Friday, August 14, 2009

FrankenSKYn: engineering the climate

Climate engineering is creepy.

Advocated as a Plan B, climate engineering could be a last stitch effort to reverse the warming of the planet if meaningful reductions in emissions cannot be done fast enough.

So what is it?

The most commonly discussed form of climate engineering, so far, is to loft aerosol particles into the stratosphere to reproduce the cooling effects of volcanic eruptions.


But another technique was singled out in Friday’s report for the Copenhagen Consensus Center by J. Eric Bickel, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who specializes in decision analysis, and Lee Lane, the co-director of the American Enterprise Institute’s Geoengineering Research Project. They conclude that the most promising form of climate engineering now appears to be a fleet of wind-powered, unmanned vessels on the ocean that would disperse a “an extremely fine mist of sea water droplets” that would be lofted upwards, causing clouds over the ocean to brighten and reflect more sunlight.

Given the fact that weather is a chaotic system--meaning the slightest variance in input could yield a tremendous change in output--turning the sky into a sci-fi lab sounds like a terrible idea to me. And I'm not the only one.

While Dr. Pielke [a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado] agrees with the call for more research into stratospheric aerosols and cloud brightening, he says that there are too many uncertainties “to allow for any sort of meaningful cost-benefit analysis” because there could be unexpectedly large costs if something goes wrong...the economic damages could far exceed the benefits if something goes wrong.

Read the full article.

No comments: