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Geoengineering
October 10, 2010 11:10 AM   Subscribe

The current American Scholar has a good article on geoengineering, latest greatest solution to the climate crisis (or not). (And see geoengineering and the new climate denialism previously).
posted by JL Sadstone (31 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
I do expect that eventually the world will experience climate change and other environmental problems of such severity that geoengineering will become a very appealing solution, in conjunction with serious conservation measures and more sustainable lifestyles. However, I am not sure that the human race will be able to act effectively when it is still embroiled in pointless yet insoluble political and religious conflicts. I expect that even as the world slides into irreversible environmental collpase, people will still be fighting with each other rather than addressing our real problems.
posted by grizzled at 11:41 AM on October 10, 2010


What could possibly go wrong?
posted by gerryblog at 12:53 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What could possibly go wrong?

This
posted by dibblda at 2:18 PM on October 10, 2010


The global warming situation has become so dire that Barack Obama's chief scientific adviser has raised with the president the possibility of massive-scale technological fixes to alter the climate known as 'geo-engineering'.

The suite of mega-technological fixes includes everything from placing mirrors in space that reflect sunlight from the Earth, to fertilising the oceans with iron to encourage the growth of algae that can soak up atmospheric carbon dioxide. Another option is to seed clouds which bounce the sun's rays back into space so they do not warm the Earth's surface.


But I thought that the problem was man-made global warming and the sun didn't play a significant role? So why spend so much money and effort at reflecting the sun's rays away from the planet?

"Science czar" Holdren on geoengineering, and using the free-market to "de-develop the United States." See also "Ecoscience," co-authored by Holdren.
posted by thescientificmethhead at 2:49 PM on October 10, 2010



This

GAHHH
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 2:50 PM on October 10, 2010


What could possibly go wrong?

Yes, what? There may be unforeseen consequences, but so too might there be in reducing our emissions.
posted by phrontist at 2:59 PM on October 10, 2010


I'm all for the United States building a massive array of space mirrors to control global surface temperatures. Also bonus the mirrors could be used to focus the sun into a kind of death ray.
posted by humanfont at 3:29 PM on October 10, 2010


I love how - before we have even fucking tried to reduce carbon emissions; a feat that would be relatively cheap (compared to geo engineering), completely safe and predictable, surprisingly speedy, - we're talking about geo-engineering as the better AND ONLY solution.

A solution that will be astonishingly expensive, wildly unpredictable, freakishly dangerous, hopelessly stop-gap, and depressingly unable to address all the concomitant affects of climate change eg ocean acidification.

Werewolf-Jesus-playing-baccarat-off-a-pontoon-on-the-river-Kwai, and people wonder why I'm so fucking depressed about climate change and our capacity to deal with it.
posted by smoke at 3:51 PM on October 10, 2010 [6 favorites]


But I thought that the problem was man-made global warming and the sun didn't play a significant role?
Right. That's why it's so hot in the winter and cold in the summer.

I mean really, a single study showing that there isn't a direct correlation between the light gives off and the warming of the planet over a three year period doesn't mean the sun doesn't play a significant role in warming the earth. In fact, the sun is the only thing warming the earth. Duh.
posted by delmoi at 4:06 PM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, what? There may be unforeseen consequences, but so too might there be in reducing our emissions.
How could there be unforeseen consequences of reducing emissions? How does that even begin to make sense.
posted by delmoi at 4:08 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


For one thing, it might cost money, whereas studying ridiculously impractical 'solutions' probably won't.
posted by ryanrs at 4:31 PM on October 10, 2010


In fact, the sun is the only thing warming the earth.

Also potassium.
posted by ryanrs at 4:33 PM on October 10, 2010


The sun does play a significant role. The point is that the variations in the sun's impact on earth are less important than what we're doing.
posted by yesster at 4:40 PM on October 10, 2010


Smoke after the disaster in Copenhagen and failure of cap and trade legislation team Obama realizes that the hope of meaningful cuts in co2 emissions is politically and diplomatically impossible in the time needed. It has been almost 20 years since Kyoto. We have accomplished nothing in that time except bring China up to match US emissions. We are out of time for cutting co2. We need a backup plan.
posted by humanfont at 4:42 PM on October 10, 2010


I'm pessimistic, and think that some level geoengineering will be needed within 30 years, when we eventually get on a 'war footing' and realise just how badly we've already fucked up the world, and just how much worse it could get.

