Alarmed by the rapid pace of climate change, a key federal science panel is urging a major research effort into high-tech schemes that could cool the planet if prevention fails, potentially including giant machines to suck greenhouse gases from the air, aerosol sprays shot into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, and fertilizers for the ocean to boost growth of carbon-hungry plants.

Technologies to dial down the planet’s thermostat have long been considered a sideshow in the debate over global warming, largely dismissed by scientists as unworkable and potentially dangerous. But a comprehensive study released Tuesday by the National Research Council, the government’s main scientific advisory body, concluded that such interventions may be needed to avert a climate catastrophe and that the government should act now to figure out which might be most feasible.

“Let’s hope it never happens, but if we ever have our back against the wall, we will know ahead of time what we need to do,” said Marcia McNutt, the former head of the U.S. Geological Survey, who chaired the committee.

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