The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'carbon'


A leading environmentalist has claimed that walking to the shops does more to cause global warming than driving; according to Chris Goodall, the author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life and a Green Party candidate in the UK, producing the food to provide a person with enough calories to walk to the shops is more energy-intensive than driving. Also, catching a diesel train is twice as polluting as driving a sports-utility vehicle over the same distance, paper bags are more environmentally damaging than plastic (because of the energy required to manufacture and transport them), organic milk causes more greenhouse emissions than intensively-produced non-organic milk, and while trees do absorb carbon, they produce methane, which is much more harmful.

So if you want to save the planet, forget about walking and drive everywhere like a mid-20th-century Los Angeleno, taking care to live a sedentary lifestyle in the interim. And don't even think about going to the gym; you'll go to green hell for such egregious wastes of carbon. Or perhaps not.

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Some say that global warming has already passed the point of no return, it's too late for even the most radical CO2-reduction regime to save us (let alone the pitiful compromises politicians are squabbling over) and that we're all going to roast to death and/or starve when the food chain collapses spectacularly. Not to worry, says Nobel laureate Professor Paul Crutzen; if it gets to the point of global catastrophe, we could always release sulphur into the upper atmosphere, reducing the amount of sunlight getting through, and cooling things down:

A fleet of high-altitude balloons could be used to scatter the sulphur high overhead, or it could even be fired into the atmosphere using heavy artillery shells, said Professor Crutzen, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany.
His plan is modelled partly on the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in 1991, when thousands of tons of sulphur were ejected into the atmosphere causing global temperatures to fall. Pinatubo generated sulphate aerosols in the atmosphere which cooled the Earth by 0.5C on average in the following year. The sulphate particles did this by acting like tiny mirrors, preventing a portion of incoming sunlight from reaching the ground.
Some scientists aren't too happy with the plan, lest it encourage people to keep driving Hummers and leaving their VCRs on standby, secure in the knowledge that they can always spray some sulphur into the upper atmosphere if things get too bad.

This is only one of several proposed "geo-engineering" ideas to remedy the symptoms of climate change by technological means; others involve boosting the growth of CO2-swallowing plankton and floating white plastic islands on oceans to replace all the highly reflective sea ice that has melted. (Speaking of sending the wrong message, one can't top the last one; I wonder how many people will use it as an excuse for throwing plastic bags into drains.)

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