How Far Is Too Far to Prevent Climate Change?

Scientists are looking at increasingly risky ways of combating climate change.


We're at a tipping point in human history when it comes to climate change. Meanwhile, scientists are preparing to take extreme measures to stop the coming catastrophe.

The eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines gave scientists an idea. As the volcanic ash spewed across the sky, it helped reflect the sun's rays, cooling the Earth.

Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, explained in an interview with PRI: “The planet was more or less a degree Fahrenheit cooler than it otherwise would’ve been despite the increasing rise in greenhouse gases.”

The ash helped block the sun's rays from reaching the Earth — less sun, meant less heat. This led scientists to wonder how they could artificially create this effect to alter the path of climate change.

“We need to decide as a civilization whether this is going to be mostly a natural world ... and interfere as little as possible on natural systems. Or are we going to ... manage it the way we’ve managed so many other things.”

“There are planes that can go up to the stratosphere now,” Caldeira said. “The spraying technologies are well-developed ... The bigger question is what are the unintended consequences of doing such a dramatic act.”

This premise has already been explored in the dystopian sci-fi film, Snowpiercer. The story goes that humanity is at the end of their rope after an attempt to avert the effects of global warming goes wrong. Scientists developed a chemical that planes sprayed across the stratosphere. The result caused an unintended reaction, which created an extreme temperature shift causing the planet to freeze over. The only survivors reside on this train, which stays in constant motion, protecting it from freezing. Pretty bleak.

“I think we’re at a bit of a crossroads,” Caldeira said to PRI. “We need to decide as a civilization whether this is going to be mostly a natural world ... and interfere as little as possible on natural systems. Or are we going to ... manage it the way we’ve managed so many other things.”

Bill Nye is kept up by the notion of climate change. It's happening, and yet little has been done on a global scale to drastically change our fate. 

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