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Edit Earth Literally: Aerosol and Solar Geoengineering to Solve Ozone Damage

Dec 15, 2016 08:19 AM EST
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Limiting the effects of global warming has taken a toll on a number of industries around the world. It remains one of the challenges the world is facing today. So some scientists have a risky plan: geoengineering.

Solar geoengineering is remarkable simple, yet very complicated. It involves sending chemicals that have a cooling effect into the stratosphere, and in doing so, it may reflect sunlight into space than warm the planet.

According to Harvard University, a lot of proposals involve the use of sulfur as it has a "global cooling" related to volcanic eruptions. It can be remembered that explosive eruptions can send sulfur dioxide into the air, and this reflects sunlight away. 

Scientists suggest the use of sulfuric acid into the atmosphere to create this effect. However, this has the potential to strip out the ozone layer and leave us potentially vulnerable to far worse situations. For instance, ultraviolet light can increase the chances of eye and skin cancer.

Now, scientists from Harvard University have suggested finding a chemical that not only reflects sunlight and shields the ozone but also repairs it. 

David Keith, the paper's first author, said that the research looks at different particles that can be used for solar engineering and figured aerosols are highly reactive and more suitable. To stop sulfuric acid from harming the ozone layer, we need to use particles that would neutralize sulfuric, nitric, and hydrochloric acid on the surface.

Frank Keutsch, a co-author of the study, added that the research ends up making an antacid for the stratosphere. This means every time we introduce even initially unreactive surfaces, we get reactions that ultimately destroy the ozone. Instead of trying to minimize the aerosol's reactivity, they want a material both reactive but still avoids causing damage.

The initially used a model and saw that calcite, from limestone, can not only prevent ozone loss but also reflect sunlight and cool down their model. It's one of the most common compounds in the Earth's crust.

However, they are not advocating solar geoengineering as a means to stop global warming -- yet. Stratospheric chemistry appears to be complicated and not all aspects of solar geoengineering can be immediately understood. Keith added there are ways this approach can increase global ozone but may increase the ozone hole at the same time. 

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