Madeline Wong

An immediate threat? A hoax? Climate change is seen at varying degrees of urgency. Whatever your stance on climate change is, you’ve probably seen some changes in your everyday life (unusual fluctuations in weather patterns, food prices, flooding) and the effects are certain to be amplified. Robert Kunzig raises a few ideas about climate change in its most extreme sense. In “A Sunshade for Planet Earth,” he explores the idea of geoengineering solutions to reverse or slow down the effects of climate change by quite literally blocking the sun. He argues that there is a point that we are reaching where slowing down, or even stopping, our carbon emissions will not be enough to combat the extreme effects of climate change. Instead, he proposes some geoengineering solutions that could be implemented to buy more time in an attempt to save our plant from irreversible damage. **These are not preventative measure but more of a last resort.**

Kunzig proposes to block the sun by adding sulfur dioxide to block the sun, similar to how volcanoes erupt and temporarily increase the albedo of the earth. This would cool the earth but ultimately create unpredictable weather patterns such as changes to the wind, rain, and ozone destruction. This cheap method would have to be done continuously to have a lasting cooling effect and the social costs of implementing this would likely cause global tensions as you are shooting sulfur into the air. Similar to adding sulfur dioxide, Kunzig adds that brightening the cloud cover over the oceans would increase the reflectivity. This could be done by adding sea salt into the atmosphere. In theory this would work to cool the earth, but it has not yet been tested. The third idea is quite elaborate and expensive. This method would require 2 feet wide disks to be places in front of the sun to cool the earth. This was estimated to cost about $5 trillion and affect rain and wind patterns.

All of these “solutions” do admittedly sound a little crazy but this way of thinking and searching for out of the box solutions is necessary when thinking about the global climate change. Although his ideas each have downsides, these are meant to be last resort options when spending exorbitant amounts of money will be acceptable due to the dire effects of climate change. Hopefully none of these solutions will be needed, but in case they are, it’s nice to know that someone is thinking about ways to save us all.

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