Two things:
1. I agree that it's potentially very highly dangerous politically for people to be promoting geoengineering at this stage, when we haven't done a damn thing to control emissions. Typical effing humans. However, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be some back-up, some contingency or plan B, for when we fail on the most effective and cheapest solution, not emitting the shit in the first place.
2. Any geoengineering solution has got to be based on removing CO2 from the atmosphere and/or ocean. Any secondary fiddle, to try and regulate the planet's heat, is far riskier and still allows ocean acidification to occur, one of the silent crises of the 21st C.
posted by wilful at 4:45 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


As a backup plan, geo-engineering makes the Maginot Line look foolproof.

The fact that virtually every single organisation researching it has a commercial interest in either its use or further carbon pollution does little to add to credibility. This isn't a back-up plan, it's peering into the chicken entrails and proclaiming confidently that just a few more human sacrifices and the rains will come. It's a sad, searing indictment on the democratic project and the moral relativism of those who are charged with leading and protecting us. It makes me puking sick.
posted by smoke at 4:53 PM on October 10, 2010


I don't know why she swallowed the fly. I guess she'll die.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:58 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking all along that geoengineering will be a necessary pursuit anyway. If we stop all CO2 emissions tomorrow, we'll still be left with more carbon in the atmosphere than there was 100 years ago. Am I alone in thinking that there should be some effort made to sequester that through artificial / bio-engineered means, rather than waiting for it to happen through strictly natural processes?
posted by FreelanceBureaucrat at 5:26 PM on October 10, 2010


We should focus on moving humans underwater. Consider that in most extinction events, the aquatic species are generally spared the same fate as the other species. Consider that only 40% of species survived the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, while 90% of the aquatic species survived (IIRC). We left the oceans to get away from sharks and acquire resources, but I believe we now have harpoon spear technology up to the task of dealing with the toothy menace, and we can easily grow algae to support ourselves and mine minerals and oil from the briney depths. In fact, BP may have made the ocean rich enough in hydrocarbons that we might just need an elaborate filtration system.

Yes, I get that humans are attached to their land-based dwellings, but let's face it: If Columbus felt that way, we'd still be in Europe, driving tiny cars and living small yet comfortably. Big coastal cities could be sealed in a sphere, weighted to be neutrally buoyant and sunk (or they could just wait for the water to rise), and rural areas could simply migrate into submarine flotillas. Suburbs could become massive submarines, with spacious apartments for each family. And fancier aquahomes could be made for the wealthy, perhaps using genetically modified coral to quickly and beautifully create landscaping. With the internet, many white collar jobs can be done via telecommuting, and the mechanical requirements of maintaining an underwater city will create plenty of work for the working class.

And as we are in international waters, this means everyone gets to try their own political philosophy. The Tea Party will have their own aquadome, and they can prove if they can keep the oxygen scrubbers running without property taxes.

Best of all, this will give us plenty of practice for living without readily available freshwater and oxygen. If we adapt our cities to bear a vacuum rather than marine pressures, we could easily migrate to space (if we assume we solve the escape velocity problem, although we could probably just burn a bunch of hydrocarbons or something). This is an important next step, because once we shield ourselves from global warming, there is still the issue of oceanic acidity. Knowing us, it'll probably eat through steel structures within a few decades of the big move to the sea.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:28 PM on October 10, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let's make an analogy. Some kids were playing football in the backyard. It started raining. They went inside and decided to keep playing in the foyer. Mother had plenty of beautiful vases precariously balanced, and the kids knew they were taking a risk, but they knew that it was a reasonable risk, as they wanted to have as much fun as possible in the shortest amount of time. In addition, at school, they were learning all about cutting and pasting in art class. It's only reasonable to assume they could glue back together any vase that broke. And by the time any vase would break, they would be experts in vase repair. So, they continued to toss the ball around indoors to their joy.

And nothing bad ever happened. And anyone who suggests they not play ball indoors is a socialist who hates small businesses, and in particular hard working people like coal miners, who lead a very healthy lifestyle with great pay and could never find work in a green economy.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:35 PM on October 10, 2010 [5 favorites]


About 30 percent of the funds go into actual projects that reduce emissions, such as a wind farm in a developing nation, reports BBC.

