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As the Biden-Harris administration advances an all-of-government approach to the worsening climate crisis, we need to acknowledge that not all proposed climate solutions should be advanced. Solar geoengineering, a controversial proposed set of technologies that could potentially cool the planet by reflecting incoming sunlight back to space, used to be on the fringes of climate policy.

But with the recent release of a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) that recommends hundreds of millions of dollars be invested to establish a U.S. solar geoengineering research program, this dangerous approach is now being more seriously considered by some decision-makers. The U.S. government should not support solar geoengineering research, because advancing this climate intervention increases, rather than decreases, risks to humanity by distracting from and avoiding necessary systemic changes and enabling control of the climate system to rest in the hands of a few wealthy governments and other global elites.

The most popular solar geoengineering approach, known as Stratospheric Aerosol Injection (SAI), could potentially cool the planet quite quickly via modified, military-style aircraft that continually spray megatons of sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere to reflect some incoming sunlight back to space. To reduce the global temperature, this process would have to continue indefinitely at an estimated cost of about $18 billion per year per degree Celsius of cooling.


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