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:
- 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.
- 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.
- PROPOSAL: Cover oceans with white Styrofoam beads.
REALITY CHECK: Marine life and Styrofoam don't mix.
- 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.
- 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.
- PROPOSAL: Cover large swaths of desert with giant sheets of plastic to reflect sunlight back into space.
REALITY CHECK: Think Laura Palmer.
- PROPOSAL: Send thousands of unmanned yachts to patrol globe and thicken marine clouds by whipping ocean with giant eggbeaters.
REALITY CHECK: Think Exxon Valdez.
- 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.
- PROPOSAL: Genetically engineer a creature that would metabolize carbon dioxide.
REALITY CHECK: They're called trees.
- 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.
- PROPOSAL: Inject diatomaceous earth, the chalky stuff in cat litter, into the stratosphere above Arctic Circle.
REALITY CHECK: World beholden to Jonny Cat lobby.