The White House recently released a congressionally mandated report on solar radiation modification as a possible way to limit the impacts of global warming, but the method needs research to assess the risks. Congress, meanwhile, has shown little inclination to support funding to further study the method which would involve blocking a small fraction of the sun’s rays with sunlight-reflecting aerosols or increasing the cloud cover to reflect some of the sun’s energy.

Former Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-California), who is now a Senior Policy Advisor at Pillsbury in San Francisco, helped secure the initial spending bill calling for the White House report. He said that deferring further action is misguided.

“If we just put our heads in the sand, we may not have any means to prevent catastrophe if it’s looming,” McNerney told E&E News.

McNerney, who now advises clients on nuclear waste, fusion energy and other cutting-edge issues, emphasized that he was not endorsing solar geoengineering as a shortcut to emissions reduction work but only advocating for research into it as a last resort.

“We’re not doing what we need to do, and this crisis is already here, now,” he said. “The direct, immediate effects of climate change aren’t enough to convince people to take action.”