Geoengineering to mitigate global warming is making a comeback according to physorg.com—
Scientists call it "geoengineering," but in plain speak, it means things like this: blasting tons of sulfate particles into the sky to reflect sunlight away from Earth; filling the ocean with iron filings to grow plankton that will suck up carbon; even dimming sunlight with space shades.
Each brings its own set of risks, but in a world fretting about the consequences of global warming, are these ideas whose time has come?
With 2010 tying as the world's warmest year on record and efforts to slow greenhouse gas emissions looking stymied, calls are rising for research into engineering our way out of global warming - everything from launching solar shade spacecraft to genetically engineering green deserts. An international consortium of 12 universities and research institutes recently, for example, announced plans to pioneer large-scale "ocean fertilization" experiments aimed at using the sea to pull more greenhouse gases out of the sky.
Once the domain of scientists' off-hours schemes scrawled on cocktail napkins, such geoengineering is getting a serious look in the political realm...
The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 gave everybody the idea that we too could play God with the environment.
Geoengineering takes its cue from the natural experiment that actually had made the only dent in global warming's rise in the last two decades - the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines, which blasted more than 15 million tons of sulfur dioxide 21 miles high, straight into the stratosphere. The stratosphere suspended those sulfur particles in the air worldwide, where the haze they created scattered and reflected sunlight away from the Earth and cooled global atmospheric temperatures nearly 0.7 to 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit in 1992 and 1993, before finally washing out, according to NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies estimates. Firing about half that much sulfur into the stratosphere every year for 30 years would help stabilize global warming's rise, National Center for Atmospheric Research climate scientist Tom Wigley estimated in a much-debated 2006 Science journal report.
Humanity would effectively become addicted to sky-borne sulfates to keep the cooling on track. The tradeoff is that rain and snow patterns would likely shift, a 2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found, consigning hundreds of millions of the poorest people on the planet in Africa and Asia to recurring drought.
In the past, I have derided using some form of geoengineering (graphic above) as an offset to CO2 emissions, mostly because I believe there is nothing that human beings can not fuck up. Review the recent events in Japan if you need a reminder. Man is not the measure of all things, counter to what some hubristic Greek thought. Nature gets the final say.
The first video presents a short but serious discussion of the problem, including the probable unintended consequences accompanying any kind of geoengineering. The second video argues for geoengineering as another option to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. In both cases, the argument basically goes: we're in a deep hole already, we're in way over our heads, so why don't we just keep digging!
Surely we know at this point that if we go down this road, things will not end well... Then again, things are not going to end well anyway. Why not go for it! If only we could "geoengineer" a few trillion barrels of oil...