It’s that time of the year again; as the temperatures start to drop and the leaves change colors, winter’s arrival seems imminent. Recently, new winter predictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration stated that much of the U.S. could expect a milder and drier winter. For regions such as the northern part of the Midwest, however, winter weather will most likely be colder and wetter. This warmer trend can be attributed to the La Niña climate pattern which shifts global weather patterns, making some areas warmer and others cooler. This prediction of warmer temperatures might seem like welcome news for us. After all, who wants to walk across campus in freezing temperatures? However, this news should cause some concern. Of the past twelve months, eleven of them have been the warmest on record. Many experts agree that 2016 will be the warmest year yet. What’s even more concerning is that fifteen of the sixteen warmest years have occurred since 2000. Future predictions aren’t looking very good either. An increase of up to seven degrees Fahrenheit is expected if current rates continue. This could spell disaster for many people as sea levels will rise and severe weather will become more prominent and frequent. In order to solve these climate issues, we may have to turn to geo-engineering.
Geo-engineering is the large scale process of deliberately changing the earth’s climate to prevent the impacts of climate change. Two main aspects of geo-engineering include the removal of carbon dioxide from the environment, and the management of solar radiation hitting the earth. This can be achieved through different feats, such as reflecting the sun’s rays before they hit the earth, dispersing rocks in the ocean to reduce its acidity, and charring and burying biomass so that the carbon is locked in the soil and cannot be released into the atmosphere. Through these processes, global warming can be countered and temperatures could even be reduced.
Countering global warming using technology might seem a far reach; however, the field has been around for almost twenty years as a response to global warming. You may ask why geo-engineering isn’t implemented to a greater extent if it helps out the environment. Well, as with most things in life, geo-engineering comes with certain risks. These risks could potentially harm the environment to an even greater extent than if global warming was left alone. For example, once aerosols are sprayed into the atmosphere, they cannot be taken out. Cooling down water temperatures too much can have disastrous effects on wind and rainfall patterns. Since experiments carried out by scientists cannot be taken on a global scale, it may be very difficult to fully predict how we can change the earth’s atmosphere. Geo-engineering is an interesting area, and with the future of the earth’s climate at risk, we will have to make important decisions. Let’s hope that they are the right ones.