Image via knowledge allianz
If humans fail to act on reducing carbon emissions, then geoengineering could be our last hope--that's the finding of a recent paper published the Royal Society. While the report stresses that every possible effort must be made to reduce emissions, it outlines some of the more feasible experiments that could slow the earth's warming enough to buy us some time. Among them? Whitening clouds with sea salt--with the help of a fleet of wind-powered yachts--in order to reflect solar radiation back into space.In a piece for the BBC, Dr. Alan Gadian argues that whitening clouds is one of the most promising methods of staving off global warming, and large-scale research should begin immediately on the project. So why sea salt? Gadian explains:
For a given mass of water in a cloud, clouds with smaller droplets tend to be whiter . . . So the proposal is to inject a fine spray of sea salt from the ocean surface into the clouds; to artificially increase the number of drops, reduce their size and increase the reflectance of the clouds, making them whiter.Which could have a major impact: "This one-off increase in reflectance - and the resulting cooling - could buy us precious time; maybe as much as 25 years," he says. He also emphasizes that much research has yet to be done before it's determined to be feasible--which is why he wants it to start now. So how are we to inject enough sea salt into clouds?
Image via the BBC
Wind-Powered Yachts to Deliver Sea Salt
Another climate scientist, Dr. Stephen Salter, has proposed using wind-powered yachts to shoot the sea salt into the cloud cover. From the BBC:
Professor Salter has suggested a design for a fleet of about 2000 of wind-powered yachts, which incorporate a sophisticated spray mechanism that is now being developed.Gadian wants funding to develop and test the yachts, and to stage a field experiment in the near future. He believes that a major benefit of the plan is that it uses naturally occurring sea water spray as its core component, which can be turned off immediately "if there are any unforeseen consequences."
It's an intriguing prospect--slowing down global warming for 25 years could give politicians and the global community some much-needed time to curb emissions. But it's certainly not worth banking on--there's no guarantee the sea salt scheme will work at all, for one thing. And it's still far from a 'silver bullet,' and would be foolish to consider it as such. But if we fail to act in time to avert a global climate disaster, maybe, just maybe--our last hope will lie in a wind-powered yacht that blasts sea salt into the sky.
More on Geoengineering Solutions
7 Geoengineering Solutions That Promise To Save Humans from Climate Change
Geoengineering Redux: Fertilizing Trees with Nitrogen to Fight Climate Change
Bill Gates, Infected By Geoengineering Virus, Patents Hurricane