Geoengineering could return risk of malaria for one billion people
A new study examining the impact of geoengineering uses climate models to identify which temperatures are most conducive for malaria transmission by the Anopheles mosquito and identify how many people live in areas where transmission is possible. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The health of billions of people at risk of Malaria who live in tropical countries would be at risk if the climate was altered, according to a new finding by scientists at Georgetown University Medical Center. The study was published in Nature Communications.

This is the first assessment of how climate change could affect infectious diseases. The study focuses on solar radiation management, an intervention that could be used to reduce the impacts of climate change. One action that has been proposed is injecting aerosols into the stratosphere that reflect incoming sunlight. Though it is often discussed as a way to reduce climate injustice, its potential impacts on health have not been studied.

Colin Carlson is an assistant research professor at the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center and the lead author of the study. We should be able to add up the risks and benefits, especially in terms of neglected health burdens, if we want to protect populations on the frontlines of climate change.

Climate models were used by a team of eight researchers from the United States, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Germany to model what malaria transmission could look like in two future scenarios. The models identify which temperatures are most suitable for Anopheles mosquito transmission and how many people live in areas where it is possible.

In both high- and medium-warming scenarios, the risk of Malaria was predicted to shift between regions, but in the high warming scenario, a billion extra people were at risk of Malaria.

Carlson says that cooling the planet might be an emergency option to save lives, but it would also reverse course on the declines.

The study was written by Christopher Trisos, a senior researcher at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. The researchers proposed a hypothesis in the commentary that cooling the tropics usinggeoengineering might increase the risk of malaria in some places relative to an alternative future, but also increase the risk in the present day.

Trisos says that the potential for geoengineering to reduce risks from climate change remains poorly understood and it could introduce a range of new risks.

The scale of potential trade-offs between regions was one of the most surprising findings. In both scenarios, the authors found that the risk of Malaria in the Indian subcontinent could be substantially reduced by engineering. There would be an increase in risk in southeast Asia. This might make the reality of climate intervention more complicated for decision-makers.

We are so early in the process that the conversation is still about increasing Global South leadership. Carlson says that the study shows that the frontlines of climate injustice are not one bloc.

More information: Solar Geongineering could redistribute malaria risk in developing countries, Nature Communications (2022). Journal information: Nature Communications , Nature Climate Change Citation: Geoengineering could return risk of malaria for one billion people (2022, April 20) retrieved 20 April 2022 from This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.