Monday, February 05, 2007

Geoengineering the Climate from the Perspective of James Lovelock

In an interview posted on the well-known British scientist and environmentalist James Lovelock, who proposed the Gaia hypothesis, had some things to say about geoengineering proposals to combat global warming which sounded rather positive. His extremely pessimistic view of the global warming situation and his advocacy of nuclear power as part of the answer have gotten a lot of press recently whereas his views on geoengineering seem to be relatively unknown. In the interview he comments on two specific schemes. One involves placing sunshades in space at the point between the Earth and the Sun that is gravity neutral. Lovelock says that “It would take a lot of time and a lot of politics to get it working, but it might happen.” The other scheme involves dispersing tiny particles of sulphuric acid into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight as way of mimicking the effects of an erupting volcano. According to Lovelock “if commercial airlines could burn sulphur-rich fuel (unrefined kerosene) as they fly, instead of the highly-refined stuff, it would put enough sulphur in the atmosphere to give you a Pinatubo every couple of years.”

These type of schemes are generally considered to be something to be used as a last resort if greenhouse gas emissions cannot be reduced to limit global warming. With greenhouse gas emissions now increasing worldwide at about 3% per year and no plan in sight to alter this trend the likelihood that a method of last resort will actually be used to try to stop global warming seems to be growing more likely every day.

1 comment:

dan said...

Letters: The end of the world is nigh

Sunday, Mar 25, 2007, Page 8
In a recent Guardian article you ran about James Lovelock, the British expert on global warming ("It's the end of the world as we know it", March 18, page 18), it was implied that humankind is responsible for global warming and that it is already too late to do anything to reverse the impact it is having on life on Earth.

Lovelock says it is already too late to act to reverse the problems of global warming. Why? Because we are all addicted to our post-modern lives of cars, scooters, computers, airplanes, trains and ships, not to mention the thousands of coal-burning plants around the world that help fuel our addiction and pollute the planet. The huge carbon dioxide emissions faucet cannot be turned off.

While I am an optimist about most things in life, after reading Lovelock's books I have come to agree with him and now believe that humankind will cease to exist on Earth by the year 2500, or 3000 at the latest. I know this is not a popular thing to say, and it is just a personal opinion, but readers who are concerned about these issues can read my take on them at, with feedback welcome, of course.

If there is any hope -- and we must hold to hope, despite the odds -- it is for leaders and visionaries to start planning now to build vast polar cities to house the future survivors of climate change in the hopes that their descendants can one day come out from the polar regions and repopulate the Earth. We should be listening to Lovelock, but most people couldn't be bothered. That's our problem.

Dan Bloom

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