As climate change has become an increasingly ‘hot topic’, there has been a lot of emphasis on cutting carbon emissions.  Countries across the world are stepping up to the plate and making substantial efforts to do their part.  New Zealand for example, is looking to be the world’s first carbon neutral country, an astonishing and inspiring feet.  Every developed country has joined the Kyoto Protocol, except the good ol’ stubborn US of A, which with 5% of the global population contributes 25% total CO2 pollution.  As scientists warn us that immediate action is imperative, are we doing enough to give us a fighting chance for the future?

The idea of human induced climate change has been around for a good while, dating into the 1950’s and beyond.  Warnings over half a century years ago stated the exact same things we are hearing today… there’s been a lot of talk but really not much action.  With population and resource demands steadily rising and no end in site, is there hope for cutting carbon emissions alone, or should we start considering alternative options to stall the warming planet?

Well friends, there are people out there who feel that science and technology can offer legitimate options for solving this colossal issue… Geoengineering is the name, and deliberately modifying the Earth’s environment on a large scale is the game.  Obviously a controversial subject, playing God and all.

Recent attention has been given to geoengineer Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize laureate, who has come up with a new climate plan that could completely offset the greenhouse effect. The Dutch meteorologist proposes that injecting 1 million tons of sulfur a year some 10 miles above the earth would reflect sunlight into space and reduce solar radiation reaching the earth’s surface…. whew, my fingers are tired!

The idea of using sulfur to combat global warming — which most scientists say will bring more floods, desertification, heatwaves and rising sea levels — is not new.  It’s been around for a while, but scientists continue to go back to it after noticing that large volcanic eruptions have similar cooling effects to Crutzen’s observations.  The 1991 eruption on Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines lowered temperatures around the world for two years… This ‘stratospheric sulfur injection’ would be a quick fix to cooling the planet.

Other theories that have been discussed before include: putting large mirrors in orbit which would modify the insolation received by Earth, large-scale sequestration of CO2 inside geological formations or ocean sediment, the modification of Earth’s albedo with reflective or absorptive materials spread over portions of its surface, the alteration of rainfall patterns through the creation of artificial seas, and the depositing of iron in the ocean to encourage algae growth, amongst other things.

Geoengineering is undeniably a depressing subject… it basically metaphors waving a white flag to mother earth…. admitting that we screwed it up to a point that drastic measures were necessary.  Regardless, ignorantly continuing our destructive path and pretending that we’re making a meaningful effort is not a winning solution either…. I believe that we should bring some of these scientific ideas to the forefront and give them some serious consideration.  It will benefit both scientific evolution and alarm people to the seriousness of this issue.


About Joshua Foss

Joshua is a leading voice for transformational change. He is the editor of Metro Hippie, co-founder and director of development of the Ecala Group, and adjunct faculty at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is also an ambassador for the Living Building Challenge and is a frequent speaker at national conferences, trade shows and summits.