Obama adviser says radical tinkering needed to combat climate change

Obama science adviser suggests geoengineering to combat climate change.

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The Obama administration may be considering bioengineering to cool the earth. That's what John Holdren, the president's new science adviser, told The Associated Press in an interview.

Dr. Holdren, a physicist, didn't say that ideas he put forth for geoengineering  -- including "shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays" and artificial trees to remove CO2 from the air -- came from Obama. Just that he had discussed them with the president.

And he added that radical actions should be carefully considered (especially as to side effects and costs) and still wouldn't completely solve the issue of increased greenhouse gas emissions.

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Holdren also told the San Francisco Chronicle: " ' There is nothing we can do to stop climate change in its tracks' because emissions already in the atmosphere will eventually raise ocean temperatures. "

All of his comments about climate change tended to overshadow the news (reported in The Washington Post) that "the Obama administration might agree to auction only a portion of the emissions allowances granted at first under a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse gas pollution."

That's a switch from Obama's position during the presidential campaign, when he said he favored auctioning off all the emissions permits at the beginning of a cap-and-trade system that allows industries to buy and sell allowances on the open market.

Environmentalists tend to favor cap and trade – and some observers think that a free-market approach is exactly what's needed -- but not everyone agrees that it will work.

At this point, the administration hopes to get a compromise passed: "The idea, obviously, is to end up with a bill that reflects both the thinking of Congress and the administration, a bill that the president can sign," Holdren said.

Meanwhile, the latest UN-sponsored talks aimed at replacing the 1998 Kyoto Protocol, which expires in three years, ended yesterday without much discernible action. The next round of talks opens June 1 and a final agreement is due in December.

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