Firing tiny particles into the upper atmosphere could help reflect sunlight and create dimmer conditions on the planet's surface — potentially delaying the effects of climate change and relieving droughts in places like Cape Town, South Africa, according to a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
If this sounds dystopic, it probably is. But dimming the sunlight would technically cool down the atmosphere of Earth.
South African researchers want to dim down the sun's light
This is an unconventional plan, reports The Mail & Guardian, not only from the projected climate impacts, but also in the realm of geopolitics. In a time of later climate change — when Day Zero, or the moment when we've less water than everyone needs — radical measures might become necessary.
Dispersing aerosolized sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere could lower the risk of a Day Zero drought before the end of the century — by roughly 90% — according to the study, which went forward under the leadership of the University of Cape Town.
The ultimate aim would involve keeping the situation from becoming worse. Shooting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere could keep the probability of droughts happening where they are — instead of letting them rise to Day Zero levels, Futurism reports.
Climate crisis worsens, but dimming sun's light could spark conflict
If the idea works, geoengineering the environment to create a functional sun dimmer won't mitigate the climate crisis alone. Stratospheric aerosols can't undo the damage done from climate change — it only masks our ability to sense it, like an anesthetic.
To say nothing of issues some may take with organized efforts to actively change the environment. Research suggests, reports M&G, that geoengineering projects might cause international conflict.
Mistakes were most certainly made in the last century, as the links between global climate change and more intense and numerous tropical storms and hurricanes, California wildfires, and more species falling into the endangered category continue to multiply. We may reach a point where short-term attempts to mute the consequences are better than confronting the underlying cause, like the global reliance on fossil fuels. Time will tell, as they say, whether dimming the sun's light is a good idea.