The Speculist: Instant Climate Gratification


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Instant Climate Gratification

While the debate continues about whether the sun might have something to do with the temperature of the planet (not to mention how blasted bright it gets on my back patio on summer afternoons), some scientists are arguing that -- irrespective of our nearest star's role in causing global warming -- dealing directly with it is the most straightforward way to fight global warming.

Wood advanced several ideas to “fix” the earth’s climate, including building up Arctic sea ice to make it function like a planetary air conditioner to “suck heat in from the ­mid­latitude heat bath.” A “surprisingly practical” way of achieving this, he said, would be to use large artillery pieces to shoot as much as a million tons of highly reflective sulfate aerosols or ­specially ­engineered nanoparticles into the Arctic stratosphere to deflect the sun’s rays. Delivering up to a million tons of material via artillery would require a constant ­bombardment—­basically declaring war on the strato­sphere. Alternatively, a fleet of B-747 “crop dusters” could deliver the particles by flying continuously around the Arctic Circle. Or a 25-kilometer-­long sky hose could be tethered to a military superblimp high above the planet’s surface to pump reflective particles into the ­atmosphere.

Far-fetched as Wood’s ideas may sound, his weren’t the only Rube Goldberg proposals aired at the meeting. Even as they joked about a NASA staffer’s apology for her inability to control the temperature in the meeting room, others detailed their own schemes for manipulating earth’s climate. Astronomer J. Roger Angel suggested placing a huge fleet of mirrors in orbit to divert incoming solar radiation, at a cost of “only” several trillion dollars. Atmospheric scientist John Latham and engineer Stephen Salter hawked their idea of making marine clouds thicker and more reflective by whipping ocean water into a froth with giant pumps and eggbeaters. Most frightening was the science-fiction writer and astrophysicist Gregory Benford’s announcement that he wanted to “cut through red tape and demonstrate what could be done” by finding private sponsors for his plan to inject diatomaceous ­earth—­the ­chalk­like substance used in filtration systems and cat ­litter—­into the Arctic stratosphere. He, like his fellow geoengineers, was largely silent on the possible unintended consequences of his plan.

Check it out. If nothing else, these are some highly imaginative ideas and very entertaining reading.

But I'm afraid Stephen might lose some of the mad scientist cred he garnered with his Carbon Sequestration proposal. That idea was just a little too ho-hum, I'm afraid.

Via GeekPress.


I wonder what the delivery costs of these methods are. I did a cursory calculation. $10 per kg seems to be the price to beat. That means $10 billion or so (presumably each year) just to put it up there. 747-400 ought to be considerably cheaper (at $1 per kg or even less), but it barely made the altitude. Apparently 10-40 km is the desired range, but the 747's ceiling is at 13 km or so.

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