Hot Air On Hot Air: Can Technology Fix Global Warming?

Mad scientists vs. global warming

| Tue Jul. 17, 2007 2:00 AM EDT

Can technology fix global warming? Scientists are starting to pitch some pretty far-out ideas, including these:

  1. PROPOSAL: Use a fleet of blimps to pour up to 4 million tons of sulfur dioxide, which reflects solar radiation, into the stratosphere each year.
    REALITY CHECK: And you thought weather balloons messed with the ufo crowd.
  2. PROPOSAL: Position 20 million tons of reflectors between Earth and the sun, 932,000 miles away.
    REALITY CHECK: International Space Station—just 240 miles away—will cost more than $100 billion.
  3. PROPOSAL: Cover oceans with white Styrofoam beads.
    REALITY CHECK: Marine life and Styrofoam don't mix.
  4. PROPOSAL: Put anti-gas drugs in cow feed to reduce burps laden with methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than CO2.
    REALITY CHECK: This is actually happening...in Scotland.
  5. PROPOSAL: Launch fleet of solar-powered satellites that will transform sunlight into electric power to be delivered to Earth as microwaves or laser beams.
    REALITY CHECK: Everything after "solar-powered satellites" sounds really scary.
  6. PROPOSAL: Cover large swaths of desert with giant sheets of plastic to reflect sunlight back into space.
    REALITY CHECK: Think Laura Palmer.
  7. PROPOSAL: Send thousands of unmanned yachts to patrol globe and thicken marine clouds by whipping ocean with giant eggbeaters.
    REALITY CHECK: Think Exxon Valdez.
  8. PROPOSAL: Use large artillery to shoot sulfate into the stratosphere to reflect sunlight and allow Arctic ice to thicken.
    REALITY CHECK: Beware the flight to Reykjavik.
  9. PROPOSAL: Genetically engineer a creature that would metabolize carbon dioxide.
    REALITY CHECK: They're called trees.
  10. PROPOSAL: Seed oceans with iron to stimulate growth of phytoplankton, microscopic organisms that convert CO2 into organic matter.
    REALITY CHECK: Being tested, but other micro-creatures would likely eat phytoplankton and emit carbon, neutralizing effect.
  11. PROPOSAL: Inject diatomaceous earth, the chalky stuff in cat litter, into the stratosphere above Arctic Circle.
    REALITY CHECK: World beholden to Jonny Cat lobby.