The Current

Renewable energy not enough to stop climate change, say Google scientists

Two Google scientists have a goal to produce a Gigwatt of power more cheaply than producing it with coal. After 4 years, they gave up saying renewable energy alone can't save us from catastrophic climate change but Geo-engineering just might....
What if all the millions of wind turbines, solar panels and other renewable energy efforts will never be good enough? (Arlo Bates/Flickr cc)

Two Google scientists have a goal to produce a Gigwatt of power more cheaply than producing it with coal. After 4 years, they gave up saying renewable energy alone can't save us from catastrophic climate change but Geo-engineering just might.

"You could put fine particles, say sulphuric acid particles, sulphates into the upper atmosphere, the stratosphere, where they'd reflect away sunlight and would cool the planet. And I know, for certain that would work. Not that there aren't side effects but I know that would work, because it's been done. And it was done not by us, not by me, but by nature."David Keith, Environmental Scientist

What David Keith, a Canadian environmental scientist and Harvard professor, is describing is a controversial form of Geoengineering called Solar Radiation Management.

It may be a crude fix, but, he says it may be just the kind of solution we need to stave off catastrophic climate change in a world that's waited too long to shift away from fossil fuels.

Last month, two Google scientists went public with some controversial ideas of their own... voicing their belief that a shift to renewable energy sources now would be too little, too late.

Google had granted Ross Koningstein and David Fork free reign to explore, imagine and develop renewable energy resources that could save us from the worst that climate change has in store.

After 4 years of work, they concluded that that goal was unattainable. So, today we're asking: if renewable energies can't save us, what will?

We put in a request to speak to Ross Koningstein and David Fork but they were unavailable.

  • Armond Cohen heads the Clean Air Task Force, a public health and environmental advocacy group in Boston.

  • David Miller is the President and CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada. He was in Toronto.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio, Sarah Grant and Pacinthe Mattar.

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