December 17, 2008
Humans Prevented Ice Age Thousands Of Years Ago?

Our ancestors intervened and prevented a natural ice age from happening thousands of years ago.

SAN FRANCISCO — The common wisdom is that the invention of the steam engine and the advent of the coal-fueled industrial age marked the beginning of human influence on global climate.

But gathering physical evidence, backed by powerful simulations on the world's most advanced computer climate models, is reshaping that view and lending strong support to the radical idea that human-induced climate change began not 200 years ago, but thousands of years ago with the onset of large-scale agriculture in Asia and extensive deforestation in Europe.

What's more, according to the same computer simulations, the cumulative effect of thousands of years of human influence on climate is preventing the world from entering a new glacial age, altering a clockwork rhythm of periodic cooling of the planet that extends back more than a million years.

"This challenges the paradigm that things began changing with the Industrial Revolution," says Stephen Vavrus, a climatologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Climatic Research and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies. "If you think about even a small rate of increase over a long period of time, it becomes important."

Was this intervention morally wrong? Should some ancient Al Gorestone have lobbied Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble to stop using agriculture?

While I do not see how climate engineering can prevent the oceans from becoming too acidic from dissolved CO2 I do not have a problem with using climate engineering. If climate engineering was good enough for Trog then it is good enough for me. But some scientists are skeptical that we can use climate engineering successfully.

Global warming, some have argued, can be reversed with a large-scale "geoengineering" fix, such as having a giant blimp spray liquefied sulfur dioxide in the stratosphere or building tens of millions of chemical filter systems in the atmosphere to filter out carbon dioxide.

But Richard Turco, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a member and founding director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment, sees no evidence that such technological alterations of the climate system would be as quick or easy as their proponents claim and says many of them wouldn't work at all.

Turco will present his new research on geoengineering — conducted with colleague Fangqun Yu, a research professor at the State University of New York–Albany's atmospheric sciences research center — today and Thursday at the American Geophysical Union's annual meeting in San Francisco.

"We're talking about tinkering with the climate system that affects everybody on Earth," said Turco, an atmospheric chemist with expertise in the microphysics of fine particles suspended in the atmosphere. "Some of the ideas are extreme. There would certainly be winners and losers, but no one would know who until it's too late.

Climate engineering would create different winners and losers than reduced CO2 emissions would create. But either way there are going to be winners and losers. Also, if we do not restrict CO2 emissions there'll be winners and losers. Certainly that makes it very hard to form a consensus on the decision to do climate change. But should that be an argument to totally abandon intentional climate engineering? If we place intentional climate engineering beyond the pale we will just get unintentional climate engineering. That's what Fred and Wilma did way back when.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 December 17 11:20 PM  Climate Engineering


Comments
malcolm said at December 17, 2008 11:44 PM:

Scientific American covered this topic in a recent article. Simply put, geoengineering would be so expensive that it would be much cheaper to subsidize alternative energy production and use.

morpheus said at December 18, 2008 3:23 AM:

yeah right

and the guy who wrote this has his iq either in single digits

or lower teens

flash news memo for all brain dead peoples global warming is a scam run by the illuminate just like 911

bussh did 911 algore ttryd a home run with the incovenient scam


watch and learn something in this life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye3PV01uyRs

Brett Bellmore said at December 18, 2008 3:35 AM:

That's *Scientific American*; It's been a couple decades since you could trust them on any subject with political ramifications. They're so relentlessly politically correct it makes your head ache to read them sometimes. It's a shame, they were once a fine publication.

jay said at December 18, 2008 5:19 AM:

brrrr it sure is getting cold. could al gore be wrong?

D. F. Linton said at December 18, 2008 5:48 AM:

Why is it that the people who are most horrified by the prospect of "tinkering" with the global climate system that "affects everyone", are unafraid of the prospect of tinkering with the global economic system (which is arguably as complex and probably much more poorly understood and measurable) that also affects everyone?

James Bowery said at December 18, 2008 8:48 AM:

It's sort of like dysgenics/eugenics: If it is intentional, then you are a Nazi and you want to stomp on the bellies of pregnant Jewesses with hobnail boots, etc. If it is unintentional, then it is "natural selection" even though the "natural" environment includes things like 747 Jumbo Jets which, as we all know, were never intended to raise the gene flow rate of human geography by orders of magnitude. I mean, hey, who but a NAZI could have foreseen that?

