Karl Gallagher (selenite) wrote,
Karl Gallagher
selenite

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Reaching For the Global Thermostat

The NYT described some concepts for large-scale engineering to counter the effects of global warming. They range from orbital shades to block solar radiation (nifty, but unlikely) to encouraging plankton growth to absorb more carbon (very practical). This is a very healthy contribution to the debate. Too much of the yelling is coming from the "industry=bad" / "capitalism=bad" / "decisionmaking by individuals = bad" camps, who don't care about the truth as long as the results push their goals.

If there's several different options it gives us a chance to apply better decision making tools. Geo-engineering is expensive, but if it's better at removing carbon dioxide per dollar than imposing massive fuel taxes or energy regulations we'll come out ahead. Actively controlling our level of CO2 output also means we have to pick a target point. Instead of just saying "change is bad!" we'll have to form a consensus on what the mean global temperature should be. Otherwise we might have some aggressive geoengineers accidentally drop us into an ice age. I wouldn't be the least surprised if the target temperature is actually higher than what we're experiencing now. Higher CO2 levels are good for plant growth and the other effects might be cheaper to live with than to prevent.
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