Changing Planet

Why Geoengineering Won’t Work Forever

As the climate continues to change and humans are implicated as the cause, the one major back up plan has been geoengineering—somehow devising a way to reduce the impacts of a warming world. Avoiding it al together would be the simplest response, just by turning down the world’s furnace. Collectively we burn some 83 million barrels of oil each day, not to mention coal and natural gas, production of which are sharply increasing. But as the will remains elusive to get the biggest polluters to agree to knock it off, environmental advocates have started to consider Plan B—geoengineering—the new Plan A.

The leading method is known as stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) and effectively shoots particles into the stratosphere that act as tiny mirrors. They reflect sunlight back into space, keeping heat out before it can warm the Earth. As long as there are particles in the stratosphere, we on Earth can burn fossil fuels for hundreds of years (or until they simply run out). It’s not a terrible idea. Being told you can still pollute and emit without consequences is like being told that you can eat nothing but junk food and avoid exercise and still not get fat. It sounds great, but it comes with a nagging feeling that it’s probably not sustainable.

Impact of stopping geoengineering
Excerpt from Double Catastrophe report, Global Catastrophic Risk Institute.

Indeed it isn’t. A new paper from the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute looks at the long term demands of SAI engineering. Everything’s fine as long as you keep injecting particles. But the moment you stop, the particles start to settle back to earth and the planet would see drastic warming—much faster than on the gradual path we’re on. A global catastrophe like a health pandemic, world war, or, god forbid, an asteroid strike, could cripple humanity’s ability to keep injecting particles upward. The sudden and dramatic warming of the planet would provide a quick second punch when the world is already on its knees. It’s not a very uplifting thought, yet it does underscore the truism that you can never truly Scotch-tape your problems away. When you’ve been eating too much junk food, the most effectively strategy is always frustratingly simple: change your habits.

  • Steve Putnam

    Like “Plan A” hasn’t been going on for decades now. Look up at your sky and test your rain, snow, soil. It is already happening. The way you describe this makes it seem like particles would stay in the atmosphere forever if you just kept on spraying. Gravity doesnt work like that, im sorry. Particles will fall down no matter how long you keep spraying. And they continue to do so, today. There shouldn’t be Aluminum, Barium, Arsenic, Manganese, Stronitum falling down in my rain, or floating around in my air. WAKE UP

  • Steve Putnam

    SAG (stratospheric aerosol geo-engineering) works to cool the planet during the day, as it reflects sunlight back to space BUT it acts like a blanket during the night, making the long-term effects worse for warming the planet. Again, this is already happening on a huge scale. Geo-engineering research has existed since the 40s…this is nothing new. The current warming of the planet is due to 60+ of geo-engineering….both privately funded and state funded, today.

  • Max Mogren

    “Everything’s fine as long as you keep injecting particles. But the moment you stop, the particles start to settle back to earth and the planet would see drastic warming”. If you have to keep spraying continuously to keep enough particles aloft the particles must be continuously falling out of the sky. What are the environmental and human health impact of all those tiny particles in the air we breathe and the water we drink? We should all be doing more research on this topic.

  • Gray Squirrel

    That’s 83 million not billion.

  • Seth Baum

    Max Mogren – That’s a good question. Fortunately, however, the particles all drift towards the poles and fall out there. So, we wouldn’t be breathing them. Also, as I understand it, the quantity of particles needed to lower temperatures would not be enough to cause health problems, even if they fell out where we live.

  • Evan Conscience

    Seth said, “Fortunately, however, the particles all drift towards the poles and fall out there. So, we wouldn’t be breathing them. Also, as I understand it, the quantity of particles needed to lower temperatures would not be enough to cause health problems, even if they fell out where we live.”

    Oh my goodness! Particles drift toward the poles? If you are the Seth Baum that co-authored this study, you need to review and talk to people outside your bubble of influences and ideas.

    Retired USDA Biologist Francis Mangels on Geoengineering –

    Geoengineering: Destroying the Atmosphere – Rosalind Peterson –

  • Pat

    7 billion of us , a three a day , we can do it !

