Nobel Prize winning chemist Paul Crutzen says we could cool the planet by injecting sulfur into the atmosphere.
Injecting sulfur into the atmosphere to slow down global warming is worthy of serious consideration, according to Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California at San Diego. His thought-provoking paper1 is published in the August issue of the Springer journal Climatic Change, devoted this month to the controversial field of geoengineering.
The sulfur would reflect light back into space.
Crutzen’s proposed planet-saving scheme, which artificially injects sulfur into the earth’s stratosphere (the second atmospheric layer closest to earth) to offset greenhouse gas warming, is based on this phenomenon.
His “albedo2 enhancement method”, or, in other words, his proposed way of increasing the earth’s reflective powers so that a significant proportion of solar radiation is reflected back into space, aims to replicate the cooling effect these man-made sulfate particles achieve.
If we get into desperate straits sulfur could be used as an emergency climate treatment. It would require continuous application since the sulfur does not stay in the atmosphere.
In Crutzen’s experiment, artificially enhancing earth’s reflective powers would be achieved by carrying sulfur into the stratosphere on balloons, using artillery guns to release it. In contrast to the slowly developing effects of global warming associated with man-made carbon dioxide emissions, the climatic response of the albedo enhancement method could theoretically start taking effect within six months. The reflective particles could remain in the stratosphere for up to two years.
Would the sulfur cause acidic rains or other problems? How big would those problems be? Volcanoes inject large amounts of sulfur. What other effects does that sulfur cause?
On most issues involving fears of worst case outcomes of human activity my take on them is that we can use technology to prevent or reverse the outcomes. That's not an argument for total complacency. But it is an argument against claiming that civilization is going to collapse or that we are going to suffer terribly.
The best way to cut carbon dioxide emissions is to develop cleaner energy technologies that are cheaper than the dirtier ones. Then we'd get both cheaper energy and a cleaner environment.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2006 July 27 11:35 PM Climate Engineering|