Potential ecological impacts of climate intervention by reflecting sunlight to cool Earth

Phoebe L. Zarnetske, Jessica Gurevitch, Janet Franklin, Peter M. Groffman, Cheryl S. Harrison, Jessica J. Hellmann, Forrest M. Hoffman, Shan Kothari, Alan Robock, Simone Tilmes, Daniele Visioni, Jin Wu, Lili Xia, Cheng En Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

As the effects of anthropogenic climate change become more severe, several approaches for deliberate climate intervention to reduce or stabilize Earth's surface temperature have been proposed. Solar radiation modification (SRM) is one potential approach to partially counteract anthropogenic warming by reflecting a small proportion of the incoming solar radiation to increase Earth's albedo. While climate science research has focused on the predicted climate effects of SRM, almost no studies have investigated the impacts that SRM would have on ecological systems. The impacts and risks posed by SRM would vary by implementation scenario, anthropogenic climate effects, geographic region, and by ecosystem, community, population, and organism. Complex interactions among Earth's climate system and living systems would further affect SRM impacts and risks. We focus here on stratospheric aerosol intervention (SAI), a well-studied and relatively feasible SRM scheme that is likely to have a large impact on Earth's surface temperature. We outline current gaps in knowledge about both helpful and harmful predicted effects of SAI on ecological systems. Desired ecological outcomes might also inform development of future SAI implementation scenarios. In addition to filling these knowledge gaps, increased collaboration between ecologists and climate scientists would identify a common set of SAI research goals and improve the communication about potential SAI impacts and risks with the public. Without this collaboration, forecasts of SAI impacts will overlook potential effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services for humanity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1921854118
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume118
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 13 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

Keywords

  • Anthropogenic climate change
  • Ecosystem biodiversity
  • Solar radiation modification
  • Stratospheric aerosol intervention

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