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UN to Geoengineers: Don’t Blot Out the Sun

Geoengineering — deliberate manipulation of the Earth’s climate — is a controversial topic, and for good reason. Climate-altering schemes could slow global temperatures from rising, but nobody really knows what effects they will have in the long-run. Now we may never get to find out. The UN is considering a ban on research into space sunshades, which cut down on the amount of sunlight that heats up the earth, potentially slowing down climate change.

This wouldn’t be the first time that the UN has limited geoengineering research, according to Discovery News. In 2008, the organization limited the use of iron in ocean fertilization–a scheme that causes algae to carry carbon dioxide to the bottom of the ocean–on the grounds that not enough research has been done to assure safety.

It could be argued, of course, that it will be too late to do anything by the time researchers can tell us whether it’s safe to use sunshades and iron in the ocean. Ultimately, geoengineering may just be a band-aid on an inevitable warming process.

Still, we don’t know the consequences of our centuries-long experiment of dumping pollutants into our oceans, air, and soil. Why not launch a few climate-altering experiments that actually have the potential to do some good? Especially ones like sunshades, which can at least be reversed — unlike sowing the ocean with iron filings.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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