The truth is, there’s just no way to know. In our increasingly frantic efforts to curb the mounting negative effects of climate change, people are constantly torn between two opposed ways of thinking: on the one hand, the situation is so bad that we’re willing to try anything that might turn climate change around, regardless of the risks; and on the other hand, we’re completely terrified that anything we do to improve the situation will actually just make it worse in ways we can’t even predict (that is, after all, essentially how we got into the situation we’re in now). The trouble with something like carbon sequestration is that we simply cannot predict what kind of outcome it will have, but we know that there’s a strong probability that there will be some negative results.
The main downfall of any carbon sequestration plan is that it doesn’t actually get rid of the carbon, it just puts it somewhere else (or in the case of biological fixation, turns it into something else). In that sense, it’s a lot less like solving the problem than like stuffing it away somewhere to be dealt with later. The obvious advantage of this tactic is that it will buy us some time (and it does seem that we are running out of time), and hopefully when the problem does reemerge, we’ll be more prepared to deal with it. Since we more or less know where doing nothing is going to get us, I find myself edging towards the stance that we ought to do something, and carbon sequestration may be something we can do now (or at least soon) that will give us the time we need to come up with a better plan. The trick will be to not just leave it somewhere and forget about it, but to continue to recognize it as a persistent threat even after it’s been tucked away.
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