The rest of the money goes into the following channels:

30 percent – Investment banks often buy up carbon offsets before a project is up and running, and they take an average 30 percent of the total in profits and operations.

15 percent – Shareholders of the companies putting the offset project together tend to take 15 percent in profits.

15 percent – Taxes, bank interest and fees.

10 percent – The margin normally taken by the retailer of carbon offsets, who sells them to corporations, individuals and other entities.


Yuppers - 70% waste in actual implementation of a Carbon reduction plan. If humanity can't be bothered to object to a plan to save the planet being only 30% effective and allow the money to go to the investment bankers/bureaucrats - is humanity worth saving?
posted by rough ashlar at 5:39 PM on October 10, 2010


In fact, the sun is the only thing warming the earth.

Only? No. You have the molten core - without that hot core you'd lack a magnetic field that keeps the planet in an atmosphere.
posted by rough ashlar at 5:43 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if we just heavily subsidize satellites until they black out the sky?

Think about it. More satellites = more bandwidth for wireless communications. Anything that doesn't need low latency would get a big boost. People would have a responsive, low-bandwidth 3G connection for games, voice, and videochat and a connection that takes a second or two to react, but that would be awesome for bit torrent, movie downloads, and data intensive things we can't even imagine yet. As we black out the sky more and more and can afford to burn resources more frivolously without melting the ice caps, we open up zero-g hotels and theme parks to take advantage of the cheap real estate in the sky.

All the research in rocketry that will be spurred on by cheap as free orbits means that we can easily then move people to the Moon once Earth becomes even more inhospitable than a dusty rock with no atmosphere. Some people say that's impossible, but I believe in the power of human ingenuity to destroy natural resources.
posted by mccarty.tim at 5:46 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


And as we are in international waters, this means everyone gets to try their own political philosophy. The Tea Party will have their own aquadome, and they can prove if they can keep the oxygen scrubbers running without property taxes.

I've seen a documentary about that...it ends badly.
posted by jedicus at 6:56 PM on October 10, 2010 [1 favorite]


Only? No. You have the molten core - without that hot core you'd lack a magnetic field that keeps the planet in an atmosphere.

To be pedantic, the core isn't warming us- it's the radioactive decay of Uranium, Potassium and Thorium in the Earth's crust that are our only source of heat. They keep the core molten, which keeps the atmosphere running, which keeps the solar heat in.
posted by twirlypen at 7:14 PM on October 10, 2010


Just put a soletta between us and the sun. Make sure the Reds don't get hold of the access codes though, or it might be sent off to Venus!
posted by Joe Chip at 11:56 PM on October 10, 2010


I see geoengineering as being forced to hack off one of your own gangrenous limbs. It's painful, and there were undoubtedly some very poor choices that lead you to this point, but it might give you enough time to get proper medical care.
posted by Grimgrin at 2:55 AM on October 11, 2010


I see geoengineering as being forced to hack off one of your own gangrenous limbs. It's painful, and there were undoubtedly some very poor choices that lead you to this point, but it might give you enough time to get proper medical care.

The problem is that people who study the climate say there's a good chance it's more like removing your own liver and then inserting some thing some guy on the street sold you that he told you would work as an artificial liver. And then just hoping he's right.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:16 AM on October 11, 2010 [2 favorites]


About 30 percent of the funds go into actual projects that reduce emissions, such as a wind farm in a developing nation, reports BBC.

That's not exactly what that article says. Only 30% of the cost of purchasing carbon offsets actually goes towards the construction of the project. That's very different than saying only 30% of the funds spent on renewable energy actually goes to construction costs.
posted by electroboy at 7:51 AM on October 11, 2010


Blocking the sun isn't going to help with ocean acidification, which will erode most of the world's coral reefs by 2100 at current rates. Acidic oceans will also be bad for organisms at the bottom of the food chain... so say goodbye to the big whales.
posted by Madaman at 11:27 AM on October 11, 2010


It is true that we have no effective geo-engineering strategies yet, but then we also don't have any effective large scale carbon emission reduction strategies yet. We seem to have had a few countries make some modest reductions mostly by moving production to China. Carbon sequestration technologies have yet to progress beyond demonstration phases. We have a huge black carbon problem in SE Asia. Look how hard it has been to ban whaling. I think we need to research geoengineering and see where it leads.
posted by humanfont at 2:19 PM on October 11, 2010


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