The Download: solar geoengineering’s rocky road, and Apple’s driverless ambitions


—David W. Keith, founding director of the Climate Systems Engineering initiative at the University of Chicago, and Wake Smith, lecturer at the Yale School of Environment and researcher at the Harvard Kennedy School.

For half a century, climatologists have considered the possibility of injecting small particles into the stratosphere to counteract certain aspects of climate change. The idea is that by reflecting a small fraction of sunlight back into space, these particles could partially offset the energy imbalance caused by the buildup of carbon dioxide, thereby reducing warming as well as extreme storms and many other climate risks.

Cooling the planet with this form of solar geoengineering, called stratospheric aerosol injection, would require a specially designed fleet of high-altitude aircraft, which could take decades to assemble. This long delay encourages policymakers to ignore difficult decisions about regulating its deployment.

Such complacency is unwise. Our analysis suggests that a country could potentially launch a small-scale solar geoengineering deployment in as little as five years, which would produce unmistakable changes in the composition of the stratosphere.

If we are right, policymakers may need to tackle solar geoengineering—its promise, its disruptive potential, and its profound challenges to global governance—sooner than is commonly thought. Read the full story.

If you want to learn more about solar geoengineering, take a look at:

+ A startup claims to have started releasing particles into the atmosphere, with the aim of changing the climate. Make Sunsets attempted to generate revenue through geoengineering in 2022. Read the full story.

+ The Faulty Logic of Rushing Extreme Climate Interventions. Venturing too quickly into controversial territory can trigger negative reactions that block research and limit our options. Read the full story.



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