The National Academy of Science has proposed the placement of 55,000 mirrors in the upper atmosphere, to reflect solar energy away from the planet. The scheme strikes me as somewhat Rube Goldbergish. Similarly, Nobelist Paul Crutzen suggests that adding sulphur to the atmosphere would increase cloud cover and thus albedo (reflectivity). But what other effects would result from this alteration of the chemistry of the atmosphere? Of all the scientists now alive, Crutzen is one of the most qualified to answer this question. Still, I wonder. Researchers have found that sprinkling iron on the ocean surface causes a "bloom" in plankton, which ingest carbon and then, when they die, cause the carbon to fall permanently to the ocean floor. Similarly, James Lovelock (the author of the "Gaia hypothesis"), proposes lifting nutrients from the bottom of the oceans which would also cause marine microorganisms to absorb carbon and then precipitate it to the ocean depths.A couple of additional schemes come to my mind.
I understand that sea kelp is among the fastest-growing plant species. Kelp might be cultivated and harvested in vast areas along the continental shelves, and then sequestered (with its component carbon) in abandoned mines and oil wells. Alternatively, it could be anaerobically digested, producing methane (a bio-fuel) and an organic fertilizer. (Fertilizers are now primarily derived from natural gas and petroleum i.e., fossil fuels). The combustion products of methane are water and carbon dioxide, which seems to amount to no solution to the CO2 problem. However, it is now possible to capture CO2 at the point of combustion. If rain-making technology advances, it might be possible to increase snow cover in sparsely inhabited northern regions of Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. This could compensate for the loss of albedo from the shrinking arctic ice cap.If and when some geniuses come up with schemes of global engineering that safely and effectively mitigate the climate emergency, they may not be among those listed above. However, in any case, one might suppose that the more the remedial project simulates and/or accelerates natural processes, the better. And a medley of activities would be better than massive investment in one or two projects. As with nature itself, redundancy is the key to stability. It is just possible that the global community of scientists and technologists have the know-how, not to solve the climate change problem immediately, but to eventually find solutions. But this will require massive investment in research and development, and the international political will to provide these is feeble, at best, and in the United States, virtually absent. Corporate interests, their satellite "think-tank" apologists, and their purchased politicians, are all conspiring to postpone a planetary rescue effort. And time is our enemy. So while I am an optimist as to possibilities, I am a pessimist as to probabilities. ________________________________________________________________________________ References: Barry Commoner: The Closing Circle, Knopf, 1971. p. 33. Garrett Hardin: Exploring New Ethics for Survival..., Viking, 1972, p 38. Johann Hari: "The Last Green Taboo: Engineering the Planet," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, via Common Dreams, October 6, 2007. Ernest Partridge: ""The Perils of Panglossism," Global Dialogue, 4:1, Winter, 2002. Revised and expanded as "Perilous Optimism," The Online Gadfly. Ernest Partridge: "Nature: For Better or Worse," The Online Gadfly, (in progress). Copyright 2007 by Ernest Partridge