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Posted Sat Aug 27 2011: from New York Times Environment:
Time to Start Work on a Panic Button?
For two decades, the world's governments have failed to meet their own commitment to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas. As frustration builds among scientists, some of them have begun to argue for research on a potential last-ditch option in case global warming starts to get out of control. It is called geoengineering -- or directly manipulating the Earth's climate.... Perhaps the single most prominent idea is to scatter sulfur compounds into the upper atmosphere, mimicking volcanic eruptions and causing some of the sun's light to bounce back to space. Other ideas include designing machines to capture carbon dioxide from the air and store it underground or in the deep ocean. Most scientists who support this kind of research are emphatically not advocating that geoengineering schemes be undertaken now, and most of them hope society will never reach that point. But they do want a research program to quantify the potential risks and benefits, so that future political leaders will have some scientific basis if they ever have to make decisions on the issue.... The Government Accountability Office, an auditing and analysis arm of Congress, found that no geoengineering scheme could be responsibly deployed today, given the uncertainties. But it also found that a large majority of experts it interviewed were in favor of research to narrow those uncertainties. And the agency did public-opinion research that suggested the American people would favor such research, too, while also being concerned about the potential harm.
[Read more stories about: anthropogenic change, geoengineering, unintended consequences]

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