Until recently, I was under the impression that scaling back carbon emissions 80% by 2050 might forestall the worst of effects of global warming. But with news like yesterday’s, with California up in flames, and with the Arctic ice cap shrunken to an all-time low, I’m beginning to wonder if we’ve already done so much damage that a technological fix might be necessary.
In today’s Times, Ken Caldeira, of the Global Ecology Department at Stanford makes his case:
If we could pour a five-gallon bucket’s worth of sulfate particles per second into the stratosphere, it might be enough to keep the earth from warming for 50 years. Tossing twice as much up there could protect us into the next century.
Geoengineering has never received much love from environmentalists, and understandably so. Too often it just diverts attention from the core problem: that our fossil-fuel fed lifestyles are unsustainable. Surely, if we’re going to consider these types of projects at all, they must be one weapon among many in our arsenal. And Caldeira agrees:
This is not to say that we should give up trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ninety-nine percent of the $3 billion federal Climate Change Technology Program should still go toward developing climate-friendly energy systems. But 1 percent of that money could be put toward working out geoengineered climate fixes like sulfate particles in the atmosphere, and developing the understanding we need to ensure that they wouldn’t just make matters worse.
What do you think?