POST TIME: 14 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
icddr,b and partners to research effects of solar geoengineering and associated health impacts in the global south

icddr,b and partners to research effects of solar geoengineering and associated health impacts in the global south

Scientists from icddr,b and seven other developing countries have initiated a pioneering research to understand how solar radiation management (SRM) geoengineering could affect some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable regions.

SRM geoengineering is a highly debated concept for reducing the risks of climate change by reflecting some sunlight away from the Earth. In theory, it can involve blocking out a small amount of sunlight to cool the Earth –for instance, by spraying reflective particles into the upper atmosphere. The new research initiative will develop computer modelling and simulation in order to understand how geoengineering could affect the climate and health. The project is one of eight grants awarded by the new DECIMALS Fund (Developing World Impacts Modelling Analysis for SRM).  

In Bangladesh, the project will be the world’s first study to model how cholera and malaria might be affected by the use of SRM geoengineering. Although malaria is mostly confined to the tropics, recent research has found that the disease transmits best at cooler temperatures. If use of SRM were to overcool the tropics, that might make malaria worse.

Alternatively, if SRM can reduce heatwaves and flooding then it could reduce the incidence of cholera outbreaks. At present it is only possible to talk in general terms about possible risks and influencing factors, and so this work will provide the first computer modelling and simulation evidence of the possible relationship. The research team brings together scientists from Bangladesh, America and South Africa, and features cholera experts, ecologists, climatologists and epidemiologists.

Dr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam, Associate Scientist, Emerging Infections & Parasitology Laboratory at icddr,b and the principal investigator of the project, said “Bangladesh is the world's most vulnerable country to climate change. Association between climate change and public health is not very well explored. On the other hand, solar geoengineering is one of many ways discussed in the 21st century to tackle climate change, but consequences are yet to be explored.

We will review secondary data and various relevant models to design and develop a new model to simulate how solar geoengineering could affect two specific diseases - cholera and malaria - in the context of Bangladesh. This is the first time Bangladesh is leading a project with a novel goal to link the geoengineering intervention of climate protection and human health.”

Developing countries have an especially high stake in discussions about SRM. They are often less resilient to environmental change and more vulnerable to the impacts of global warming, which means they stand to gain or lose the most from SRM – whether it is ultimately used or rejected. However, most of the research and discussion of SRM has taken place in developed countries.

Through the DECIMALS grant, icddr,b will work alongside teams in Argentina, Benin, Indonesia, Iran, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, and South Africa and with some of the world’s leading SRM modelling experts, ultimately publishing their findings at the end of 2020. DECIMALS was set up by the Solar Radiation Management Governance Initiative, or SRMGI, a non-governmental project that was founded in 2010 by Environmental Defense Fund, The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and the Royal Society.

Andy Parker, the project director of SRMGI, commented “I’m proud that that the DECIMALS Fund is able to support Dr. Mohammad Shafiul Alam and their team as they explore how SRM could affect Bangladesh. As the first ever SRM research project conducted in Bangladesh, this ground-breaking project will teach us more about how cholera and malaria could be affected by sun-dimming and will start a wider conversation about SRM research and its governance in Bangladesh”.