Block the sun, save the planet?

Block the sun, save the planet?

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The downtown area of New Orleans is seen at sunset near the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico on April 28, 2010.

The downtown area of New Orleans is seen at sunset near the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico. | Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Blocking the sun’s rays to limit global warming has long been considered too dangerous to even study.

But 60 top scientists are breaking from their colleagues and calling for research into what they call solar radiation modification, writes POLITICO’s E&E News reporter Corbin Hiar. The method involves spraying aerosol particles into the atmosphere that would reflect sunlight away from the Earth, thereby slowing warming.

The group includes former NASA director James Hansen, who first warned Congress about the dangers of climate change in 1988.

In an open letter published Monday, the scientists make clear that they are not supporting the method as a climate change fix, but rather arguing for more studies and field experiments to assess its viability. After all, cutting planet-warming pollution alone is no longer sufficient, they say.

“While reducing emissions is crucial, no level of reduction undertaken now can reverse the warming effect of past and present greenhouse gas emissions,” write the scientists, led by Sarah Doherty, an atmospheric sciences professor at the University of Washington.

They call for a “rigorous, rapid scientific assessment” of how the technology would work and its potential downsides.

Advocates of climate action, including many scientists, have long worried that advancing fledgling geoengineering techniques like sucking carbon from the atmosphere or blocking the sun’s rays could distract from enacting tough policies to curb carbon pollution.

But as heat waves, wildfires, floods and other climate-fueled disasters are growing more common and severe, some scientists and policymakers are exploring last-ditch efforts to cool the planet before rising temperatures trigger catastrophic, irreversible changes to ice sheets, ecosystems and vulnerable communities.

Not everyone agrees that’s a good idea. Last year, a separate group of researchers penned a letter — which now has more than 370 signatures from scientists in over 50 countries — calling for an international agreement to ban solar geoengineering and related state-sponsored research.

The researchers argue that the technology risks becoming a “powerful argument for industry lobbyists, climate denialists, and some governments” to delay cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

They also say that coordinating a global agreement on how, when and where the technology should be used would be a geopolitical nightmare. Without a democratic and equitable framework, countries with the knowledge, resources and influence could end up calling all the shots.

The disagreement within the scientific community underscores the high-stakes nature of the climate crisis: The world needs to stop producing planet-warming pollution. And that’s just not happening fast enough.

It’s Monday thank you for tuning in to POLITICO’s Power Switch. I’m your host, Arianna Skibell. Power Switch is brought to you by the journalists behind E&E News and POLITICO Energy. Send your tips, comments, questions to [email protected]

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Today in POLITICO Energy’s podcast: Tanya Snyder breaks down why the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, has led to partisan finger-pointing, and how the Transportation Department might be scrutinized in the future.

Power Centers

President Joe Biden takes a photo with workers after delivering remarks on his economic agenda at LIUNA Training Center, Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2023, in DeForest, Wis. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

President Joe Biden takes a photo with workers at the LIUNA training center in DeForest, Wis. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

Labor shortage
President Joe Biden has been traveling the country to tout the job creation boom his billions of dollars in clean energy spending will bring, writes Zack Colman.

But the cutting-edge companies he’s promoting face a struggle: hiring enough people to fill those jobs.

GOP energy package
House Republicans are advancing numerous bills to boost their sweeping energy and project permitting package, which they hope to bring to the floor for a vote by the end of March, writes Emma Dumain.

It will be the first legislative product of the GOP’s new majority to come from multiple committees — in a policy arena the party campaigned on in the 2022 midterms.

Power line problems
The Energy Department released a draft report on Friday spelling out how the country can build long-distance power lines to carry more wind and solar power to cities, write Peter Behr and Miranda Willson.

But not all U.S. grid operators are sold on the plan, which includes more coordination between regional grids — an energy policy issue with a politically fraught past.

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Framed by the Manhattan skyline electricians with IBEW Local 3 install solar panels on top of the Terminal B garage at LaGuardia Airport, Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Pin

IBEW workers install solar panels on top of LaGuardia Airport in New York. | Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

Job switch: As oil companies stay lean, more workers are moving to the renewable energy sector.

Sifting through: There’s no shortage of climate solutions — here’s how to tell which ones are legitimate.

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Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot turbines. Pin

A spinning turbine from Dominion Energy Inc.’s pilot offshore wind project off the coast of Virginia Beach. | Francis Chung/E&E News

The National Congress of American Indians is urging the Biden administration to halt offshore wind development until it works more closely with tribes.

The Energy Department announced a conditional $375 million loan for the construction of a first-of-its-kind lithium-ion battery recycling facility in North America.

South Florida is one of the few places in the U.S. that are expected to see less destruction as climate change steers hurricanes farther north and intensifies their winds.

That’s it for today, folks! Thanks for reading.

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