In India, this year witnessed the driest August in a hundred years from a rainfall perspective. Although scientists have not established a direct connection between this unusual occurrence and the tumultuous repercussions of climate change, it highlights the ongoing risk of erratic weather patterns, their potential impact on the economy, and the significance of addressing climate change. Within this context, one of the more extreme and perilous proposals that has arisen is solar radiation management (SRM), which involves the idea of partially obstructing incoming solar radiation in order to lower the Earth’s surface temperature.
Solar Radiation Management (SRM) can help address the issue of erratic weather patterns in a sustainable manner. Comment critically. (10 marks, 150 words).
Risks associated with SRM:
- The risks associated with SRM arise because it disrupts natural processes that have inevitable global consequences. For instance, if one country’s SRM experiment leads to unexpected increased rainfall in the Horn of Africa, it could trigger a locust infestation that ultimately devastates crops in Pakistan and India.
- Currently, there is no established mechanism to hold a government engaged in geoengineering accountable for effects beyond its own borders, nor is there a process through which affected countries can seek compensation.
- Furthermore, there has been limited research into understanding how the various weather systems worldwide interact with one another and their sensitivity to interventions like SRM. This lack of knowledge underscores the importance of the recent report from the Climate Overshoot Commission, which was released last week.
- The commission, composed of geoengineering experts, calls for increased research to address critical scientific and governance gaps before considering the implementation of SRM-like technologies. Its primary focus is on expediting reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
- even less controversial but still problematic mitigation technologies like carbon capture require resources, attention, and political support that divert focus from the most effective strategy: reducing emissions. In fact, these technologies could even increase emissions limits. SRM, if pursued, would only exacerbate this dilution of efforts.
The other side of the coin:
While the report acknowledges the limited understanding within the scientific community regarding SRM, to the extent that even experimental deployment is considered premature, it argues for keeping SRM as one of the potential solutions for mitigating climate change. This argument is reinforced by the urgency of the situation, as the Earth’s surface is projected to surpass the 1.5°C threshold specified in the Paris Agreement within the next decade.
The severity of climate change demands rapid and resolute action. However, it is disingenuous to argue that riskier solutions should continue to be considered when more effective alternatives have not been fully implemented and there is still an opportunity to do so.