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Geoengineering Idea

One of my favorite movies of all time was Spaceballs. That’s probably because I was a young boy when I saw it, and have not watched it since. In any case, remember MegaMaid? You can imagine she can serve some very important climate functions. If we could construct carbon scrubbers for our atmosphere that would be one solution to the global warming concern. Or, if we could somehow eject carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, that would be cool too.

Well, maybe we are one step closer to implementing something like that! This new paper from Geophysical Research Letters demonstrates that not all CO2 across the globe causes warming in the same way. While the greenhouse effect is typically thought of as CO2 “trapping” radiation by preventing longwave radiation from going back out into space, the effects are not the same across all of the earth’s landscape. In fact, in Antarctica, larger concentrations of CO2 are the cause of … global … cooling.

That is a pretty stunning result. More CO2 leads, directly, to a cooler planet. Incredibly, more longwave radiation in Antartica is radiated back out into space than there is long-wave radiation emitting from the surface of the earth. Three points worth considering here, some more serious than others:

  1. It seems like if this were the case, then installing atmospheric fans to force CO2 to the poles would be a way to convert the dangerous warming properties of a-polar CO2 into safe polar CO2 –> megamaid if you will.
  2. It’s the NET EFFECT of CO2 that matters when talking about the “externalities.” In addition to CO2 being an important plant nutrient and essential for greening the biosphere, and in addition to making plants more heat and drought resistant, now we see that there are some instances where CO2 directly cools the planet.
  3. We obviously did not understand this until very recently – another reminder that we need to be humble, and also that even the most sophisticated computational models do not mean much if the underlying processes being modeled are not well understood.

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