Facebook co-founder Moskovitz funds research into cooling the Earth with sunlight reflection

This photo taken on May 11, 2022 shows Shivaram, a villager walking through the broken bottom of a dried up pond on a hot summer day in Bandai village of Pali district. – Every day, dozens of villagers, mostly women and children, wait for a special train with blue plastic jerry cans and metal pots that are precious to people suffering from heat waves in India’s desert state of Rajasthan. Brings water.

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Scientists in Africa, Asia and South America are getting a new infusion of $900,000 to study the effects of sunlight reflection to cool the Earth and reduce the effects of global warming. The money comes from Open Philanthropy, which is primarily funded by billionaire co-founder Dustin Moskowitz. Facebook And Asanaand his wife, Carrie Tuna.

Reflecting sunlight involves releasing aerosols such as sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, temporarily reducing global warming. (This is sometimes called solar radiation modification or solar geoengineering.)

The idea has been around for decades, but is being taken more seriously as the effects of climate change become more apparent. Although volcanic eruptions have shown that the technique can work, there are also significant risks, including damage to the ozone layer, acid rain and increased respiratory disease.

On Tuesday, the nonprofit research organization The Degrees Initiative and the UN’s World Academy of Sciences announced that they will award $900,000 to scientists in Africa, Asia and South America to study changes in solar radiation in a program called “The Degrees Modeling Fund.” Distributing more than Co-founder Andy Parker told CNBC that the Degrees Initiative has been funded by a variety of donors over the years, but the largest is Open Philanthropy, and all of the $900,000 distribution announced Tuesday went to that group. came from

The money will go to 81 scientists from Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand and Uganda who are working on 15 solar geoengineering modeling projects.

Lesser of two bad choices, similar to chemotherapy

Sunlight reflection is gaining more attention as scientists begin to suggest that its negative effects may not be as bad as future climate change damage. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is coordinating a 5-year research plan into solar geoengineering and, in January, Quadrennial UN-supported Montreal Protocol Assessment Report An entire chapter addressing stratospheric aerosol injection is included for the first time.

“Like any other savant, when I first heard about the idea of ​​blocking the sun, I thought it was a terrible idea. As time went on, the approach made no sense,” Parker told CNBC. Not changed, it’s a terrible idea,” Parker told CNBC. . “But it may be less scary than not using it and allowing temperatures to rise if we don’t cut our emissions enough.”

I liken this decision to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy to treat cancer is also a scary thought. It is very dangerous. This is unpleasant. This is dangerous. And no one would consider doing that unless they feared the alternative could be worse. And so it goes for solar geoengineering.

Andy Parker

CEO of Degree Initiative

Reflecting sunlight is not the solution to climate change or global warming. This is a relatively quick and inexpensive way to cool the earth temporarily. We know it works: In the 15 months after Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, average global temperatures were about 1 degree Fahrenheit lower, according to NASA. The release of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere from retrofitted airplanes would essentially mimic the way a volcano releases large amounts of aerosol into the atmosphere.

“It’s not a pleasant idea. It’s not a fun thing to work on. But it’s potentially important, it can be very, very helpful, it can be devastating,” Stone told CNBC.

“I liken this decision to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy to treat cancer is a terrible idea. It’s very dangerous. It’s unpleasant. It’s dangerous. And no one would consider doing it until then. Unless he’s worried the alternative might be worse. Solar geoengineering,” Stone said.

Before starting The Degrees Initiative, Stone prepared a 98-page report on geoengineering for The Royal Society, an independent UK science academy, and has conducted research at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies Potsdam.

On June 12, 1991, a large volcanic mushroom cloud erupted about 20 kilometers above Mount Pinatubo above the nearly deserted US Clark Air Base, followed by another powerful explosion. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo on June 15, 1991 was the second largest volcanic eruption of the twentieth century.

Arlan Nagy | AFP | Getty Images

Ensuring the most vulnerable countries

One of Stone’s goals with the Degree Initiative is to ensure that scientists from developing countries in the Global South are part of the international conversation about sunlight reflection, he told CNBC.

“If it can work well to mitigate the effects of climate change, then they will benefit the most because they are on the front lines of global warming,” Stone said. “If, on the other hand, it goes all wrong and has nasty side effects, or perhaps is rejected prematurely, when it could have helped, developing countries suffer the most. Had to pick it up.”

But without philanthropic donations, research and decisions about solar geoengineering will be largely relegated to parts of the world that can afford it, such as North America, the European Union and Japan, Stone said.

The $900,000 announced Tuesday is the second round of this type of funding. In 2018, the Degrees Modeling Fund distributed $900,000 to 11 projects in Argentina, Bangladesh, Benin, Indonesia, Iran, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Kenya, the Philippines and South Africa.

The money comes in grants of up to $75,000, with $60,000 for salaries and $15,000 for tools the local research team will need, Stone told CNBC. Each scientific team must propose its proposal in its application for grant money, Stone said. But broadly, each team’s job is to use computer models to predict the weather and effects of sunlight in their local area, with and without reflections.

“By comparing the two, they can begin to generate evidence that changes in solar irradiance can affect locally important objects,” Stone said.

Scientists who have done their work through the Degrees Modeling Fund recently held a research planning workshop for old and new teams in Istanbul.

Photo courtesy of Andy Stone, CEO of The Degrees Initiative.

Investigation of water cycles in the La Plata Basin

Professor Ines Camelloni of the University of Buenos Aires has received two Degree Initiative Grants and is also receiving funding from the Government of Argentina. With this funding, Camaloni is researching how changes in solar radiation will affect the hydroclimate of the La Plata Basin, the world’s fifth largest water basin, which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and parts of Uruguay are included, he told CNBC.

“A large proportion of economic activity within the basin depends on the availability of water, including agriculture, river navigability and hydroelectric production, and therefore any change in the basin’s water cycle will affect the economy of each country. can have significant effects,” Camelloni said. CNBC.

Professor Innes Camelloni speaks at the 2022 Paris Peace Forum.

Photo courtesy of The Degrees Initiative

Camloni says his research so far has shown that sunlight reflection can be helpful for some parts of the La Plata Basin region, but particularly harmful for others. Larger rivers that power hydroelectric dams may see higher flows and increased energy production, balanced by the risk of further flooding.

In Buenos Aires, awareness of sunlight reflections has grown over the past two years, and has sparked strong emotions.

“The feelings that come from changes in solar irradiance range from disbelief to fear. Everyone finds it controversial,” Camelloni told CNBC.

Clear communication is important, because even research advocates don’t see climate change as a silver bullet.

“It’s not anybody’s Plan A for how you deal with climate risk, and no matter what, we have to reduce our emissions,” Stone told CNBC. “But people are finally starting to seriously address the question: What do we do if we don’t do enough with emissions reductions, if they prove insufficient to avoid the most dangerous climate change? Our What are the options? And that makes people sad. But necessarily, thinking about things like solar radiation modification.”

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