As researchers’ warnings about the consequences of climate change get more dire, some scientists and politicians are suggesting we do more than just curb our greenhouse-gas emissions — they want to hack our climate.
The technical term for this is geoengineering.
The concept evokes fantastical images of weather-controlling satellites, giant space mirrors, and carbon-sucking tubes. But some techniques for modifying Earth’s atmosphere aren’t in the realm of fantasy.
In fact, discussions about manipulating the atmosphere to cool the planet are growing increasingly mainstream. Climeworks, a company that captures carbon dioxide from the air, opened its first commercial plant in Switzerland in 2017. Y Combinator, Silicon Valley’s largest incubator, has requested proposals from geoengineering-focused start-ups. And some political candidates, including presidential hopeful Andrew Yang, think the US needs to beat other countries to these technologies.
But other experts are less than convinced that these planet hacks are a good idea.
“The side effects may be almost as bad as the disease you’re trying to cure,” author and environmental activist Bill McKibben told Business Insider. What’s more, McKibben said, geoengineering does little to address other problems that arise from greenhouse-gas emissions, such as ocean acidification.
Here are 11 potential geoengineering methods that have been proposed so far.