Another solution being proposed to counter the alleged global warming–in addition to reducing the carbon in the atmosphere–is “geoengineering.” Here is what Samuel Thernstrom of the conservative think tank the American Enterprise Institute is proposing:
Into this category we could put the idea of painting the world’s roofs white so as to reflect more of the sun’s energy back into space.
The most promising ideas take their proof of concept from nature. Scientists noted that the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines cooled the planet for two to three years by roughly half a degree Celsius. There are ways of artificially reproducing this effect. For instance, ultra-fine sulfur particles injected into the upper atmosphere could deflect 1 or 2 percent of incoming sunlight — almost unnoticeable but enough to cancel out the warming expected to occur this century. This would not halt the slow acidification of the oceans caused by elevated levels of carbon dioxide, but it could cool the planet and drastically reduce the heat-related damages we would otherwise experience, buying time for emissions reductions to take effect.
There are other potentially effective geoengineering techniques that deserve serious study. For instance, low-altitude marine stratocumuli clouds, which cover about 25 percent of the world’s oceans, also reflect sunlight. Research suggests that it might be possible to increase the reflective abilities of these clouds by spraying a fine mist of seawater into the air. A fleet of roughly 1,500 ships (estimated cost: $2 million per ship) might be able to increase the reflectivity of these clouds by 10 percent, enough to counteract anticipated warming.
My impression is that some conservatives are embracing such schemes–since they would supposedly be cheap and painless, as opposed to “cap and pay” schemes and eliminating carbon fuels–while they are being opposed by environmentalists for their trust in technology and for being, well, painless. But aren’t both approaches equally outlandish in their own ways?