AN abrupt halt to climate engineering would have “devastating” consequences for the planet, scientists have warned.

Mimicking the effects of a volcanic eruption by spraying sulphur dioxide particles high in the atmosphere has been proposed as a last resort answer to climate change.

But if the operation had to stop suddenly for any reason the global impact could be disastrous, new research suggests.

The US team conducted computer simulations of a scenario in which large-scale geo-engineering is used to achieve a moderate level of climate cooling.

It involved aircraft spraying five million tonnes of sulphur dioxide into the upper atmosphere every year from 2020 to 2070. The strategy was calculated to lower global temperature by about 1C, roughly reversing the amount of warming since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

However, a sudden halt to the spraying led to hugely accelerated climate change, with the planet heating up 10 times faster than if geo-engineering had not been deployed.

Lead scientist Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University, said: “Rapid warming after stopping geo-engineering would be a huge threat to the natural environment.”