RealClimate has a post discussing geo-engineering solutions to the climate change problem. The spotlighted suggestion is that we should release sulfate aerosols into the upper atmosphere, an action which would serve, much as a volcanic eruption does, to screen some sunlight from the planet.
Yes, we would be cooler. However, there is the concomitant impact of acid rain to consider. How much damage does acid rain do to the planet, killing trees that sequester CO2, for instance, possibly damaging health and agricultural productivity? I think it's also important to consider the primary intended impact of this method. The reduction of sunshine is not completely benign. The effect on agriculture summed worldwide must be incorporated into any evaluation of cost. Does reduced sunlight equal reduced agricultural productivity? The other issue is that we won't be able to stop. One commenter call this the "Old lady who swallowed the fly" technique.
There are other geo-engineering approaches. Directly sequestering CO2 and methane seem to me more direct and desirable. Climate is so complex, and this is about more than just climate. The cybernetics of the situation are daunting and unintended consequences are likely. The safest approach is to undo what we have done. Can that really be done?
Well worth reading. There are many interesting comments as well.
There are still other geo-engineering approaches, such as seeding the nutrient-poor South Pacific with iron dust. The sudden bloom of life would certainly change something, but would it actually reduce the CO2? What else would it do?
My deepest concern here is that in the face of a clear and present danger, most convinced scientists are running around looking for solutions under every rock, while the influential members of the skeptical minority are in various degrees of denial. We do not have a government that processes information very well, and we do not have a government that can take appropriate and timely steps to protect the planet. Simply put, the government collectively does not have enough brains or strength to do what must be done. It does not truly represent us. Furthermore, I cannot see where a simple change of party or personnel is going to make any difference whatsoever. The US responds pretty well to crisis, but unless you are willing to wait for such an event, we should be thinking about the problem of governance as a preliminary step to solving the environmental problem.
7/3/2006 3:32 PM