Potential Drawbacks and Unintended Consequences

The overall environmental impacts of SRM approaches are not well characterized, and all proposals have the potential for unintended negative consequences. For example, approaches that are intended to offset globally averaged warming may still lead to local- or regional-scale imbalances in climate forcing that could produce large regional changes. Several analyses also suggest that a sudden increase in stratospheric sulfate aerosol could potentially enhance losses of stratospheric ozone for several decades, especially in the Arctic. Additionally, since aerosols remain in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than GHGs, abandonment of aerosol injection could cause warming at a rate far greater than what is estimated in the absence of SRM. These and other issues, including the impact of SRM on precipitation and the hydrologic cycle, are not well understood. Finally, it should be noted that a major shortcoming of SRM approaches is that, while they have the potential to offset GHG-induced warming of the atmosphere, they would not offset ocean acidification or other impacts of elevated CO2.

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