It appears the Biden administration is considering extreme measures to combat climate change, according to a White House Office of Science and Technology Policy report published on Friday.
The report suggests researching methods to manipulate sunlight in order to prevent it from reaching the planet – a strategy referred to as “geoengineering.”
The University of Oxford defines geoengineering as “the deliberate large-scale intervention in the Earth’s natural systems to counteract climate change.” In particular, the White House document focuses on “stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) and marine cloud brightening,” as well as studies into “cirrus cloud thinning.”
However, space-based approaches are not being discussed because they are less feasible than atmospheric ones according to the document.
It explains that research into solar radiation modification (SRM) would help inform decisions about potential risks and benefits associated with SRM implementation.
It further notes that SRM could cool the planet significantly within a few years – though this raises serious concerns about side effects and ethical implications of intentionally modifying Earth’s climate system.
Another proposed geoengineering technique is Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). CDR aims at removing CO2 from the atmosphere in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations – methods include Direct Air Capture, afforestation, and enhanced weathering among others.
Though this technique has its own drawbacks such as unintended consequences or unequal distribution of benefits due to the localized nature of weather modification.
What’s more, is that geoengineering also presents ethical and governance challenges regarding who makes decisions related to deployment which might have far-reaching consequences for some regions or communities more than others without any international regulations or governance frameworks set up yet.
Moreover, it’s uncertain whether other nations would support one country using technology to literally block sunlight from reaching Earth altogether.
Finally, although there is no official government policy attached yet since this was just an initial research paper, it does open doors for possible future government projects related based on these findings despite the White House claiming otherwise in their separate statement released later on that day.