Solar geoengineering

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. predictable / prɪˈdɪk tə bəl / (adj) – happening or done in a way that’s obvious or easy to guess

    I didn’t like the movie because the story was very predictable.

  2. deny / dɪˈnaɪ / (v) – to refuse to accept or admit that something is true

    The senators denied their involvement in the scandal.

  3. last-ditch / ˈlæstˈdɪtʃ / (adj) – done in a final attempt to keep something bad from happening or to achieve something difficult

    The CEO took out a huge loan in a last-ditch effort to save his company.

  4. spew / spyu / (v) – to cause something to flow out quickly, forcefully, and in large amounts

    The volcano spewed ash and dust into the air.

  5. desperate / ˈdɛs pər ɪt / (adj) – having little or no hope

    The fishermen aboard the broken ship grew desperate as their food supplies slowly ran out.


Read the text below.

For decades, the climate conversation has been very predictable. Scientists warn we must cut carbon emissions or the planet will keep warming. But politicians — and voters — are reluctant to make big changes.

This is true even though the bad consequences of climate change are already with us — huge wildfires; typhoons becoming stronger. There’s still no taste for change.

Twenty years from now, that’s likely to stay the same. Some people will push for change, but many will deny the need for change or say it isn’t a top priority.

In the end, humanity will only have last-ditch solutions.

One last-ditch solution is solar engineering. Basically, we load airplanes with particles like calcium carbonate to spray into the atmosphere. The particles dim the sun’s rays, cooling the Earth. The advantage is that it would be fast. We know this because it has happened before: When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it spewed about 17 megatons of sun-dimming particles into the sky, cooling the global temperature by about 0.5 Celsius for around 18 months.

Now, a group of Harvard scientists wants to start a solar geoengineering program. They plan to launch a test balloon into the sky around June as a first step.

“There is a real potential, maybe a significant potential, to reduce the risks of climate change this century — by a lot,” David Keith, one of the lead scientists of the Harvard effort, told the journal Science last December.

Of course, there are disadvantages. Dimming the sun could reduce the amount of food farmers can grow and make solar panels less effective. But if we leave things too long, then the only options left for us will be desperate ones. (T)

This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

  • Do you think solar geoengineering is a good idea? Why or why not? Discuss.
  • Do you think we’ll be able to change the weather on other planets to make them better for humans in the near future? Why or why not? Discuss.

Discussion B

  • The author predicts that humanity will wait too long to act and have only last-ditch solutions to the climate crisis. In your opinion, why is it so hard for many people to address problems in a timely manner? Discuss.
  • How can people be motivated to immediately act before problems become too big? Why? Discuss.