Artifical Leaves or Geo Engineering?

The New Yorker, May 14, 2012 has two articles relevant to the rapidly changing climate.

David Owen writes about Daniel Nocera’s excitingly innovative “artificial leaf,” a “solar panel” like sheet of thin mineral spray, on both sides of the support leaf, which when immersed in water and exposed to sunlight would emit hydrogen and oxygen.  The hydrogen can be collected and stored and used as a fuel.

It’s a very interesting article about not only an interesting technological break-through but Nocera’s interesting vision: these artificial leaves would do the most good in impoverished areas where even brackish or polluted water could be used to produce energy for light, small scale technologies that would materially improve lives without adding to the carbon burden threatening us all.

There are some downsides of course.  To read it you’ll have to get the paper edition, or pay to read it on line.  Good stuff.

The MIT press release, where Nocera works, is here.

In the same edition is an article about geo-engineering our way out of what many are predicting is the coming climate catastrophe.  Michael Specter lays out the ideas behind the why and how and who for taking steps as enormous as trying to imitate nature’s Mt Pinatubo explosion in 1991 that kept the earth cooler than it would have been for over two years.

He properly points to the dilemma at the heart of even thinking ‘geo-engineering.”  If things on earth go as many are predicting there may be no way out other than some colossal project, and for any chance of success it would have to be well beyond a few vague thoughts/  Actual engineering and testing will have to have happened.  However, if the thought takes hold among the doubtful or the lazy, that there is no need to do anything now because there is a possible big solution 100 years from now, resistance to actual, somewhat painful, actions today will increase.

The entire article is available on-line, for the present.  Check it out.

There is also a pod-cast of Elizabeth Kolbert talking to Specter about the article and the matters therein.  [Starts about 5:30 .. ]

[And subscribe, of course, to the New Yorker!]

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