THE US wants the world's scientists to develop technology to block sunlight as a last-ditch way to halt global warming.
It says research into techniques such as giant mirrors in space or reflective dust pumped into the atmosphere would be "important insurance" against rising emissions, and has lobbied for such a strategy to be recommended by a UN report on climate change, the first part of which is due out on Friday).
The US response says the idea of interfering with sunlight should be included in the summary for policymakers, the prominent chapter at the front of each panel report. It says: "Modifying solar radiance may be an important strategy if mitigation of emissions fails. Doing the R&D to estimate the consequences of applying such a strategy is important insurance that should be taken out. This is a very important possibility that should be considered."
Scientists have previously estimated that reflecting less than 1 per cent of sunlight back into space could compensate for the warming generated by all greenhouse gases emitted since the industrial revolution. Possible techniques include putting a giant screen into orbit, thousands of tiny, shiny balloons, or microscopic sulfate droplets pumped into the high atmosphere to mimic the cooling effects of a volcanic eruption. The IPCC draft said such ideas were "speculative, uncosted and with potential unknown side-effects".
Ok, it's not the stupidest idea ever. It's just extremely arrogant. It's like driving 100 mph because your seatbelt increases your chances of surviving a crash by 50%. Do you need to be driving 100mph? No. Do we need to be looking for methods to survive the crash instead of methods to avoid the crash? No. This kind of thinking is exactly what's wrong with the Bush administration's attitude towards the problem of global warming. As they say:
The US submission complains the draft report is "Kyoto-centric" and it wants to include the work of economists who have reported "the degree to which the Kyoto framework is found wanting".
It also complains that overall "the report tends to overstate or focus on the negative effects of climate change". It also wants more emphasis on responsibilities of the developing world.
Those are the economists who would tell us that putting caps on emissions in place would hurt our economy by X billion dollars. And of course, those economists would leave out the costs of global warming over the next 100 or 200 years. That's just how they like it in Bushworld.