Blackadder’s Lair

The home of many a cunning plan

Obama Open to Geoengineering as a Solution to Climate Change

The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

Holdren, a 65-year-old physicist, is far from alone in taking geoengineering more seriously. The National Academy of Science is making climate tinkering the subject of its first workshop in its new multidiscipline climate challenges program. The British parliament has also discussed the idea.

The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement on geoengineering that says “it is prudent to consider geoengineering’s potential, to understand its limits and to avoid rash deployment.”

Last week, Princeton scientist Robert Socolow told the National Academy that geoengineering should be an available option in case climate worsens dramatically.

But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.

Still, “we might get desperate enough to want to use it,” he added.

Another geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so-called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide — the chief human-caused greenhouse gas — out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said.

More. (HT: Bryan Caplan) In my view, things like this, however “science fiction” they might seem now, stand a much better chance of dealing with the fallout from global warming than does a cap and trade system (which is to say, I think the odds are better than zero).

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April 8, 2009 - Posted by | Global Warming, Science

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