Environmental Science

Group of Scientists Ask Governments to Ban Sun-Blocking Technology

Group of Scientists Ask Governments to Ban Sun-Blocking Technology

A group of scientists and policy experts has signed a letter advocating a ban on allowing or pursuing initiatives that seek to “block out” the Sun. Some scientists (including Monty Burns) have proposed blotting out the sun on occasion. The concept, known as solar geoengineering, is to cool the planet by limiting the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth.

In practice, experts recommend less spectacular techniques than Mr. Burns does – for example, sending sunlight-reflecting tiny molecules into the upper atmosphere rather than erecting a large metal sun blocker – but the projects are frequently faced with a slew of safety worries. The 46 scientists and governance professionals signed an open letter to the idea’s detractors, stating why they believe the risks outweigh the benefits. In their letter, the signatories noted, “The risks of solar geoengineering are poorly understood and can never be fully comprehended.” 

Group of Scientists Ask Governments to Ban Sun-Blocking Technology

“The implications will vary by place, and there are unknowns concerning the effects on weather patterns, agriculture, and the provision of basic food and water needs.” They write that because there are no worldwide agreements on how to undertake solar geoengineering projects, it is conceivable that a few powerful countries will start doing so against the will of the international community – including poorer countries that will be impacted more (e.g. by concerns over growing food).

They also worry that any commitments to the project will deter governments, corporations, and communities from doing everything they can to cut carbon emissions in the future, believing that a technical “fix” will be available. “The hypothetical possibility of future solar geoengineering risks becoming a powerful reason for industry lobbyists, climate deniers, and certain governments to postpone decarbonization plans,” they added.

An “International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering” was proposed in the letter. They urge governments to prohibit national funding for the development of solar geoengineering technologies, prohibit experimentation with such technologies, and prohibit patents relating to such technologies. They also want nations to commit to opposing solar geoengineering as a policy option in all other relevant international institutions, and not to exploit technology produced elsewhere (for example, in a country that is not a signatory to the pact).

Despite the fact that the technology is different, the letter claims that the principle of prohibiting such technology is not new. “It is not uncommon for international political control over the development of contentious, high-stakes technologies with planetary implications. 

International bans and moratoria on activities and technologies deemed too harmful or undesirable have a long history in the international community “They compose.”This history shows that international limitations on the development of specific technology do not hinder scientific innovation or limit genuine research. Furthermore, an International Non-Use Agreement on Solar Geoengineering might provide exclusions for less risky approaches, such as the use of localized surface albedo-related technologies that pose little cross-regional or global concerns.”