An "escape route" from global warming?
Here's one from the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction department. Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, thinks we can save the world from global warming by releasing particles of sulphur into the upper atmosphere. He says the sulphur would reflect sunlight and heat back into space, resulting in a cooler planet.
Crutzen suggests dispersing the sulphur via a fleet of high-altitude balloons or by firing it into the upper atmosphere inside heavy artillery shells. Hmmm...how would the sulphur get out of the shells, and where would the empty shells land?
Obviously, this idea has a few kinks to work out...including cost, which is estimated at $25 to $50 billion to launch enough sulphur to last about two years. But as Crutzen points out, the high cost should be measured against the even higher cost of environmental disasters caused by global warming.
Of course, as with any drug, this idea does have potential side effects: an increase in the destruction of the ozone layer and whitening of the sky. However, Crutzen said, the sulphur particles would also create more spectacular sunsets and sunrises.
A bigger ozone hole and a weird-colored sky in trade for a cooler planet and cooler sunsets? Oh well, like we humans do with everything else, we'll cross that collapsed bridge when we come to it.
Other "geo-engineering" ideas to combat global warming, proposed by other scientists:
Reflect light and heat back into space by building giant unfolding mirrors in space, laying reflecting film in the deserts, or floating white plastic islands in the ocean to mimic the reflective effect of sea ice.
Swallow up CO2 by dumping iron into the ocean. Marine plankton absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which the microbes need for photosynthesis. The growth of plankton is limited by the relatively small amounts of iron in the sea. Scientists have conducted experiments on boosting plankton by throwing iron filings into the sea. But why settle for mere filings - why not dump all the planet's broken-down cars, trucks, trains, ships, and unused exercise equipment into the ocean?