As Montgomery Burns reminds us, since the beginning of time man has yearned to destroy the sun. That’s lucky for the top brains who attended Sunday’s conference on climate change and geoengineering — deliberately tweaking the Earth, sea, and atmosphere for improved performance. Of the several geoengineering solutions they discussed, only one promised to alter warming on a global scale: "solar radiation management," otherwise known as blocking sunlight. No word on whether they discussed sending the Planet Express ship to drop slabs of ice into the ocean.
The likely SRM technique doesn’t look much like Mr. Burns’ sun-blocking machine — instead scientists would introduce sulfates into the atmosphere, which would form a sunlight-filtering layer that, combined with emissions reductions on the planet’s surface, could halt the greenhouse effect. Needless to say, there are several things that can go very, very wrong with this scenario, and AP’s coverage of the conference makes it sound like the geoengineering scientists were all popped out of the Robert Oppenheimer "haunted genius" mold.
Perhaps the most likely application of SRM, according to the AP story: Scaring people into reducing their greenhouse-gas emissions by telling them that if they don’t, "we might never see blue sky again."
Get Grist in your inbox