Cooling Down Our Planet

11/05/2010 - Once upon a time, I interviewed a Republican environmentalist named G. Tracey Mehan III. He was head of the Natural Resources Department in our state. He had a novel idea. Then state Rep. Marion Cairns, R-Webster Groves, suggested I talk to him.

Mehan said government should stop harsh regulations on polluters. He said the way to halt carbon emissions was to devise a sort of "cap and trade" system to reward companies that reduced pollution. It was a market system idea to save the planet.

Well, we all know what happened to "cap and trade" in Election 2010. It was transformed by politicians into a devious Obama plan to destroy jobs and to socialize America. Hey, this was originally a Republican idea!

Mehan's ideas were very much on my mind recently when I attended the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) Convention at the University of Montana. We took field trips past land scarred by coal mining; heard about ripping the Earth apart for tar sands to make gasoline; visited Glacier National Park where the ice will disappear within the decade.

What will we rename that park when all the ice is gone? Scientists along on the SEJ tours asked a lot of such questions. What will we call Joshua National Park now that the Joshua trees are dying from carbon emission-induced global warming?

Interestingly enough, there were scientists and entrepreneurs at the SEJ conference with some ideas on pollution even more novel than that Mehan plan on carbon emissions.

An SEJ panel on geo-engineering talked about how America's political system is too dysfunctional to ever address long-term problems like global warming. Therefore, technologists in other countries are exploring ways to lower the Earth's temperatures.

One plan involves aerosoling tiny, reflective particles into our skies to deflect the sun's heat. Another has robotic ships shooting salt water into ocean clouds to deflect sun heat and to stabilize planet temperatures.

These technologies are now being developed in the European Union, China and Canada. Lest you think this is all a sci-fi pipe dream, David Keith of an environmental systems group in Calgary said plans are well along for the new technology, and a major investor is Bill Gates.

Panelist Dane Scott, an ethicist at the University of Montana, challenged Keith about the implications of this technology to address global warming. Won't such devices just give fossil fuel economies more time to pollute the Earth? And who will control the Earth's new global thermostat?

Good questions! But I'm glad someone wants to cool down Earth, while we in Missouri debate whether ideas like evolution, global warming and "cap and trade" are all a big hoax.

(Learn more about global warming solutions at

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