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How Engineering the Climate Could Mess With Our Food

Solar shading, which comes with geoengineering, would negatively affect crops

On June 15, 1991, Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines blew its top in an eruption of staggering proportions. It sent an ash cloud 28 miles high, filling surrounding valleys with deposits 660 feet thick and destroying almost every bridge within 18 miles. More than 800 people lost their lives.

The volcano also ended up affecting humans all over the world. Its aerosols circled the Earth, reducing direct sunlight by 21 percent. Which got scientists thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could fight global climate change by reproducing this process, spraying our own aerosols in the stratosphere to bounce light back into space and cool off the Earth? It’s known as geoengineering, specifically “solar radiation management,” and while it sounds a bit bonkers, researchers are seriously studying the possibility of such a drastic campaign—including potential effects on everything from hurricanes to ecosystems.

Today in the journal Nature, scientists look back at the eruptions of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 and Mexico’s El Chichón in 1982 to give us a glimpse at how geoengineering might affect another critical global system: agriculture. Good news is, their findings suggest the technique would bring down soaring global temperatures, which would help avoid heat-stressing crops. Bad news is, the solar shading that would come with geoengineering would negatively affect crops, likely wiping out the gains from lower temperatures.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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