December 22, 2009
Support For Climate Engineering Goes Mainstream

Writing in Technology Review Kevin Bullis reports that mainstream scientists are beginning to accept the necessity of climate engineering.

Atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have already climbed to 385 parts per million, well over the 350 parts per million that many scientists say is the upper limit for a relatively stable climate. And despite government-led efforts to limit carbon emissions in many countries, annual emissions from fossil-fuel combustion are going up, not down: over the last two decades, they have increased 41 percent. In the last 10 years, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has increased by nearly two parts per million every year. At this rate, they'll be twice preindustrial levels by the end of the century. Meanwhile, researchers are growing convinced that the climate might be more sensitive to greenhouse gases at this level than once thought. "The likelihood that we're going to avoid serious damage seems quite low," says Schrag. "The best we're going to do is probably not going to be good enough."

This shocking realization has caused many influential scientists, including Obama advisors like Schrag, to fundamentally change their thinking about how to respond to climate change. They have begun calling for the government to start funding research into geoengineering--large-scale schemes for rapidly cooling the earth.

If the Earth heats up so much that major coastal cities are going to flood then I see climate engineering as inevitable as soon as the oceans rise by a meter or two. In fact, one could probably figure out for each nation with an ocean border how high the oceans would need to rise to cause its populace and leaders to switch toward favoring climate engineering.

However, I can see a possible exception: Russia. If Siberia warms up won't the Russians benefit far more from massive areas becoming livable than from the loss of part of St. Petersburg. Most of the Russian population isn't near coasts.

In some nations with limited water resources global warming might be seen as a big blessing if it boosts rainfall.

The various different engineering methods for cooling differ in many ways that will be debated in detail in coming decades. For example, some cooling gases stay in the atmosphere for a short time, others for a long time. It would probably make sense to start out with short duration cooling gases so that the effects of a cooling intervention won't be long lasting in case they cause side effects that are too problematic.

A big volcanic eruption that cools the Earth for a few years in the 2020s or 2030s might catalyze support for intentional cooling. A short cooling from a natural cause would serve as a powerful demonstration of the potential for engineered cooling under human control.

Update: Some people in the comments are obviously upset by the idea of intervening in the weather to solve a problem which they doubt really exists. Well, don't go getting your panties in a bunch. Climate engineering can be done very rapidly. Therefore it doesn't need to be started until major melting and ocean level rises are clearly underway. Spew a huge amount of silicon dioxide into the air for a year and you can bring on another ice age. This isn't rocket science. It isn't expensive either.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 22 10:26 PM  Climate Engineering


Comments
Don L. said at December 23, 2009 1:50 AM:

This idea has "EPIC FAIL" written all over it. Talk about your law of unintended consequences.

Hong said at December 23, 2009 4:00 AM:

So, assuming any of this is true, a global carbon tax is the answer how? Allow people to apply their genius in technology and industry to solve the mess instead of suppressing it with economic redistribution. Of course the people can't be trusted...

dlp said at December 23, 2009 6:32 AM:

So, assuming any of this is true, a global carbon tax is the answer how?

Carbon taxes, cap-and-trade and associated schemes offer political elites ample opportunity for graft, influence peddling and government control/seizure of private industry.

Geo-engineering, not so much.

In said at December 23, 2009 7:25 AM:

This reminds me of the part of this Michael Crichton speech regarding Yellowstone:
http://www.michaelcrichton.com/speech-complexity.html

Don
Relax, there is nooo waaaay that this could be bungled.

jp straley said at December 23, 2009 10:13 AM:

You don't have to factor in climate issues to understand that nuclear generation of electric power is a good choice, both economically and environmentally.

And there is interesting progress on other non-fossil alternatives....LFTR, Bussard Fusion, Focus, Black Light, LENR...any one of which would be a Black Swan.

That's for electric gen. Transpo fuel may be a different kettle of fish, but not if we can get energy dense batteries.

So the anthro-CO2 problem, if it is a problem, has interesting solutions in the pipeline.

The ugly truth? There's too many people, and there's a problem that is much harder to discuss, much less "solve." My proposal is ....

Bruce said at December 23, 2009 11:14 AM:

I think if there is any warming (debatable after ClimateGate and it should be debated) most of the warming is UHI or just a slight bounce from the Little Ice Age (that the CRU Hockey Team dishonestly made disappear).

