A different approach to climate change...change the climate!
Climate change sceptics might initially be impressed by this idea to drop the emissions targets agenda... until they hear what it entails
We've all heard of sunblock. But Canadian environmental scientist David Keith means it on a scale that most of us would find hard to imagine.
"The idea is to make earth a little bit more reflective by putting say, sulfate or sulfuric acid aerosols in the upper atmosphere. This method is cheap, effective, quickly implantable but rather imperfect," he said in an interview yesterday with Germany's Spiegel, which characterised the plan as akin to "creating a type of sun filter in the sky to halt global warming".
Ideas such as this and carbon capture are not new, but have largely been pushed out of a mainstream media which remains committed to the orthodoxy about man-made climate change and caps on emissions to stop it.
Keith has had death threats for stepping outside that orthodoxy, even though he does not dispute that increasing CO2 produced by humans is the cause of the problem. It is his suggested method of "geo-engineering" that has got him in hot water, so to to speak.
It is not clear whether his ideas would in any case be supported by sceptics who argue that man-made CO2 has little or nothing to do with alleged climate change anyway, or that any affects are too trivial to spend trillions of dollars combating it.
Regardless of the nature of the underlying issue, there are certainly pros and cons to his method, and cost brings both:
"According to my estimate the injection of a dose with an appreciable effect on climate would cost about $1 billion per year -- which is essentially zero if you compare it to the costs of climate damage, which are expected to be at least a $1 trillion a year by mid-century," he said in the interview.
As Spiegel points out, that could mean that any multi-billionaire who didn't like the climate could theoretically afford to change it for the rest of us.
And then there's the problem of what happens when that sulfuric acid, or whatever, comes down from the upper atmosphere:
"No doubt there are considerable risks," admits Keith. "Eventually the sulfur will settle down into the lower atmosphere. And then there's the ozone loss risk."
At which point most climate change sceptics will probably wonder whether the traditional method of just wasting lots and lots of our money on a problem that hasn't even shown a blip on the charts for 15 years isn't preferable to pumping the skies full of vapourised acid.
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