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Stop Global Warming With Smog? 361

Posted by kdawson
from the now-there's-an-idea dept.
lkypnk writes, "The AP is reporting that Nobel Prize winning scientist Paul Crutzen has suggested deliberately spreading a layer of particulate matter in the upper atmosphere to help reflect some of the sun's energy in an effort to combat global warming. He reminds us that the eruption of the volcano Pinatubo in 1991 cooled the planet by as much as 0.9 degrees; he believes his computer simulations show a similar effect from deliberate injection of sulfur into the atmosphere by humans. Whatever the feasibility of the idea, as the president of the National Environmental Trust has said, 'We are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment by injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.'" From the article: "'It was meant to startle the policy makers,' said [Crutzen]. 'If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this.' ... Serious people are taking Crutzen's idea seriously."
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Stop Global Warming With Smog?

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  • The Matrix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexhard (778254) <alexhard&gmail,com> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:05PM (#16907792) Homepage
    This eerily reminds me of the dark sky in "The Matrix"...maybe life DOES imitate art
    • Re:The Matrix (Score:5, Insightful)

      by irn_bru (209849) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:34PM (#16908032)
      This eerily reminds me of the old lady who swallowed a spider to catch the fly...
    • I think he took this idea from Highlander II: The Quickening [imdb.com], but in that movie it was a pollution-like shield to protect the earth after the depletion of the ozone layer.
    • Burn the CO2 on earth then pump the CO2 into space to make smog.

      The problem though with any clever ideas like dumping reflective stuff in space is that, if the modelling is wrong ("oops! missed a minus sign!") then the clean-up efforts to go fetch all the stuff back is going to cost quite a bundle and make more environmental problems than we had before we started.

      • by Ruff_ilb (769396)
        Except, consider that, if we can MANUFACTURE the material, we can easily give it some sort of self-destruct mechanism. Heck, we might be able to design proteins that, in their normal stage, would be reflective, but when denatured (which we could do through some specific sort of radiation, or even some sort of otherwise harmless bacteria, or, idk... the possibilities are fairly diverse)

        But anyway, that's my point. If we design the thing from scratch, we can come up with more convenient cleanup methods built
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mikael (484)
          Just launch lots and lots of weather balloons - they should be white/silver enough to reflect all that light back out to space. And if arranged correctly, they could be used to create advertising visible from space, offering unlimited advertising opportunities.
  • NOVA episode (Score:5, Interesting)

    by aarku (151823) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:08PM (#16907814) Journal
    NOVA did an excellent episode [pbs.org] about this. The theory is that pollution is greatly masking the effects of global warming.
    • Re:NOVA episode (Score:5, Interesting)

      by acherrington (465776) <acherrington@gmC ... m minus caffeine> on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:15PM (#16907878)
      yeah, nova did a really great job covering this a few months back. What the person here is talking about is implementing a concept of Global Dimming [wikipedia.org]. I can't really I say that I support the idea though. Instead of getting rid of the greenhouse gases, we are going to continue to literally mask the problem. Why not just solve the base problem?

      Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global hemispherical irradiance (or total solar irradiance) at the Earth's surface, observed since the beginning of systematic measurements in 1950s. The effect varies by location, but worldwide it is of the order of a 4% reduction over the three decades from 1960-1990. This trend has reversed during the past decade. Global dimming creates a cooling effect that may have partially masked the effect of greenhouse gases on global warming.
      • Re:NOVA episode (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Capsaicin (412918) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:42PM (#16908528)

        Instead of getting rid of the greenhouse gases, we are going to continue to literally mask the problem.

        And think of the potential. Countries like China, could claim carbon credits for the copious particulate matter they produce, thus cancelling out their escalting C02 emissions! I hope Cutzen's attempts to "startle policy makers" doesn't backfire in this fashion.

        Next we'll have some bright spark suggesting using Nuclear Winter, in a similar fashion. You know kill two birds with one stone ... take out the largest fossil fuel burning population centres and cool the planet at the same time. Ooops, I just suggested it, didn't I?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by The_Wilschon (782534)

        Instead of getting rid of the greenhouse gases, we are going to continue to literally mask the problem. Why not just solve the base problem?

