Atmosphere

To avoid the worst consequences of global warming, the world urgently needs to cut carbon pollution. But cutting pollution from the world’s energy system takes time, so some suggest that we also need to consider geoengineering the climate to cool it down.

This drastic approach is very controversial. So first, we must understand the potential consequences.

For example, one idea is to spray small particles into the atmosphere to block some sunlight from reaching the Earth.

“That will certainly cool down the planet,” says Frank Keutsch, a professor of engineering and atmospheric science at Harvard University. “It doesn’t address the cause of climate change, but it can cool down the planet.”

To help scientists better evaluate this approach, Keutsch and his team plan to send a balloon into the atmosphere. It will release a tiny amount of mineral dust. The team will study how the particles disperse, and how they interact with one another and the atmosphere around them.

The experiment is so small that it will have no impact on the global climate. But Keutsch hopes it will provide information that can lead to more informed discussions about so-called solar geoengineering.

“We should look at all possible options that we can have in our climate change response toolbox,” Keutsch says.

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Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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