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We may need to use targeted climate engineering technologies as a “last resort” to prevent the worst excesses of the climate crisis given the UNEP Emissions Gap Report’s warning that we are moving toward 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. To develop a governance framework that will guarantee that the advantages and disadvantages are pretty distributed throughout the world, much work needs to be done.

We” simply” stop burning fossil fuels because we know how to address the climate crisis. However, as the most recent UN Climate Change Global Stocktake confirms, we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43% over the course of the following six years in order to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement. We appear unwilling and unable to do this in for a short period of time. This raises the question of what other options we might have when (not if) the temperature of the world is significantly higher than it is right now. Geoengineering, the intentional alteration of the Earth’s biological systems to combat climate change, is still a contentious topic despite the urgency the situation.


Although the topic is rightly divisive, there is mounting evidence showing that climate engineering can be very successful in lowering global temperatures over somewhat short timescales. In this article, I examine both sides of the debate over climate engineering and make the case that targeted climate change should be developed urgently as a last resort.

Let’s start by going over the two primary strategies.

The first is the removal of greenhouse gases, which involves removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through biological and chemical processes. This can be accomplished by planting trees, burying burned biomass (also known as biochar), directly capturing air with enormous air scrubbers,” sequestering” the CO2 underground, improved weathering of ground-up rocks, or by adding nutrients to oceans to increase primary production, which results in a drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere.

The second strategy is solar radiation management (SRM), which slows down the Earth’s rate of solar energy absorption. The majority of development is focused on raising the planet’s “albedo” so that it can reflect more solar radiation back into space by either emitting reflective particles into the upper atmosphere to mimic the soaring sulfur aerosols frequently released during volcanic eruptions or by brightening aquatic clouds by spraying seawater in the air to seed low-altitude straticumulus clouds and increase their brightness.

The latest conversation is now dominated by two positions. Several scientists have advocated for a moratorium on geoengineering on the one hand, claiming that doing so would only encourage fossil fuel companies to extract more hydrocarbons, continuing greenhouse gas emissions. SRM may even result in “termination shock,” in which case, should emissions continue to rise while engineering is being used, ceasing to use the technology would harm the environment even more than it would have if no engineering had been used. The fossil fuel industry, which continues to vehemently promote Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), adopts an “opposing” stance.

They argue that by doing this, fossil fuels would essentially become carbon neutral and, if sequestration rates were high plenty, could begin to address traditional emissions. Maybe it is telling that the fossil fuel industry does not publicly advocate for SRM because doing so might give the wrong impression that their main objective is to increase extraction.

The two sides of the argument are frequently at odds with one another and are not at all radically opposed. While the majority of people concur that carbon capture could be a significant tool when used in conjunction with the phase-out of fossil fuels, proponents of CCS frequently overlook the fact that the country’s total recent CO2 emissions are only 0.1% and that it will be nearly impossible to scale up properly in any reasonable amount of time. When compared to the market price of carbon, which is still too low to encourage the adoption of new processes like CCS, the technology is constrained by high processing costs that exceed$ 600 per tonne CO2 captured.

On the other hand, there are good reasons to think that some Powertrain techniques are very powerful, so those who advocate for a ban on the use of climate engineering techniques take their position. For instance, we have concrete proof that sulphur aerosol volcanic emissions have lowered historic global temperatures to levels below what they would have been, and that we can replicate this effect by injecting air into the stratosphere. The scientific community is very active in modeling the effects of SRM, with the findings indicating that it is possible to significantly lower future global temperatures.


At the very least, the present state of the discussion demonstrates the absence of a high-level strategy that takes into account all available options and assesses their effects, including societal and social aspects. There are only two ways to attack in battle, the clear and the direct, but when combined, these two give rise to an endless series of manoeuvres, according to Sun Tzu in The Art of War, which is where I’m thinking about the climate crisis on a war footing. I think that by concentrating solely on emissions reduction (direct attack), we are ignoring crucial strategies that could, if necessary, offer emergency maneuvers. Given the dwindling time until our international carbon budget is fully spent in light of the recent Stocktake, we have some options left.

However, it cannot be disputed that SRM raises important questions about international governance. How would we even design, plan, and implement these types of interventions in a worldwide simply manner given the uncertainties that still exist regarding the international distribution of the possible cooling and related changes in rainfall? Who evaluates the balance of risks and rewards when deploying geoengineering technologies, according to Janoz Pastor, Executive Director of the Carnegie Climate Governance Initiative? Who controls the worldwide thermostat if we start purposefully changing global temperatures?

SRM deployment is no longer just a philosophical problem. A US startup purposefully released two balloons from Baja California in 2022, each of which released a few grams of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. Despite the small amounts, the Mexican government was sufficiently alarmed by this to issue a statement reiterating their” commitment to the protection and well-being of the population from practices that generate risks to people and economic security.” The release highlighted the swiftly shifting attitudes toward geoengineering and the absence of proper international agreements, though it was more provocative than influential. So, organizations like SilverLining and the Climate Overshoot Commission are urging the quickening of SRM research to establish a consensus regarding the approaches that should be taken into account as well as the creation of efficient governance.

It’s not like there aren’t already safeguards in place to guide the creation of climate interventions. For instance, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity states that” no climate-related geo-engineering activities that may affect biodiversity take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment.”


The fact that this convention is not used to stop greenhouse gas emissions, which currently pose a threat to the biodiversity of the Earth, is frustrating. Despite our concern over the unintended consequences of burning fossil fuels, we seem to have an inherent bias against deliberate environmental interventions, despite being clearly cautious. So, geoengineering raises the important moral dilemma of whether it is preferable to take a chance on doing harm in an effort to do good rather than allow ongoing harm through inaction.
Fortunately, a fresh viewpoint has entered this discussion, one that could allay some worries about strong climate interventions. This is the application of targeted climate engineering, which addresses regional climate breakdown with a focus on the cryosphere (ice sheets, sea ice, and permafrost).

A pilot project in East Siberia has now been fenced and stocked with bison, musk ox, reindeer, and much of the taiga removed. Possible solutions include the use of glass beads to increase the reflectiveness of Arctic ice, as well as the introduction of large herbivores to reduce foliage, tramp the snow and cool the permafrost. A semi-targeted approach can also be used to deploy aquatic cloud brightening. This technique not merely makes use of “innocuous aerosols,” but also salty droplets that autonomous sailboats extract from the ocean and spray into the air. The fact that maritime traffic was now seeding cloud formation along shipping lanes prior to the current reduction in sulphur in bunker shipping fuels, as can be seen in the image below, mitigates any perceived risks.

To sum up, I think that the climate crisis has reached a point where we should “leave no stone unturned” in the creation of efficient modal responses. We desperately need to broaden the scope of corrective actions to include climate engineering, to be deployed behind, not in place of, the swift phase-out of fossil fuels, as the UNEP Emissions Gap Report warns that we are heading for 2.9°C above pre-industrial levels. To achieve this, we will need to develop new engineering maneuvers with a lot of creativity, be objectively rigorous to evaluate the many impacts, and be politically just to make sure the benefits and risks are distributed fairly across the globe. But more than anything, we’ll need to exercise courage by thoroughly understanding, planning, and being accountable for our actions as a group.

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