Friday, December 10, 2010


Have you heard about geoengineering yet? It's the science devoted to using technology to manipulate the Earth's environment to combat global warming.

One of the potential geoengineering methods suggests spraying microscopic sulphur particles into the stratosphere to blockout some of the Sun's rays from reaching the Earth. This will cool the planet's temperature.

Interesting concept but will it work? Actually it already has ... almost 200 years ago. In April 1815 Mount Tambora (Indonesia) erupted and released many tons of sulfur vapour 43 kms up into the stratosphere. The sulfur vapour effectively blanketed the globe and blocked out enough of the Sun's rays to cool the planet by an average of 0.4 to 0.7 C in 1816.

That doesn't seem much cooler does it? But that small change in temperature had a devastating impact on some regions of the planet. Many people, livestock and crops perished. 1816 is also known as the year without a summer and the year of poverty. Not only does Mount Tambora prove that this method of geoengineering is possible but it also serves as a warning that we'll be trading one problem for another.

To be honest, geoengineering will bring a whole host of problems for the world to contend with. With lower global temperatures some regions will see less rain fall. That reduced rainfall may result in lower crop yields and reduce the fresh water supply. This will increase tensions between various nations that depend on that water supply for survival. That's far from a win win scenario.

I struggled while writing this post because I'm not sure why I'm even bringing this up. I guess I simply wanted to state the obvious that we aren't doing enough to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we are spewing into the environment. Trying to geoengineer a solution might buy us some time but it isn't going to fix the problem.

We need to do more .... by doing less. Less burning of fossil fuels ... less driving ... less flying ... less industrial fertilizers .... less industrial corn fed beef ... the list goes on and on. So please, go out there and start doing less. The less you do the more you'll be helping spread the word.

Will a planet of 7 billion people start doing enough 'less' to avoid geoengineering? I doubt it. But we have to try.

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