        Because we know how to do this. Getting rid of already extant greenhouse gases is going to be a much trickier problem. I've heard an awful lot of moaning and doom-and-glooming over global warming, and precious little in the way of actual solutions. Especially the type of solutions that are implementable. Telling everyone to stop driving their cars and stop using e

        • by doom (14564)
          The_Wilschon wrote:

          Instead of getting rid of the greenhouse gases, we are going to continue to literally mask the problem. Why not just solve the base problem?

          Because we know how to do this. Getting rid of already extant greenhouse gases is going to be a much trickier problem. I've heard an awful lot of moaning and doom-and-glooming over global warming, and precious little in the way of actual solutions. Especially the type of solutions that are implementable. Telling everyone to stop driving thei

          • Re:NOVA episode (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Decker-Mage (782424) <jack_of_shadows@yahoo.com> on Monday November 20, 2006 @12:39AM (#16910806)
            The sad thing about nuclear power in the US is that it is not a technological problem that prevents its deployment. Inherently safe plant designs do exist (one of my fields of engineering), ones where every safety system can and does fail, yet the plant simply cannot meltdown (a CLOCA - Complete Loss Of Coolant Accident - is more an internal radiological cleanup problem than anything else. These designs are not new. Nuclear waste is not only managable but can be rendered inert and safely stored for tens of thousands of years. Nothing new here either. Nor are finding geologically stable sites for construction of these sites. Again nothing new, look for salt domes which only occur, I might add, in geologically stable areas (and which is why they are great for storing real nuclear waste).

            The problem is solely socio-political. It costs more to prepare, obtain, and shepherd through a totally uncertain legal system the required permits for construction than the actual construction itself. Add the decade long lead time to ground-breaking for which interest on capital is charged but not recouped. As icing on our heaping pile of fecal matter pie here, toss in unknown legal liability concerns due to the unresolved waste repository issue. No ration economic actor will engage in construction of such plants. Actually, given what I know about the problems that we will also be facing with fusion plants, I firmly believe that we will never construct any for civilian power production in this country either. So much for that man on the white horse.

            The best we can do from absolute recycling of all wastes for power production, assuming 100% recovery of energy with no recovery energy costs (yeah, right, just toss the second law of thermodynamics) is just under 5% of total power production in this country. Wind power, which is problematic at best, however let's again assume it is perfect, gets you another 5% assuming you cover this country with wind farms even in inappropriate areas. Forget tidal, it's a non-starter even if you capture all the tidal energy for the coastal US, total recovery less than a tenth of a percent. Solar is out even before it leaves the gate. The best sites for massive solar arrays, ignoring space, are our deserts and that won't fly against our 'environmentally-minded' 'friends'. Frankly, there is no way to come up with the rest of the power this country needs to function without increasing nuclear-based power production. [I'm leaving OTEC out of this as it would not be based in the US if maximum efficiencies are desired.]

            One hopes that we will get a radical breakthrough in the near future. We engineers can actually solve the problems in front of us as is, nothing new required. Just lots of capital investment. Although I wouldn't turn down some breakthroughs.

            [Disclaimer: Former member of Greenpeace who broke from the membership over nuclear power. I was the only one at the meetings that could even explain what the various types of radiation were or their health hazards.]

      • by Evil Pete (73279)

        It would buy us some time. But if continued would just be like ingesting more and more antidote to tackle an increasing toxin ... sooner or later something is going to go badly wrong. It would lead to an unstable situation.

        One scenario: after a couple of decades of this strategy we have a few big volcanic eruptions (they're not that rare) which cause a considerable dimming globally, enough to affect global food production, I mean there has already been a lot of dimming by this time anyway. Which triggers a

    • Wrong, sir, wrong! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The theory is that pollution is greatly masking the effects of global warming.
      No. The theory is not that "pollution is greatly masking the effects of global warming." The theory is that pollution is inhibiting the engine thereof.
  • by Freaky Spook (811861) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:10PM (#16907830)
    Stop the increase of the climate change from CO2 pollution, with more pollution!!!!!!