If there is any warming, we should actually have an honest debate whether warmer is better or worse. Europe flourished during the MWP and the Roman Optimum.

Cold kills. 100+ dead in Europe. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/dec/22/cold-weather-europe-death-toll

The LIA and the cold after the Roman Optimum were disasters for Europe (and I assume elsewhere but Europe documents it better).

If you actually wish to think about what is a normal earth temperature (EP obviously excluded) then start here:

http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/12/historical-video-perspective-our-current-unprecedented-global-warming-in-the-context-of-scale/

PS The small normal rise in sea level actually stopped in 2006 (and it had been rising for 12,000 years at least)

Bruce said at December 23, 2009 11:45 AM:

Warmer or Colder?

"Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short term declines in cold related mortalities, although this offers little reassurance for those affected by the heat."

"Annual cold related mortality was higher than heat related mortality in all regions (table 1). Over the seven regions together, annual cold related deaths averaged 2003 per million compared with 217 per million heat related deaths "

"Our results therefore do not negate the case for taking pre-emptive measures against heat stress in advance of global warming. The most obvious of these are to improve ventilation in homes and institutions that house vulnerable people and installation of air conditioning in hotter regions.

Our analysis indicates that in the regions we have studied the direct effect of the moderate warming predicted in the next 50 years would be to reduce, at least briefly, both winter mortality and total mortality. This could be continued into a large, sustained reduction in overall mortality if additional action is taken to prevent relaxation of protective measures against outdoor and indoor cold stress as winters become milder."


http://www.bmj.com/cgi/content/full/321/7262/670


Ok. Warmer is better if we spend money on air conditioners.

John Moore said at December 23, 2009 12:21 PM:

I love it:

"well over the 350 parts per million that many scientists say is the upper limit for a relatively stable climate."

Only an idiot could have written this. Climate is NOT stable. Adding CO2 might change the trajectory of change, but it isn't the cause of change.

That AGW alarmists decry attempts at researching geoengineering is yet one more sign of their ideologically induced blindness.

simone said at December 23, 2009 3:59 PM:

Sheer madness ... there is NO evidence we have warming ... the only fact we can point to is increasing CO2 levels ... but not the associated warming ... this is NOTHING more than researchers looking for dollars ... they are making politicians look like amateurs

Randall Parker said at December 23, 2009 5:37 PM:

Guys,

I deleted the morpheus comments and comments from others in response to them. Morpheus is such an insulting dummy that he's worn out my patience. Months of stupidity and childish insults have gone on long enough. Maybe when he graduates from high school (or if he graduates from high school I'll let him resume posting - provided he can use proper punctuation and upper case letters at the start of sentences.

Hong said at December 24, 2009 7:52 AM:

'Don't get your panties in a bunch'? What Randall, you taking story lessons from E-P? lol

Hong said at December 24, 2009 8:06 AM:

If climate engineering were such an 'easy and inexpensive solution' then why is there such hysteria among the warmers for a global carbon tax to reduce emissions? Perhaps even the most ardent cry wolfers have their doubts to the efficacy of seeding clouds or applying mirrors. Just a thought

http://climateprogress.org/2009/08/29/science-risks-of-climate-geo-engineering-hegerl-susan-solomon/

JAY said at December 24, 2009 8:45 AM:

Pepsi Cola puts CO2 in their soda. Does this make them climate war criminals?

Randall Parker said at December 24, 2009 9:59 AM:

JAY,

Obviously the cola makers should stop putting CO2 into their drinks so that all the drink CO2 emissions can be reserved for beer. Thanks for bringing this problem to my attention.

Hong,

I believe we should stop building coal electric power plants and build nukes instead. Nuclear plants will operate for decades longer than it takes to pay back their capital investment and they do not emit carcinogenic soot, oxides of sulfur, oxides of nitrogen, or mercury.

I also think we should seriously research climate engineering.

Bruce said at December 24, 2009 10:34 AM:

The problem Randall is that AGW is very cult like. They truly believe the oceans are rising at an unprecedented rate when in fact many tide guages show no abnormal rising and even the satellite measured rising has paused since 2006.