  • Aaron

    how about mentioning just how toxic and harmful these geo-engineering materials are, and talk about how they’ve already been used since the 30s, and are have been in regular use since the 80s and 90s? Geo-engineering is not some thing that we are transitioning into. Its here, and its been here for most of our lives in the usa. look up the documentaries “aerosol crimes” ,”what in the world are they spreaying” and “why in the world are they spraying”.

  • Sucahyo

    SAI create problem than to solve it.

    Scientist of avionic see reflective particle in stratosphere as what increase warming, also deplete ozone, create acid rain and induce drought:
    Particles of sulfate, formed by burning sulfur-laden jet fuel, act like tiny mirrors that scatter solar radiation back into space. When sulfur is removed from the fuel, warming occurs but it’s offset by the cooling effect of nitrate that forms from nitrogen oxides in jet exhaust. The result is that desulfurization of jet fuel has a small, net cooling effect. In 2006 the United States introduced an ultralow sulfur standard for highway diesel, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is interested in desulfurized jet fuel for its potential to improve air quality around airports. Aircraft exhaust particles lodge in the lungs and cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness. In 2006 there were more than 31 million flights across the globe, according to an FAA emissions inventory.

    “It’s a win-win situation, because the sulfate can be taken out of the fuel to improve air quality around airports and, at the same time, it’s not going to have a detrimental impact on global warming,” she said. Unger also ran a simulation of aviation emissions at the Earth’s surface and found that the climate impact is four times greater because the emissions occur at altitude in the upper atmosphere. “The chemical production of ozone is greater in the upper troposphere and its radiative efficiency is greater,” she said. “It’s a stronger greenhouse gas when it’s higher up in the troposphere, which is exactly where aviation is making it.”

  • dave rogers

    Quite concerning that the article doesn’t mention just what the spray consists of. It also doesn’t address the fact that this process was undertaken without anyones knowledge. You must really wonder how dire the circumstances must be for the govt to undertake such a MASSIVE program, environmentally, logistically, financially ect ect… and yet NO one knows chemtrails even exist. WOW>

  • Max Mogren

    @Seth Baum: the notion that particles will drift to the pole and fall out there sounds absolutely absurd. I’ve studied this issue for two years and have never heard ANYONE on either side of the issue claim such a thing. You’re going to have to provide a source to back a statement like that up. As is clearly present in the historical record of volcanic particulates, atmospheric particulates don’t magically migrate to the poles… and even if they did, what impact would all that dust have on the melting of the ice caps?

  • alan dawes

    every thing from alzheimer’s autstic to sudden strokes is most likely cause by Aluminum, Barium, Arsenic, Manganese, Stronitum . con trails over the uk 6 out of seven days uk summer is constant over cast or haze uk had 4 weeks of blue skys out of 52 weeks no wonder why health of the uk people have so many problems

  • Joe Summers

    I would rather take my chances with a clear blue sky.

  • Kate Willens

    Agreeing with Steve Putnam. Anyone that has not noticed the brazen alteration of our atmosphere by the constant injection of aerosols by planes to manufacture fake toxic clouds is clueless. This criminal program has occurred since the late 1990s and probably before. The patents have been developed since 1920. Our government is lying to us, and it surely isn’t the first time. The truth is that the present denied “geoengineering program” is being used for several nefarious ends. There’s a lot of info available on line if you begin to research. But there’s a lot of disinfo also specifically introduced to make you think that anyone speaking as I have is a total loon. Observe people, just begin by observing.

  • Sharon Silva

    What in the World Are They Spraying:

  • Dan

    We need to keep spraying particles in the stratosphere or else we’ll see “drastic warming”??? Wow! Someone is drunk on the kool-aid.

  • Jonelle

    Ok let me get this straight – these people think spaying the population with poison is a good idea?!? And we can’t stop because it’ll get worse?? God help us.

  • Chris Dixon

    It is happening now on a massive scale, it is easy to see (just look up), it is poisoning everything, we never gave permission and it has to stop!

