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

Mad scientists vs. global warming

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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.

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If you're new to Mother Jones or aren't yet sold on supporting our nonprofit reporting, please take a moment to read Monika Bauerlein's post about our priorities after these chaotic several years, and why this relatively quiet moment is also an urgent one for our democracy and Mother Jones’ bottom line—and if you find it compelling, please join us.

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