GLOBAL WARMING SOLVED!….The topic of this year’s Edge question is “What is your dangerous idea?” The responses are all here, and they range from dangerous to incomprehensible to completely off-topic. However, some are not only not dangerous, but positively optimistic. Gregory Benford, for example, says that the carbon in farm waste alone is a substantial fraction of the man-made carbon that’s responsible for global warming:

Take advantage of that. The leftover corn cobs and stalks from our fields can be gathered up, floated down the Mississippi, and dropped into the ocean, sequestering it. Below about a kilometer depth, beneath a layer called the thermocline, nothing gets mixed back into the air for a thousand years or more. It’s not a forever solution, but it would buy us and our descendents time to find such answers. And it is inexpensive; cost matters.

The US has large crop residues. It has also ignored the Kyoto Accord, saying it would cost too much. It would, if we relied purely on traditional methods, policing energy use and carbon dioxide emissions. Clinton-era estimates of such costs were around $100 billion a year ? a politically unacceptable sum, which led Congress to reject the very notion by a unanimous vote.

But if the US simply used its farm waste to “hide” carbon dioxide from our air, complying with Kyoto’s standard would cost about $10 billion a year, with no change whatsoever in energy use. The whole planet could do the same. Sequestering crop leftovers could offset about a third of the carbon we put into our air.

This sounds pretty obviously too good to be true. Does anybody know what the catch is?

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