December 8, 2006

Light A Match

Not on a plane. Not to cover smell. Do it to save the planet.

Russell Seitz writes in OpininJournal Political Diary:

The Pollution Solution

When it comes to climate change, not much is new under the sun. In 1751 Ben Franklin spied civilization altering the balance of solar energy "by clearing America of woods and so making this side of our globe reflect a brighter light." When the first Earth Day dawned ten generations later, it led to America's Clean Air Act, which has since cut sulfur dioxide emissions by ten million tons a year and -- incidentally -- contributed to global warming by letting more light penetrate the atmosphere.

One fact of natural history is that a relatively small mass can cast a great deal of shade. Combusting just a few tons of jet fuel can transiently cast a mile-wide sun-reflecting contrail from coast to coast. Now Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen and global warming whistleblower Tom Wigley have floated the notion of having aircraft generate stratospheric sulfur aerosols to stop global warming cold. "It was meant to startle the policymakers," says Prof. Crutzen. "If they don't take action much more strongly than they have in the past, then in the end we have to do experiments like this."

Mr. Crutzen's attempt to pry open the narrow orthodoxies of the global warming crowd comes not a moment too soon. Daring yet affordable ideas don't figure in Jay Rockefeller and Olympia Snowe's dogma-enforcing attack on ExxonMobil (see above). Al Gore excluded them from "An Inconvenient Truth" too. But Prof. Crutzen is not alone. Washington Post columnist Robert Samuelson soberly observes that it's unwise to regard global warming as "a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless."

If the same atmospheric computer models the global warming worriers invoke are to be believed, a few pounds of sulfur per capita per year globally -- in some decades, major volcanic eruptions naturally inject far more -- might be enough to arrest the melting of the polar ice caps. Such an aerosol arctic sunbonnet might cost roughly as much as the power bill for running the Internet. Little wonder, then, that Mr. Gore and his communitarian cohort are aghast. Such modest post-modern proposals threaten to cut their fantasies of Deep Green societal control -- and moral superiority -- down to economic size.

Or we could just stop the growth of the entire world economy.

Environment Posted by John Kranz at December 8, 2006 6:54 PM