Buying Us Some Time: Scientists’ Short-Term Fixes for Climate Change
World governments debate what do to about climate change, but that debate is very narrow. In truth, we can’t legislate ourselves out of this mess. While a carbon tax or emissions trading system might help us start down the right path, the answer lies where the questions came from: scientists.
For example, there are those who believe that the climate is changing drastically and we’ve already missed our chance to act. Unlike what TV pundits would have you believe, this does not mean we’re doomed and Jesus is a-comin’. Instead, researchers and innovators are working furiously to buy us all some time.
The ideas sound almost like science fiction, such as a giant sunshade in space that would reflect some of the sunlight away from Earth. There are ideas for artificial trees which will collect and store carbon. Another suggestion is to somehow spray massive amounts of seawater into the air, seeding the clouds with reflective salt crystals. Also, iron could be dumped into the sea to “boost plankton growth and soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”
The most plausible and cost-effective short-term solution is one that will surely drive conspiracy theorists mad. Stratospheric aerosols are naturally-occurring phenomena where particles are injected into the atmosphere that reflect sunlight, cooling global temperatures. This is what happens when volcanoes erupt or when desert dust gets sucked up into the air. In fact, much of the pollution environmentalists have worked so hard to remove from our air actually helped reduce the effects of global warming.
It could be possible to inject these gases into the atmosphere to reduce warming. Although it would have to be done very frequently and there could be serious environmental consequences including seriously affecting weather patterns and depleting the ozone layer.
In a sense, out of all of these ideas, the giant space-mirror is the best one in terms of longevity, because surely if we were able to build such a thing we’d also (with a bit of luck) be able to collect and use that solar energy.
The real solution to climate change is to stop polluting so much. For small nations that have been ravaged by clear-cutting and deforestation, they are taking great strides to prevent deforestation while mainting a viable agricultural and manufacturing economic foundation.
Yet, as the world’s population increases and technology becomes more globally ubiquitous, our hunger for energy will only grow. Only by pushing for innovation in alternative energy will humanity have taken yet another step towards immortality as a species.
Image via Greeniacs