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back to article Boffins: Give up on CO2 cuts, only geoengineering can work

Top British climate boffins have said that the only practical hope for arresting global warming is the use of "geoengineering" - techniques intended to reduce the effects of CO2 emissions, as opposed to reducing the CO2 emissions themselves. The scientists add that not only are large emissions cuts politically and …

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FAIL

Yet again

we have the nonsense phrase "saving the planet".

Please explain to me where the carbon di-oxide in the so-called 'fossil fuels' came from.

Was it not from flora and fauna growing abundantly in a world much hotter, much wetter and with a much higher level of both carbon di-oxide and oxygen?

"The planet" did not need to "save" itself then, and it does not need to now.

Save humankind is what is really meant.

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Bronze badge

Governments won't like this sort of talk!

It's not so long ago that G8 (or G whatever) governments were denying global warming altogether. Then suddenly they changed their minds when they saw the potential it held for taxing and controlling their citizens and keeping the developing world down. This sort of talk restricts the possibilties for both.

But the fun part of this is just waiting for all those commentards for whom reducing your carbon footprint is a religious belief.

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Best we get on with non-carbon energy

Best we get on with non-carbon energy sources anyway because oil is already past peak production. Even coal won't last long if consumption goes on up. So, we need to have alternatives ready ASAP. Besides, it would be nice to have a bit of oil left for use as a lubricant.

However, solar shades alone are not enough. There's still the problem of oceanic acidification and its effect on marine life if CO2 levels continue to rise. So, there's no escape from the need to reduce net CO2 emissions.

Last but not least, reducing CO2 output is probably a lot cheaper than sequestration schemes, let alone solving the problem of securely storing the sheer volume of captured carbon.

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Anonymous Coward

What kind of survival

@Dorset Rambler:

Humans are one of the most adaptable species on the planet. We'll figure out a way to perpetuate ourselves.

The issue is whether we want to live in a world of richness and diversity or whether we want to spend the next million years or so living in a drab, uncomfortable planet of weeds.

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Thumb Up

Sounds good to me.

If they really are sure that the earth is getting warmer then I'm happy for them to use the cheapest possible solution that allows me to carry on burning fossil fuels and using my "evil" high wattage light bulbs.

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Unhappy

Shame on you Lewis

"Top British climate boffins have said that the only practical hope for arresting global warming is the use of "geoengineering" - techniques intended to reduce the effects of CO2 emissions, as opposed to reducing the CO2 emissions themselves."

No, that is exactly what they DID NOT say, very clearly, multiple times.

See for instance the BBC piece ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/-/1/hi/sci/tech/8231387.stm )

"...they also stressed that the potential of geo-engineering should not divert governments away from their efforts to reduce carbon emissions."

I really wish El Reg would stop embarrassing itself by trying to cover climate change, you just make yourselves look stupid pursuing this nutcase agenda.

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I agree with...

...The Dorset Rambler.

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Boffins?

If the boffins are so clever why do they never ever mention that the only real solution is to stop the human population increasing (and ideally probably reduce it in the long term by a significant percentage). All any other solution will do is just provide a short term fix which will fail again once the population (and therefore the level of resource use, energy requirements, etc, etc) increases to compensate.

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@Dorset Rambler

People use 'saving the planet' as a shorthand for 'keep the planet habitable by us'. If we all die, what do we care whether the planet keeps spinning?

It's pretty pedantic to use the FAIL icon over such a trivial technicality.

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There can be only one!...

Highlander 2 anyone?

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Anonymous Coward

planet saving

The planet doesn't need saving, the planets just fine, it's lived billions of years, the people are fucked, the planets fine.

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Stop

What most fail to realize

Most geoengineering things that I've seen either aren't effective on the large scale, or add extra problems once we have to fix any OTHER tinkering we've done to the planet. I mean, people have tried to tout dumping football fields worth of iron filings into the ocean to act as a CO2 sink or somesuch, but didn't stop to think what doing all of that would actually do to the ocean itself.

