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A modest proposal

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It is not Jonathan Swift, but it sounds equally scary to me. Scary, but  maybe necessary.

David Keith

David Keith is a professor at the Univerity of Calgary; pronounced for the best environmental researcher in Canada in 2006

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. sun

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 ?

  1. Earthy
    July 18, 2009 at 14:03

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  2. July 18, 2009 at 18:43

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    always successful

  3. Julie
    July 19, 2009 at 19:29

    The problem is, we don’t know exactly when the environmental emergency will happen, so it might turn out that it is already too late.. The technological fix is certainly not the best option in my opinion because it doesn’t address the source of the problem- human greed and ambitions to conquer every corner of this planet. People have to understand the extent of the impact they have on the world around, and this shield solution will sort of blur the message the environmentalists are trying to convey. On the other hand, there is always a chance that climate change will become a political instrument in the hands of developed countries..

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  1. July 23, 2009 at 17:22

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