Solar Radiation Modification: Maybe The Best We Can Hope For?

Illustration different solar climate intervention techniques

“The White House,” Politico reports,  “offered measured support for the idea of studying how to block sunlight from hitting Earth’s surface as a way to limit global warming …”

Such geoengineering solutions to “global warming” might range from injecting sulfates into the upper atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space (as happens naturally with large volcanic eruptions) to placing gigantic  “sunshades” at key points in space.

Eyebrows, naturally, rose.

While suggesting that there are only two sides to the “climate change debate” is an over-simplification, there seem to be two MAJOR sides to that debate, both opposing “solar radiation modification” on principle.

Side A: The typical “environmentalist,” who believes that human activity is responsible for an undue warming trend that will ultimately lead to catastrophic results for both humanity and other species if something isn’t done.

Side B: The typical “climate skeptic,”  who believes that the warming isn’t happening, or that the warming is a natural cycle not caused by human activity, or even that the warming is a good thing that will, for example, increase the amount of arable land in areas currently too cold for farming.

It’s pretty obvious why Side B isn’t interested in engineering solutions for reducing the amount of sunlight hitting the planet’s surface and warming it. If it’s not happening or is a good thing, why try to fix what ain’t broken (and  possibly end up  causing real damage by interfering with natural cycles)?

As for Side A, its loudest voices tend to share convictions above and beyond concern for the environment as such.  They’d be against the activities they blame for environmental damage whether those activities actually caused said damage or not. They don’t like people flying around in airplanes and driving gas-guzzlers, mega-corporations producing cheap goods in smog-belching factories, large farms producing  “monoculture” food  (as opposed to the multi-crop/multi-stock small farms of days past). They gear their environmental prescriptions toward changing an economic system they oppose (and, to be fair, most on Side B support). They don’t want  “environmental problems” solved in any way that doesn’t involve drastic deindustrialization, depopulation, and a command economy.

Then, of course, there’s me, on neither of those sides.

I suspect “anthropogenic global warming” is a thing.

I suspect it’s damaging/dangerous to humanity and other life forms.

As, for that matter, “natural cycles” can be.

I’d like to see something done about it.

But it’s not like we’ve been living in an anarchist society until just now, and suddenly need that new-fangled government invention to ride in and save the day.

We are where we are either because centuries of government got us here, or because centuries of government failed to prevent us from getting here. So why should we expect government to be either able, or inclined, to fix things?

But if it’s going to be a government thing, I’d prefer the most easily reversible/changeable government thing possible. So I guess put me down in lukewarm support of a giant, remote-control “sunshade” at Earth/Sun LaGrange Point L1.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter:@thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.