In a truly radical plan to stop severe drought, South Africa is looking at a way to permanently dim the sun. Yes, you read that correctly.
Researchers from the University of Cape Town have recently published a new paper in the Environmental Research Letters. The paper proposes that reflective particles launched into the atmosphere could dim the sun’s power and help reduce drought.
Why does SouthAfrica need to dim the sun?
While putting a dimmer on the sun may seem nice on a hot summer day, Cape Town has very real need of it.
This new plan is an attempt to prevent a ‘Day Zero’ drought event, which experts have been forecasting to hit Cape Town in South Africa for some time.
A Day Zero drought would leave Cape Town at the scientific point of not having enough water for everyone. The paper explains that Cape Town has avoided this situation so far through the use of drastic water restrictions. But the event is still a probability thanks to climate change.
This solution proposes geoengineering by using stratospheric aerosols injection, aka launching chemicals into the sky.
The plan involves injecting sulphur dioxide particles into the atmosphere above Cape Town. The gas would then form a cloud to reflect sunlight and filter less light to the surface, effectively blocking the harshness of the sun.
The research suggests if this plan were to be successful, it could reduce the chances of a Day Zero drought by 90%.
What are the risks?
Of course, there are still many risks to consider before it can be approved. The researchers outlined that this plan won’t work in just any situation. A change of location, model or deployment method could produce vastly different results. They also stressed that this suggestion should not be seen as an alternative to cutting greenhouse gases.
The plan has been viewed as quite controversial. According to the New York Post, experts have said that injecting gases into the atmosphere to curb climate change could cause “potentially dangerous interference with the climate system.”
Science Times even warns this idea could incite a potential war. The decision to geoengineer particles to be launched into the atmosphere is something that all nations would need to have input on. And getting everyone to agree is even less likely.
But South Africa’s Day Zero drought is a very real problem. Whether it sounds like a sci-fi plot or not, radical suggestions like this may be needed to avoid a cataclysmic event.