Wichita State University’s Solomey and Kabler Explore Sunshade Solutions to Climate Change

By Trish Svoboda

Dr. Nickolas Solomey and graduate student Kelly Kabler from Wichita State University agree that, theoretically, protecting the Earth from the sun’s rays could be a viable strategy to combat climate change.

In the early part of February, it was reported by the New York Times that Professor Yoram Rozen of the Asher Space Research Institute’s Physics department was developing a prototype for a space sunshade. Other researchers have suggested the use of dust as a potential shield. Amazon has collaborated with scientists to simulate the potential outcomes of sun-blocking techniques.

“You hear a lot of big-name people talking about some ideas, like, ‘Let’s have a space shield to block out some of the sun — cool the planet with some shadows,’”

Solomey, a professor of mathematics, statistics, and physics, collaborated with Kabler, a space science graduate, to research this. Their goal was to figure out the answers to the questions: how big does a sunshade need to be? How fast will it work? And, what is the effectiveness of a shade with no other changes in carbon dioxide emissions?

In the end, they concluded that a sunshade alone is unlikely to solve the issue. According to Kabler’s calculations, a shade of approximately 900 miles in width would be required.

Solomey’s calculations suggest that a 10-15% decrease in sunlight is needed to lower the temperature by 1.5°C and revert to pre-industrial levels. This could be achieved in 12-15 years with a sunshade. However, without emission reductions, the cooling effect would likely last only 55-60 years.

“It’s not very practical,” Kabler said. “Not only would they have to make it very large, but it would only help for up to 60 years. There would have to be something else going on in those 60 years for us to reverse the effects of climate change.”

The research project by Solomey and Kabler, titled “Slowing Climate Change: Is There Relief in the Shadow,” will be presented at the Innovation in Climate Resilience conference in Washington, D.C., from April 22-24.

Sign up for the KCLY Digital Newspaper, The Regional