12:25 PM |
The average global temperature is rising, and it is likely due to the added annual 2% of new carbon pumped into the atmosphere every year. 2012 is a milestone year for climatology, because the Earth's atmosphere is likely to hit 400 carbon parts per million. Before the industrial age, the atmosphere averaged about 280 carbon ppm.
How do we combat rising global temperatures? Some people believe they have found an answer in "geoengeering," which is essentially the process by which tons and tons of sulfur is pumped into the atmosphere to help cool the earth while carbon emissions continue to rise. As Shawn Lawrence Otto describes it in his book, Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, it is like giving crack as a remedy to someone with an alcohol problem. Pumping obscene amounts of sulfur into the atmosphere will undoubtedly reduce temperatures, due to the sulfur's ability to deflect sunlight, but it does nothing to attack the source of the problem, carbon.
Pumping sulfur into the atmosphere is surprisingly a cheap solution to climate change with total costs estimating around a few million. Meaning, a country such as Bangladesh--where a rising sea level of a mere three-ten feet would force the migration of millions of people, and where rising temperatures could change their relied upon monsoon season-- can easily use geoengineering techniques on their own.
So what happens after 20-50 years of pumping sulfur into the atmosphere? Well, most of it will fall as acid rain, likely causing the ocean's acidity to rise to alarming levels, marine life extinction, and the destruction of coral reefs. So countries gather and decide that its time to stop geoengineering due to its harmful oceanic effects. After a few months the sky becomes less and less white, and day to day life appears "not so bad." But oh wait, all the while we were pumping sulfur into the atmosphere, we've also added an estimated 50-60% increase in new carbon into the atmosphere. Temperatures climb, people are displaced, and Canada and Serbia are the gold rush of the 2050s because their land is one of the few places where farmers can grow grain.
Can this happen? Maybe. Governments are now investigating the use of geoengineering as a "last ditched solution" if climate change one day spirals out of control. The scary thing is, it might already be already spiraling out of control.
Courtesy of : http://reasonrally.org/
Author of The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, The God Delusion, The Greatest Show on Earth, and more; Founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.
Musician, composer, songwriter, actor, comedian and writer.
Blogger at Pharyngula; Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota Morris.
Author of more than thirty books, including Lajja (“Shame”); Prolific activist for gender equality, free thought, and human rights.
Founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation; Creator of The One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge; Magician (known as “The Amazing Randi”).
Legendary rock band fronted by singer/songwriter Greg Graffin.