Aerosols Can Significantly Cool Down Planet Without Damaging Ozone

Posted: Dec 14 2016, 9:28am CST | by , Updated: Dec 14 2016, 9:34am CST, in News | Latest Science News

 

Aerosols can Significantly Cool Down Planet without Damaging Ozone
Credit: NASA
 

Calcite aerosol may cool the planet while simultaneously repairing the ozone layer

Burning of fossil fuels and other human activities are releasing tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and are causing to accelerate global warming. 

Earlier this year, governments worldwide have signed historic Paris Climate agreement to slow down the progression of global warming by cutting down greenhouse gases emission. But researchers believe this strategy alone is not enough to deal with the situation. Supplementary efforts are needed to further reduce the risk such as cooling the planet by injecting aerosols into the atmosphere. 

Aerosols are small particles that can be suspended in the air through both natural and unnatural means and they are considered best idea for reflecting some of the sun’s energy back into space, also known as solar geoengineering. 

When released in large amount, these particles can significantly cool the planet. However, sulfate aerosols also carry many risks and the biggest known is damaging ozone- the layer that absorbs ultraviolent radiation from the sun and protects us from various diseases. Therefore, ozone layer depletion can lead to the increased risk of skin cancers, eye damage and other adverse consequences. 

To solve the problem, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have identified an aerosol that can both cool the Earth and repair ozone layer.

“In solar geoengineering research, introducing sulfuric acid into the atmosphere has been the only idea that had any serious traction until now. This research is a turning point and an important step in analyzing and reducing certain risks of solar geoengineering.” Lead study researcher David Keith, professor of Applied Physics at SEAS said in a statement.

Previous researches were focused on ways to minimize the reactivity of aerosols. Since aerosols produce sulfuric acid, they start to damage ozone as soon as they reach upper layer of atmosphere or stratosphere. In the latest study, researchers have tried to find a substance that can neutralize the effects of sulfuric acid on ozone layer. 

After extensive analysis, researchers ended up with an antacid for stratosphere. They found that calcite can help cool planet but in a way that would avoid ozone loss. Calcite is a particle that is found in abundance on Earth’s crust.

 “Calcite aerosol geoengineering may cool the planet while simultaneously repairing the ozone layer," Authors wrote in the study.

"Although solar geoengineering cannot substitute for emissions cuts, it may supplement them by reducing some of the risks of climate change. Further research on this and similar methods could lead to reductions in risks and improved efficacy of solar geoengineering methods.”

 

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.

 

 

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