Oddball proposals to further tamper with Earth’s natural systems to counter climate change like seeding the oceans with iron to fix more carbon or the atmosphere with particles to reflect solar radiation—have given geoengineering a bad rap in some circles. But not everyone’s feeling scornful. In a report released Tuesday, the UK’s Royal Society devoted some serious thought to the possibilities.
They grouped geoengineering methods into two categories—carbon dioxide removal techniques that aim to reduce greenhouse gasses and solar radiation management techniques that would lower temperatures but not carbon dioxide levels. In general consensus, carbon dioxide removal methods such as giant towers on roadways to increase carbon uptake are preferable because they bring us closer to a natural state, rather than pushing us toward an artificial, potentially more delicate situation. However, no carbon removal or solar radiation techniques currently out there are feasible on a large scale—some are too expensive while others are too uncertain, and some, like painting all the rooftops in the world white, just wouldn’t cover enough of the Earth’s surface to make much difference.
Still, the Royal Society recommends further research into all aspects of geoengineering, so that these techniques could be rapidly deployed in a last ditch effort to combat climate change if the worst should happen—governing bodies fail to enact appropriate emissions reduction actions before the problem is too big to fix. If health-care reform is any indication of how that will go over in Congress, NASA should start building those giant sun shields now.
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