Pinatubo Early Eruption

Idea Lab: Volcanoes Cool Earth. Why Can’t We?

Environmental scientist David Keith brainstorms a radical, fast and cheap way to cool the planet…throwing up huge clouds of ash to deflect sunlight and heat.

Would it work? Keith says it’s been done before. Back in 1991, Mt. Pinatubo blew it’s top in the Philippines sending 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the air and thousands of villagers running for safety. The net effect of a series of eruptions was a .9 degree cooling of the planet.

Keith readily admits there are some known downsides, namely releasing sulfur into the upper atmosphere damages the ozone layer, and by giving politicians a fast and easy option to cool the Earth we seriously limit their motivation for doing anything that will help the problem naturally, like reducing emissions.

But Eco-Beat has a larger concern, which is the increasingly popular idea that the Earth is a sick patient that can be fixed with a little modern medicine. It’s a tempting metaphor. We have all witnessed the miracles of medical science like open heart surgery and 72 hour erections. But we have arrived here after 100 years of experiments most of them failures. We have computer models and animal models and clinical trials and still most drugs never make it to market and those that do often have miserable side effects.

In essence, the road to modern cures has been hard fought. Do we get that many shots with the Earth? Perhaps we are better off working on the 96 hour erection.
Still, Keith is a fascinating orator. Check him out.

Thanks to our friends at Earth & Economy for finding this gem.

Photo: Wiki