Didn't some other boffins find that the rise in heat was due to regs stopping acid rain, and NOT CO2 anyways?

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Megaphone

Awww... but I want the jeffersons' future

with the flying cars going ...meepmeepmeepmeep... and no smog, and a dog who is cleverer than my real dog...

Not planes pumping sunscreen a few kilometers above my head, and the same shitty cars we have at the moment. Even the leccy cars suck at the moment.

I don't think we have any right to force other nations to reduce their carbon emissions... but I think we should lead by example and try our best to encourage others to follow suit. But I don't think it is worth giving up on the cool future.

Mind you... Blade Runner looked cool....

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Stop

@Dorset Rambler

``Please explain to me where the carbon di-oxide in the so-called 'fossil fuels' came from.''

There isn't any carbon dioxide in fossil fuels - you only get CO2 when you burn (oxidize) them.

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FAIL

But...

...it's so lucrative! How will we ever get all those lovely research grants without hype about the ecopocalypse? How are the councils going to justify fining folks for not washing out tin cans and religiously putting them in pointless categories of waste in a ritualistic manner every Thursday without some ecological bogeyman to spur them on?

@AC 12:23 (c) The late, great George Carlin, may he rest in peace.

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Grenade

Nuclear plant for Lewis?

Are all these articles really just about Lewis getting his very own nuclear reactor? As others point out:

1) it's not about saving the planet - if the Vogons do turn up and want to demolish it there's fuck all we can do that.

2) it's never really been about climate change. Most of the industrialised world appears unlikely to suffer dramatically in most scenarios, unless another ice age is provoked. But we might suffer in the change in other countries produces significant population displacement.

3) "Climate change" is just a smoke screen for energy and resources policy.

4) we'll need the oil for other things

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Unforseen side effects.

How many time have humans f**ked up an environment and then implemented an engineered "solution" which only succeeded in f**king it up even more?

The introduction of cane toads in Australia comes to mind. They ignored the bugs they were intended to eat and munched their way through the native fauna instead. Now they are a *huge* problem themselves.

What will be the side effects of blocking solar radiation with big mirrors? How will it effect plant life and *its* ability to remove CO2? How is blasting huge quantities of sea water into the upper atmosphere a good idea? What if the calculations are wrong? What happens when it comes back down?

The probable consequences of global warming aren't well understood themselves. If you start introducing poorly understood "fixes" to a poorly understood phenomenon then you are as likely to cause and even bigger disaster as you are to fix the original problem.

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JWS
WTF?

Did I miss something?

What's wrong with a load of Nuclear power plants? That's as green as it gets and creates a load of jobs while it's being built (which last time I checked el Gov was rather keen to do). Then we can kick back with our cool BMW hybrids (not a crappy Prius) and all the eco nuts can get a new hobby, ideally away from me!

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Stop

More solutions to a non-problem.

Hasn't this lie go on long enough. Step back a minute and look at the human race - 6 billion and increasing - this "inspite" of global warming? I suspect good ol' homosap likes things to get warmer (anyone looked at death rates during very hot summers versus very cold winters?) in fact I'd go as far as to suggest that a warmer earth is much to homosap's advantage (just look at the numbers) .

As to poor benighted carbon dioxide - leave our little plant friend alone - she's done no wrong and you'll all be very sorry if she goes. The bad press she's received without any proof would even make the NotW blush. Before jumping on the AGW bandwagon why not check out the temperature datasets that led to the "climate of fear" - oh wait you can't no one will let you/ can find them. And they call themselves scientists - does anyone remember the scientific method anymore?

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Rain forests

I think the reduction of rain forest is both a major cause for increased CO_2 and also in itself a more serious environmental problem than "just" increasing temperature.

To me, the most effective way to battle CO_2 is to increase the area of viable plant ecosystems with high CO_2 consumption, i.e., rain forests. Doing this is much cheaper than planting artificial trees, it is largely self-sustaining and have huge side-benefits in terms of providing harvest-able food and medicine (as long as you don't over-exploit). This would need global cooperation, so the people now living in cleared rain forest areas can be compensated for re-planting their land and re-educated to exploit the rainforest in a sustainable way -- i.e., by harvesting fruit, sap, animals and timber at a lower rate than these are replenished, taking care to keep populations stable and diverse.