    Although there is probably some good science behind the idea, there was also good science behind the idea of using the Cane Toad to kill the Cane beetle, and that worked out well for everyone didn't it.
    • FWIW, I came out for something like this last April [blogspot.com].

      Shading the Earth won't get rid of the direct effects of excess CO2, such as ocean acidification and preferential growth promotion of undesirable plants like woody vines vs. trees. But the beauty of injecting a few million or tens of millions of tons of sulfur in the upper atmosphere is that it spreads out much more widely, the effects will reduce drought and heat stress which are killing plants and turning land into desert, and you might even cut the or

      • by TubeSteak (669689)

        Shading the Earth won't get rid of the direct effects of excess CO2, such as ocean acidification and preferential growth promotion of undesirable plants like woody vines vs. trees. But the beauty of injecting a few million or tens of millions of tons of sulfur in the upper atmosphere

        I find it funny that you mention ocean acidification right before discussing "the beauty of injecting a few million or tens of millions of tons of sulfur in the upper atmosphere"

        FTFA: A massive dissemination of pollutants would

        • ..as we alternate year over year with using Sulfur in odd numbered years and Baking Soda in the even number years. This would also enhance the general SMELL of the place, keeping it fresh and preventing food odors from mixing on a global basis.

        • by Yartrebo (690383)
          This hair-brained scheme is not endorsed by your average climatologist, which are more interested in studying climate than playing politics anyway.

          Throwing that much SO2 in the air is indeed asking for trouble. For starters, it won't save the Greenland and West Antarctica ice caps from melting (a planet with SO2 + CO2 will be much warmer at the poles and slightly cooler at the equator). There's probably plenty more wrong, but that alone should be reason enough shelve this proposal.
    • by kfg (145172)
      Before we go fucking around with the Earth as a whole it might be a good idea if we first figured out how to make a biodome work worth a damn, a much simpler undertaking.

      There might also be something of an instructive parable in the lives of people like Emperor Ch'in and Howard Huges, who died of their attempts to remain alive.

      KFG
    • Photosynthesis (Score:3, Informative)

      Without light surely our plant friends won't be able to soak up the CO2 at ground level.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      You will find that many problems can be solved by "fighting fire with fire".

      Literally, controlled burnings and backfires can be used to stop forest fires.
      Cancer-causing agents such as X-Rays, BrdU, Taxol, and Thalidomide can be used in chemotherapy to kill cancer.
      Immunizations often use attenuated pathogens to build up body's immunity to the real thing.
      Even cities have to at times be destroyed in order to save them. [wikipedia.org]
  • Global Dimming (Score:5, Informative)

    by roesti (531884) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:11PM (#16907840)
    We're already doing this, though again, it's in an uncontrolled way. It's called "global dimming" [wikipedia.org], and it's already an environmental disaster in some parts of the world.
    • by metlin (258108) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:47PM (#16908116) Journal
      Are you telling me that the whole world is going to be a dark, rainy, dreary, grey place like England?

      Oh noeeeeees!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by roesti (531884)
        Are you telling me that the whole world is going to be a dark, rainy, dreary, grey place like England?

        It's also going to be a place where everyone whinges about everything but does nothing about it. And nobody will be able to play cricket.

        Like England.

  • We are already engaged in an uncontrolled experiment by injecting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

          So why not make matters "better" by starting a second, uncontrolled experiment?
  • Not this again? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by It's Atomic (986455) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:13PM (#16907858) Journal
    A few weeks ago (here, on slashdot) they wanted to pour sulphur or something into the atmosphere, now smog?

    What part of "the earth is 2/3rds water, which evaporates, naturally, the warmer the planet gets, covering the planet in CLEAN, NATURAL, REFLECTIVE, WHITE, FLUFFY, clouds of water vapour" do these brainiacs not get?

