Will We Step Onto a Cosmic Treadmill?

Thu, 2007-07-26 10:51Ross Gelbspan
Ross Gelbspan's picture

Will We Step Onto a Cosmic Treadmill?

New research indicates that hacking the atmosphere – pumping microscopic particles into the stratosphere or clouds to block sunlight and offset global warming caused by greenhouse gases – is imminently possible.

The problem is: we could never, ever stop doing it.


The people who support this geo-engineering solution to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere are very short sighted.

They make the mistaken assumption that higher temperatures are the only problem associated with higher levels of carbon dioxide. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are a few other problems:

Firstly, carbon dioxide is increasing the acidity of the oceans thus causing major harm to sea living organisms such as corals and phytoplankton, the basis of the oceanic food chain.

Secondly, there is no solid proof that higher carbon dioxide concentrations will be a benefit to plants. There is much conflicting results in the scientific literature on this. One of the problems is that it is highly unlikely that carbon dioxide is the only rate limiting nutrient for plant growth. Other factors (moisture, nitrogen, trace elements) enter into the equation.

Thirdly, what effect will doubling or tripling the carbon dioxide concentration have on air breathing animals, including ourselves? Some preliminary results suggest that it will not be good.

Thus the prudent steps to take are reducing carbon dioxide input into the atmosphere rather than trying to minimize one of its many effects.

Ian Forrester