We also need to increase the plant ecosystems in settles areas, i.e., plant trees in parking lots and alongside roads. Most drivers would on a hot summer day rather park their car under a large tree than in the middle of an asphalt desert, and trees need not reduce the parking area significantly if you cut away lower branches. A mature oak can have a canopy spanning tens of meters with a trunk of only one to two meters. Similarly, planting trees in strips between opposing road lanes takes little extra space, creates shade and increases CO_2 intake. We used to have trees lining every street, but in many places these have been cut down to gain a few extra feet of width for car lanes. We need to revert this trend, so settles areas are more green -- not only by having more parks, but by integrating trees and other plants in the cityscape. Plant ivy or other creepers to cover walls and roofs of housing, put real plants instead of plastic in offices and reception areas, and so on.

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WTF?

Trees.

Huh?

I don't get all the finer nuances of this argument/news, but does anyonone remember a thing called a 'tree'.

Radical I know, but perhaps instead of all this boffinry, planting trees might be a cheaper solution. We can also do it now (apparently)....

I dunno....

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Gold badge

Lazy

It's because people are too lazy to get out of their cars and discover the pleasures of walking and cycling.

Also because of the modern way of working where you simply can't buy a house near your workplace and work there for years and get a promotion. Instead you have to keep moving jobs to move up the ladder.

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FAIL

We're all doomed!

So enjoy it while you can.

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Silver badge

@Giles Jones

Its not about moving jobs to move up the ladder - its about moving jobs so you don't get found out. If you get found out you don't go up the ladder.

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FAIL

@JWS

>What's wrong with a load of Nuclear power plants?

Fuel - we've got at most 100 years left at current consumption rates. If you just went nuclear to provide our current electricity, you're down to 20 years. If you use it to replace all other sources of power, you've still got less than a decade, so why bother? You'll need to be building the windmills before you've finished half the reactors.

Breeder reactors would help, but almost no one is building them. Fusion power is 20-30 years away, like it has been for the last 40 years, so you'd be an idiot to bet on that, or any other SF invention.

There is no realistic prospect of finding new sources of fuel (at an economically viable cost - yeah, there may be some at the bottom of the Marianis trench or on asteroids, but it'll cost), unlike oil, we've already looked in all the cheap places.

Oh, and consumption is increasing. And most of our existing nuclear sites are under threat from climate change.

Sorry, but despite all the posturing from the industry and the others who can't do basic maths or read science properly (Lewis, I'm afraid I'm looking at you here), it's clear that nuclear power based on current tech is a dead duck. It can (and should) make up part of our power generation, but it can't do all of it for long enough to be useful as a complete fix.

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FAIL

Pie in the sky

Well, I suppose it's progress that El Reg have published an article that actually admits we have a problem with global warming. Now, how about one that debunks geoengineering solutions such as this:

"The estimated costs of maintaining a sulphate aerosol shield, most likely through a small number of dedicated high-flying aircraft, are remarkably cheap compared with the costs of conventional mitigation by factors of hundreds or even thousands."

Reason? Its destructive effect on the ozone layer. (See http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/1953)

I suppose reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source is too boring.

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@Fading

``just look at the numbers''

What numbers would those be? The only number you've provided is the current global population, and all that proves is that people are still breeding, regardless of how capable either the parents or the planet are of sustaining the offspring.

The available statistics about human mortality rates due to extreme hot vs cold weather aren't very detailed or conclusive - arguers from both sides have used carefully selected datasets that give a hint of favour to their own viewpoint. The human body's ability to withstand higher temperatures isn't the issue here - for an overview of some other effects of small changes in temperature, I suggest you glance at this summary of Mark Lynas' "Six Degrees": http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian

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Bronze badge

What kind of cuts?

