Chaff in the Atmosphere: the Danger of Quick Fixes

Wed, 2006-08-30 08:18Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

Chaff in the Atmosphere: the Danger of Quick Fixes

Thanks to Ruben for pointing us to this excellent piece by Guardian columnist George Monbiot.

Monbiot offers a little sober second thought on the notion of broadcasting particles into the stratosphere to reflect enough solar energy to keep the world temperature manageable, despite the increased warming effect of rising CO2 levels.

There is something elegantly simple about the proposal to set up a particulate sunscreen; I found it reassuring when I first heard of a variation on this engineered solution from Gregory Benford at the Skeptics Society conference at CalTech. But as Monbiot points out, by implication at least, human - nd even moreso, our governments - seldom get into trouble for the things that we do on purpose. It's the unintended, and usually unanticipated, consequences of our actions that always create the biggest problems.

Given the pace of warming and the risks, we certainly must continue to think about creative solutions. But there are questions to answer (and cars to park) before we start launching sunscreening particles into the atmosphere.


  Everytime this comes up you need to make sure to remind people that S02 causes acid rain which is a 12 figure insurance expene for americans according to the EPA.   Also, you need to stress the fact that the CO2 is acidifying the oceans and corals (the lung of the ocean) probably won't adjust.

The idea of putting millions of tons of particlulate into the air to reflect sunlight is absurd.As the first comment said it causes acid rain, the further acidification of the oceans ,and further danger to the coral reefs and health of the world's fisheries. This idea is also dangerous because it provides a false sense of hope that geoengineering wil solve the climate crisis.And, as the first comment said, it would have many unintended consequences.This idea needs to go away for good.

What if the “absurd” ideas are already being implemented? What should one do?

I am not really asking this question, because I know i won’t get an answer.