UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – Solar Radiation Management
Solar Radiation Management, also popularly known as Solar Geo-Engineering is a process through which the reflectivity (albedo) of the Earth’s atmosphere or surface is increased, in an attempt to offset some of the effects of GHG-induced climate change. The technique mimics big volcanic eruptions that can cool the Earth by masking the sun with a veil of ash or similar other things.
Following methods are used for Solar Radiation Management
- Space Sunshades, using mirrors in space, placing vast satellites at Lagrange Point 1, space parasol, etc.
- Stratospheric aerosol injection – methods involving injection of sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.
- Marine Cloud Brightening (spraying a fine seawater spray in the air), seeding of high cirrus clouds with heterogeneous ice nuclei.
- Surface-Based Options like whitening roofs, growing more reflective crops, etc.
Possible Impacts of Solar Radiation Management
Physical potential and technical feasibility of the method, its environmental and political consequences need be understood with clarity. Integrated research effort considering the social, technical, ecological physical and ethical issues related to the method needs to be carried out. It is clear that SRM has the potential to be very helpful or very damaging for those people and species most threatened by climate change, but it is very unclear what its full effects would be.
- It may stop the rise in global temperatures but would not directly reduce concentrations of greenhouse gases, therefore is not a complete solution for Global Warming.
- Stratospheric aerosols might delay the regeneration of the ozone layer. It can also lead to decrease in rainfall thereby affecting food supplies and the flow of rivers.
- Local imbalances in radiative forcing could lead to regional climate shifts.
- Impact of SRM on precipitation and the hydrologic cycle is not very well understood as the idea is in its nascent stage.
- There is no regulatory framework or international governing body to test the methods used in Solar Radiation Management.
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