A 50% cut in energy use by 2050 is indeed politically impossible. Switching to more use of wind power and the like, making activities more energy-efficient, would reduce the impact on living standards and the required energy cuts only slightly. Only nuclear power lets us have increases in energy use without adding to carbon dioxide emissions, and so I think we should start going for it in a big way before the shoe starts pinching. Geoengineering might have to be done if things become serious, but it is risky and expensive, so it should be considered a last resort compared to something as relatively prosaic as a switch to nuclear power.

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Flame

At least

the Reg writer is not another rabid diluted Global Warming Denier (or at least if he is it doesn't leak out onto the article). Good article. However, I see by the comments that some of the posters are deniers, LOL. Go piss up a rope.

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Go

Anthropomorphic impact

Folks who believe that the last 100 years of rampant industrialization has had no effect on planet earth's ecosystems should wake up a little and open their eyes to the multitude of indicators that environmental stability is becoming more variable.

The false doctrine of limitless growth in an economy based on consumption of finite fossil fuels is causing enourmous damage to the planet in the interests of enriching a greedy minority. The risks to continued unchecked exploitation are enormous - in competitive terms (ie more fighting for increasingly limited resources), ecological terms as the consumption of these fuels creates more pollution and in so far as survival of the species goes.

As of right now we don't have another planet we can move to so it is common sense that we should take care of this one.

> It's because people are too lazy to get out of their cars and discover the pleasures of walking and cycling.

I haven't owned a car for 10+ years. I choose to live close to work and cycle / walk or take public transport. I'm fitter, healthier and better off for doing so.

The idea that individual action (re-cycling, wasting less, opting for carbon-free or efficient collective modes of transport) doesn't make any difference is a falsehood held up by those who are too lazy, ignorant or greedy to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

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Grenade

Shame on you Tom Paine

Lewis was referring to the PhysicsWorld paper written by Peter Cox, not the one from the Royal Society that you link to. Although he also served on the RS committee, I think his paper should be considered a kind of minority report.

IMHO the RS does a fine job of considering the various geoengineering options. It identifies the only high-impact low-cost one (stratospheric aerosols - see Figure 5.1 on p.49) and then bottles it saying, in effect, "but this might have other negative consequences, so shouldn't be tried". Well, pardon me, but if AGW is correct than we appear to have two choices - massive reduction in CO2 emissions (effectively a global return to levels of population and prosperity last encountered during the dark ages) or burning in hell-fire forever. In light of this, isn't a cheap, effective alternative even worthy of consideration?

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Anonymous Coward

MMCC (man made climate change)...

...is bullshit.

Pollution on the other hand, is an issue long ignored and one that will cause some nasty messes in the not too distant future.

Dealing with pollution means industry changing its ways - MMCC means higher taxes and us being forced to change ours.

If there was genuine, universal scientific support for the idea that we are near to the "tipping point" cars would already be outlawed, as would most flights, most heavy industry and so on.

In reality we have Government subsidy for the car industry, hesitation over raising fuel duties and the ceaseless striving for longer runways and more airports.

MMCC is a modern day replacement for Christianity. It seems to have attracted a similar number of "do it our way or be damned" types. It stifles debate the same way the Church used to, it excommunicates those who speak out against it. It relies on fear and uncertainty and the fact that most people would be hard pressed to explain how a kettle works.

Let's hope it doesn't come to the day when it's "believe or die".

This could only have worked if you had a generation or two starved of meaningful scientific education and thus able to be frightened and steered where desired.

Oh...

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Stop

chopping down every tree they see

Most humans seem to hate trees, they're chopping down every tree they see, and several foodball fields worth of trees dissappear every day from the world.. Funny enough most people don't even see the problem.

Vegetation is being destroyed, by humans, to create temporary farmland, which then ends up as arid desert, or something equally dismal, and yet that is not a problem.

Trees introduce moisture into the air, create clouds, clouds reflect radiation, reduces heating, so why are we not focusing on the rapidly diminishing rainforest ?