    Ever been outside? On a hot day? And had a cloud drift over. Ever felt the blessed relief as you race your bicycle up a 12km, 7% incline, maxing at 22% and felt the cooling effect as the sky becomes more overcast, shielding you from the burning rays of the sun and providing a UV protection of up to 50% compared with clear skies?

    Quit trying to add stuff to the atmosphere, it's where the problems started in the first place.

    The only thing they should be adding to the atmosphere is the leaves of the trees they plant. And lots of them.
    • Clouds cut both ways (Score:4, Informative)

      by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:51PM (#16908156) Homepage Journal
      Ever been outdoors on a clear spring or winter night? It's colder without clouds. Clouds hold in heat on the night side.

      Low-level clouds shade the ground but the reflected sunlight just warms up the lower atmosphere on its round trip. Very high clouds have a cooling effect, though.

      Fortunately, the work on climate change is being done by people who understand these effects and who observe and refine numbers for them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Decker-Mage (782424)
        Fortunately, the work on climate change is being done by people who understand these effects and who observe and refine numbers for them.

        Ummm..., yeah..., right. Sorry to disillusion you but that is not the case. Clouds and there effects within climatological systems, especially all the positive and negative feedback loops, are the most badly broken area of the computer models and unfortunately the area where we need the best answers. Clouds may very well determine whether we face an ice age or a Venu

    • Ever been outside? On a hot day? And had a cloud drift over. Ever felt the blessed relief as you race your bicycle up a 12km, 7% incline, maxing at 22% and felt the cooling effect as the sky becomes more overcast, shielding you from the burning rays of the sun and providing a UV protection of up to 50% compared with clear skies?

      Please forgive my ignorance, but isn't the reason that Venus's surface is so hot because of the excessive cloud layer? (Or am I just missing an important detail?)

    • Bullshit, everyone knows clouds are red! [google.com].
    • by Talinom (243100) *
      Ever been outside?

      Um, this is Slashdot. What is this "outside" of which you speak?
  • by Channard (693317) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:14PM (#16907862) Journal
    .. that's when we call in Godzilla.
  • Maybe we should just accept the impacts of global warming instead of trying to cover them up too early. It has taken several years for the policymakers to quit their denial phase and at least acknowlege a problem. If a quick hit can slow the warming for a while then everybody will be encouraged to continue profligate carbon consumption for another few years or a decade. Every delay we induce in the current impact will make the subsequent situation worse. Instead, let's start adapting now so we don't hav
    • by Pierre (6251)
      you are clearly not an engineer :)

      we can fix anything - and then blow it up again...
  • I knew I've read about that on Slashdot before. [slashdot.org]
    If you follow the link in the old Slashdot story, you'll find out that it's indeed about Paul Crutzen's idea as well.
    • > If you follow the link in the old Slashdot story, you'll find out that it's indeed about Paul Crutzen's idea as well.

      Hell, we won't even read the current Slashdot story.
  • Volcan eruptions tend to throw a staggering amount of rock & dust into the air ... that's no easy feat to emulate. Compare the energy output of the Mt St Helens eruption with modern nuclear weapons for example.
  • This paper [lavoisier.com.au] predicts (as do many solar scientists) that the next two solar cycles will be much weaker than has happened for more than 100 years. If that happens the temperature will drop an average 1.5C which is what happened during the "Dalton Minimum".

    That cool enough for you?

    In 20 years time, they'll be praying for global warming.
  • by Engineer-Poet (795260) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:28PM (#16907978) Homepage Journal
    Photochemical smog is the product of reactions between hydrocarbons, oxides of nitrogen and ultraviolet light. Smog contains ozone. This has almost nothing to do with smog.
  • Global dimming either from this or other means (like sulphate aerosols) will only result in less light reaching the surface. Yes it will result in less warming. But also there's less photosynthesis, less crop production, and a reduction in fixation of CO2 from the atmopshere, causing CO2 levels to rise yet further. Instead of trying to fix the symptoms, we should be trying to fix the underlying problem and that is ceasing to burn carbon. The fix is simple. Replacing it with something else is the real probl
  • So we have the global warming research crowd which lives and dies by the research grant, and we have the anti-global warming crowd which lives and dies by funding.

