Thursday, 14 March 2019
A Green Capitalist Solution to Climate Change – Pumping Sulphur Dioxide into the Atmosphere
I think that this techno-fix is typical of the remedies that the capitalist system dreams up to combat climate change, without actually doing anything to avoid reducing, or indeed to completely eliminate the spewing of huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. Incredibly, this idea to pump sulphur dioxide into the air, to form clouds to block out the sun’s rays, is being suggested as a way to go.
I should say at the outset, that I am not a climate scientist, or scientist of any description, so I am prepared to listen to those who are, but this looks to be a crazy plan to me. But, a report published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change, finds that cooling the Earth by this method would be enough to eliminate roughly half of global warming.
We have learnt that when big volcanoes erupt they release huge amounts of sulphur dioxide into the air, and the ensuing dark cloud that is produced obscures the sunlight, and so stops some of the sun’s heat warming the earth.
This would mean of course, many of us hardly ever seeing a blue sky, and the affect that that can have on human well-being, appears not to have been considered in the report, but is surely an important drawback with the tactic. In northern parts of Scandinavia, when it is dark for twenty four hours in deepest winter, the suicide rate increases.
Not all climate scientists back this idea as viable, with some stressing that keeping this amount of CO2 in the atmosphere will lead to some regions experiencing severe risks to their climates, increased rainfall, extreme temperatures and more destructive hurricanes and storms. So even if this did work in terms of cooling the earth, it will likely throw up other climatic problems and we can’t be sure exactly what these will be.
Some quick research reveals that sulphur dioxide is a toxic gas with a burnt match smell. It is released naturally by volcanic activity and is produced as a by-product of the burning of fossil fuels (mostly coal) contaminated with sulphur compounds and copper extraction. It is mainly produced by sulphuric acid manufacturing, but occurs in many industrial processes, and is contained in gasoline and diesel fuel for vehicles.
It is a major air pollutant and has significant impacts upon human health, and causes acid rain if large concentrations are present in the atmosphere. Sulphur dioxide is also one of the greenhouse gases which causes the planet to warm.
Inhaling sulphur dioxide is associated with increased respiratory symptoms and disease, difficulty in breathing, makes asthma suffers worse, premature births and premature death increase. When breathed in, it irritates the nose, throat, and airways to cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or a tight feeling around the chest. In short, pumping extra sulphur dioxide into the air will lead to major public health issues, but a desperation to carry on with business as usual economic activity, means that it is still regarded as possible solution to global warming.
Shocking though this undoubtably is, it should come as no great surprise. We know that conventual efforts at dealing with climate change, try desperately to avoid the real solution to the situation, which is to drastically reduce the amount of CO2 that we put into the atmosphere. An example of treating the symptoms rather than the root cause of the problem.
What seems ludicrous by any rational measure, like this idea, the prevailing wisdom of our rulers, is to seek something, anything, that leaves the business of making money for corporations untouched. Politicians also have a personal interest in perpetuating this state of affairs, as many are in the pay of these corporations in one way or another. To act in any meaningful way, is beyond the bounds of acceptable thinking, under the dominant logic of our economic and political system.
This is why I believe, that under this system, we will never adequately tackle the climate crisis. The system needs to be changed first, only then will it be possible to avoid climate catastrophe, and solve many other issues of human well-being too.