Appearing recently in the media have been submissions from scientists tabling possible worse case scenarios and last resort tactics to avert catastrophic global warming.
Some of the propositions involve deflecting solar radiation by placing mirrors or reflective dust in the upper atmosphere with the intent of deflecting solar radiation and thus with the hope of countering rising temperatures. Are they kidding?
As with other 21st century problems we need to address climate change with an appreciation of causality and addressing that at the root rather than treating symptoms by dispensing some additionally constructed human remedy. There is scope for greater insight into this as may apply to climate change as there may be from delving into the same basic flaw in the way mainstream human health-care is delivered.
Climate change and sustainability are complicated issues with diverse and often in-congruent arguments from various camps. However, I can simplify matters somewhat..
Try drawing two circles on a piece of paper to loosely represent Sun and Earth. What does the one give the other? It is child’s play, isn’t it? The Earth is reliant upon the Sun for energy, right? Rub out our circle that represented the Sun and what are the implications?
The Earth is an energy system subservient to the Sun. Life upon Earth in all its’ diversity is/are energy (and nutrient) systems subservient to the whole Earth. Humans are entirely subservient to those energy and nutrient hyper-cycles that nature has constructed by the process of evolution and all made possible by the Sun.
Through Defra and one of its’ offspring FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) the government, via Hilary Benn, the minister responsible, recently launched a consultation document upon future food security and entitled, I think, ‘Food Matters, part 2′. This is a document that questions the future of food security on a number of lines.
Concerns are expressed about rising global populations, increasing wealth in developing nations and anticipated change in dietary expectations of wealthier people, further concerns are declining fertility, dependency upon finite fossil fuel reserves for agrochem’ production, falling water tables, and potential changes to weather patterns, temperatures and precipitation. In short it is concern about energy and nutrients and whether we are fast reaching the limit of the total capacity of the Earth to feed a rising population. The problem lies rooted in conventional agricultural methods as applied by western civilisations because inherent in the practice at a number of levels is the principle of deferred accountability. Conventional agriculture practices with complete deference to natural energy and nutrient hyper-cycles. 21st century challenges are the consequences of carrying on without any regard for these natural constraints. One such constraint, somewhat fundamental, was illustrated by drawing our two circles.
Food is produced by capturing solar radiation and nutrients through the life giving process of photosynthesis. So if we register already concern over ability to meet demand then one might deduce that we need to capitalise upon all the solar radiation we can capture, and in the face of passing peak oil we acknowledge we may have to produce increasing amounts of energy for our domestic and industrial needs from renewable sources. The primary capitals here are Sun, Moon (tidal) geothermal, and morphological (fission/fusion). Factor in that energy production may have to be carbon neutral or even carbon negative (and soon) and photosynthesis looks increasingly attractive to produce energy for requirements other than simply and primarily for food.
Such a strategy would place a huge burden upon the suitable agricultural regions of the world. We’ll need several things to meet this burden but not least will be plenty of solar radiation. Best not to pin too much hope upon launching reflective material of any kind into space. I mean, its’ hardly rocket science..