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We need more, not less !

More CO2 means plants grow better and faster.

More plants growing better and faster consume more CO2.

We may need to increase CO2 output to grow enough plants to feed the world (ish) !

letting [mad] scientists loose on ways to cool the world will only lead to more problems, let the world look after itself. It has been doing that for a long time now.

No, this global warming [it isn't: warming that is] hysteria is good for research grants and science jobs. Not so good for practical [sane] solutions for a hardly-existing problem though.

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Flame

Do something really stupid

then don't do anything about it...

Then do something even more stupid.

The climate complexity is WHY we did not see the changes coming and WHY we don't know how it will in the end pans out, but very probably not fine for us.

Playing with climate is another way of pursuing the same hubris that put us and our children here ... and of course it WILL FAIL and lead to another catastrophic ending, probably quicker.

There is a complexity wall that we must admit we WILL NOT crack... and so play it safe and try to get back to the previous equilibrium ...

Always a moron to propose a false easy way out wrapped in pseudo science and certainty....

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Pointlessness...

As Bill Bailey said, "Of course, the universe is gradually slowing down and will eventually collapse inwardly on itself, according to the laws of entropy, when all it's thermal and mechanical functions fail. Thus rendering all human endeavours ultimately pointless."

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There's no Santa Claus on the evening stage - he's on the slow boat from China

Daily Fail has official government minutes on peak time power-cuts coming soon. (Is this the nu instect overlards rubbing the public's nose in the climate change scam, after taking away its lightbulbs?) At this late hour, commencing building conventional nuclear stations will not cover the coming demand deficit. The lights are going out... all over the world...

Yet the Chinese are running a nice safe little pebble bed reactor in Bejing - after the tree huggers stopped the Germans developing the technology. And would you say the Chinese don't know an export opportunity when they see one? I mean, what really do bears get up to in the woods. Or down to. Or shoulld that be up and down to. I dunno.

Meanwhile Radio Luther has a little number to spin, an oldie but goodie as usual (aren't they all). Not the good Captain with the beef in his heart, but the soft Velvets - I'll be your mirror. Any day, luv. But not in space. Too damn cold if you must ask. Freezes your nuts off. Perishes the prophylactics too. Take it away guys

And remember, if you don't see the reflection, you're already dead.

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Pirate

Not geoengineering

What's needed to save the planet is not some new "geoengineering", but regular old engineering providing faster, more efficient ways to kill more humans. That would fix the problem right up.

But with a human-free planet, I'm not sure who the Robot Overlords could enslave when they arrive in a few thousand years. Maybe polar bears?

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Pint

Football fields

``Most humans seem to hate trees, they're chopping down every tree they see, and several foodball fields worth of trees dissappear every day from the world.''

You mean we should slow down climate change by banning football? Now you're talking.

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Man Made Climate Change Is A Global Lie

I've long been of the opinion that the Man-Made Climate Change argument is a complete nonsense, growing more hysterical and far-fetched by the day, it seems. I'm all for genuine environmental protection (saving habitats, natural resources, endangered species, etc), but it seems 'climate change' is all the rage these days, so who cares about saving wild Rhinos and Indian Tigers..?

Climate change is a wholly natural and expected phenomenon - history (there, in the ice cores and the geology) tells us this old world has endured countless such temperature fluctuations across the millenia - most minor, some truly catastrophic - but the ship eventually rights itself and sails on. Humanity's hubris is breathtaking: to presume our insignificant blip of a time on this complex planet could alter an entire planet's weather system...

How future generations will laugh at us: mugged by crooks in power and business to swallow this utter bullsh*t about climate change just so we can all bend over and be taxed three times over (or more) to meet our carbon emissions (not we'll be making any money out of all that trading, mind). It's an utter scandal and global embarrassment. History will not be kind.

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Silver badge

Simple, cheap solution

If the powers that be need a simple, effective, cheap solution, then look no further.

