Global Climate Change Control--Is There a Better Strategy than Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Abstract

This Article identifies four major global climate change problems, analyzes whether the most prominent of the greenhouse gas (GHG) control proposals is likely to be either effective or efficient in solving each of the problems, and then extensively analyzes both management and technological alternatives to the proposals. Efforts to reduce emissions of GHGs, such as carbon dioxide, in a decentralized way or even in a few countries (such as the United States or under the Kyoto Protocol) without equivalent actions by all the other countries of the world, particularly the most rapidly growing ones, cannot realistically achieve the temperature change limits most emission control advocates believe are necessary to avoid dangerous climatic changes, and would be unlikely to do so even with the cooperation of these other countries. This Article concludes that the most effective and efficient solution would be to use a concept long proven by nature to reduce the radiation reaching the earth by adding particles optimized for this purpose to the stratosphere to scatter a small portion of the incoming sunlight back into space, as well as to undertake a new effort to better understand and reduce ocean acidification. Current temperature change goals could be quickly achieved by stratospheric scattering at a very modest cost without the need for costly adaptation, human lifestyle changes, or the general public’s active cooperation, all required by rigorous emission controls. Although stratospheric scattering would not reduce ocean acidification, for which several remedies are explored in this Article, it appears to be the most effective and efficient first step toward global climate change control. Stratospheric scattering is not currently being pursued or even developed, however; such development is particularly needed to verify the lack of significant adverse environmental effects of this remedy. Reducing GHG emissions to the extent proposed by advocates, even if achievable, would cost many trillions of dollars, and is best viewed as a last resort rather than the preferred strategy.

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