The US government wants the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming, the Guardian has learned. It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be "important insurance" against rising emissions, and has lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a major UN report on climate change, the first part of which will be published on Friday...
The US response, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, says the idea of interfering with sunlight should be included in the summary for policymakers, the prominent chapter at the front of each IPCC report. It says: "Modifying solar radiance may be an important strategy if mitigation of emissions fails. Doing the R&D to estimate the consequences of applying such a strategy is important insurance that should be taken out. This is a very important possibility that should be considered."
Scientists have previously estimated that reflecting less than 1% of sunlight back into space could compensate for the warming generated by all greenhouse gases emitted since the industrial revolution. Possible techniques include putting a giant screen into orbit, thousands of tiny, shiny balloons, or microscopic sulphate droplets pumped into the high atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption. The IPCC draft said such ideas were "speculative, uncosted and with potential unknown side-effects".
This is just tooo...delicious. Imagine you are a greying environmentalist who has spent decades musing about biological Armageddon with the sandals and fruit juice crowd. From youthful rebel you have matured into learned sage and now are perhaps a mightily-respected academic or consultant. You have read hundreds of turgid tomes on the looming destruction unrestrained growth will wreck, and written a few yourself. You have spent thousands of hours in seminars and conferences with the like-minded, debating how you, the intellectually anointed, can save Mother Earth by convincing everybody to “fundamentally change their way of thinking”. Your initial pragmatic concern over specific ecological threats has long ago morphed into a comprehensive secular version of The Fall that leads you to lash out indiscriminately against cows, cars, perfumes, plastics, airplanes, prepared food, smokestacks and just about everything else people want in order to squeeze a little enjoyment and comfort out of life. But you know comfort and enjoyment must go, along with freedom, because otherwise we’ll all soon fry/freeze. You have mastered using a veneer of brow-furrowed concern to hide your delight in each item of worrisome news and your growing excitement about the day the dark forces of American capitalism will be overthrown and you will be called by the powers that be to help them outlaw, plan, regulate, restrict and undo us all back to the 18th century.
You’re almost there. The battle against the Bush-led forces of reaction and selfish madness has been tough in recent years, but the tide has turned and the smell of victory is in the air. The IPCC and the UN (the only sane voices on climate, as on everything else) are about to release the definitive work on climate change. (How could so many volumes be wrong?) It will take all doubt and all questions off the table. Even big business is wavering. The enemy is squirming and circling his wagons, while you sharpen your arrows for the final kill that will vindicate your entire life’s work and earn you a well-deserved prominent place in the progressive Pantheon.
And then the U.S. Government throws some brilliant nerdy crew-cut from Texas into the spotlight to tell everybody there is no problem--all we have to do is put lots of his special balloons and droplets into space and the problem is solved. “Can do!”