Last Summer I noted that some people think that only solution to global warming is to “think about cooling the planet” by using geoengineering. One of the proposed geoengineering solutions was to loft between two million and ten million tons of sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere—the equivalent of a massive volcanic eruption. The drawback is that the solution could lead to more skin cancer, damage to plants and animals, and disrupted monsoonal rain cycles. But you can’t make an omelet with breaking a few eggs, right?
Another drawback is that no one in the right mind would agree to try it. Fortunately, there is another option that some leaders in crazier parts of our planet may be willing to consider: small-scale nuclear war.
The global cooling caused by these high carbon clouds wouldn’t be as catastrophic as a superpower-versus-superpower nuclear winter, but “the effects would still be regarded as leading to unprecedented climate change,” research physical scientist Luke Oman said during a press briefing Friday at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.
Earth is currently in a long-term warming trend. After a regional nuclear war, though, average global temperatures would drop by 2.25 degrees F (1.25 degrees C) for two to three years afterward, the models suggest.
At the extreme, the tropics, Europe, Asia, and Alaska would cool by 5.4 to 7.2 degrees F (3 to 4 degrees C), according to the models. Parts of the Arctic and Antarctic would actually warm a bit, due to shifted wind and ocean-circulation patterns, the researchers said.
After ten years, average global temperatures would still be 0.9 degree F (0.5 degree C) lower than before the nuclear war, the models predict.
No one is actually advocating this as a proposal for offsetting global warming (at least not yet). But isn’t it comforting to know that if worse comes to worse we can fix the climate change problem with the push of a button?