New Study Shows Limited Effectiveness of Stratospheric Aerosol Injection in Slowing Antarctic Ice Sheet Collapse

New Research Questions Effectiveness of ‘Stratospheric Aerosol Injection’ in Mitigating Polar Warming

University of Bern Study Highlights Minimal Impact of Solar Radiation Modification Technology

In a recent research report published by the University of Bern in Germany, concerns have been raised regarding the practicality and efficacy of ‘stratospheric aerosol injection’ in addressing the alarming collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet caused by polar warming. This controversial technique, categorized as a ‘Solar Radiation Modification (SRM)’ technology, involves the intentional release of aerosols into the stratosphere, simulating the natural phenomenon of blocking sunlight.

The scientific consensus regarding the uncontrollable disintegration of the West Antarctic ice sheet, which is anticipated if global warming persists at current rates, remains steadfast. In an attempt to gauge the effectiveness of the widely-discussed stratospheric aerosol injection method, the research team embarked on a series of simulations. These simulations considered three greenhouse gas reduction scenarios, labeled as ‘reduction above expectations’, ‘moderate reduction’, and ‘no reduction’, respectively. The team simulated aerosol spraying to commence in the years 2020, 2040, 2060, and 2080, with each scenario extending until 2300.

Despite varying rates of ice sheet melting observed in different scenarios, the outcomes conclusively demonstrated that a stratospheric aerosol blast would not yield immediate results and would require sustained implementation over an extensive time frame. “Even with immediate aerosol injection, this approach necessitates thousands of years of maintenance to achieve effectiveness,” stated an official involved in the experiment.

Debating the Effectiveness and Consequences of Stratospheric Aerosol Injection

As scholars continue to explore various methods of mitigating global warming, Solar Radiation Modification (SRM) strategies have emerged as an intriguing avenue for research. Within the realm of SRMs, the concept of stratospheric aerosol injection has garnered significant attention due to its potential to redirect sunlight and consequently lower average temperatures.

Nevertheless, concerns regarding the reliability and potential adverse effects of aerosol injection persist. “Aerosols, which encompass solid or liquid particles dispersed in a gas, possess the ability to reflect sunlight and reduce temperatures. However, we cannot guarantee the outcome and must remain cautious about potential unintended consequences,” cautioned an official involved in the experiment.

SRM experts argue that any increase in global temperatures surpassing the 2℃ threshold compared to pre-industrial levels will intensify detrimental impacts on ecosystems, both for humans and animals. Limiting global average temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius is deemed crucial in climate change mitigation efforts, as emphasized by the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It is evident that the effectiveness and viability of stratospheric aerosol injection in combatting polar warming necessitate rigorous examination and further research.

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A new claim has been made that ‘stratospheric aerosol injection’, which has been proposed to slow the polar warming causing the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, has little practical effect.

In a research report recently published by a research team from the University of Bern in Germany, the claim to arbitrarily release aerosols into the stratosphere to mitigate polar warming is minimal compared to the effort invested.

Stratospheric aerosol injection is one of the ‘Solar Radiation Modification (SRM)’ technologies. Aerosols are naturally emitted following large-scale volcanic eruptions, and stratospheric aerosol injection physically realizes the phenomenon of blocking sunlight.

The consensus in the scientific world is that if global warming continues as it is now, the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet cannot be stopped. <사진=pixabay>

The research team set out to simulate whether this method, which has recently attracted attention, is really effective. Assuming three future greenhouse gas reductions: ‘reduction above expectations’, ‘moderate reduction’, and ‘no reduction’, respectively, aerosol spraying was simulated to take place in 2020, 2040, 2060, and 2080. All scenarios continued until 2300.

As a result, it was confirmed that the West Antarctic ice sheet had melted due to the warming of the Antarctic region in all scenarios. Although the rate of melting varies between scenarios, it was concluded that a stratospheric aerosol blast would not have an immediate effect and would have to be sustained over a fairly long period of time.

“Even if an aerosol injection is implemented immediately, this method will have to be maintained for thousands of years to be effective,” said an official in charge of the experiment.

A method of physically injecting an aerosol into the stratosphere to reduce the incidence on the ground is being devised. <사진=pixabay>

Currently, scholars are studying SRM as a means of mitigating global warming, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions themselves. Among SRMs covering technologies that reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the ground, stratospheric aerosol injection receives a lot of attention.

“Aerosol, which refers to solid or liquid particles dispersed in a gas, reflects sunlight and lowers the average temperature,” said an official in the experiment. We cannot guarantee that, and we are concerned about possible adverse effects.”

Scholars who study SRM believe that if the world temperature rises more than 2℃ compared to pre-industrial revolution, the adverse effects on human and animal ecosystems will increase. In terms of climate change measures, 2℃ is considered as the last chance given to humans. The 2015 Paris Agreement also adopted a plan to limit the increase in global average temperature to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Reporter Yoonseo Lee

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