Crazy, weird and kind of cool: Geo-engineering against climate change
NBC Nightly News reports on different approaches to mitigating climate change – and more specifically global warming – by using geo-engineering techniques. Some geo-engineering projects sound daring and risky, but perhaps also worth researching. From sun-blocking parasols in outer space, cloud seeding, and various methods of pumping sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, whether they are practical or miss the point entirely, these potential ‘last resorts’ for dealing with global warming are at least interesting.
For more on one of the wild (or not so wild) geo-engineering solutions to the problem of climate change, check out the following interview with scientific wunderkind Nathan Myhrvold by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Zakaria is quite interested in geo-engineering partly because he is skeptical – not of climate change, but rather of the possibility of any binding international agreement to lower global greenhouse gas emissions. He asks Myhrvold if there are other approaches to the problem of climate change besides or in addition to what Zakaria terms ‘the Copenhagen/Kyoto route’. Myhrvold’s geo-engineering ideas are a kind of ‘direct intervention’ to combat global warming, which he sees as something that has already been allowed to go too far in order to be significantly affected by attempts at global CO2 reductions. Now, Myhrvold’s answer of shooting sulfur dioxide (SO2) into the atmosphere may sound like pumping more pollutants into the sky – which it kind of is since the burning of coal and petroleum already produce toxic sulfur dioxide – but theoretically, it does seem like it could lower global temperatures. Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, resulting in huge amounts of SO2 which reflected sunlight and caused a global temperature drop of about 0.5 °C (0.9 °F).
However, Myhrvold’s solution – and geo-engineering in general – fails to address other problems associated with carbon and fossil fuel-based economies. It sounds like a short-term, stopgap solution at best. One which allows the wars, the poisoning of the environment, and the economic exploitation of humanity and natural resources associated with the current carbon-based global system to all continue. Then again, if nothing ends up being done on these fronts anyway, they may as well shoot some sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere in hope of postponing the inevitable.
by Graham Land