Friday, October 28, 2011

Global Warming and One Way to NOT Deal With It

No one questions, at least no one I respect, that global warming is a problem and will only get worse unless massive changes to the way we generate and use (and waste) energy are made in the very near future.  The rising temperatures, along with human penchant for destroying the natural habitats of many species, is causing a faster rate of extinction then occurred 65 million years ago when an asteroid impact wiped out all the dinosaurs and many related reptile species along with some 50% of the flora and fauna of our planet.

Suggestions on how to end or at least ease global warming run the gamut from we-can-do-that-now (like recycling our waste, better insulation in our houses and turning off lights we aren’t using) to we-can-do-that-soon-with-better-technology (like making more fuel efficient cars and weaning Americans off the big ass SUV’s that only show off your attitude) to we-will-eventually-get-there (like cutting off fossil fuels and using renewable energy sources) to that’s-not-gonna-happen (too many to list!).

I recently came across an article on one proposed solution that I had heard before but never really paid any attention to it.  Frankly, I though it might fall into my last category above.  I read an article titled “Poll Finds Support for Geoengineering by Blocking Sunshine” on Scientific American (  The gist of the article is that geoengineering solutions are gaining greater public acceptance.  This article specifically discussed a favorable public poll on injecting sulfur into the atmosphere in order to reflect more sunlight back into space.  In a quote from the article:

“A full 72 percent of participants in the survey, published in Environmental Research Letters, said they "supported" or "somewhat supported" the study of solar radiation management (SRM). The technique seeks to inject sulfur into the atmosphere to reflect sunlight and offset the warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

In case you don’t remember sulfur in the air (mostly from industrial and coal-fired, electricity-generating power plant smokestacks) causes acid rain.  Acid rain is responsible for damage to buildings and crops and the killing all life in some streams, ponds and lakes, among other problems.  And yet 72% of people polled favor this idea.  Hmmm.

Now, it was an internet poll and people often hide behind their anonymity online and say (and vote for) things they’d never do in person.  But this is really scary!

And a little-discussed side effect of any plan that reduces sunlight from getting to Earth is vitamin D deficiency, which already runs rampant through much of the world outside of equatorial Africa.

I like that fact that the public is finally accepting that this is a real problem and that it might take drastic, BIG and expensive solutions.  But I don’t think this is a good one to consider.