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Giant sun block won't do the trick on global warming

July 06, 2006|by TIM ROWLAND

Now that even known environmentalist President Bush has acknowledged the realities of global warming, the debate has moved into its next, and most comical, phase.

This would be, how to FIX the problem of global warming.

Some scientists are saying that the best option is to reduce the noxious gases that are emitted by automobiles, factories, power plants and Harry Reid.

But if that doesn't happen, and with any luck it won't, we need to be prepared, scientists say.

To that end, they are considering some radical solutions, including -no kidding - an unimaginably huge, circular sunscreen to shield the earth from the sun; tricking the oceans into growing more algae, which would soak up carbon dioxide before dying and falling into the depths of the sea; trillions of tiny mirrors to reflect sunlight; and simulated volcanos to act as atmospheric insulation.

I like it. Be irresponsible now and compensate it later. It's like global liposuction.

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Although, and I hate to break it to the scientist who is obviously very proud of the idea, but the sun-screen idea has already been invented by C. Montgomery Burns in "The Simpsons" episode 2F16, in which the tycoon blocks out the sun so he can sell Springfield more electricity.

In truth, an artist's conception of the sun blocker pictured in last week's New York Times looks remarkably like Mr. Burns' sun-blocker. Burns', however, was a telescoping post, while this one just kind of hovers in the air.

According to the Times, in the past, these proposals "were relegated to the fringes of climate science. Few journals would publish them. Few government agencies would pay for feasibility studies. But now, in a major reversal, some of the world's most prominent scientists say the proposals deserve a serious look because of growing concerns about global warming. Worried about a potential planetary crisis, these leaders are calling on governments and scientific groups to study exotic ways to reduce global warming, seeing them as possible fallback positions if the planet eventually needs a dose of emergency cooling."

Emergency cooling? What do we look like, a side of beef?

I know the planet is heating and I know our polluting ways are probably the cause of it, but what I don't know is why we can't just adapt. You know, have one big beach party and sit around waiting for the next ice age.

Obviously, this is spoken like a man who does not own any oceanfront property. True, the coastal cities may have a problem, but who needs Los Angeles? Besides the breast-augmentation industry, I mean.

I guess if it's going to cause famines and drought and tempests and dogs and cats living together, that's an issue. But I want to know two things: How warm and how soon? Is there time for me to profit by buying up land five miles inland and selling it in 20 years as beachfront?

And if it's going to be 98 in the summer instead of 95, I can cope. People have adjusted to temperature change before, and if it means growing mangos in Michigan, I guess that's what we'll have to do.

But why do all these cooling "solutions" have me more worried than the warming "problem?"

Probably, because I know at some point the government will get involved. What's Congress' new motto going to be? "You've seen us deal with New Orleans, now watch us tackle the jet stream."

No private industry is going to build a sun-blocker, because there won't be any profit in it. It would hurt some existing businesses. Imagine the consequences for the makers of SPF-30.

That will leave it to government, and, maybe you've noticed, it doesn't always make a stunning success of things.

First, you know that Halliburton would get the contract, so the inefficiency, cost overruns and shenanigans can only be imagined. Second, the government could start out trying to cool the earth and end up touching off 2,000 simultaneous volcanos.

And try telling the taxpayers the brackets have to go up by 10 percent so we can deflect sunlight. I'm guessing that will fly just about we well as a government-built sun-blocking disk.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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