related in mission if not in name, stationary carbon-capture technologies, which generally aren’t considered geoengineering, are nonetheless equally inventive: Skyonic, a Texas-based startup, captures carbon dioxide at power plants (a relatively well-proven technology) and mixes it with sodium hydroxide to render high-grade baking soda. A pilot version of the system is operating at the Brown Stream Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas. To the west in Tucson, Arizona, Global research Technologies, the only company in the world dedicated to carbon capture from ambient air, recently dem-onstrated a working “air extraction” prototype—a kind of carbon dioxide vacuum that stands upright and is about the size of a phone booth. Meanwhile, GreenFuel Technol-ogies Corporation, in collaboration with Arizona Public Service Company, is recycling carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by using it to grow biofuel stock in the form of—what else?—algae. kIrSTEN JErCH
MAY/JUNE 2008 Bulletin of the Atomic ScientiStS17shields. University of Arizona astrono-mer Roger P. Angel has proposed put-ting a fleet of 2-foot-wide reflective disks in a stable orbit between Earth and the sun that would bend sunlight away from Earth.16But to get the needed trillionsof disks into space, engineers would need 20 electromagnetic launchers to fire mis-siles with stacks of 800,000 disks every five minutes for twenty years. What would be the atmospheric effects of the resulting sound and gravity waves? Who would want to live nearby?10. Rapid warming if deployment stops.A technological, societal, or po-litical crisis could halt a project of stratospheric aerosol injection in mid-deployment. Such an abrupt shift would result in rapid climate warming, which would produce much more stress on society and ecosystems than gradual global warming.1711. There’s no going back.We don’t know how quickly scientists and engi-neers could shut down a geoengineer-ing system—or stem its effects—in the event of excessive climate cooling from large volcanic eruptions or other causes. Once we put aerosols into the atmosphere, we cannot remove them.12. Human error. Complex mechan-ical systems never work perfectly. Hu-mans can make mistakes in the de-sign, manufacturing, and operation of such systems. (Think of Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez, airplane crashes, and friendly fire on the battlefield.) Should we stake the future of Earth on a much more complicated arrangement than these, built by the lowest bidder?13. Undermining emissions miti- gation. If humans perceive an easy tech-nological fix to global warming that al-lows for “business as usual,” gathering the national (particularly in the United States and China) and international will to change consumption patterns and en-ergy infrastructure will be even more dif-ficult.
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