Harvard scientists are preparing to launch a geoengineering experiment they hope will lead to lowering the Earth’s temperature, according to the journal Nature. They are proposing to spray calcium carbonate particles into the stratosphere which, theoretically, could subsequently cool the planet by reflecting some of the sun’s rays back into space. Where they belong, dammit!
The gambit has been branded “The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment.” Scientists derived the idea for the SCPE in analyzing the results of the Mount Pinatubo eruption of 1991, which injected an estimated 20 million metric tons of sulfur of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, cooling Earth by 0.5 degrees Celsius. Nature reports that the planet’s average temperature returned to pre-steam engine levels for about 18 months as a result of the catastrophe, which killed approximately 800 people. (“Pre-steam engine levels” is kind of a broad date range, covering as it does everything from the “Big Bang” until the 1700s).
The experiment’s first phase could launch as early as the spring of this year, the journal stated, while pointing out that it could backfire and disadvantage some areas of the world by robbing crops of rain or shifting rain patterns. It could even alter the jet stream. Oh well. You win some, you lose some, I guess. Better luck next time, Europe!
Nature states that “many researchers have come to the alarming conclusion that the only way to prevent the severe impacts of global warming will be either to suck massive amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere or to cool the planet artificially. Or, perhaps more likely, both.”
For example, David Fahey, a scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, remarked to the journal: “Not talking about geoengineering is the greatest mistake we can make right now.” I beg to differ. Carelessly screwing with the planet is. Mad-scientist Fahey thinks mankind screwed up by accidentally causing global warming, but that we have no choice but to take a few shots in the dark to try to cool the planet down? What could go wrong?
Quite a lot, actually. First off, we have no clue what injecting calcium carbonate particles into the stratosphere would do, as, unlike “greenhouse gases,” the substance doesn’t naturally or currently exist there. But shoot, what’s the worst that could happen?
Popular Mechanics said of the experiment, “chances are, that even with more accurate data the simulations will tell scientists what many of them already suspect: altering the earth’s climate is risky and carries a lot of side effects. More research and better simulations might let us find less dangerous ways to dim the sun, but any such experiment will always have a chance of making things worse.” Swell.
Jim Thomas, co-executive director of the ETC Group, an environmental advocacy organization that opposes geoengineering, had the most accurate take on the proposed perturbation experiment. He told the journal: This is as much an experiment in changing social norms and crossing a line as it is a science experiment.” Indeed.
How did the sun, of all things, suddenly get a bad rap? Why do we want to damn and dim it? Isn’t it, along with water, the only reason we have been privileged to live here? And who decides what temperature is j-u-s-t right? Who gets to control the planet’s thermostat? What if Icelanders, Scandinavians and Canucks want it set at 55 degrees Fahrenheit and those around the equator want it at a constant 88 degrees? Do they go to war?
What other great ideas are our best and brightest entertaining that might
up the Earth cool the Earth? Painting every square foot of the planet’s
landmass white to reflect as much sunlight as possible? Beaming the stiff,
lifeless images of Senators Schumer and Pelosi into the sky?
The potential risk-reward ratio is completely askew here. It is mindful of a pharmaceutical commercial for a, say, toenail fungus drug. Yes, after using this drug you may have significantly nicer looking toenails (yay!), but it could cause uncontrolled flatulence, migraine headaches, continual diarrhea, arrythmia, suicidal thoughts, heart and liver failure…or death. Yes! Let’s do this now!!
What if the “Perturbation Experiment” happens to work? What if it works too well? What if shortly thereafter a number of Earth’s volcanoes erupt, clogging the atmosphere and stratosphere with countless metric tons of smoke, ash and detritus? Hello, Ice Age. I’d be “perturbed.”
Ready. Fire! Aim.
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