This Wired article talks about Bill Gates’ recent monetary contribution to the field of geoengineering. Apparently he’s put $4.5 million dollars into research being done by two top geoengineering researchers, including Canadian David Keith, who I heard on the radio a little while ago talking about his idea for cooling the planet.
His idea is that even if we cut CO2 emissions massively, and immediately, there will still be a great deal of it in the atmosphere and warming may continue for quite some time before it levels off and starts to drop. We could find ourselves in an emergency situation where the planet needs to be cooled right away unless we want to lose New York. His idea is to sprinkle the the mesosphere with microparticles of sulfuric acid that can deflect solar radiation. Here’s his TED talk about it.
The funny thing that I took away from the conversation with him on the radio is that this method of cooling the planet would be incredibly affordable. It already happened naturally when Mount Pinatubo erupted, and reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by 10% and reduced temperatures in North America by 1/2 degree Celsius. His proposed method would do it in a way that keeps the particles up in the air (and no, it isn’t putting ash in the air) so the effect would be longer lasting and wouldn’t impact the ozone layer. He said the biggest worry he has about the idea isn’t that it’s too expensive and nobody will do it, but that it’s so affordable some nation that’s fed up with global waffling on climate change might just go ahead and do it on their own without consulting anybody, and without studying the full effects of the method.
A small nation?
Or an individual with the wealth of a small nation?
Perhaps Mr. Gates is enlisting the help of these scientists because he’s fed up with the nations of the world stalling on the issue of climate change. He must be a man who recognizes that sometimes innovation has to come from the private sector.
I predict that Bill Gates will help these geoengineers find a way to save the planet, and he will present a proposal to do so within the next 5 – 10 years. The debate over whether or not to do it will drag on for at least five. Finally, Gates will decide the time for talk has passed, and will send his own world-saving rocket into the sky.
It’s been a while since an individual did something so big, and so terrifying. I’m kind of looking forward to it.