Not too long ago, the American Astronomical Society (or the AAS) met to discuss varying topics pertaining to astronomy. One such discussion that was brought up was the many potential large-scale solutions on what to do for our current, largely man-made epidemic of global warming.
Anyone reading this post might be wondering, what exactly does climate science and geoengineering have to do with astronomy? An astrobiologist at the Planetary Science Insitute by the name of David Grinspoon argued, “It’s an astronomical problem if we define astronomy to include planetary science and evolution.” Grinspoon, among others (Jane Long, Tom Ackerman, Mel Ulmer, and James Lowenthal), also reinforced that regardless of what creed of science any scientist comes from, “We [humans] need to learn how to become a long-term stabilizing factor on this planet.”
Their discussions on this are especially pertinent to our most recent topic in class, and that is the talk on seasons. As we learned in class and in the tutorial lesson, it does not matter how close we are to the sun, rather it is how much intensity, exposure, and retention of rays that determines seasons and to a larger extent, global climate. Increased water vapor and CO2 emissions have led to more solar retention, which has, in turn, lead to an increase in average global temperatures. Normally speaking, retention of solar energy is a good thing. It’s what keeps us relatively warm in either winter or summer. However as we’ve come to understand, perpetual increases in temperature can cause horrible effects on our ecosystems, and the scientists at this conference hoped to hash out some possible solutions.
The conference when discussing climate change ranged from a variety of points, from maintaining a position that eliminating current carbon emissions is not enough and that there would have to be negative carbon emissions (removing carbon present in the atmosphere) in order to even see any positive change, to difficulties in funding and the dangers of using aerosols to counteract CO2 emissions. Astronomers would, unfortunately, be hit the worst by this due to a favored solution currently by climatologists. They plan on the usage of aerosols and increasing cloud coverage in order to reflect sunlight. While this is the more practical and cheaper solution to reverse current warming trends, it would make observations of the night sky far more difficult than it is already with current nighttime light pollution, among other factors, (according to the article, this would cause an increase in brightening of the night sky by as much as 25 percent).
The full story from the article can be found here: https://www.space.com/35358-geoengineering-earth-atmosphere-could-affect-astronomy.html