRM):

  • Limited scope: SRM does not address all aspects of climate change. It cannot mitigate ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, or sea-level rise caused by thermal expansion.
  • Unintended consequences: SRM could have negative or unintended side effects on regional and global climate systems. It may alter precipitation patterns, impact monsoons, exacerbate droughts or storms, and affect crop yields.
  • Ethical and geopolitical challenges: SRM raises ethical and geopolitical concerns. It may create winners and losers among countries or regions, raising questions of justice, equity, consent, liability, and responsibility for the deployment and consequences of SRM techniques.

Source: Indian Express

December 2023