climate change, climate change solutions

Can Technology Save Us From Climate Change?

February 11, 2009 07:27 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Despite technology’s possible role in creating global warming, some scientists say that technology can also be the solution.

High-Tech Climate-Change Solutions

Some of the more outlandish ideas on the table include creating a man-made recycled island, wrapping glaciers with protective sheets, genetically engineering trees to be shinier so that they can reduce heat absorption on the Earth, painting roofs white, and using 55,000 orbital mirrors to block the sun’s rays. A scientist named Tim Flannery says that his proposal to pump sulphur into the Earth’s atmosphere to filter out the sun’s rays and slow global warming would be a last resort, “the last barrier to a climate collapse.”

Climate scientists say that climate geo-engineering technologies are actually a viable solution. Scientists Tim Lenton and Naomi Vaughn of the U.K.’s Tyndall Center say that they are needed “to rectify the Earth’s current radiative imbalance.”

The technologies proposed fall into several categories: Albedo modification involves increasing the reflectivity of the Earth’s surface; proposed projects include painting roofs and roads white and covering deserts with reflective material. Other ideas block the sun’s rays, whether by injecting water vapor or other substances into the atmosphere, or launching “space shields” into the stratosphere. Carbon-sequestration proposals include reforestation, and fertilizing the ocean with iron to promote carbon-consuming plankton and algae growth.
In a discussion on geo-engineering on the Public Radio International show Marketplace, Ken Caldeira, a climate change scientist at Stanford, said his studies showed that using a gigantic sun shade or particles in the atmosphere to block rays could help cool down the Earth

But using particles, such as those that are released into the air after a volcanic eruption, isn't a perfect solution. 

"While our models suggest that this could help, it also has the potential to really screw things up profoundly," Caldeira told Marketplace.

Writer Gwen Schantz at Alternet comments that ultimately, high-tech solutions are a distraction from our real problem: excess greenhouse gas emissions. Existing solutions such as carbon and gas taxes, renewable energy technology and conservation initiatives are more realistic and a better idea than investing time, money and science in treating the symptoms instead of the underlying cause.

“Cutting and eventually eliminating all carbon-emitting energy sources is the best and ultimately only option—it’s time to stop tinkering with high-tech distractions,” she writes.

Related Topic: Climate change solutions

Scientific American gives an overview of 10 more traditional solutions for climate change that can be implemented by individuals, businesses and policymakers. They include forgoing fossil fuels, upgrading infrastructure, and reducing transportation and consumption, among other suggestions.

Background: Recent news on global warming

Is it too late for solutions? A new study says that the damages from climate change are irreversible, complicating the debate on what should be done to combat the problem. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said recently that “climate change is ‘largely irreversible’ for the next 1,000 years even if carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions could be abruptly halted,” reports Yahoo News. While the study has jarred some scientists, others feel that global warming is hugely overblown, receiving far too much attention and funding, and some call man-made global warming a hoax.

In the latest effort to learn more about climate change, Japanese officials say a newly launched satellite will gather data on gases in the atmosphere. The Greenhouse-Gases Observing Satellite, or Gosat, took off from Tanegashima Space Center in January to measure the density of carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions in the Earth’s southern hemisphere.

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