Posts Tagged ‘sulfur dioxide’
There is a story in the New Yorker this week about geoengineering research that could help avert the worst effects of climate change. Scientists around the world are looking into ways to alter the composition of the atmosphere in order to reflect sunlight back into space, extract existing CO2 from the atmosphere, or other schemes to offset the expected rise in temperature through the rest of the century and beyond. Some of the schemes — such as pumping sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere to deflect the sun’s rays — are based on relatively well established science. Other ideas seem, well, more fanciful:
There have been proposals to send mirrors, sunshades, and parasols into space. Recently, the scientific entrepreneur Nathan Myhrvold, whose company Intellectual Ventures has invested in several geoengineering ideas, said that we could cool the earth by stirring the seas. He has proposed deploying a million plastic tubes, each about a hundred metres long, to roil the water, which would help it trap more CO2.
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The Harvard physicist Russell Seitz wants to create what amounts to a giant oceanic bubble bath: bubbles trap air, which brightens them enough to reflect sunlight away from the surface of the earth. Another tactic would require maintaining a fine spray of seawater—the world’s biggest fountain—which would mix with salt to help clouds block sunlight.
The part of me that always seeks to maximize my sources of amusement would LOVE to live in a planet surrounded by mirrors, shades and parasols, with giant bubble baths, fountains and drink-stirrers sprouting from the oceans. But my enthusiasm for these geoengineering schemes is tempered by the fact that, as Trinity College engineering professor Hugh Hunt says, “If we have to use these tools, it means something on this planet has gone seriously wrong.’’