Aviation, Geography, and Race
by Charles A. Lindbergh
featured in Reader's Digest, November, 1939, pp. 64-67

Aviation has struck a delicately balanced world, a world where
stability was already giving way to the pressure of new dynamic
forces, a world dominated by a mechanical, materialist, Western
European civilization. Aviation is a product of that
civilization, borne on the crest of its outlook. Typical also of
its strength and its weakness, its vanity and its
self-destruction - men flung upward in the face of God, another
Icarus to dominate the sky, and in turn, to be dominated by it;
for eventually the laws of nature determine the success of human
effort and measure the value of human inventions in that
divinely complicated, mathematically unpredictable, development
of life at which Science has given the name of Evolution.

Aviation seems almost a gift from heaven to those Western
nations who were already the leaders of their era, strengthening
their leadership, their confidence, their dominance over other
peoples. It is a tool specially shaped for Western hands, a
scientific art which others only copy in a mediocre fashion,
another barrier between the teeming millions of Asia and the
Grecian inheritance of Europe - one of those priceless
possessions which permit the White race to live at all in a
pressing sea of Yellow, Black, and Brown. But aviation, using it
symbolically as well as in its own right, brings two great
dangers, one peculiar to our modern civilization, the other
older than history. Since aviation is dependent on the intricate
organization of life and industry, it carries with it the
environmental danger of a people too far separated from the soil
and from the sea - the danger of that physical decline which so
often goes with a high intellectual development, of that
spiritual decline which seems invariably to accompany an
industrial life, of that racial decline which follows physical
and spiritual mediocrity.

A great industrial nation may conquer the world in the span of a
single life, but its Achilles' heel is time. Its children, what
of them? The second and third generations, of what numbers and
stuff will they be? How long can men thrive between walls of
brick, walking on asphalt pavements, breathing the fumes of coal
and of oil, growing, working, dying, with hardly a thought of
wind, and sky, and fields of grain, seeing only machine-made
beauty, the mineral-like quality of life. This is our modern
danger - one of the waxen wings of flight. It may cause our
civilization to fall unless we act quickly to counteract it,
unless we realize that human character is more important than
efficiency, that education consists of more than the mere
accumulation of knowledge.

But the other great danger is more easily recognized, because it
has occurred again and again through history. It is the ember of
war, fanned by every new military weapon, flaming today as it
has never flamed before. It is the old internal struggle among a
dominant people for power; blind, insatiable, suicidal. Western
nations are again at war, a war likely to be more prostrating
than any in the past, a war in which the White race is bound to
lose, and the others bound to gain, a war which may easily lead
our civilization through more Dark Ages if it survives at all.
In this war, aviation is as important a factor as it has been a
cause - a cause due to its effect on the balance of strength
between nations, a factor because of the destruction and death
it hurls on earth and sea. Air power is new to all our
countries. It brings advantages to some and weakens others; it
calls for readjustment everywhere.

If only there were some way to measure the changing character of
men, some yardstick to reapportion influence among the nations,
some way to demonstrate in peace the strength of arms in war.
But with all of its dimensions, its clocks, and weights, and
figures, science fails us when we ask a measure for the rights
of men. They cannot be judged by numbers, by distance, weight,
or time; or by counting heads without a thought of what may lie
within. Those intangible qualities of character, such as
courage, faith, and skill, evade all systems, slip through the
bars of every cage. They can be recognized, but not measured.
They lie more in a glance between two men than in any formula or
mathematics. They form the unseen strength of an army, the
genius of a people.

Likewise, in judging aviation, in its effect on modern nations,
no satisfactory measurement of strength exists. It is bound to
geography, environment, and racial character so closely that an
attempt to judge by numbers would be like counting Greeks at
Marathon. What advantages will they gain? What new influence can
they exert? To judge this, one must look not only at their
aviation but at them, at the geography of their country, at
their problems of existence, at their habits of life.

Mountains, coastlines, great distances, ground fortifications,
all those safeguards of past generations, lose their old
significance as man takes to his wings. The English Channel, the
snow-capped Alps, the expanses of Russia, are now looked on from
a different height. The forces of Hannibal, Drake and Napoleon
moved at best with the horses' gallop or the speed of wind on
sail. Now, aviation brings a new concept of time and distance to
the affairs of men. It demands adaptability to change, places a
premium on quickness of thought and speed of action.

