Don’t Dismiss Solar Shields as Being Too Far-Fetched in the Future

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Geoengineering proposals to deal with climate change such as a gigantic solar shield attached to an asteroid described in a Sept. 4 column by Examiner publisher Adam Stone should not be taken off the table as a possible solution, even though it may appear in some cases to be extremely far-fetched.

Research on such proposals should be supported in case it becomes clear that greenhouse gas emissions cannot be reduced enough and there is impending disaster. However, it should also be kept in mind that even if someday a decision is made to employ a geoengineering proposal, it is critical that the efforts to reduce emissions be continued.

One important reason to reduce emissions in such a circumstance, in addition to reasons associated with addressing climate change, is that carbon dioxide not only acts as a greenhouse gas to warm the atmosphere but it also acidifies the oceans. Since 1950 the average pH of the oceans has been clearly lowered mainly due to the uptake of carbon dioxide. If acidification continues the effects could be profound on sea life especially on organisms protected by hard shells composed of calcium carbonate, which can be dissolved by acidification. Such effects have already been detected in mollusks.

Moreover, the oceans are now being severely impacted by increased warming with devastating effects on coral reefs the most obvious example.

After three decades of trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions it is clear that there is no simple solution and perhaps launching a giant “space umbrella” to reduce solar radiation reaching the Earth may eventually take place. Even if such a project turns out to be effective, a wide range of actions to reduce emissions need to continue with the most important being those aimed at reducing the burning of fossil fuels for energy.

Robert Liebman
Mount Kisco

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