There has been many different solutions to various environmental issues proposed over the years. Some are brilliant (like plastic roads). Others were discounted years ago for a reason, yet they keep coming back to haunt us. The latest proposal from UK scientists probably falls into the latter category.
On this month's episode of Conversations in Science, Jessie and I spoke about how UK scientists want to dim the sun.
Dimming the Sun
(First aired on KLRNRadio, Monday, November 6, 2017)
There is no doubt that coral reefs are dying. People can deny climate change and global warming all they want, but the empirical data about the decline in the coral reefs is irrefutable.
The coral reefs play a vital roll in marine ecology, but they also provide storm breaks to protect beach fronts among other things. So, when Professor James Crabbe, an expert in coral reefs based at the University of Bedfordshire in UK, says that we need to dim the sun, people want to listen. But his idea...
James Crabbe has suggested that we dim the sun by injecting sulfates into the upper atmosphere.
Those who have listened to previous episodes of Conversations in Science have heard me talk about global warming and climate change before. I have spoken about the effects of sulfates in the atmosphere on several occasions.
It turns out that shortly after WWII, there was an increased amount of sulfate emissions resulting the increased production of sulfate-based products (i.e. insecticide, fertilizer, etc.). The sulfates had a global cooling effect, counteracting the warming that's being caused by increased carbon emissions. Every time there is a volcanic eruption somewhere, there is a cooling. However, the sulfates caused other issues.
Sulfates in the atmosphere have been linked to acid rain. This causes issue with the growth of crops and other things. No offence, but this seems like a bad idea from the start. However, when I was doing research for this episode, I found more side effects of sulfates that highlight the BAD IDEA FAIRY is having way too much fun.
It turns out that an increase in sulfates in the drinking water has been linked to an increase in catharsis among human males, and diarrhea among mammals. Because of the way the water cycle works, anything injected into the atmosphere will eventually find our drinking water.
So, they are wanting to inject sulfates into the atmosphere to save the coral reefs, yet the fact that we'll have a human population that is overemotional and can't wander too far from a toilet is not a worry. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this?
This idea to dim the sun really does sound like they are trading one problem for another. It's the cane toads of Australia all over again.
Some ideas were discounted years ago for a reason. In this case, I suggest that we let this Bad Idea Fairy die.
Take a listen to this month's episode as Jessie and I explore this idea.