Military strength has become more dynamic and less tangible. A
new alignment of power has taken place, and there is no adequate
peacetime measure for its effect on the influence of nations.
There seems no way to agree on the rights it brings to some and
takes from others. The rights of men within a nation are
readjusted in each generation by laws of inheritance - land
changes hands as decades pass, fortunes are taxed from one
generation to the next; ownership is no more permanent than
life. But among nations themselves there is no similar provision
to reward virility and penalize decay, no way to reapportion the
world's wealth as tides of human character ebb and flow - except
by the strength of armies. In the last analysis, military
strength is measurable only by its own expenditure, by the
prostration of one contender while the other can still stagger
on the field - and all about the wolves of lesser stature abide
their time to spring on both the warriors.

We, the heirs of European culture, are on the verge of a
disastrous war, a war within our own family of nations, a war
which will reduce the strength and destroy the treasures of the
White race, a war which may even lead to the end of our
civilization. And while we stand poised for battle, Oriental
guns are turning westward, Asia presses towards us on the
Russian border, all foreign races stir restlessly. It is time to
turn from our quarrels and to build our White ramparts again.
This alliance with foreign races means nothing but death to us.
It is our turn to guard our heritage from Mongol and Persian and
Moor, before we become engulfed in a limitless foreign sea. Our
civilization depends on a united strength among ourselves; on
strength too great for foreign armies to challenge; on a Western
Wall of race and arms which can hold back either a Genghis Khan
or the infiltration of inferior blood; on an English fleet, a
German air force, a French army, an American nation, standing
together as guardians of our common heritage, sharing strength,
dividing influence.

Our civilization depends on peace among Western nations, and
therefore on united strength, for Peace is a virgin who dare not
show her face without Strength, her father, for protection. We
can have peace and security only so long as we band together to
preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of
European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against
attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.

We need peace to let our best men live to work out those more
subtle, but equally dangerous, problems brought by this new
environment in which we dwell, to give us time to turn this
materialistic trend, to stop prostrating ourselves before this
modern idol of mechanical efficiency, to find means of combining
freedom, spirit, and beauty with industrial life - a peace which
will bring character, strength, and security back to Western
peoples.

With all the world around our borders, let us not commit racial
suicide by internal conflict. We must learn from Athens, and
Sparta before all of Greece is lost.

Reader's Digest, Nov. 1939, Vol. 35

Ned said at December 18, 2008 10:22 AM:

I live in Michigan. Right now global warming seems like a pretty good idea.

Mthson said at December 18, 2008 11:52 AM:

An atmospheric physicist friend of mine who works in a global warming lab told me climate engineering is like pushing on a spot on a balloon... it just causes an unforeseen effect somewhere else.

Philosophy of science would seem to indicate that's the nature of scientific progress. New problems are created with each advance, but overall many more problems are solved than are created, including some of the problems caused by previous iterations of advances.

Beta Test said at December 18, 2008 4:03 PM:

That's *Scientific American*; It's been a couple decades since you could trust them on any subject with political ramifications. They're so relentlessly politically correct it makes your head ache to read them sometimes. It's a shame, they were once a fine publication.

===

I wondered if I was the only one who thought this, and I lean left politically.

th said at December 18, 2008 5:13 PM:

This is kinda like saying all the boats in the ocean should have caused a rise in sea levels by now or all the air trapped in tires should have caused a shortage by now, is this an early april 1st joke?

simone said at December 18, 2008 6:47 PM:

Oh really! I would suggest without a massive amount of empirical evidence from multiple sources the "powerful models" are merely doing what the designers wanted them to do - show that mad changed the earths temperature.

Pink Pig said at December 19, 2008 11:14 AM:

At least there appears to be a little bit of common sense left. The fatal weakness of the global warming consensus is the blithe and decidedly unscientific assumption that warming is bad. That's like saying change is bad, or technology is bad... Oh, wait, that _is_ what they're saying.

Brilliant 47-Year-Old said at December 19, 2008 11:16 AM:

This is more full of sh!t than the normal AGW claims. There is no way they have the ability to even guestimate the data for the model.

