Scientists Consider Permanently Dimming The Sun To Save South Africa From Deadly Droughts

by : Hannah Smith on : 27 Nov 2020 19:19

The effects of climate change are being increasingly felt across the globe, from severe droughts to catastrophic wildfires. The latest plan to stop it? Just turning the sun down a bit.

It sounds mad, but a team of researchers from the University of Cape Town have recently published an all too real proposal to permanently dim the sun over the South African legislative capital


In a paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the researchers suggest pumping high quantities of sulphur dioxide gas into the Earth’s upper atmosphere above Cape Town, forming a reflective cloud that would effectively filter out some sunlight, cooling the city below.

Smoke obscuring the sunPA Images

In recent years Cape Town residents have experienced several extreme dry spells, and the looming threat of a ‘Day Zero’ drought, which would see water shortages fall below the level needed to provide for the whole population. As recently as 2017, the city saw it’s reservoirs fall to just 13% capacity during a dry spell described as a 1-in-384 year event.

Scientists and government authorities are considering several ways to mitigate the effects of climate change, and the researchers involved in this paper claim their method, known as Strategic Aerosol Injections (SAI), could reduce the likelihood of a ‘Day Zero’ event by as much as 90%.


The paper reads:

Our findings suggest that keeping the global mean temperature at 2020 levels through SAI would offset the projected end-century risk of Day Zero-level droughts by approximately 90 percent, keeping the risk of such droughts similar to today’s level

The process suggested by the research is a form of ‘geoengineering’ called solar radiation management (SRM). It’s a controversial idea, and has been criticised as risky, and failing to address the root causes of climate change.

PA Images

A 2018 paper published by Climate Analytics warned that the idea represented ‘potentially dangerous interference with the climate system.’

They added:

SRM would strongly alter the climate system producing ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in different regions and with different levels of deployment. It would, therefore, most likely become a source of a massive conflict between nations.

According to The Mail & Guardian The University of Cape Town researchers acknowledge their proposal is risky, and stress that SRM is one of a number of ideas that could be considered when searching for ways to reduce the impact of climate change.


Ironically, pumping massive amounts of fossil fuel emissions into the air is what got the world in this mess in the first place, so before countries start releasing yet more clouds of gas into the atmosphere, maybe it’s worth considering some other options first.

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Topics: Technology, Science, South Africa, sun


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  1. New York Post

    South Africa considers 'dimming' the sun to avoid running out of water