Gee Whiz Geoengineering

In the We can solve everything with technology department, Smithsonian asks:

Is Geoengineering the Answer to Climate Change?

Climate change used to be thought of as a long-term worry; now, there’s good reason to believe we’re already encountering its effects. As the problem grows more urgent, some say we ought to take a radical approach: Instead of struggling in vain to limit greenhouse gas emissions, we should try to engineer systems to directly stop the warming of the planet.

This approach is known as geoengineering, and it might be the most controversial area in climate science.

The term encompasses a wide variety of techniques. One company tried to fertilize the ocean with iron, to encourage the growth of algae to absorb excess carbon dioxide. Other scientists have suggested spraying clouds with seawater to increase their whiteness—and thus reflectivity—reducing warming by bouncing light back out to space. The U.S. government has even considered gigantic, sun-blocking mirrors in outer space as a last-ditch option if climate change hits a tipping point.

The most debated suggestion, though, is inspired by a natural phenomenon: Massive volcanic eruptions can trigger several years of global cooling because they by suspend sulfur aerosols and other particulate matter high enough in the atmosphere where they remain aloft for years, blocking a small fraction of sunlight. This effect could be mimicked using aircraft, artillery or even suspended pipes to send sulfate particles into the atmosphere where they would counteract the effect of rising greenhouse gas concentrations.

Boy, I should write a disaster porn screenplay for what happens when the military-industrial complex actually tries this. First I’ll get Jeff Goldblum to reprise Ian Malcolm from Jurassic Park. He’ll be warning everyone about Chaos theory right up until they turn the Earth into a popsicle. I’ll get Fred Thompson as the President/Dictator that ignores him. I’ll get Anne Hathway to wear glasses, play a scientist and shiver a lot. Then I’ll get Bruce Willis and Wesley Snipes to drop something big into the volcano – like our entire crop of high fructose corn syrup.

Willis will sacrifice himself. Snipes will survive and have his taxes forgiven. Hathway will eat a cheeseburger. Thompson will get a horse to pull his pickup truck. Goldblum will stay frozen until the sequel.


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