Britain’s national science academy, the Royal Society, recently organized a conference at Chicheley Hall — 40 miles north of London — where thinkers from around the world gathered to decide if, and how, the international community could implement geoengineering tactics to stop global climate change. If the international community fails to mitigate climate change with policy and infrastructure, we’re going to need to take some drastic measures to keep the planet inhabitable. The attendees at the conference decided that though the full consequences are unknown, the only real plan that would work would be to block out the sun.
The attendees’ backgrounds each matched an obstacle that would need to be hurdled if geoengineering became a reality. Physicists, oceanographers and geochemists who would need to plan the science behind blocking out the sun were present. Environmentalists who would determine the effect on the earth were also there. International lawyers, psychologists and policy experts who would determine the effects on the international community and human psyches showed up as well. Last year, policy makers in the US and Great Britain warned — after the disappointing COP 15 conference — that a “Plan B” would need to be ready if the international climate change talks kept failing. This conference was Britain’s response to that request and they gathered thinkers from six continents to try to plot a plan.
The Chicheley Hall thinkers were decidedly wary about entering into these seemingly necessary discussions but were realistic about the fact that it’s best to start the study now, instead of when it is too late. “If we don’t understand the implications and we reach a crisis point and deploy geoengineering with only a modicum of information, we really will be playing Russian roulette,” noted Steven Hamburg, a U.S. Environmental Defense Fund scientist. There are many directions you can take with geoengineering but as climatologist John Shepherd of Britain’s Southampton University said, “by most accounts, the leading contender is stratospheric aerosol particles.”
The tactic would involve a very long tube, aircrafts or giant balloons that would be positioned to shoot sun-reflecting sulfates into the lower stratosphere that would essentially block out the sun’s rays — much like sulfur from volcanic explosions. Scientists on hand noted that this tactic would also have to come with a drastic reduction in carbon emissions on earth as you wouldn’t want to indefinitely have to feed the atmosphere with increasing amounts of sulfates. Discussions at the conference ultimately landed on the fact that this research needs to be conducted in some sort of an international science consortium — if one country goes out and starts shooting stuff into the sky, everyone else will be affected and likely very upset. Though this tactic might save the earth, it could mean that no human would ever see blue sky again.