AP / Google News
By SETH BORENSTEIN
Obama looks at climate engineering
WASHINGTON (AP) — The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.
John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays.
“It’s got to be looked at,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”
Holdren outlined several “tipping points” involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of “really intolerable consequences,” he said.
Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being “in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog.”
At first, Holdren characterized the potential need to technologically tinker with the climate as just his personal view. However, he went on to say he has raised it in administration discussions.
Holdren, a 65-year-old physicist, is far from alone in taking geoengineering more seriously. The National Academy of Science is making climate tinkering the subject of its first workshop in its new multidiscipline climate challenges program. The British parliament has also discussed the idea.
The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement on geoengineering that says “it is prudent to consider geoengineering’s potential, to understand its limits and to avoid rash deployment.”
Last week, Princeton scientist Robert Socolow told the National Academy that geoengineering should be an available option in case climate worsens dramatically.
But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air […] could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.
By David Gardner
President Barack Obama is considering a radical plan to tackle global warming by firing pollution particles into the stratosphere to deflect some of the sun’s heat.
Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, outlined the idea of shooting either sulphur dioxide particles, aluminium oxide dust or specially designed aerosols into the stratosphere – the upper level of the atmosphere between ten and 30 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Naval guns, rockets, high-flying aircraft and even hot air balloons have been put forward as possible ways of firing the agent into the air.
There has been widespread resistance in the scientific community to attempts to deliberately modify the environment on such a large scale.
Opponents fear that tampering with the atmosphere’s delicate balance could have consequences that would be even worse than global warming.