(CN) – As nearly 200 nations continue to pursue different strategies to limit climate change under the United Nations’ Paris agreement – without U.S. involvement – new research suggests artificially cooling the planet by mimicking the effects of volcanic eruptions may do more harm than good.
This controversial approach to solar geoengineering – in which scientists intentionally manipulate the climate by artificially injecting aerosols into the atmosphere – could actually exacerbate global warming and trigger additional extreme weather events.
The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, specifically highlight how injecting aerosols into one hemisphere would reduce tropical cyclone activity – responsible for phenomena like Hurricane Katrina – in one half of the world, while also spurring a range of unintended consequences in the other.
For example, injecting aerosols in the Northern Hemisphere would decrease the number of hurricanes in the North Atlantic. While that may seem like a good thing given the particularly devastating hurricane season in 2017, the residents of sub-Saharan Africa would pay the price with increased drought, according to the study.
“Our results confirm that regional solar geoengineering is a highly risky strategy which could simultaneously benefit one region to the detriment of another,” said lead author Anthony Jones, a climate science expert at the University of Exeter. “It is vital that policymakers take solar geoengineering seriously and act swiftly to install effective regulation.”
Injecting aerosols in the Southern Hemisphere, on the other hand, could potentially enhance the frequency of North Atlantic tropical cyclone activity.
Due to the severity of these unintended climate consequences, the team recommends that policymakers across the world strictly regulate any large-scale, unilateral solar geoengineering programs.