A modest proposal
It is not Jonathan Swift, but it sounds equally scary to me. Scary, but maybe necessary.
Can we find a way to stop climate change other than cutting CO2 emissions? Can we apply geo-engineering and change the way the planet lives instead thus cutting the negative effects of the CO2 in the atmosphere? Here is a proposal by David Keith.
Cutting greenhouse gases is what we really need to do if we want to reduce our negative influence over the planet, but there are problems with it:
1) there are winners and losers, so it is politically difficult
2) It is technically difficult- we have the technology, but do not have the hardware to implement it.
3) Even if we stop producing any greenhouse gases now, the concentrations in the atmosphere will still be at the same level for some 50-80 years, thus continuing to change the climate.
David Keith suggests “Albedo modicication” is such solution.
In short it is levitating sulphuric or other particles above the atmosphere to shield us from some of the sunlight. One-two percent less sunlight will neutralize the greenhouse gas effect. It is cheap, it is theoretically possible, and it has been done by nature. It is also very quick. The thing we need is to tame this process and enhance it so we can shield the poles from extra sunlight in case of a global emergency I think I have seen this in Highlander 2 and in the Matrix, and in other sci-fi movies.
I shivered when I heard this from a real scientist. Why?
First, because it is philosophically unacceptable. Instead of reducing our influence over the biosphere and the planet, we increase it. As if you introduce mandatory voting because there is widespread political apathy. It may get some results, but it will not get the sustainable conditions for these results. And what we should talk about is not how to change our planet. What we should talk about is “environmentality” – how to make sustainable lifestyle and reduce our influence over the planet, not how to influence it in a way that we like. Environment first!
Second, as long as we pump the atmosphere with CO2 we will have ocean acidification. This is deadly for the majority of the populations and the global food chain. We will probably understand that too late, as we are on the top of that food chain.
Third, as David Keith admits – his strategy of “Albedo modification” is Risk control, not action. Although we agree that this should be used in case of global emergency, there are people who will get discouraged to cut CO2 emissions once they realize we have this option. In other words, this is a Moral Hazard:
So shall we develop this technology and the idea to use it? Can it help us in case of a global emergency? Yes Are we going towards a global emergency? Certainly Is it risky? Very much Do we know enough about it? No I think we will soon have to ask ourselves how to use quick measures to save the planet from total destruction. By that time, we’d better know what the effects of these measures are. I think we need more debate on such measures, including this particular one. What about you ?