Despite what some people believe, climate change is very real. It's so real, in fact, that some advocates have actively considered tampering with the climate to mitigate its effects. Officially, the process is called geoengineering. More commonly, it's referred to as "climate hacking."
Whatever name it goes by, it involves direct intervention with natural environments on Earth, including the planet's oceans and atmosphere. Proponents say that climate hacking can give societies enough time to take action by keeping global temperature from rising by 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit.
As peachy as it sounds, climate hacking runs into two problems: first, an affordable and well-understood solution to climate change already exists, and second, geoengineering poses massive risks. Out of the methods that can be used for climate hacking, solar radiation management is a favorite, which also happens to be the most dangerous as well.
Essentially, solar radiation management is about blocking sunlight much like how major volcanic eruptions could, with volcanoes spewing out so much ash into the sky that the atmosphere effectively cuts off dramatic levels of solar energy.
With the Earth's heat source cut off, global warming can be slowed down, offsetting the effects of burning fossil fuels. With projected increases to global temperature set at 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century, it's understandable why the cooling effect that climate hacking can bring is attractive.
The process of depositing ash into the atmosphere is relatively easy, with some studies showing that balloons and a few billion dollars a year could get it done. That's definitely cheaper than reducing carbon emissions, which has tremendous economic repercussions for big nations.
However, the risks of solar radiation management outweigh its benefits, prompting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to completely reject it. According to the panel, there's just no guarantee that the consequences of blocking out sunlight would not be harmful.
What are the dangers of solar radiation management?
First, only one symptom of climate change is addressed. The problem itself is not tackled either, so it would persist no matter how good the solution is.
Second, carbon dioxide would build up in the atmosphere. In just a few years, ash pumped into the atmosphere would wash away once solar radiation management stops.
Carbon dioxide, however, would not go away, resulting in the rapid heating of up to 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit every decade. That's 10 times faster compared to the current rate, putting the planet worse off than before.
Third, weather changes would most likely be inevitable. Unpredictable weather patterns could affect food and water supply and that could bring conflict.
Other propositions in mitigating the effects of climate change will be discussed at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France this year. Negotiations were successful in Lima, laying down foundations for the conference.