They have been convinced that the earths temperature is way above normal when in fact there is a lot of evidence that it is still well below MWP temperatures.

They are convinced warming will kill us all! When in fact a slightly warmer earth (as in warmer than the LIA) has been great for agriculture. And there are numerous advantages to a sightly warmer earth that show up in the historial record for the Roman Optimum and the MWP.

What I fear is the the AGW cult will insist on climate engineering being used resulting in a global disater. Don't research. Please. The idiots will use it!!!!


Randall Parker said at December 24, 2009 11:23 AM:

Bruce,

I think climate engineering is unlikely to be done until the signal for AGW is far clearer and more advanced in terms of its effects on Antarctica and Greenland.

Regarding MWP temperatures, here's what I've been wondering about: What average global temperature is needed to maintain total water in ice at a steady state? Are we now above or below that temperature? Was the planet above or below that temperature in 1900? Has the planet been above that temperature for thousands of years since the end of the last ice age?

Bruce said at December 24, 2009 4:54 PM:

Randall, I think you are an optimist about AGW believers waiting.

The graph at the following site suggests the sea level was 120m above current levels about 20,000 years ago and has been melting ever since.

http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/gornitz_09/

A study in New jersey suggests sea level rise jumped about 1000 years ago - the MWP.

http://www.state.nj.us/state/museum/pdf/nj_sea_level_rise.pdf

Do remember the ClimateGate Team worked hard to eradicate the MWP from their records in order to pretend current warming is "unprecedented". It isn't.

BeCareful said at December 24, 2009 7:39 PM:

This site has some temperature charts (historical & modern) that may put global warming and geo-engineering into context. Look closely at the multiple charts, and then decide if we (you) need to panic.

http://www.c3headlines.com/temperature-charts-historical-proxies.html

http://www.c3headlines.com/modern-temperatures-chartsgraphs.html

Randall Parker said at December 24, 2009 7:43 PM:

Bruce,

20,000 years ago sea levels were 120 meters below current levels.

The second study does not appear to suggest that MWP was the cause of a more rapidly rise. They say sea level rise has been faster over the last 1000 years. But I do not see where they say it slowed down during the Mini Ice Age after accelerating during the MWP. Strangely, their sea level rise rate for the last 1000 years (4 mm per year) is higher than their rise for the last 80 years (1-2 mm/year).

Bruce said at December 24, 2009 11:19 PM:

Below. Yes.

As they said, New Jersey may be subsiding. Parts of the world are doing the opposite. The land is still bouncing back after the ice melted/retreated.

"But in Juneau, as almost nowhere else in the world, climate change is having the opposite effect: As the glaciers here melt, the land is rising, causing the sea to retreat."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/science/earth/18juneau.html?_r=3

Of course the NY Times got the "as almost nowhere else in the world" part completely wrong.

http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=8442

" but in other places land previously covered by kilometre thick layers of ice has actually risen and is still rising. This is the phenomenon called post glacial rebound. The measured land rise can be up to a metre per century and is noticeable in the life time of a person dwelling on the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Unfortunately the rise in land in northern Europe is associated with a sinking of adjacent land that was not covered by ice.

The Gulf of Bothnia in the northern part of the Baltic Sea is an area where the post glacial rebound was first observed and described by the Swedish scientist Anders Celsius who in 1765 correctly attributed the observations of the receding sea along the coast of the Baltic to land rise and not to sinking sea levels.

Recent GPS technology has allowed the land rise to be more accurately estimated to be 11mm/year in northern Sweden."


The AGW cult .... wrong in so many ways it is hard to count.

iconoclast said at December 27, 2009 9:11 AM:

One upside of proving the validity of the AGW hypothesis would be evidence that we (humans) would be able to control climate change. If threatened with another Little Ice Age or, even worse, a real Ice Age, it would be to our species benefit to know how to alter the climate enough to prevent such an event.

Agree completely about switching to nuclear--would add hydropower to that mix as well. Not only large scale power reactors but smaller modular reactors such as Hyperion would provide us with relatively cheap and extremely clean power. Unfortunately, the USA has allowed itself to have our energy policy controlled by utopian loons.

Engineer-Poet said at December 29, 2009 8:20 AM:

Geez, you take a 5-day vacation from the blogosphere and the kiddies trash the place.

