Our home in space

some remarks on global heating and ocean acidity

Guy Ottewell


Some suggest that, because we are failing to stave off disaster by curbing carbon emissions, we should turn to drastic technologies:
   —Reduce the sun's in-coming energy by lofting into the atmosphere mirrors, or sulfate particles, or salt crystals from the sea, which would cause brighter clouds to form
     —Or fertilize the ocean with iron in the hope that it will absorb carbon dioxide faster.
    —Or (probably the most hopeful) extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and store it underground or use it for fuel.
   The first problem is the “law of unintended consequences”. Thus the salt-crystal-spraying idea was regarded as the most promising, until in 2010 scientists found it could actually have the opposite effect by interfering with natural processes.
    However, if these methods led to some disaster they could be discontinued. But that raises the second and greater problem. Any such method would all too likely divert attention, funding, and research away from solving the root problem. Emissions would continue, there would be an even greater quantity of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and if the geo-engineering effort failed, or was not maintained, heating would suddenly resume at an overwhelmingly increased rate.