Scientists Develop Aerosol to Repair Ozone Layer

ozone layer earth aerosol repair
Scientists at NASA located a hole in the ozone layer in 2000. The 11.5 million square-mile hole, a severe thinning of Earth's protective ozone layer, was recorded over Antarctica. The area is approximately three times the size of the United States. Newsmakers/ Getty Images

A way to cool the planet from greenhouse gases while simultaneously repairing the ozone layer has been developed by scientists.

Researchers from Harvard's John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) identified an aerosol suitable for something called solar geoengineering: a radical method of cooling the planet.

The cooling effects of solar geoengineering have previously been observed following volcanic eruptions; however, the planet cooling effects of the sulfate aerosols emitted in the eruptions also produce sulfuric acid that is damaging to the ozone.

By modelling stratospheric chemistry, the researchers found that calcite could be used to counter ozone damage by neutralizing acids. "Injecting" the aerosol into the stratosphere would both cool the planet and reverse the effects of ozone damage.

"This research is a turning point and an important step in analyzing and reducing certain risks of solar geoengineering," said David Keith, the first author of the paper.

Despite the success of the research, the scientists warn that solar geoengineering should not be seen as a solution to climate change.

"Geoengineering is like taking painkillers," said Frank Keutsch, co-author of the paper. "When things are really bad, painkillers can help but they don't address the cause of the disease and they may cause more harm than good.

"We really don't know the effects of geoengineering, but that is why we're doing this research."

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.