Certain bright minds say we should throw trillions of mirrors into space to slow global warming. It doesn’t seem like a bad idea at a first glance, but other enlightened thoughts say we should release chemicals into the air to do just that.
The idea came to them in 1991, when Mount Pinatubo erupted and ejected about 15,000,000 tons of sulfur-dioxide-laden dust into the atmosphere. Because of that event, the global average temperature dropped about 0.6°C for almost 2 years.
The effect the scientists want to artificially recreate already exists naturally, and it’s called “global dimming”. Saying it exists naturally is a little bit exaggerated, because smog particles create that light blockage, and dim the sunlight proportionally with the pollution. In a way, you could say it’s nature’s own way of defending itself, but there are certain aspects we should consider.
One such aspect is that by blocking sunlight to reduce heat, we also reduce the capacity of our only viable way of producing energy: solar power.
Daniel Murphy, a physicist at the NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Earth System Research Lab in Boulder, CO, attempts to quantify the reduction in light that such a geoengineering scheme would bring. He calculated a dim of about 3 percent, which translates into less with 5 watts per square meter of photovoltaic panels.
You also could think of this two ways:
1. You might say: “ok, 5W/m is our loss, but we’ll increase the area, and we’ll research more efficient cells, so we’ll offset that. What’s important is we don’t fry ourselves like toast here on Earth”
2. The world’s energy needs increase, we don’t have anything certain under our feet, the oil drillers keep the oil business with their teeth, and there’s more and more need of recyclable power. Plus, we do not only affect our photovoltaics, but also our plants and ecosystems. You may have seen what a slight change is ecosystems does – just watch Katrina’s devastating effects.
So, where’s our option? Somewhere in between?