Friday, January 25, 2013

Scientists dismiss geo-engineering as a global warming quick fix

Claire Martin in the "Surprising Science" blog at the Smithsonian: Installing a giant mirror in space to block sunlight, dispersing mass quantities of minerals into the oceans to suck carbon dioxide from the air and infusing the Earth’s upper atmosphere with sun-reflecting chemicals might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but they’re actual techniques that have been contemplated by scientists as possible quick solutions to climate change. More specifically, they’re examples of geo-engineering, a hotly contested subset of climate science whereby the Earth’s environment is intentionally manipulated in order to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Since cutting greenhouse gas emissions has been something of an exercise in futility, the idea behind geo-engineering is to put systems in place that manage the carbon dioxide that’s already emitted into the atmosphere. The two basic methods are solar radiation management—whereby a small amount of the sun’s heat and light is reflected back into space—and carbon dioxide removal, which involves the capture of CO2 or its uptake by the oceans.

A new study published yesterday in the journal Environmental Research Letters poked holes in one proposed approach to carbon dioxide removal. The research, conducted by scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, showed that dissolving the mineral olivine into the oceans would be an inefficient way of reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide...

Photo of an eclipse by asmoth, released into the public domain

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