In “Time to tinker with the climate?”, a feature piece (sadly, but predictably, not online) on p19 of The Canberra Times print edition of 31 December 2011, Michael Richardson outlines the arguments for geo-engineering approaches to the climate problem.
Unfortunately, the piece covered some of the issues with the notion of injecting particles into the upper atmosphere to artificially cool the climate, but neglected to mention arguably the worst problem with this idea: ocean acidification.
Our carbon emissions have already caused the oceans to become 30% more acidic than they were before industrialisation, and without meaningful cuts in emissions, oceans could be more than 300% more acidic by 2100. This is a little publicised but desperately serious problem that threatens many forms of ocean life – potentially, the entire marine food chain.
Spraying sulphate particles into the atmosphere does nothing to reduce carbon levels in the atmosphere, and so does not address ocean acidification at all. It is not a sustainable solution, and apart from the operational risks – which are huge – it has the potential to lull us into a completely false sense of security.