Sunday, November 26, 2006

Geoengineering to solve climate change?

Rebooting the  Ecosystem suggests that one of the approaches we should consider for solving global warming is to proactively do global engineering projects that address the symptoms. For example to seed the oceans with iron to encourage the growth of microorganisms who will eat CO2. Or for example to shoot sulfur dust into the atmosphere to reflect more sunlight before it reaches the ground.

Well, I don't know about you, but filling the atmosphere with sulfur sounds like a bad idea. Isn't sulfur rather poisonous? Isn't that why the gas companies are being required to move to low sulfur diesel?

But the bigger isn't a quibble over methods to address the symptoms. It's more the whole strategy.

By focusing on symptoms you can miss the underlying cause and never really come to a solution. It's just like when you have a muscle ache, you take an aspirin, and you keep on doing the thing which causes your muscle ache. The pain will only return, no matter how much aspirin you take, until you learn how to use your muscles differently so they don't hurt in the first place.

Doctor! Why does it hurt when I do "this"? Stop doing "that"!!

So, we know that filling the atmosphere with CO2 has a direct effect on global warming. A really good explanation with scientific evidence is in Al Gore's movie and book An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It. Scientists studying the ice packs of Greenland and Antarctica have a 600,000 year record of ice to study, and one thing they've done is measure the carbon and other atmospheric constituents at the time ice bubbles were frozen into those ice packs. There's a direct correlation of carbon levels and temperature as shown by these measurements.

Clearly putting so much carbon into the atmosphere is the underlying problem.

Filling the atmosphere with some kind of reflective dust is only a bandaid. Orbiting mirrors in a geosynchronous orbit is another bandaid. The real solution will come from reducing carbon emissions.

The time to act is now.