I find it extremely interesting that Hong asks how a carbon tax is the answer... and in the very next breath he refers to applying genius in technology and industry to the problem.  You would think that any regular reader of Instapundit would grasp just how much genius is applied to arbitrage in interest rates and taxes without any prompting.  Comparative advantage, too; a carbon tax would create an economic advantage for those processes which produce less GHG emissions, with obvious incentives to invent and improve them.  The very way he phrased the question shows that he SHOULD have gotten it instantly.

Bruce is another one.  100 dead from cold (easily handled with better insulation and clothing), but of the 52,000 dead in Europe's 2003 heat wave... nothing.  And if sea levels have been falling, why is Cleopatra's palace in Alexandria under water?

People who can't figure out what the word "relatively" means?  Oy.

A psychologist could probably write a PhD thesis on the level of cognitive dissonance in such people.  I'm not a psychologist, so I'll just snark.

iconoclast:  utopian loons have Machiavellian backers.  The US nuclear industry has its problems, not the least of which is the coal industry.  IIRC the financing of some anti-nuclear groups has been traced back to coal interests.  The environmental community is now going pro-nuclear in a big way (including Lovelock and one of the founders of Greenpeace) so the carbon lobby is losing its façade.

Hong said at December 29, 2009 9:52 AM:

"You would think that any regular reader of Instapundit would grasp just how much genius is applied to arbitrage in interest rates and taxes without any prompting. Comparative advantage, too; a carbon tax would create an economic advantage for those processes which produce less GHG emissions, with obvious incentives to invent and improve them. "

Wow, don't you know carbon tax schemes can easily be corrupted or did they forget to teach you that in troll school? A recent story in that conservative of sources, The Guardian, recently stated that in Britain companies were deliberately gaming the system for their advantage in a way that did little to aid emissions or the economy. So my question still remains unanswered. You would think someone who's had 5 days off could make sharper, better informed comments. And enjoy the irony from just where I first heard about it E-P.

http://pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/89758/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+instapundit%2Fmain+%28Instapundit%29

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/27/industry-abusing-ets-carbon-trading

And here in the United States, accusations are that certain politically favored corporations are poised to receive carbon credit givaways. But of course under the 'One', energy interests wouldn't lobby for preferential status. Nor would Democrat politicians or bureaucrats offer regulations that made little sense but raise energy prices excessively.

http://www.theweek.com/article/index/96470/The_capandtrade_racket

"I'm not a psychologist, so I'll just snark."

Judging by your responses here you might need that psychologist yourself. And your snark is weak and needs improvement. It's amusing in a sad, desperate sort of way.

iconoclast said at December 29, 2009 11:21 AM:

Engineer-Poet

The utopian and fearful anti-nuclear loons of the 1970's had much more going for them than money from coal interests--such as it was. To think that merely money from coal interests was what they needed to succeed in effectively banning nuclear power from the USA is just too conspiratorial. And of course there were problems. There are always problems. As an engineer you know how to address problems--you fix them. And not in Congress either.

As for Alexandria, changes in overall sea levels in the last 2000 years were completely insufficient to engulf Alexandria. Other factors are clearly to explain for Cleopatra's Alexandria being underwater.

Hong said at December 29, 2009 1:55 PM:

Apparently E-P made the point that any cap and trade scheme would be subject to obvious fraud and manipulation. My mistake on missing that. But my point still stands. A carbon tax cannot be easily enforced, assuming it's even necessary, and therefore evaded. What developing government would punish themselves such without a massive subsidy? And assuming they receive one, there is no doubt some would still cheat. Copenhagen prove nobody is serious yet on such scheme or global taxation and since plenty of proof exists that COs levels only rise after temperature do, it doesn't make terrible sense to pay it.

Engineer-Poet said at December 29, 2009 2:10 PM:

Hong is either:

  • Stupid enough to mistake Europe's cap-and-trade system with government-provided free permits (a system I have condemned) for a carbon tax, or
  • Thinks we are.
He's certainly not smart enough to see what I've said about Waxman-Markey even on this site, let alone elsewhere... unless he doesn't care if he gets egg on his face (which would make him a pure troll).  He's another monkey, flinging poo at anyone who disputes his party's "carbon is harmless" line.

