We Get Greener Kit Cassingham & her Bigger Half

Mitigating Global Warming, Nathan Myhrvold's Way

In the same article I wrote about regarding the future of energy and solving the problems related to better energy supplies (Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek June 7, 2010), Nathan Myhrvold put forth an interesting idea of mitigating global warming, the geoengineering portion of the Newsweek article. Let me preface this article with my belief that "global warming" is a misnomer. I believe we are experiencing climate change, but my climate sure isn't warming.

Nathan's a renaissance man. He was well educated by the age of 23 -- Bsc, Masters, PhD -- in topics of math, geo-, space, theoretical and mathematical physics, and mathematical economics. He's a smart man, and his list of accomplishments goes on from there.

His company, Intellectual Ventures, has acquired more than 30,000 patents in areas of energy and technology. And, according to Wikipedia, he's a nature and wildlife photographer, and a French chef. He's an involved and interesting man. His ideas discussed here illustrate that.

He wants to mimic volcanic explosions by putting a cloud of sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, reducing the sun's light by one percent. He understands that idea needs to be studied a bit before doing it. He anticipates there will be unexpected consequences, but he doesn't think that's any worse than the scar you get from surgery to save your life.

It makes me nervous when humans start playing with nature that way. We have evidence time and again, through the ages, of solving one problem to only create a bigger one. Is this idea one of those solutions?

I'd rather see us clean up our energy act, which requires technology (he says the environmental movement is anti-technology), than to start playing with space. If we can't manage what we do on Earth, and how it impacts us, why are we even thinking about playing in space where we know even less about impacts?

Comments

I agree that thousands of responsible behaviours are more effective than a risky technology launched into space.

We live in a region of North America that is still close to natural: we modify our behaviours: compost, install windows on the south but not the north, plan for cross breezes through east and west windows. Plant food and decorative plants tht are native to the region. . mostly. In return we have a rough lawn that is great for games, the rocks on the ungroomed beach slow erosion and I the time to appreciate the wild roses and feel the breeze.

Barbara at July 6, 2010 9:00 AM

The plan to pump more chemicals in to the atmosphere seems fraught with risks. Given that we know what we need to do to mitigate global climate change, and given that the proposal wouldn't deal with impacts such as ocean acidification (a result of increased carbon dioxide concentration), it's pretty clear what path we should take.

Joel Dignam at July 9, 2010 10:27 PM

Barbara, your situation sounds lovely. You seem content with your life and surroundings. I'd love to see more people content with their surroundings, regardless of where they live.

And Joel, I agree our path is clear. I do worry sometimes that I'm too simplistic in my approach. But it seems clear to me that's the right approach.

I think Nathan's plan was to send the sulfur dioxide into the upper atmosphere, high enough he figures it won't impact the atmosphere the way our CO2 levels do. And I'm edgy about opening that Pandora's Box, as you are.

-Kit

Kit Cassingham at July 10, 2010 4:57 PM
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