The Washington Post reviews two Books on geoengineering: ‘How to Cool the Planet’ and ‘Hacking the Planet’. The idea is that since human beings have caused global warming, we can put other stuff into the environment to cool the planet down:
As the prospect of drastic warming evolves from worst-case scenario to virtual certainty, the notion of some kind of technological quick fix is more and more appealing. It’s still in the speculative stages, but it has already produced two highly unsettling books.
Among the ideas that have been broached is dumping various odd substances into the sea, such as iron filings (to promote growth of CO2-consuming plankton) and — no kidding — Special K cereal, which would supposedly increase the sea’s reflectivity, thus keeping it cooler. One of the least crazy possible methods is the Pinatubo Option, in which we would somehow cloak the Earth’s atmosphere in a layer of reflective particles, which would block the sun and cool the planet just enough to maintain some kind of climatic equilibrium. . . .
As the climate heats up, and if scientists’ predictions of scary, sudden changes come true, such options are going to look more attractive. Especially the Pinatubo Option: We could scatter particles into the stratosphere with a fleet of high-altitude planes, for the (relatively) low price of a few billion dollars. Or, as another scientist has suggested, we could seed the stratosphere via miles and miles of hoses, held aloft by blimps and spraying tiny particles into the upper reaches of the atmosphere. Other scientists have looked at methods of “cloud brightening,” with much the same goal.
The reviewer and these books, while raising the possibility of creating even greater climactic disasters, are taking this prospect in dead earnest. They apparently do not consider their solutions ludicrous. (Putting Special K cereal into the ocean? We’re having enough problems with British Petroleum, but we want Kellogg’s to do the same thing?)
I guess those who think human beings are so powerful with all of their technology that they can destroy the world also assume human beings are powerful enough with all of their technology to fix the world. Some of us, though, believe human beings are far more limited in their power, both for worse and for better.