Global Warming - is there a tech fix?
If you can't give up driving the SUV to the airport to catch your business-class flight, you might be wondering if there will be a tech-fix that will compensate for your CO2 emissions. Many people with lavish lifestyles hope that it will be a tech-fix that will solve the problem of anthropocentric global warming (climate change).
One such tech fix that would destroy the pristine beauty of Antartica is to cover it in seawater. Freezing seawater in Antartica might stop sea levels rising, but at what cost?. The idea is to stop coastal cities from being flooded, which would cause millions of people to become climate refugees. Scientists at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research have looked into this geoengineering solution. They concluded that pumping seawater onto the Antarctic ice sheet was not a sensible solution to the problems caused by global warming. The process would take hundreds of years of pumping that would require a considerable amount of wind power.
University researchers, such as Myles Allen of the University of Oxford, have been investigating the pros and cons of using technology to cool the planet.
Below is a summary of the big ideas that are being discussed by scientists.
Disperse Cirrus Clouds
By spraying chemicals high in the atmosphere we can create ice crystals that will fall to earth. This could reduce the amount of cirrus clouds that are known to trap heat.
Works best at the poles, where cooling is needed to prevent polar ice melting
Airlines could cheaply spray as they go
Could offset about half the warming caused by CO2
Not expected to reduce rainfall
Might not work – untested technology
Unclear if it could cool poles enough prevent large sea-level rises
Would cause significant changes to local climates
Ocean acidification would remain a big problem
If CO2 levels continue to rise, planet would warm rapidly if seeding stopped
Grow plants and lock away the carbon they absorb by turning them into biochar – charcoal – that can be mixed into soil
A high level of safety that will help slow global warming
Will reduce CO2 and help reduce increases in ocean acidification
It might only reduce global warming by a tiny amount
Would compete with food and biofuel production
Won't do much to stop large sea-level rises
The idea is to grow more plankton by adding nutrients to the ocean. When dead plankton sink to the ocean floor, CO2 from the atmosphere will no longer be able to act as a greenhouse gas.
Considered safe, but will only bring small benefits
Might reduce ocean acidification
Probably won't have much of an impact on the problem
Damage to marine ecosystems
Accelerate ocean deoxygenation and cause dead zones
Won't prevent sea-level rises.
Whiten Marine Clouds
Use ships to spray seawater into the air. The salt particles should increase water droplets in clouds, making them whiter and more reflective, thus cooling the planet
Could offset all the warming from a doubling of CO2
Might be possible to cool the poles more than the tropics, and thus slow or stop ice loss
Affordable and feasible
No toxic chemicals required
Untested with unknown consequences
Necessary technology does not exist
Reduces rainfall and may cause famine
Will change local climates with huge impacts, such as drying rainforests
Planet will have to be cooled significantly to stop polar ice melting
Does not stop ocean acidification
Planet would warm rapidly if spraying stopped
Add Sulphur Dioxide to the Stratosphere
Spray sulphur dioxide high into the stratosphere, where it will reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet. The idea is to simulate a volcanic eruption.
Offers a powerful way to reduce global temperatures
We know it works – big volcanic eruptions cool the planet this way
Will reduces rainfall
Damage to local climates, perhaps causing famine
Doesn't cool poles as much as tropics, so will do little to stop polar ice melting
Ocean acidification remains a problem
We would need to continue spaying SO2 into the stratosphere with unknown consequences.
Conclusion: Don't meddle with nature. Solving climate problems in one country is likely to cause more problems in other places. Stop moaning about wind farms.