Radical Ideas for Combating Climate Change: Geo-engineering

Published by: Srini Chari

The radical idea: Use geo-engineering to reduce the effects of pollutants. The concept is to send sulphate particles into the stratosphere to produce a cooling effect in specific geographic areas. Professor David Keith, of the University of Calgary, talked at the TED Salon about focusing on the North and South Poles. It’s very cheap and could act as a form of risk control that takes the edge off environmental heat while we work to reduce emissions and concentrations of pollutants.

The scientist: David Keith (www.ucalgary.ca/~keith/) - Earth Sciences, University of Calgary - Director, ISEEE Energy and Environmental Systems Group.- Canada Research Chair in Energy and the Environment., Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering and Department of Economics.- Adjunct Professor Department of EPP at Carnegie Mellon.

BUT how will this affect the ozone layer? If we do serious research and make this technique a reality, will that weaken motivation to reduce emissions? How can we best avoid this “moral challenge”? What about nations’ ownership of their air rights. Will we need treaties?

We heard David Keith speak at the first TED Salon, where he was one of five eminent scientists who spoke. TED, best known for its annual Monterey conference, exists to spread great ideas, and its NYC salon was literally mind-expanding.

Our thought on geo-engineering is that the climate change crisis is such a serious threat to life on earth and growing at such an alarming rate that every possible solution should be explored, including this one. It may never be THE solution, but how likely is it that any one solution could achieve all that’s needed in whatever time we have left? It seems to us it deserves to be explored and the findings of research thoroughly discussed at each stage.

Where can you find out more? Here’s what Professor Keith said when we asked him: “There is not too much out there on the topic that is not over hyped. There is a discussion on realclimate.org. You can look at my review papers, #26 atwww.ucalgary.ca/~keith/Geoengineering.html is the one to read. There are the results of the NASA Ames workshop. Dan Schrag and I are running a high level forum at Harvard in November, I will prepare an annotated bibliography from that which should help.

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