Global warming is a scam not because man's activities cannot influence the climate, but because the alarmists (the ones who want to limit growth in our part of the world, raise taxes, and generally send us back to the stone age) have been able to convince people who don't know much about science that they have "computer models" that suggest we are heading for serious trouble. These people are liars like Al Gore and others who have a vested interest in the alarmists' claims. For example, ask yourself how many "climate scientists" there were in 1970 and what their level of funding was. Now, since the sky began falling, they have made out like bandits (certainly better than all of the "deniers" who are alleged to be in the tank for ExxonMobil).

But at bottom of all of this madness is the idea that they have the ability to make accurate models to simulate the impact of changes in various atmospheric parameters like CO2 and other gases. They don't have such models, but they have more than enough useful idiots who need something like a religion to keep them occupied and important. Those people, working with the actual socialists who were just looking for an excuse to institute wealth transfers from the developed world to the developing, are the critical mass of support for AGW.

Over the next few years, as we get more and more evidence that the models and the modelers have no connection with reality, I am looking forward to seeing Al Gore and his ilk derided for the charlatans they are.

David Gillies said at December 19, 2008 11:57 AM:

So we are led to believe that a global population somewhere in the region of a third of present-day Canada's had enough effect on the Earth's climate as to forestall an Ice Age?

This is so transparently stupid it is beneath contempt.

tim maguire said at December 19, 2008 12:02 PM:

Some people above mention Scientific American. It was this very article several years ago arguing that agriculture ended the cycle of ice ages that led me to finally cancel my subscription. They revealed themselves as shameless cheerleaders for any global warming theory that comes along. Their own charts didn't support their argument, but they ran it without question anyway.

traceman said at December 19, 2008 12:18 PM:

Gee, did anyone notice that it snowed in Southern Califrnia, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Mississippi this week? Last years winter temperatures and record snowfalls in North
America wiped out the tiny average temperature rise for the last 100 years. Then James Hansen of NASA admitted cooking the books. Has anyone every noticed that all these studies
like the ones above are associated with universities and if global warming were found
to be the hoax that it is their grant money would dry up. No one ever mentions cycle 24
and the suns role in global warming and cooling. This is just one environmental chemists' opinion

Dana H. said at December 19, 2008 12:22 PM:

"Climate engineering would create different winners and losers than reduced CO2 emissions would create."

EVERYONE is a loser if we restrict carbon dioxide emissions, because to do so at the scale the AGW believers desire will mean the death of industrial civilization.

JLawson said at December 19, 2008 12:29 PM:

The theory of anthropogenic global warming is pretty well born out in the research done by William Ruddiman. Source article - http://stephenschneider.stanford.edu/Publications/PDF_Papers/Ruddiman2003.pdf

He lays it all out pretty clearly.

David Gillies - It's possible to start an avalanche with little effort - but when one's going it takes a hell of a lot of energy to change its direction or stop it. You might want to read the article and the reasoning behind the theory before you start calling it 'transparently stupid'. Pay special attention to Figure 1B, showing the methane/temperature curve departure, Figure 7, showing dips in atmospheric methane during major plague events, and Figure 8, which shows Canada should be majorly glaciated at this point if there hadn't been a change in the warming/cooling cycles which just happens to coincide with methane increases right about the start of agriculture.

SamIam said at December 19, 2008 12:36 PM:

It seems that no mountain is too high to leap for the AGW hoaxsters. The tragedy is that we are all likely to pay into it because of the government we have elected. It is 100% about shifting power and money from hands to other hands. Mainly aimed at weakening American power and the secondary target is the entire Western world in general.

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the 'ENVIRONMENTALISTS'."

Pink Pig said at December 19, 2008 12:47 PM:

More effect than computer models, anyway. How many people does it take to cut down a forest?

Pink Pig said at December 19, 2008 12:53 PM:

Ooh. I have a theory, too. By cutting down enough trees to print the ridiculous reams of AGW "research" papers, the enviros have indeed saved the planet, just not in the way that they thought they were going to do.

Assistant Village Idiot said at December 19, 2008 12:58 PM:

Ruddiman's book Plows, Plagues, and Petroleum is excellent.

I don't see this as supporting the current aims of the AGW crowd. While it does posit warming caused by humans, which is their general idea, it doesn't suggest a need for vast societal solutions, which is their real aim. If we have been warming the planet since we domesticated animals and planted einkhorn and rice, then ceasing to do that would imply that we return to hunter-gatherer status, with life expectancies of 30-40 years. Most enviros want to return to a mythical small-farm/personal crafts era, not following elk for hundreds of miles.