    And there's the global warming mitigation crowd who wants to create fame or money solving the problem.

  • Ever see the conspiracy sites regarding "chemtrails?"

    A few years ago the government publically tested (google, you'll find government web sites covering this, and it's far less insidious than what the conspiracy nuts suggest) certain particulates and their effect on weather patterns. Between this and cloud seeding, there isn't really anything new or earth-shattering about the idea.

    The question is: how do you spread enough particulate matter? It would take many, many aircraft and tremendous amounts of fuel t
    • Plants photosynthesize from visible light, and if you want particulates in the atmosphere just stop using scrubbers on power plants. And Mt. St. Helens was 24 megatons, the largest human test was 60 megatons (though everything in current arsenals is smaller).
    • Ever see the conspiracy sites regarding "chemtrails?"

      I know several "chemtrail" conspiracy nuts.

      And I feel deeply sorry for them; they are unable to enjoy the simple beauty of a sunset, for them its 'evidence' of the 'chemtrail conspiracy'.

      Sad...
  • Reckless Driving (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:48PM (#16908134) Homepage Journal
    All these drastic actions that do more to mess with our environment are reckless. We barely understand that we don't really understand the complex feedback systems we've already upset. We have a much higher confidence that merely reducing our Greenhouse pollution will at least buy us time to learn what we can do to stay in the climatic "sweet spot" in which we've evolved our civilization.

    Not to mention that producing all these extra artificial climate "enhancements" will produce a lot more pollution in their industrial processes. And use the existing political economics players, in manufacturing and energy, who have shoved us down the road to the Greenhouse with reckless abandon. They will screw up any complex/delicate procedure if it means more fast money, regardless of the worse consequences that they'll have to share (except the really old capitalists who'll die before their legacy is inherited).

    Startling politicians, who understand Climate Change only as a buzzword tradeable on the open market, with visions of increasing pollution to fix the climate hazards that pollution has created is a terrible way to do business. It will just lock down their fear and greed. The reptile brains that survived the last climate change cataclysm, wrapped in mammal bodies. I don't want to go the way of the dinosaur, especially by voluntarily throwing myself to the Tyrannosaurus Rex who represents the fossil fuel industry.
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @06:56PM (#16908186) Journal
    Well, nature is among the most complex systems we're aware of, so it's always extremely hard to claim an idea and easily see if it'd work. The obvious question this idea raises to me is for example: how would the reduced solar energy affect wildlife, and what chain effects would that have to nature, both as for animals and plants?
    • by shadowmas (697397)
      And that's not the only problem. even provided that sufficient solar energy continues to reach earth what about the effects of smog itself on people. the existing 'smog' already creates so much breathing difficulties in people. how much of a would it be when we make smog intentionally.

      "Well the good news is you wont need to wear sunscreen, the bad news.. well the bad news is you'll have to wear a gas mask"
  • GIA affect (Score:2, Interesting)

    by phrostie (121428)
    it seems to me that the earth has already started to work on this approach on it's own.
    over the past few years as the ocean temperatures have increased, so has the techtonic activity. the number of earth quakes have been on the increase. i would speculate that an increase in volcanic eruptions will be next.

    the question will be what effect this will have on humans?

  • On one hand we're being told that having CFCs and other things around the earth produces "greenhouse effect" and traps heat. Now they are telling us that things in the atmosphere don't do that, they reflect away the heat.

    So which is it? Or do some things reflect while other things insulate? Do we need to mix the coctail properly to get the desired effect?

    Besides, if global warming is a problem, why are they looking for ways to make it warmer?
  • Tylenol (Score:5, Insightful)

    by otisg (92803) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:14PM (#16908314) Homepage Journal
    This is much like Tylenol - lowers body temperature and temporarily removes pain, but doesn't cure the symptoms.
    • by metlin (258108)
      > This is much like Tylenol - lowers body temperature and temporarily removes pain, but doesn't cure the symptoms.

