Magazine article Geographical

No Magic Bullet

Magazine article Geographical

No Magic Bullet

Article excerpt

Watching the inexorable slide of biofuels from potential saviour to ecological pariah has been sad (page 44). With two global crises looming--the exhaustion of our fossil fuel reserves and global climate change--we need to find solutions quickly, and biofuels seemed to offer hope on both fronts. But it turns out that scaling up production to the levels necessary to have a real impact will have serious consequences for both the environment and global food security.

Biofuels' reversal of fortune illustrates a near-universal truth about technological solutions to large-scale environmental problems--when you scale them up to the required levels, there will more than likely be a range of unintended consequences. Which is why I shuddered when scientists proposed adding enormous quantities of iron to the sea in order to encourage algal growth, which would, in turn, suck up carbon dioxide. I'm similarly sceptical about the plan, outlined in last month's Climatewatch, to scrub carbon dioxide from the air. …

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