If it's evidence that AGW has been a good thing - a very good thing - for the last 8000 years, it's going to be tougher to sell it as a catastrophe today.

I admit that this type of very gradual human effect on climate seems more plausible to me, probably for bad reasons.

Mike G in Corvallis said at December 19, 2008 1:28 PM:

But Richard Turco, a professor in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a member and founding director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment, sees no evidence that such technological alterations of the climate system would be as quick or easy as their proponents claim and says many of them wouldn't work at all.

Turco is the first "T" of the TTAPS "Nuclear Winter" paper.

Sometimes it's remarkably easy to cool the planet, and sometimes it's virtually impossible ... depending on the politics of the situation. Isn't that interesting?

David Gillies said at December 19, 2008 1:29 PM:

JLawson: if the signals were that unambiguous with a driver 400-500 times smaller than the present population, the science of global warming really would be 'settled'. I can accept that non-linear effects might have been at work, but the sheer disparity between then and now makes me highly suspicious. One is left with a big explanatory gap if one assumes climate sensitivity to be so very different at population levels three orders of magnitude apart.

SteveIL said at December 19, 2008 1:35 PM:

"I don't see this as supporting the current aims of the AGW crowd."

I agree, but that doesn't mean the followers of the AGW religion won't use it to their own advantage.

"Most enviros want to return to a mythical small-farm/personal crafts era,..."

Most enviros want to create a new nobility, with themselves as the nobles, while the rest of us would be their serfs or slaves.

Rob said at December 19, 2008 1:42 PM:

Recent climate history has featured a series of ice ages with smaller warm periods in between. We are currently in a warm period, but the ice ages are usually longer and of course colder. Warm is not the real danger, historically it is the ice.
Climate tends to go up in temperature, down or stays somewhat the same. AlGorr gambled that temperature would increase somewhat and look like he knew what he was talking about. However, what we call the "Gore Effect" (lower temperatures and unusual cold weather) has been happening for the last 10 years or so with a sudden drop in temperatures in the last year. He has lost his gamble to take over the economy of the entire world.
Someone must have a sense of humor.

Jack Denver said at December 19, 2008 2:39 PM:

Yes, Lindbergh WAS a Nazi (sympathizer) and a racist. Pretty ironic that while he was concerned that the yellow and black hordes would gain access to the tool of aviation that was the proper domain of the white man (in his view), but in the end the Nazis, the whitest of white men, were the first to rain large scale terror on the ground by air power - see Britain, Battle of. He wanted white men (Nazis and non) to make up with each other so they could fight the common yellow and red menace(an echo of the Cold War to come, when we took so many ex-Nazi war criminals into the fold - can you say "Werner von Braun") but the "cultured" Nazis were just as bad as, or even worse, than the most uncivilized "Asiatic hordes".

So in sum, I don't know what the hell you think you were proving by posting this, other than that Lindbergh was a racist nut job. If you agree with him on this stuff, you are too.

Drew said at December 19, 2008 3:20 PM:

There is one sure-fire solution to AGW...Jim Jones where are you when we need you?

Dave said at December 19, 2008 3:46 PM:

malcolm wrote:
> Scientific American covered this topic in a recent article. Simply put,
> geoengineering would be so expensive that it would be much cheaper to
> subsidize alternative energy production and use.

It would be much cheaper still to let the Earth warm (or cool, if 2008 is the
start of a trend) and deal with the problems as they arise. Alternatives* will
subsidize themselves when oil gets scarce, and malaria will be cured when rich
people start dying of it.

*including nuclear power -- if we try to base our energy future on sun and wind
alone, our kids will be lucky to get jobs serving drinks to Chinese tourists.

averros said at December 19, 2008 6:43 PM:

SciAm died as a scientific publication at least a decade ago.

As for environmentalist - they're pretty much watermelons - green on outside, red on inside. Anyone who proposes threatening peaceful people with lethal weapons as a solution to any problem deserves to be laughed at - and derided as a total idiot. That category includes all "greens" (and all Obama faithful, too).