      Didn't you mean to say, "...cures the symptoms, but doesn't cure the cause"?
  • by Elfan (677935)
    Most green house gasses stay in the atmosphere for a long time (10-100 years). "Smog" stays up for a much shorter period of time so we would have to keep pumping ever larger amounts of it into the atmosphere daily to offset the green house gasses. That is very unlikely to tenable for a significant length of time.
  • Uhm (Score:3, Insightful)

    by umbrellasd (876984) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @07:26PM (#16908414)
    1. Add Sulfur to atmosphere to maintain global temperature.
    2. Greatly decrease the pH of precipitation.
    3. Disrupt world plant ecosystems with soil pH modifications.
    4. People die.
    Use a different material; create a different way for people to die.

    A parallel: patient is suffering from atherosclerosis. Do you:

    • A: prescribe a change to the patient's current 50% fat diet, or
    • B: prescribe medication to balance the muck that the patient is pushing into his vascular system?
    A little bit of both, one might say. Well, that is a very costly and risky ("Warning: side-effects may include nausea and death.") approach, which may well become necessary when there is no other option. The reason we typically get to that point of no return is because we consistently refuse to be proactive and solve the problem early and in the right way. "It's just too hard to change my diet." "It's just too hard to cut our emissions. Jobs will be lost. Oh, dear me. Oh! We can start an industry that pumps counterpollutants into the atmosphere. More jobs. More money! More! More!"

    Genius.

  • That's exactly how Dinosaurs (the muppet series) ended, Earl Sinclair proposed covering the earth on smog because of some plague of tropical weed, and then the earth froze and the dinosaurs extinguished.
  • Why don't they just suggest we kill ourselfs off as its certainly humans creating the global warming problem.

    I saw on PBS a show on the darkl ages of the 1500's that was likely a volcano explosion in teh indonesia area. It caused the darkening of the sky for some decade or three. Such that daylight was short and heavily masked by the cloud of sulfer covering the planet, It wasn't a healty or abundant farming time for humans.
  • Ok, put on your tinfoil hats. I suspect this is already going on. It's quite an obvious solution when you think about but one which environmentally would never be supported.

    http://www.chemtrailcentral.com/ [chemtrailcentral.com]

    I'm not saying that's the definitive website but I think it's worth thinking about. Ok, now reach for your -1:looney modpoints.

  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @08:34PM (#16908952) Homepage
    If you'd like to do some of the experiments discussed in the article yourself, the EdGCM [columbia.edu] project has wrapped a NASA global climate model (GCM) in a GUI (OS X and Win). You can add CO2 or turn the sun down by a few percent all with a checkbox and a slider. Supercomputers and advanced FORTRAN programmers are no longer necessary to run your own GCM. Disclaimer: I'm the project developer.
  • I've said this before, but not only would iron fertilization [wikipedia.org] sequester tremendous amounts of carbon (100,000 K for every 1 K of iron used in the desolate zones) but cyanobacteria produce DMS which creates cloud cover. You don't have to distribute anything.
  • Great...who wrote the article?! I have some ideas.

    Blocking off the sunlight used by the ecosystem, global agriculture, ocean/forests, orchards, etc, in order to stop the side effects of industrial pollution (e.g. global warming) sounds like a bad idea.

    The world DEPENDS on sunlight: Sunlight feeds algae, algae feeds plankton, plankton feeds fish, fish feed US (as well as other fish, whales, birds), crops need sunlight, PEOPLE need sunlight...sunlight DEFINES the seasons.

    If everybody prayed and asked the LO
  • I made some tongue-in-cheek comments here [slashdot.org] on Slashdot about a year ago how we could tackle the problem of global warming and blame enviromentalists for causing the problem in the first place:

    ... so, how do we control the Green House Effect? There are two, separate distinct ways:

    a) Control the amount of Greenhouse gas emissions - the Kyoto protocol (boring)

    or

    b) Control the amount of sunlight entering the atmosphere, striking the earth and re-radiating as infared radiation (interesting possibilities)

