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Geo-engineering: Solutions to Extreme Climate Change

Could the earth use technology like this to protect against the effects of global warming? Could the earth use technology like this to protect against the effects of global warming?

Extreme threats require extreme measures – especially when it comes to climate change. If it’s left unabated, we might have no other choice but to remedy increased global warming with schemes that attempt to manipulate the environment in ways that could lower Earth’s temperatures – it is called “geo-engineering.” Let’s run through some of the more popular schemes.

Giant Shadow

The some 20 million tons of sulfur released into the atmosphere reflected so much light as to instantly cool the planet.

This plan comes out of the University of Arizona. Scientists devised a way to form a protective cloud one million miles above the Earth’s surface. The cloud would consist of trillions of tiny, lightweight crafts (transparent slips of perforated film, weighing about a gram and measuring 0.4 inches wide) that would be thrust into solar-aligned orbit, thereby reflecting a small amount of sun’s energy away from Earth – an estimated ten percent in fact. However, it would take about ten years to launch all these crafts into orbit, not a quick fix if climate change rapidly accelerates.

Artificial Volcano

After the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the planet’s temperature dropped by a full degree. The some 20 million tons of sulfur released into the atmosphere reflected so much light as to instantly cool the planet. So, as the theory goes, jets would carry massive aerosol tanks to the upper atmosphere and spew sulfur around the world. We have the technology to carry out this option, but the potential dangers could be too great. Some scientists warn it could disrupt weather patterns and cause major droughts.

Synthetic Trees

Then there is carbon sequestration. Instruments have been designed that act (but don’t look) like giant trees. In one design, an absorbent lime-water captures CO2 on the tree’s slats, which is then converted into a synthetic fuel. Other designs attempt to scrub the carbon out of the air in the same way, reducing the greenhouse effect in the atmosphere. Or, James Lovelock proposes, we could actually let the oceans do just this by increasing the nutrients required for large algae blooms, which filter huge amounts of carbon.

Geo-engineering schemes are extreme measures in the face of extreme circumstances. The skeptics claim that such measures would only lead to unforeseen circumstances, a “can of worms,” so to speak. Earth’s ecosystem is a complex place, and although science has achieved a vast understanding of its critical functions, we still have much to learn in regard to the intricacies of the global ecosphere. For now, the necessity for geo-engineering is still largely debated in the scientific community.

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An interesting discussion of how geo-engineering could effect climate change and whether or not it would be worth doing.
Last modified on Friday, 31 August 2012 17:07

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