S H B Shuvro
Despite being one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, Bangladesh still has not been able to incorporate adequate research on how the consequences of climate changes should be dealt with in near future. In this regard, it is good to note that scientists from icddr,b collaborating with the scientists of seven other developing countries have integrated a pioneering research to comprehend how solar radiation management (SRM) geo-engineering can reduce the risks of climate change by reflecting sunlight away from the Earth. As reported by this daily this project is the first endeavour of the country to address how the consequences of climate change can be controlled efficiently through occupying solar geo-engineering.
Geo-engineering refers to large-scale schemes designed to tackle the impacts of climate change by removing CO2 from the air or restraining the amount of the sunlight reaching the planet’s surface. Although large-scale geo-engineering is still at the concept stage, experts claim it will be an important tool to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. Once, the notion of dimming the sun through engineering was limited to the realm of science fiction. But scientists across the globe are now endeavouring towards engineering the climate to avert the worst impacts of global warming.
It is envisaged that after 20 years from now on, the Earth will get 1.5 degree Celsius warmer on an average than before the start of the Industrial Revolution. Summer will be synonymous with extreme heat waves and violent floods will be regular phenomenon. To mitigate such catastrophe the planet should go for large-scale solar geo-engineering which has the potential to dim the sun and cut global greenhouse emissions. Scientists agree that cutting global greenhouse emissions will be the key to combat global warming. In order to tackle the intensifying global emissions, we should conduct further research on the use of solar geo-engineering technologies.
The notion of geo-engineering is debatable. It is envisaged that geo-engineering can be an easy solution to global warming as it has the potential to reduce the swelling emissions. On the other hand, research shows that the notion of geo-engineering can pose inadvertent consequences. In October last year, more than 100 civil society groups across the globe condemned geo-engineering as “dangerous, unnecessary and unjust”. Experts opine that cooling the Earth by injecting sun-blocking particles into the stratosphere would not be cost-efficient. The costs of compensating for droughts, floods and food shortages that geo-engineering might cause would be much larger than the engineering costs. Also blocking sunlight does not address other problems caused by global warming. On the other hand, many scientists say not conducting geo-engineering research would be even more dangerous, because climate change may become so bad that we feel compelled to deploy it despite not knowing its consequences.
Geo-engineering has received global attention over the last couple of years. But most of the research and discussion of SRM has taken place in developed countries. This is for the first time Bangladesh is conducting research on geo-engineering. It is expected that the new research initiative will develop computer modelling and simulation in order to understand how geo-engineering could have an effect on climate and health. Although malaria is mostly confined to the tropics, recent research has found that the disease transmits best at cooler temperatures. If use of SRM were to overcool the tropics, that might make malaria worse. Alternatively, if SRM can reduce heat-waves and flooding, it could reduce the incidence of cholera outbreaks.
Considering all above, we envisage that this ground-breaking project will help the country to tackle climate change more efficiently than any time in the past. Further research should be conducted on solar geo-engineering and in this regard support from governments, universities and civil society will be crucial. Research funders in advanced economies should fund collaborations with scientists in developing countries. As solar geo-engineering poses dangerous side effects there is a need for addressing the risks and benefits of solar geo-engineering more widely. A coordinated global research scheme is needed to promote SRM geo-engineering as a tool for reducing the risks of climate change. As Bangladesh has conducted its first ever geo-engineering research project, we expect it will open up a new window for a wider conversation about SRM research and its governance in Bangladesh.
S H B Shuvro is a member of the editorial team, Bangladesh Post