OSLO, Jan 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Johnson’s science advisors urged research into reflecting sunlight to keep the Earth cool amid projections of an alarming build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere as a result of burning fossil fuels.
Almost six decades later, “solar geoengineering” research has made scant headway.
It attracts less than 1% of climate science budgets, amid fears that tampering with the global thermostat could produce unexpected consequences - and distract from an overriding need for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
But governments are facing ever starker choices as global warming creeps towards 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) - a threshold set in the 2015 Paris Agreement, agreed by about 200 countries, to avert ever more damaging floods, droughts, wildfires and melting ice.
Such impacts are already surging with temperatures now just 1.1C above pre-industrial levels.
Last year, opposition from indigenous peoples forced the cancellation of an early, high-profile outdoor test of solar geoengineering technology by Harvard University.
The planned balloon flight over Sweden was designed as a first step toward releasing tiny reflective particles 20 km high in the atmosphere, to see if they could form a planetary haze mimicking a volcanic eruption.