Blotting Out Sun May Soon Be Banned

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Blotting out the sun has been the dream of many arch-villains, including The Simpson’s Mr. Burns. Their schemes may soon be foiled by the United Nations’ Convention on Biological Diversity.

Super villains aren’t the only ones who want to shade the Earth from the sun. Blocking some of the sun’s rays could slow climate change by reducing the amount of sunlight warming the Earth, say some researchers, such as Roger Angel of the University of Arizona.

The Convention may consider banning or limiting research into space sunshades. Some question their wisdom. A space sunshade would have a rapid effect on global warming and provide time to develop more permanent measures, they say. The technique has already received serious attention from NASA and other organizations.

But others, such as the ETC group, an environmental and social advocacy group, fear simply blocking the sun is a bandage, meant to cover up the problem, and allow humans to continue using fossils fuels. Another fear is that geoengineering, as techniques like this are called, could have unforeseen consequences on the weather, ecosystem and agriculture.

Past regulations by the Convention have proven controversial. A decision in 2008 limited the use of iron to fertilize the ocean to cause carbon dioxide absorbing algae blooms. When the algae die they carry the carbon to a watery grave at the bottom of the ocean. The Convention decided to limit the technique until more research was completed.

Can geoengineering really be a long term solution to climate change? It seems UN officials instead advocate working with the forces of nature, not bending them to allow us to keep our fossil fuel addiction.

PHOTO: Drawing of a single sunshade in space. credit: Wikimedia Commons