The whole "science" behing AGW is based on running numeric models and curve-fitting by tweaking parameters of these models until the output match few decades worth of real data. The hard fact that the climate is a chaotic system, and the error accumulation during successive iterations by these models is rapid (for a typical end-of-the-century prognosis the error spread gets to about +/-100 degrees centigrade) is ignored; instead they run a bunch of models built on the same principles (and often on the same code base) and average results - and then claim that this somehow reduces errors. If they had a tiny bit of scientific integrity and actually evaluated and published their error margins everybody would see that their "predictions" are about as good as output of a random number generator.

And, of course, every publication on climate inevitably ends with "we want more money", aka "more research is needed".

Pink Pig said at December 19, 2008 6:47 PM:

I don't see that Scientific American has changed all that much. They still posit false dichotomies, like: geoengineering is too expensive, so we have to subsidize alternative energy. It wouldn't surprise me at all if it turned out that the routine energy source of 50 years from now is something we know nothing about today. Who could have predicted the predominance of the Internet 50 years ago?

Hugh said at December 19, 2008 7:30 PM:

How about a new expression:
"GOREBAL WARMING"

Tim said at December 19, 2008 7:50 PM:

A better way to cut carbon would be providing energy without it, such as nuclear, or finding ways to milk more energy from the processes already in use. Worried about chinese coal-burning powerplants?, make them a deal on the Magneto Hydro Dynamic technology Reagan pulled the plug on when he was wasting time as the anti-Carter. They'll be able to make better use of the coal they burn, and it's not as if we haven't been transferring tech to them massively anyway. Solar power is a useful niche player until it becomes space-based, I could go on. The dark greens seem to want a transition to the 18th century, if not earlier, such a transition would be ugly, and possibly more costly to the environment then living as we do now. In the midst of such upheaval, orderly shutdown and clean-up of industrial facilities will be forgotten, and the mess will be enormous. And morpheus, I think you meant illuminati.

John Moore said at December 19, 2008 9:02 PM:

I agree that Sci Am is unfortunately leftist, but there is nothing new about that. I remember their articles in the '80s proving all sorts of weapons technology to be impossible - especially ABM's. They have a very strong and consistent bias, and its a shame. I still subscribe however, because they do have interesting articles.

The hypothesis about paleoclimatic anthropogenic climate change should not be casually tossed out. Farming has "terraformed" terra - it has changed the environment far more than any other human activity (which is ironic since the watermelons who push various environmental agendas are the same folks that could be found at the Farm Aid concerts). The question is ultimately quantitative. There is little doubt that humans have changed the climate. Much more suspect are the extreme predictions of the AGW alarmists.

Those predictions require large amounts of positive feedback. Primary evidence for the feedback is from climate sensitivity models (usually GCM's), but don't be fooled. These models use the same technology as weather forecasting models (in at least one case, the same model is used), and we know how great they are! GCM's cannot accurately model atmospheric physics for a number of reasons, including chaos, poor spatial and temporal resolution, poor calibration data, and the resultant use of suspect parameterization. They are so bad that convection, the primary heat engine of the atmosphere, is not modeled - instead it is projected based on parameters.

Person of Choler said at December 19, 2008 10:05 PM:

Should your library happen to have old back issues of Scientific American, compare an issue -say from 1965- to a recent one.

It will make you cry for the intellectual deterioration of America.

ARHemmings said at December 20, 2008 5:32 AM:

While I do not see how climate engineering can prevent the oceans from becoming to acidic from dissolved CO2

You are aware that the oceans are approximately 300 times more massive than the atmosphere, and that the oceans are also a heavily buffered carbon sink? Worrying about atmospheric CO2 destabilizing the oceans is like worrying about bumblebees causing air turbulence. While it obviously makes for excellent grant proposals - no doubt angling for all that AGW research money - it betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between Earth's air and water.

A little bit of science is a dangerous thing.

Ellen said at December 20, 2008 9:37 AM:

I seem to remember (from reading Lovelock) that Earth once had a higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere. This probably extended to the oceans. Yet limestone is largely seashells. So I'd not worry TOO much about ocean acidification/deacidification on an evolutionary timescale.

