September 11th, 2012
(Guardian) – A leading British academic has called for accelerated research into futuristic geo-engineering and a worldwide nuclear power station “binge” to avoid runaway global warming.
Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, said both potential solutions had inherent dangers but were now vital as time was running out.
“It is very, very depressing that politicians and the public are attuned to the threat of climate change even less than they were 20 years ago when Margaret Thatcher sounded the alarm. CO2 levels are rising at a faster than exponential rate, and yet politicians only want to take utterly trivial steps such as banning plastic bags and building a few windfarms,” he said.
“I am very suspicious of using technology to solve problems created by technology, given that we have messed up so much in the past but having done almost nothing for two decades we need to adopt more desperate measures such as considering geo-engineering techniques as well as conducting a major nuclear programme.”
Geo-engineering techniques such as whitening clouds by adding fine sprays of water vapour, or adding aerosols to the upper atmosphere have been ridiculed in some quarters but welcomed elsewhere. Wadhams proposes the use of thorium-fuelled reactors, being tested in India, which are said to be safer because they do not result in a proliferation of weapons-grade plutonium, experts say. Also, under certain circumstances, the waste from thorium reactors is less dangerous and remains radioactive for hundreds rather than thousands of years.