Where's your record of analysis, Hong?  Your positions on things?  Your name links to nothing.  You are a name without a history you're willing to call your own; in other words, you are nobody.

iconoclast:  the anti-nukes of the 70's had a relatively new industry, a credulous legal system, loose expert-witness standards, a hostile regulatory regime and the money to work them.  Most of these are different now, as is environmentalism itself.  I don't recall CO2 being on environmentalists' radar back then, but Naomi Oreskes has shown that the "conservative" scientific establishment was warning about it in the 1950's.  I suppose the generation which grew up with "duck and cover" was far more worried about mushroom clouds than heat waves and droughts, and 20 years after the end of the Cold War we're finally seeing education cut through the confusion between reactors and bombs.

Engineer-Poet said at December 29, 2009 2:16 PM:

A carbon tax can't be enforced?  Are you really stupid enough to believe that?!  <boggle>  There aren't all that many mines, wells, pipelines and ports.  The stuff that comes out of or through them is accounted for as a matter of course (customs duties and severance taxes).  Tax the fossil carbon there, and you're done.  If "developing" nations don't want to participate, we don't have to allow them to trade with us.

Cap-and-trade, with its under-cap and out-of-cap distinctions, free vs. auctioned permits, etc. is quite the opposite.

Hong said at December 29, 2009 7:00 PM:

"Hong is either:

•Stupid enough to mistake Europe's cap-and-trade system with government-provided free permits (a system I have condemned) for a carbon tax, or
•Thinks we are."

Or perhaps being new to the subject I mistook the various cap and trade schemes with the carbon tax. I certainly don't pretend expertise. Haven't I always called myself a layman on the subject? And didn't I retract some of my statement or were you simply too intent on flaming me to notice? I can certainly admit flaws in my understanding. Unlike some rather obtuse others...ahem.


"He's certainly not smart enough to see what I've said about Waxman-Markey even on this site, let alone elsewhere... unless he doesn't care if he gets egg on his face"

Or maybe I don't simply did not know about or concern myself over it. Since I am new here I wouldn't be expected to know your many comments. It hardly has anything to do with intelligence but rather a proper use of ones own time.


"flinging poo at anyone who disputes his party's "carbon is harmless" line."

I simply continue hammering the point the alarmists here evade, that CO2 levels often only rise AFTER the global temperatures do. Correlation does not equal causation.


"Where's your record of analysis, Hong? Your positions on things? Your name links to nothing."

Yet I use my name while you clearly do not (or do I?). The positions I take would seem rather clear on the subjects I feel motivated enough to comment here. What more is required from you? You clearly wish to investigate me which only compels me to wonder why. What's the attraction to me? I may have missed it, but you make no similar demands on the other skeptics here, only me. It's precisely this internet stalking which compels me to remain elusive about my biography.


"A carbon tax can't be enforced? Are you really stupid enough to believe that?! There aren't all that many mines, wells, pipelines and ports. The stuff that comes out of or through them is accounted for as a matter of course (customs duties and severance taxes). Tax the fossil carbon there, and you're done. If "developing" nations don't want to participate, we don't have to allow them to trade with us."

This is a remarkable response. It can be addressed easily by asking how it would be possible to press the ignore button on likely carbon cheaters like Communist China or India. Wouldn't refusing trade be equivalent to instigating a trade war? Could we compel the entire world to follow our lead with probably the fastest growing economies of the world? If the massacre of Tiannamen wasn't enough to cut ties and enforce a blockade of sorts then what will?


"Cap-and-trade, with its under-cap and out-of-cap distinctions, free vs. auctioned permits, etc. is quite the opposite."

Yet none of the carbon schemes can be enforced by any measure. It is not enough to detech emissions, the question to be asked again is what can be done when a nation clearly violates the agreements? But I sense you are simply not listening to the critics.

Randall Parker said at December 30, 2009 8:19 AM:

Speaking as one of the few people who use their real name on the internet I think all the fears are overblown.

Hong said at December 30, 2009 9:10 AM:

"Speaking as one of the few people who use their real name on the internet I think all the fears are overblown."

Then I think the hacked emails from a certain 'climate-change' institute is a delicious irony.

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