Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Best Ideas to Fight Pollution May Be Too Risky

Coal power plant (Credit: Agustín Ruiz/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Some of the most dramatic measures to suck global warming pollution out of the atmosphere are probably too risky to be worth trying, an academic at a climate research institution concluded.

Phil Williamson, a scientist at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., examined the ecological effect of a number of proposed methods known as “geoengineering” and concluded none would work at a large scale without huge risks for the planet.

“We have to concentrate on reducing emissions,” Williamson said in a phone interview.  “We could cool the world in all sorts of weird and wacky ways that seem like they could be technically possible, but whether they will actually work on a large scale is a big question, and what kind of disruptions they would cause is another.”

Geoengineering long has captured the attention of researchers looking for an easy way to suck up the fossil-fuel emissions blamed for global warming.  Models for predicting the long-term effect of humans on the planet often contain the assumption that it will be possible to eliminate large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The ideas have gone nowhere partly because policymakers would face a moral dilemma in conducting what’s essentially a science experiment on the entire planet.  Still, the dream persists. Billionaire Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Group Ltd., said in 2007 he would award $25 million to a company that develops a technology that can remove greenhouse gases at a rate of 1 billion tons per year.  He has yet to pay out the prize money.

Read more at The Best Ideas to Fight Pollution May Be Too Risky

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