    I perso

  • Dr. Crutzen, the atmospheric chemist that proposed the idea of deliberately spreading a layer of particulate matter in the upper atmosphere is himself "not enthusiastic about it," and that it was meant more for shock value. That's what is interesting about the scientific community. Sometimes if an idea could work it will still be suggested no matter how far out it seems. It's only a hypothesis that is placed on the table to be tested and researched if there is interest. Who knows, it could slow down our pro
  • by sillybilly (668960) on Sunday November 19, 2006 @10:11PM (#16909768)
    If you want to combat global warming by getting less sunlight on Earth, I'd much prefer the NASA way where they'd put a variable size dark disk in orbit at a Lagrange point between the Earth/Sun, because you can always click "undo" on that, or just tell it to shrink the umbrella to nothing realtime. Injecting more crap into our atmosphere will just make things more complicated, and taking the stuff back out is not at simple, let alone getting realtime control on the effects.
  • by dobermanmacleod (1029574) on Monday November 20, 2006 @03:02AM (#16911598)
    First, the Nobel winning scientist who suggested seeding SO2 (sulfur oxide) into the troposhere was primarily being ironic. He intended to shock policymakers into grasping the unpalatable alternative to mitigating global warming by reining in anthropic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

    Second, he did a further analysis of a practical mechanism to introduce SO2 into the upper atmosphere. I think he settled on balloons or artillery shells, and the cost was something like tens of billions of dollars a year. Since the stuff only stays up there for months, it would be a reoccuring cost.

    Finally, it has the unpleasant side effect (per earlier replies) of raining down on the planet in the form of acid rain. Since the ocean is already getting more acidic due to increased CO2 levels (which combined with water get you carbonic acid-i.e. soda water), this might be a fatal drawback. The one thing worse than global warming is an oxygen deprived ocean, which ironically leads to sulfur coming back up as hydrogen sulfide (which at least once killed over 90% of the life on earth during a particularly spectacular episode of runaway global warming called the "Great Dying.")

    Anyway, we probably won't have time or money to develop or impliment such a idea (nor another idea using a space shade to partially block the sun hitting the earth) because of abrupt climate change: when the climate is forced, it doesn't respond smoothly and gradually. Instead, proof in the form of ice core samples show that the climate at first resists changing, then abruptly changes to another stable state. In other words, it is predictable that within a decade or two our climate will abruptly change from the mild Holocene of the last ten thousand years, to a hotter dryer climate that has resulted in mass extinctions many times in the past. Here is a link to an article I wrote if you want a further explanation http://www.planetsave.com/ps_mambo/Independent_New s/Science/Abrupt_climate_change_predicted_within_2 0_years_200609117794/ [planetsave.com]

    We won't have the resources to launch SO2 into the upper atmosphere, particularly repeatedly, especially if it didn't make an immediate dramatic difference. Furthermore, we aren't going to pull the hammer back by getting an "SO2" program all ready to pull the trigger if things get really bad. Instead, typically we'll wait until catastrophe hits, then we'll be looking for the silver bullet yesterday. Neither a SO2 program, or the space shade program will be seriously on track until after the resources are unavailable. Any resources will be used up for consequence management, not to institute some expensive technologically spacious global warming pie-in-the-sky program that won't have immediate results for years and years.

    On the other hand, I have an alternate suggestion (the advantage is it wouldn't need a great deal of resources, a large team of scientists, or a great deal of time to impliment):

    It is unreasonable to expect that mankind will so dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) fast enough to avoid abrupt climate change. A fast growing population combined with growing per capita energy use, plus trillions of dollars in fossil fuel infrastruction means we are on track to double our CO2 emissions by 2050.

    Furthermore, a warming earth means that carbon sinks will become carbon emitters bigtime. In other words, it is predictable that soon the earth will start emitting far more GHG than humans, at the same time it is able to absorb less of mankind's CO2 pollution. Nature absorbs about half of mankind's 8 billion tons of CO2 emitted each year. By 2030 it is predicted that nature will only be able to absorb 2.7 billion tons a year.

    The only solution for global warming is to remove the CO2 from the air after it has been emitted. I suggest using genetic engineering to improve nature's ability to absorb CO2. Perhaps seeding a GMO into the ocean.

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