Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beware the techno-fix

Science Daily: Global warming, some have argued, can be reversed with a large-scale "geoengineering" fix, such as having a giant blimp spray liquefied sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere or building tens of millions of chemical filter systems in the atmosphere to filter out carbon dioxide.

But Richard Turco, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a member and founding director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment, sees no evidence that such technological alterations of the climate system would be as quick or easy as their proponents claim and says many of them wouldn't work at all. Turco will present his new research on geoengineering — conducted with colleague Fangqun Yu, a research professor at the State University of New York–Albany's atmospheric sciences research center — today and Thursday at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco.

"We're talking about tinkering with the climate system that affects everybody on Earth," said Turco, an atmospheric chemist with expertise in the microphysics of fine particles suspended in the atmosphere. "Some of the ideas are extreme. There would certainly be winners and losers, but no one would know who until it's too late.

"If people are going to pursue geoengineering, they have to realize that it won't be quick, cheap or easy; indeed, suggestions that it might be are utter nonsense, and possibly irresponsible. Many of these ideas would require massive infrastructure and manpower commitments. For example, one concept to deliver reflective particles to the upper atmosphere on aircraft would require numerous airports, fleets of planes and a weather forecasting network dedicated only to this project. Its operation might be comparable to the world's entire commercial flight industry. And even after that massive investment, the climatic response would be highly uncertain."….

Two US soldiers clown for the camera after a 1952 atomic test. Yes, that's a mushroom cloud.

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