Thursday, May 13, 2010

The precautionary principle? Less material than a cloud


Thanks to collegue BO, who pointed to this article from Karl Burkart from the Mother Nature Network, about manufacturing clouds to increase the albedo of the Earth's athmosphere and presumably reduce greenhouse effect by reflecting the Sun's energy back into space:

«Basically a fleet of ships equipped with screens & vacuums pump up millions of gallons of ocean water and using high-powered water canons introduce the water some 3000 feet in the air, where clouds are formed. The added moisture content would increase the thickness of the water vapor, making the clouds whiter and thus more reflective.»

The proposals for such experiments have been around for years and are part of a wider debate about geoengineering to fend off the anticipated damages resulting from global temperature increases. As reported by Ben Webster for the Times:

«The British and American scientists involved do not intend to wait for international rules on technology that deliberately alters the climate. They believe that the weak outcome of December’s climate summit in Copenhagen means that emissions will continue to rise unchecked and that the world urgently needs an alternative strategy to protect itself from global warming

Of course, the resulting alteration of precipitation patterns is completely unpredictable, adding to the increasing variability of water flows in the hydrologic cycle due to climate change.

Why invest massively into such magic-wand solutions rather than into concrete projects to counter green gas emissions? No clue. It just makes no sense, however you want to look at it. The point is, nobody knows the effect of such extreme measure; it's conjectures piled on conjectures,buttressed by conjectures.

Fortunatly, common sense has not entirely left the building. In the current discussions of the scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biodiversity, SWEDEN and ARGENTINA called for applying the precautionary principle to geoengineering. IISD provides some highlights to follow the action here.

It feels like humanity realised it will inevitably crash against a wall, but instead of breaking just decided to accelerate to reduce the damages. Depressingly, great environmentalists like the people at Legal Planet start considering geoengineering solutions as a reasonable possibility.

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