7000 feet under ground


We can’t just sweep climate change under the rug. But what if we swept it 7000 ft under ground? You know if you visit a hot night club in Miami, you might see some international models dancing to some bass heavy techno music. But in the near future you might just see fish. You see, that’s because south Florida is particularly vulnerable to sea level rising due to climate change. But you mention climate change to some people and they throw their hands up in the air and say it’s just too big of a problem.

This would require too much governmental cooperation across countries that rarely can coordinate on anything, let alone something as big as climate change. But don’t lose hope, I mean we’ve done it before. Sort of. Do you remember the hole in the ozone layer? This was created mostly through the use of things like chlorofluorocarbons, a component found in aerosol cans used in products like hairspray. But thanks to the Montreal Protocol, 197 countries agreed to phase out CFCs, and the ozone layer has replenished. We expect it to be back at 1950’s levels by 2080. But the problem is, unless you’re a hair metal band from the 1980s, you’re probably not as dependent upon hair spray as we are on carbon emitting fossil fuels. Reducing their use is a long way off. But maybe we can reduce how much of it we release back into the atmosphere.

One option is to separate out the carbon dioxide before you burn the fossil fuel. Now this would be done at a large processing plant that emits a lot of carbon. You take the carbon and you pump it through pipelines down into the Earth’s crust, to a layer of porous rocks. The carbon actually seeps into the spaces in these rocks and then a level of non-porous rocks above acts as a seal, keeping the carbon from escaping and moving back to the Earth’s surface. But what happens if our climate situation becomes more desperate really soon? We may have to look at more extreme measures like geoengineering. Now this is something we already do on a limited basis. We use it to reduce fog near airports, or limit the size of hail. But in this expanded version we would be using sulfate aerosols. This is essentially the same stuff that gets ejected into the atmosphere after a volcanic eruption.

We would take it into the stratosphere with special aircraft to disperse it. These particles reflect sunlight, so the sun’s light gets reflected before it can be captured in the Earth’s atmosphere by greenhouse gases. Sounds great right? Perfect solution. Hang on a second, there’s a little drawback. You see this could cause….can you guess? Depletion of the ozone layer. We’re back to square one. It’s like taking one pill to go to sleep, and another pill to wake up. Now as anyone in medicine can tell you, it’s always better to treat the underlying cause than the symptoms. But in this case, that means pouring more money and resources into renewable energy like solar, wind, or biomass.