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Geoengineering Research

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How Geoengineering Works: 5 Big Plans to Stop Global Warming
At first blush, geoengineering sounds like outrageous junk science. Surely there's an easier solution to the problem of global warming than technologically altering Earth's atmosphere, its cloud formations and even outer space. But when compared with the alternativedrastically reducing the amount of carbon dioxide blanketing the planet by changing the behavior of billions of people and thousands of industries, not to mention slow-moving governmentssome scientists are beginning to take the seemingly outrageous schemes a lot more seriously. Here are the mechanics behind five plans to jury-rig the Earth.
1. Copy a Volcano

(Photograph by Tarko Sudiarno/AFP/Getty Images)
A volcanic eruption can bellow many million tons of sulfur-dioxide gas into the atmosphere, creating a cloud that blocks some of the sun's radiation. By injecting the atmosphere with sulfur, some scientists believe they could likewise block solar radiation and potentially cool the planet.

Sulfur dioxide reacts with water in the atmosphere to create droplets of sulfuric acid, says Rutgers University environmental scientist Alan Robock. Those droplets are particularly good at scattering the sun's light back out into space. And because sulfur doesn't heat the stratosphere as much as other aerosols, it wouldn't work against the cooling effect. Hydrogen sulfide is an even better candidate for atmospheric seeding than sulfur dioxide, but scientists would need an awful lot of it: 5 megatons, every year, to offset humanity's contribution to global warming. That's like experiencing the eruption of a volcano a quarter of the size of the cataclysmic Mt. Pinatubo, annually.
But while a volcano has intense underground pressure to propel sulfur upwards, human means to do so are limited. "There's no way to do it today," Robock says. Some scientists…...

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