Climate change mitigation strategy could actually damage the planet
Earl Killian sends me this WSJ op-ed: “Thinking Big on Global Warming” (subs. req’d.). He sees some good news in it — the WSJ “published a non-denier [opinion] piece.”
Yes, but geo-engineering is one of the delayers‘ sexiest strategies — holding out the promise of a pure techno-fix that doesn’t require all those annoying regulations needed to completely change our energy system. The conservative (duh!) authors of the WSJ piece embrace trying to “develop capabilities for increasing the fraction of sunlight that is reflected outward by the upper atmosphere back into space.” They claim: “We know it would work because it happens naturally all the time.”
Yes, volcanoes spew out aerosols that cool the Earth, but I have previously debunked aerosol geo-engineering. The authors seem unaware of a major study that finds “doing so would cause problems of its own, including potentially catastrophic drought.”
And, of course, this strategy allows unfettered ocean acidification, and as noted recently, “when CO2 levels in the atmosphere reach about 500 parts per million, you put calcification out of business in the oceans.”
So we might temporarily stave off superheating the planet, but still bring ruinous climate change and destroyed the ocean ecosystem! The authors claim:
Do not try to sell climate geo-engineering to committed enemies of fossil fuels. Although several geo-engineering options appear to be highly cost-effective, ideological opposition to them is often fierce. Fashionable blogs are replete with conspiracy theories and misinformed attacks.
Who are these enemies of fossil fuels? I don’t know such people. I know enemies of greenhouse gases. I am one of those. But we tend to like natural gas, and many of us would be okay with coal if you added permanent carbon capture and storage. Greenhouse-gas mitigation avoids catastrophic global warming with high confidence and few negative side effects (and, indeed, many positive side effects). No one has proposed a geoengineering plan that meets either of those two tests.