Mega-Engineering: Mitigating global warming

Gregory Sullivan (
Wed, 26 Nov 1997 17:27:00 -0500 (EST)

Whether "global warming" is currently occurring or will occur in the
future is somewhat controversial. Forced reductions in the emissions
of "greenhouse gases" is currently the main strategy proposed when
governmental policy makers consider the topic. Is there an
alternative or complementary approach? If the effect is real then
some interesting mega-engineering might be attempted. Below are some
proposals that have been considered by the National Academy of
Sciences. Of course, some of these proposals can be criticized for
ignoring unintended consequences, being unrealistic, or being
hubristic, etc. But they are fun, and one or more of them might work
in a desirable fashion. We should not foreclose options.

Space Mirror's: Place 50,000 100 km^2 mirror's in Earth's orbit to
reflect incoming sunlight.

Stratospheric Dust: Use guns or balloons to maintain a dust cloud in
the stratosphere to increase the sunlight reflection.

Stratospheric Bubbles: Place billions of aluminized, hydrogen-filled
balloons in the stratosphere to provide a reflective screen.

Low Stratospheric Dust: Use aircraft to maintain a cloud of dust in
the low stratosphere to reflect sunlight

Low Stratospheric Soot: Decrease efficiency of burning in engines of
aircraft flying in the low stratosphere to maintain a thin cloud of
soot to intercept sunlight.

Cloud Stimulation: Burn Sulfur in ships or power plants to form
sulfate aerosol in order to stimulate additional low marine clouds to
reflect sunlight.

Ocean Biomass Stimulation: Place iron in the oceans to stimulate
generation of CO_2-absorbing phytoplankton.

Atmospheric CFC Removal: Use lasers to break up CFCs in the atmosphere.

Reforestation: Reforest 28.7 Mha of economically or environmentally
marginal crop and pasture lands and nonfederal forest lands to
sequester 10 percent of U.S. CO_2 emissions.

Nuclear: Replace all existing fossil-fuel-fired plants with nuclear
power plants such as advanced light-water reactors.

Methanol from Biomass: Replace all existing gasoline vehicles with
those that use methanol produced from biomass.

Solar Photovoltaics: Replace fossil-fuel-fired plants with solar
photovoltaics generation potential of 2.5 quads.

The National Academy of Sciences report that considers these proposals
and many others is available on the web.

Policy Implications of Greenhouse Warming: Mitigation, Adaptation, and
the Science Base (1992)

Click on "Image Version" or "PDF version" button.
Look at Chapter Six for mitigation strategies.

I found out about this report by reading Gregory Benford's cover
article in the November issue of Reason magazine that is also
available on the web.

Gregory Benford
Climate Controls
Reason magazine

Blurb from magazine: If we treated global warming as a technical
problem instead of a moral outrage, we could cool the world.