Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Another Species Of Denial

As part of the official U.S. response to the IPCC report on Global Warming, the Bush administration is demanding that scientists scientists to develop technology to create a "global parasol" and block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming. Ideas include injecting sulphur particles into the atmosphere and launching a giant reflecting mirror. In yesterday's U.K. Gaurdian, George Monbiot dissects these proposals (bolding is mine):

Every scheme that could give us a chance of preventing runaway climate change should be considered on its merits. But the proposals for building a global parasol don't have very many. A group of nuclear weapons scientists at the Lawrence Livermore laboratory in California, apparently bored of experimenting with only one kind of mass death, have proposed launching into the atmosphere a million tonnes of tiny aluminium balloons, filled with hydrogen, every year. One unfortunate side-effect would be to eliminate the ozone layer.

Another proposal, from a scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado, suggests spraying billions of tonnes of sea-water into the air. Regrettably, the production of small salt particles, while generating obscuring mists, could cause droughts in the countries downwind. Another scheme would inject sulphate particles into the stratosphere. It is perhaps less dangerous than the others, but still carries a risk of causing changes in rainfall patterns. As for flipping a giant mirror into orbit, the necessary technologies are probably a century away. All these fixes appear more expensive than cutting the amount of energy we consume. None reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which threatens to acidify the oceans, with grave consequences for the food chain.


Instead of trying to persuade us that man-made global warming is a myth,[the Bush administration and the oil companies] are seeking to divert us into doing everything except the one thing that has to happen: reducing our consumption of fuel. It is another species of denial.

George Bush's purpose - to insulate these companies from the need to cut production - is unchanged. He has simply found a new way of framing the argument.

I fear that in the Canadian context, specifically in the context of employing nuclear power to clean up the tar sands, the Harper government is engaged in a similar diversionary campaign, since under the most favorable circumstances ( a smooth approvals process; no local opposition to the plan in Fort McMurray or surrounding towns ), construction would not likely begin for another decade.

That's ten years of sitting around and doing nothing but pollute.

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