Two ways to think cool

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By Kirsten Peters

Dogs pant with their tongues hanging out, young men sweat by the bucket and aging geologists just fall over on our faces in the shade on a hot summer’s day. But is there a way we could choose to cool the whole planet in a few decades if we really need to?

Global warming may or may not be our greatest problem in the 21st century. But if it is, there are two ways we could potentially lessen warming. One is exotic, but would address the worldwide problem of warmth. The other is more closely attuned to practical matters and common sense, and would help us limit heat increase that’s so prevalent in and around cities — where most Americans live.

Here’s the global picture:

Astute readers of the news media know that each time there is a major volcanic eruption – like Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 or Mount St. Helens in my own fair State of Washington in 1980 — the Earth cools. Pinatubo, for example, cooled the whole world by about one degree Fahrenheit. The effect lasted about a year. In strong cases, the volcanic cooling impacts agriculture and generally decreases crop yields – which is why it shows up in the news and normal people, not just us rock-heads, hear and care about it.

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