Solar geoengineering can help safeguard crop yields from climate change

New study uses NCAR-based crop model

Jun 9, 2021 - by Staff

As scientists explore ways to reduce the most damaging impacts of climate change, they are studying what would happen if particles were injected into the atmosphere to reflect incoming sunlight. This technique, known as solar geoengineering, would not be a fix-all for the far-reaching effects of greenhouse gases, and there are many uncertainties about how it would influence the climate system. However, it could be one of several strategies, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, to manage climate risks.

A new study led by the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, with a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) co-author, focused on a particularly important question about solar geoengineering: whether it could help safeguard agriculture. The authors found that it may be surprisingly effective in protecting crop yields from global warming.

The research team used the NCAR-based Community Land Model to simulate the crop response to changes in climate, concluding that solar geoengineering would have a strong cooling effect that could benefit global yields of maize, wheat, rice, and other vital crops. Although precipitation patterns may change, the cooling effect and high relative humidity would minimize the effects of water stress, according to the model simulations.

“It’s vital to know what we can expect from agricultural yields as the climate changes,” said NCAR scientist Danica Lombardozzi, a study co-author. “Solar geoengineering can’t restore our atmosphere to its natural state, but this study shows that it may be an important tool to help feed society if emissions of greenhouse gases continue.”

The study, “Solar geoengineering can alleviate climate change pressures on crop yields,” was published last month in Nature Food. For more about it, see the Harvard article. For more about solar geoengineering, see the new study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.


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