Big technology: Geo-engineering

A professor argues that it's possible to put a break on climate change by injecting sulfates above the stratosphere.

For a while now, I've been reading bits and pieces about the concept of geo-engineering: undertaking macro-scale actions in the atmosphere to counteract the impact of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. From what little I'd read, it seemed like the ideas of crackpots.

That was until my Cleveland Foundation colleague Kathleen Cerveny sent me a most intriguing link to a videoed lecture by David Keith from the University of Calgary on the Web site TED.

No kook, professor Keith argues that it's very possible to inject large quantities of sulfates high above the stratosphere, and in so doing put a brake on climate change far more rapidly than can be accomplished by shifting our energy system to reduce emissions.

In this talk, he leaves unstated the technological approach for accomplishing this task, though he claims, interestingly, that it could be done at relatively moderate costs of a couple percent of world GDP.

He also points out how dangerous this Pandora's box of geo-engineering would be to open. It seems akin to the dilemmas associated with the discovery of how to harness atomic energy: once you know about it, it so profoundly affects the future fate of the human species that it becomes imperative to institute a global approach to controlling this knowledge for the forces of good rather than evil.

Interesting watching; have a look.

Richard T. Stuebi is the BP Fellow for Energy and Environmental Advancement at The Cleveland Foundation, and is also the founder and president of NextWave Energy.

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