What is done by "environmentalists" when a population in the animal kingdom reaches a point where it will start outstripping it's available resources (food etc.)? They cull them, i.e. they kill a load of them to the point where they can survive on their available resources. This has been very effective in the animal kingdom.

Humans are animals. There are now too many humans on the planet for the available resources (assuming we can't reduce the resources we use, which we all know is not going to happen significantly). So we need to kill a bunch of people to reduce the population to manageable levels, and limit population growth to manageable levels. Simples.

The funny thing is, I actually think this is the best solution available. I know it is not going to happen, but the population DOES need to decrease, and the sooner & quicker it happens, the better off the remaining population will be. I know it is not going to happen, but from a completely rational, unbiased viewpoint, and considering we do the same to animal populations, it should.

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FAIL

@ AC - nuke comment

">What's wrong with a load of Nuclear power plants?

Fuel - we've got at most 100 years left at current consumption rates."

That's PROVED reserves. The reason why proved reserves are so low is because nobody has been prospecting for Uranium for 30-40 years because the hippies shut everything down with their scaremongering.

Once there's an economic driver to find more, more will be found. Just like those massive subsalt oil fields recently discovered off Brazil.

There may be a crisis of supply in the future, but that's a different issue

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Anonymous Coward

(untitled)

"Cox and Jeffery disagree, however, saying that artificial trees and sequestration would be even more expensive than cutting emissions."

Maybe so, but I suspect they would be much more acceptable to a populous who life is difficult enough without someone telling them that much of what they like has to be stopped; and in addition there are all these extra burdens on top. Especially when the chances of it doing much good aren't seen as that high.

Still a balance is probably the best way forward. Roll on the time when technology comes up with a clean power source for industry and transport, I say.

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Strange that you've reported this but...

not reported the Royal Society's findings. The Register is so one sided in the climate change / energy debate it's quite astounding!

Here is the first recommendations from the RS report:

"1.1 Parties to the UNFCCC should make increased efforts towards mitigating and adapting to climate change and, in particular to agreeing to global emissions reductions of at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050 and more thereafter. Nothing now known about geoengineering options gives any reason to diminish these efforts."

http://royalsociety.org/displaypagedoc.asp?id=35120

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Alien

Send umbrella to L1

Send a giant umbrella to L1, and orbiting that point will reduce the amount of heat the earth recives.

If it is remote controllable, you can adjust the size of it, to equalize for changing circumstances.

Completely reversibe effect.

A winterday too cold ? Use the remote and let some more sun, honey.

Too hot on the beach? Hack your way for a beautiful seaside eclipse.

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Mount Pinatubo

Why are you illustrating this article with a photo of volcanic ash erupting from Mount Pinatubo?

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Grenade

The rain in spain falls mainly on the plain.

it would be nice to think we could geo-engineer the climate of the planet but let's face it the reasons for the 'climate change' (or whatever's happening) seem to change every week - how (would anyone even try) would you get consensus on what to do? How could any one country justify action which could affect the entire planet, and what about the fallout if it didn't work?

Instead of trying to geo-engineering the planet, countries need to engineer contingencies to deal with droughts, floods, resultant famines etc or whatever might happen (i imagine it's possible to work out the most probable things and take action accordingly) - this is probably actually achievable.

Saying that there's nothing wrong with scientists proposing crazy sh*t like this every so often - it appeals to the mad scientists in us and something might come of it, though hopefully only something sensible. Ok sensible-ish things...

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Anonymous Coward

@goggyturk

But unlike fossil fuels radioactives exist througout the solar system and beyond, alot can change in 150 years (which is probably way off how long Earth bound reserves could last)

But envirotards are a dim witted and short sighted lot too hung up on the doom and gloom to see that Human beings are pretty good at coming up with new ideas. Particularly when their survival is at stake, most "green" energy sources are a crock of s--t.

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Linux

AC nuke shortage

Don't 'fast breeder' reactors produce plutonium? In any event 100years of cheap plentiful power doesn't sound that bad. Anyway I'll be dead and buried If and when it runs out!

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