  • Mike

    It seems to be a conductor too, for ionoc-radiation send with HAARP. Talking about wheater controll.
    Check on Google what it is if you don’t know about it.

  • rae

    the humans who are causing the problem are the ones spraying us everyday and using HAARP to irradiate us and control our weather while melting the polar ice caps to get at the resources… ARCO funded the building of HAARP and HAARP can see into the Earth’s crust to find oil… hmmmmm… any connection to ARCO MELTING THE POLAR ICE CAPS and blaming it in CO2 which is ludicrous.

  • Jimmy Hendrix

    Thirty years following the creation of the Nation Program in Weather Modification, the US Air Force published a document (“Owning The Weather in 2025” ) establishing that federal agencies involved in the National Weather Modification program are under tacit authority of the Department of Defense.

    Owning the Weather in 2025 – Opening Statement: Current technologies that will mature over the next 30 years will offer anyone who has the necessary resources the ability to modify weather patterns and their corresponding effects, at least on the local scale. Current demographic, economic, and environmental trends will create global stresses that provide the impetus necessary for many countries or groups to turn this weather-modification ability into a capability.

    In the United States, weather-modification will likely become a part of national security policy with both domestic and international applications. Our government will pursue such a policy, depending on its interests, at various levels. These levels could include unilateral actions, participation in a security framework such as NATO, membership in an international organization such as the UN, or participation in a coalition. Assuming that in 2025 our national security strategy includes weather-modification, its use in our national military strategy will naturally follow. Besides the significant benefits an operational capability would provide, another motivation to pursue weather-modification is to deter and counter potential adversaries.

    In this paper we show that appropriate application of weather-modification can provide battlespace dominance to a degree never before imagined. In the future, such operations will enhance air and space superiority and provide new options for battlespace shaping and battlespace awareness.1 “The technology is there, waiting for us to pull it all together;”2 in 2025 we can “Own the Weather

  • Eastern ontario geo-engineering Watch

    The geo-engineers of the world have gone mad with free money from Bill Gates.

  • Spam Me

    Oh that’s a new idea. Never see that done before. Spray particals in the air to block out some of the sun? Gee, what a novel idea. Now someone would have to make seeds that will grow in Aluminum soaked soil….oh wait…someone already patented that one. My question is will people get sick from inhaling 100 Micron size particles? You know like URT infections and what about Alzheimer’s will we see a big increase in people coming down with that? Oh wait…that’s already happening isn’t it. Maybe it won’t be so bad then after all. How stupid are we? I’ve been watching this for the last 20 years. And someone is going to claim it isn’t being done already?

  • JJ

    Why can’t we get snow machines like they use in ski resorts and make snow up in the polar ice caps in both the no and south poles?


    actually the article above is incorrect,,,,MOST places volcanic aerosols go up they come back down…in the instance of STRATOSPHERIC aerosols they will stay up years…case in point NASA PINATUBO 1991 to 1993…volcanic aerosol mirror surrounded globe in stratosphere,stayed up 2 years,dropped earths temps globally.05,,, giving 20 extra years on warming…see NASA Langley article…volcanic aerosols*acid rain* reflect sun + cool earth… THE ONLY reason stratospheric aerosols *SAI* cannot sustain a cool earth IS the SECOND part of geoengineering *CDR* C02 reduction must also be implemented, in a manner condusive to safety of man + earth…. aerosols ..Solar dimming can cool by shielding earth, but co2 levels must be addressed…With these 2 main factors of geoengineering we could easily,,cool + sustain earths temps…IF we had understood earlier we would never have had a crisis…Have to get the correct CDR to go with the SRM…Aerosols do same thing in stratosphere every time a super volcano blows, with wind + rotation they surround earth in a “volcanic mist mirror” that stays up years reflecting sun with one dosing…easily done, cheap + effective…its the CDR thats hard…peace

    NASA – Atmospheric Aerosols: What Are They, and Why Are They …

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media