Professor Paul Crutzen, one of the world's experts on the atmosphere was at the EP on 7 December at a seminar on the future of oil. The Nobel winning Chemist shot to global prominence with his scientific paper in 2006 advocating an "escape route" by artificially "geo-engineering" the atmosphere to counter C02 emissions. At the seminar he said that "we could release particles of sulphur (to deflect sunlight and heat) in the upper atmosphere to cool the global climate". We caught up with him.
You have spoken of geo-engineering, could you just explain to us in layman's terms what it is and what it works?
The idea is very simple, when you put particles in the atmosphere; they scatter radiation back into space. These particles can be produced from the oxidation of Sulphur Dioxide or also sea salt particles at low altitudes - there are various projects going on.
So this is no secret - this was basically known thirty years ago by a Russian scientist and I just picked it up again and made it more scientific.
Are there any risks associated with this?
Oh yes! This is not an ideal solution. The ideal solution would be to make sure that there are not as many CO2 emissions. However, this argument has been going on for many, many years and I don't see much progress. So because of this we should basically think about enhancing the cooling effect of these particles.
What we are doing now is mostly theoretical climate modelling and also looking at the side effects on Ozone. For instance maybe more particles in the atmosphere could destroy more Ozone and of course we don't want that.
If we don't get C02 under control then perhaps we will have to do a large cooling experiment but that takes time, I don't see major experiments like that taking place in the next 10 years however.
You have advocated these radical solutions as I understand you believe that international efforts to control CO2 emissions through the United Nations will not work..?
Well, they are not working! I wrote the 2006 article that started the idea (of cooling the atmosphere by releasing particles) in desperation. I didn't expect so much impact.
Is an oil free future really possible?
I hope it would be possible, but I remain sceptical as oil is used everywhere.
Born in Amsterdam in 1933 Professor Crutzen was at the Parliament's STOA (Science and Technology Options Assessment) seminar in December which looked at ways Europe could wean itself off oil.
When we spoke to Paul Crutzen, STOA Chairman Paul Rübig MEP (EPP, Austria) also told us that he believed the EU should make energy efficiency an important part of its Europe 20/20 package of investment, with eco-efficient transport being a priority area.
Born, Amsterdam 1933
1954: Works at the Bridge Construction Bureau of the City of Amsterdam.
1959: Academic career begins at the Department of Meteorology of Stockholm University
Mid 1960's: Begins work on atmospheric ozone
1995: Shares Nobel Prize in Chemistry for work on Ozone layer
2006: Article in "Climatic Change" journal talks of "escape route" to engineer climate by releasing particles of sulphur to deflect sunlight and heat