Friday, February 8, 2013

When there are no good options left...

The MIT Technology Review features a story about a potentially cheap and easy plan to stop global warming. Or at least that's the headline. It's about the suggestion that's been around for a while that sulfur injected into the upper atmosphere could form sulfate particles that would reflect enough energy back into space to make up for the GHGs that are being pumped into it by other processes. The article focuses on David Keith, a physicist who thinks that we need to at least seriously research whether or not it's doable and if there are unintended consequences that would make it an untenable solution.

Keith wants some limited field tests to move past the computer models that have already been run. Some think that field trials are the slippery slope that would lead to such a system being fully deployed. Supporters of Keith's position acknowledge that extreme caution needs to be taken and that even if deployment was actually decided on at some point in the future it's not an all or nothing proposition. It could be implemented on a limited basis and consequences watched for. Still there are those that object, of course. But those who oppose any research and experimentation seem to be assuming that those proposing it think it's a good idea. As this article makes clear, they don't. They do, however, see that it is far too likely that when it comes to heading off the consequences of our carelessness with the environment we are far too likely to need a solution of last resort.