Friday, January 04, 2008

David Keith: A surprising idea for "solving" climate change

Environmental scientist David Keith talks about a cheap, effective, shocking solution to climate change: What if we injected a huge cloud of ash into the atmosphere, to deflect sunlight and heat? As an emergency measure to slow a melting ice cap, it could work. Keith discusses why it's a good idea, why it's a terrible one -- and who, despite the cost, might be tempted to use it.

Keith addresses the geo-engineering option with unnerving finesse. My prediction is that someone -- whether an international agency or a single nation -- will opt for a geo-engineering quick "fix" before long before emission reduction alone can curb rising temperatures.

Think of it as choosing to use a nuclear weapon; it's not an easy decision, but when the situation is sufficiently dire there are always those ready to make it.


Chris Wren said...

Emissions have continued to rise since Kyoto, and not one signatory country that I know of is on track to meeting it's Kyoto targets. People say "well Kyoto's better than nothing". Actually, it's worse than nothing because it gives the false impression that something is being done, that progress is being made and that legislative initiatives are an effective way of adressing what is essentially an engineering problem.

dad2059 said...

Somebody making an engineering decision to try something on their own could be potentially disasterous and deadly.

We know little about terraforming/geoengineering methods that will work and these require alot of study.

Chris Wren said...

I completely agree, but I'm comforted by the fact that a project so titanic as tweaking the planet's albedo isn't something one person can decide to do or not do. If we end up with our backs against the wall ( as seems likely), then something like this would require the cooperation and consent ( as well as a hefty chunk of the GDP) of at least all the economically developed nations. No one nation could do this themselves.