If cooling down the planet would be all we need to do to secure our future, scientists already have the answer; it’s called geoengineering. In light of climate change studies of past decades, geoengineering is becoming an increasingly accepted possible solution for global warming. The problem with it though, is that it is a short-term, risky measure.

The methods range from spraying a fine mist of seawater into low-lying clouds (resulting in an increased reflection of sunlight off clouds), or injecting gas particles that block sunlight into the stratosphere, to launching trillions of mirroring disks into space. Although it is said that direct costs of geoengineering schemes could be as low as few hundredths of that of occuring expenses for reducing carbon dioxide emissions, experience tells us that short-sighted measures have caused massive indirect environmental damage in our past. What is more, reducing global temparature at rising levels of carbon dioxide emission ultimately will lead to the same result: the destruction of our planet. Hence geoengineering is, at least for now, rather to be seen as a “climate-engineering patch”.

A lot of funding is still needed for research in this area. It is first and foremost the responsibility of governments to cooperate with each other in matters concerning sustainable technologies. Concentrating resources on internationally coordinated research programs, for example, would speed up the innovation process. There have also been potential alternative technology proposals, such as capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with chemical reactions and permanently storing them. This could even work a thousand times faster than the rate at which trees absorb CO2, but the underlying technology is still challenging to develop.

Source: Technology Review issue JAN/FEB ’10: The Geoengineering Gambit