Monday, August 06, 2007

Climate Change and Salt

I just finished watching the 'Mega Disasters: Mega Freeze' documentary in The History Channel which explains how global warming can disrupt the Thermohaline Circulation (THC)* causing an abrupt drop in temperatures in Europe and North America similar to what happened during the Younger Dryas** (12700 to 11500 years Before Present) setting off a chain of disasters that will reduce the estimated carrying capacity of the planet from the current 8 billion people to 2 billion.

If the THC is as important to maintaining the present climate as that documentary says it is, a simple (and perhaps simplistic) solution would be to throw more salt into the Ocean to maintain present levels of salinity. How much more salt and how to do this would be the challenge facing the world's scientists and engineers.

Update 08-11-2007: Via, a pointer to Mad scientists vs. global warming.

Update 01-01-2008: Via, a pointer to The Year's 10 Craziest Ways to Hack the Earth.

*For those who watched The Day After Tomorrow, the disruption of the Thermohaline Circulation is what triggered the Ice Age in that movie.
**Al Gore also talked about this in his movie, An Inconvenient Truth.


Resty Odon said...

Hmm... quite a sound solution. Knowing nature, though, it will eventually find out the excess salt and mother nature's reaction to that might also to haunt us back just the same. (shrugs)

Resty Odon said...

i mean, "might also haunt us back..." aargh

Jego said...

Throwing more salt into the oceans could affect the marine ecosystem. The earth is a system so complex that to tamper with one component of it will result in unpredictable consequences somewhere in the system. There is this other proposal to float sulfur [ something] particles in the upper atmosphere, like Mt Pinatubo did. Pinatubo caused a half-degree C drop in global temperatures. But again, we might be tampering with something we know very little about.

The earth self-regulates. I believe climate change is a natural occurrence and as such there is very little we can do about it. Instead of pouring gazillions on schemes like this, we are better off using the money on things we can do something about. Like poverty alleviation, education, etc.

Anonymous said...

Al Gore had explained about this in the docu "An Inconvenient Truth". I found it simply amazing to find out how salt in the sea could affect our climate in such a grievous manner.

cvj said...

Hi B.H., Jego, i appreciate the words of caution. We may end up turning the Atlantic into a Dead Sea. I prefer more conventional means of preventing abrupt climate change by reducing CO2 levels. However, if it's too late for that and a THC shutdown does threatens to reduce the carrying capacity of the planet from 8 billion to 2 billion, then we should be ready with a Plan B.

Hi Major Tom, yes i saw that part about lake Hudson breaking into the Atlantic. With all these environmental threats to our existence, i think now is as good a time as any for us humans to learn to engineer on a planetary scale.