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To remain in the metaphor, a diabetic is a kind of "drug addict". And I also believe there is a valid medical and social case to be made for drug maintenance programs for certain addiction profiles as a last resort.

I don't know enough to either endorse or reject the sunscreen idea. At first sight, I find it unpalatable.

But I fear that responding to global warming is going to mean choosing the least ugly of a whole range of unpalatable options.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt št gmail dotcom) on Fri Oct 13th, 2006 at 04:36:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Unpalatable." A good description.

It becomes somewhat more palatable, though, if it's a bridge to a better answer. I expect that projections of ongoing, large CO2 emissions will turn out to be pessimistic because falling costs for solar-energy based electric power and fuels will provide an attractive alternative to burning stuff. At that point, political pressure should be very effective at forcing a switchover.

If solar energy gets cheap enough, as I expect, then we can start thinking about removing surplus CO2 from the atmosphere. Extracting it would require a lot of energy, but not completely overwhelming -- a fraction of human power consumption in 2006 over a fraction of a century.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Fri Oct 13th, 2006 at 02:59:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
BTW the Sunscreen concept must by its nature reduce the efficacy of solar panels...  to the same extent that it is efficacious in preventing solar radiation from getting inside the atmosphere.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...
by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Sun Oct 15th, 2006 at 12:33:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not necessarily, since there isn't simply "radiation".  SO2 might preferentially reflect wavelengths that are useless for solar panels.  This isn't all that unlikely, since solar panels use quite a narrow part of the spectrum anyway.  (But I don't have exact data to prove this either way.)
by ustenzel on Sun Oct 15th, 2006 at 05:53:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, give or take different effects at different wavelengths. As you note elsewhere, reduced sunlight is also an issue for agriculture. A key question is the size of this effect relative to other sources of variability.

This NREL map of mean annual PV solar radiation indicates that, at equal latitudes across the southern U.S., the energy available for photovoltaic systems varies by something like 40% because of variations in clouds, haze, and so forth. Photosynthesis should see a similar variation.

A rough estimate of the reduction in sunlight needed to offset warming of 1°C can be made by noting that 1°C is about 1/300 of the absolute temperature. Because of the T^4 scaling of thermal radiation with temperature, this is equivalent (keeping albedo and thermal emissivity constant) to a change of about 4/300 in the input and output radiated power -- about 1.3%. From a photovoltaic power perspective, this would be equivalent to reducing PV cells from (for example) 30% to 29.6% efficiency.

From this rough calculation, it seems that weather variability is a much larger effect.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Tue Oct 17th, 2006 at 02:06:11 AM EST
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