Ecology scientist Ken Caldeira sheds light on some radical ideas for fighting global warming.
Michael T. Burr is editor-at-large at Public Utilities Fortnightly. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Among climate scientists, Ken Caldeira is a self-described troublemaker.
For instance, in a research paper delivered to the American Geophysical Union in December 2005, Caldeira annoyed tree-huggers and corporations alike by demonstrating that planting trees in most locations around the world actually exacerbates global warming. Although trees absorb carbon, their dark leaves absorb heat that otherwise would be reflected into space.
“We like to be troublemakers and do simulations that come up with answers people don’t like,” Caldeira says.
Indeed, one such set of simulations produced results that Caldeira himself didn’t like. Specifically, climate models developed at the Carnegie Institution’s Global Ecology Department on the campus of Stanford University—where Caldeira serves as staff scientist—showed controversial “geoengineering” ideas effectively would counteract the effects of global warming, without major adverse side effects (see sidebar, “Pulling the Shades on Global Warming” ). Public Utilities Fortnightly caught up with Caldeira recently to discuss his perspectives on geoengineering and its possible role in strategies to address climate change.
Fortnightly: What’s your perspective on geoengineering ideas such as those proposed by Edwin Teller, Freeman Dyson, and Roger Angel? Are these ideas as wacky as they seem?