Obama may fire pollution particles into stratosphere to deflect sun's heat in desperate bid to tackle global warming

By David Gardner
09th April 2009

The Daily Mail
Apr. 20, 2009

President Barack Obama is considering a radical plan to tackle global warming by firing pollution particles into the stratosphere to deflect some of the sunís heat.

The controversial experiment was touted yesterday as a possible last resort to help cool the Earthís air by the presidentís new science advisor John Holdren.

ĎItís got to be looked at. We donít have the luxury of taking any approach off the table,í said Mr Holdren, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology.

Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology, outlined the idea of shooting either sulphur dioxide particles, aluminium oxide dust or specially designed aerosols into the stratosphere - the upper level of the atmosphere between ten and 30 miles above the Earth's surface.

It is hoped that this would cool the planet by artificially reflecting sunlight back into space before it can be absorbed.

Naval guns, rockets, high-flying aircraft and even hot air balloons have been put forward as possible ways of firing the agent into the air.

Mr Holdren admitted the scheme could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions.

But he said he had raised the idea with the Obama administration and added: 'We might get desperate enough to want to use it.'

Mr Holdren insisted that dramatic action is needed to halt climate change which he compared to being 'in a car with bad brakes driving towards a cliff in a fog'.

There has been widespread resistance in the scientific community to attempts to deliberately modify the environment on such a large scale.

Opponents fear that tampering with the atmosphere's delicate balance could have consequences that would be even worse than global warming.

But Mr Holdren suggested time could be running out. He outlined several 'tipping points' involving climate change that may be fast approaching, such as the complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic.

He said that once such milestones are reached it increases the chances of 'really intolerable consequences'.

Mr Holdren also proposed the option of developing 'artificial trees' that would suck carbon dioxide - the chief human-produced greenhouse gas - out of the air and store it.

The synthetic tree, described as looking like a goal post with Venetian blinds, would draw carbon dioxide out of the air, as plants do during photosynthesis.

The idea seemed too costly at first, and is only on the drawing board, but Mr Holdren said it was feasible.

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