Jerry Martinson said at December 21, 2008 9:02 AM:

The editors of Scientific American showed their true stripes by devoting a substantial portion of an entire issue to attack one person who questions the efficacy of gaia-first priorities. I remember how nasty Scientific American was to Bjorn Lomberg. It was just out of control bashing. The editorial oversight of Scientific American is just out there on some sort of bizarre gaia-worship fringe. There is little doubt that the earth has gotten warmer lately and it seems like anthropogenic effects including CO2 are likely causing it. But given what we know it takes huge leaps to believe that the costs of drastically cutting CO2 are going to produce results that are worth it.

malcolm said at December 22, 2008 11:28 PM:

(if anyone is still on this thread)
I am not a big fan of SA actually. I agree it is very biased, not the magazine it used to be. I still stand by the sentiment however. To be a little more precise, IF one feels one must do something about global warming (which one believes is caused by atmospheric CO2) THEN, it would be cheaper to subsidize alternatives than attempt geoengineering.
If you are interested in my opinion: I think investment in alternative energy research, including nuclear fission and fusion, terrestrial solar and battery tech would benefit the world more than research in geoengineering.

Ryan Waxx said at December 22, 2008 11:44 PM:

People who want agreements to restrict CO2 production had better hope that this theory doesn't gain popularity. Because if it's right, then nothing short of forsaking farming is going to have an appreciable effect. Good luck convincing about 3/4 of the world's population that they need to die of hunger to satisfy mother Gaia.

Randall Parker said at December 23, 2008 9:56 AM:

Malcolm, Regards engineering of the climate: Some people think it would be very cheap to do. Among them UC Irvine physics professor and noted science fiction writer Gregory Benford. Have a lot at my Engineering Climate category archive for proposals to do climate engineering cheaply.

Engineer-Poet said at December 24, 2008 9:12 PM:

If you consider what it would take to put a Pinatubo's-worth of SO2 into the stratosphere every year, it would be within the personal capability of quite a number of individuals, let alone governments.  Geoengineering is not going to be held up by finances.  Lawyers are another matter.

Quoth SteveIL:

Most enviros want to create a new nobility, with themselves as the nobles, while the rest of us would be their serfs or slaves.
This appears to be projection.  I doubt that he understands how most environmentalists think any more than the average liberal understands how most conservatives think.

Quoth Rob:

AlGorr gambled that temperature would increase somewhat and look like he knew what he was talking about.
When someone starts railing at Al Gore (a politician and a publicist) rather than addressing the science behind his position, you know they're full of crap.  This is exactly the same as denouncing "Darwinism" as if "The Origin of Species" was a source of dogma rather than a flawed and long superceded (but seminal) work; the writer is projecting (the limitations of) his own mentality.

Humans don't have to cut forests to affect climate.  Burning them is quite adequate; it's known that native Americans' use of fire kept the tree cover in N. America much thinner than it became in the last century under fire suppression.  Domesticating rice and planting methane-generating rice paddies is another development with disproportionate influence.  At some stage in the Milankovich cycle, it may take 380 ppm of CO2 to keep the Earth from glaciating again.  We're quite some ways from that, and I bet that Hansen is right that 350 ppm is probably the most we can risk at the moment.  We are living on borrowed time to get it back down before feedbacks take matters out of our hands absent massive geoengineering.

Yes, CO2 was much higher in the distant past and the oceans didn't die from carbonic acid.  This developed more slowly over time, and weathering added more cations to the oceans to balance the acidity.  Our fossil-fuelled additions to the atmosphere are much too rapid for the buffering process to keep up.

Steve B said at December 27, 2008 8:25 PM:

I'll start by ignoring any post that contains the words "enviros are all..." or "global warming skeptics are all..." and get back to science and policy.

My concern with anthropogenic climate change, whether warmer or cooler, intentional or not, is that it's likely to happen much faster (by orders of magnitude) than most natural climatic cycles in the past. And making unprecedentedly rapid, unpredictable changes to your own life-support system, with no backup plan(et), just seems like a remarkably stupid thing to do. Nobody's arguing for a return to the Stone Ages, or the Middle Ages, or the 18th century, but rather for slowing down the rate of climate change so we can actually tell whether it needs to be reversed.

This doesn't mean abandoning technology: many of the most promising ways to do this involve technology like CFL's, telecommunications, hybrid and electric cars, house insulation, solar power, wind power, fission and fusion power, etc. It doesn't mean shutting down economic activity, but choosing more-sustainable forms of economic activity. It doesn't mean replacing every free market with government socialism, but it does require recognizing and counteracting tragedy-of-the-commons market failures that lead a free market to do things that aren't in anybody's interest.

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