January 01, 2014
Geopolitics Of Climate Engineering

See this piece in Technology Review called The Geopolitics Of Geoengineering.

With the publication of A Case for Climate Engineering, David Keith, a Harvard physicist and energy policy expert, goes one step further. He lays out arguments—albeit hedged with caveats—for actually deploying geoengineering. He says that releasing sun-blocking aerosol particles in the stratosphere (see “A Cheap and Easy Plan to Stop Global Warming,” March/April 2013) “is doable in the narrow technocratic sense.”

In a previous post I provided some links to simulations about where precipitation will increase or decrease in a warmer world. The answers are not yet clear. But it seems the equator will, get a lot wetter and the American southwest and Mexico will get drier. Surely the accuracy of the climate models will improve as a result of research into climate enables creation of more accurate models. That's when things will get interesting.

Once climate models can tell each country whether and how much their climate will improve with a warmer world (more rains in current deserts, warmer weather in now too cold regions) their interests will strongly conflict with countries which can expect worse climate (e.g. droughts, temperatures so high as to make a region unlivable, floods, frequent severe weather episodes). Suppose some country which is paying a large and rising cost starts releasing cooling gases. Will more powerful countries which benefit from warming attack or organize trade embargoes to economic sabotage?

To put it another way: The biggest obstacle in the way of climate engineering is not technological. Cooling the planet would be easy. The hard part: national governments who stand to lose from turning back the climate clock to, say, year 1900 weather.

If the Earth heats up a lot my guess is we will get climate engineering. But climate engineering will not stop and reverse ocean acidification caused by more carbon dioxide dissolving into the oceans.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 January 01 05:49 PM 


Comments
David Friedman said at January 2, 2014 6:31 AM:

Or will some countries be engaged in geoengineering designed to cool the earth and others countering it with geoengineering designed to warm it?

I'm a little surprised, incidentally, by the claim that temperature increases will be particularly high at the equator. As a general rule, CO2 has a larger effect in cold places and seasons then warm, because water vapor is a greenhouse gas and the more water vapor in the air, the less the effect of adding CO2.

Nador said at January 2, 2014 8:15 AM:

David is right. Any simulation that predicts greater warming at the equator is very suspect.
Also, one should not forget that life was certainly not unbearable during the Roman and medieval warm periods - the Vikings could grow cereals on Greenland and historical records do not seem to indicate extreme aridity. During the Roman era the Middle East and North Africa was also wetter than it is now (though it was probably already getting more arid), so i would be very cautious about the precipitation models as well. One also should not forget, that the current climate models can not "reproduce" the Medieval or Roman warm periods, and are famously poor at dealing with clouds...
About the accuracy: apparently the IPCC could not improve their estimation of the climate sensitivity in 30 years... Though this inability is probably partly due to inconveniently low sensitivity results.

Randall Parker said at January 2, 2014 6:52 PM:

That was a mistyping on my part. I meant to say (and have since fixed) that the equator will get wetter. Play the models I link to.

We need better climate prediction because the stakes are so incredibly high.

Eric Baum said at January 4, 2014 4:07 PM:

A characteristic of all the GCM's (at least back when I was looking at the literature) was that they predicted the highest warming in the tropical troposphere, double I think global average. To verify this see eg Figure 9.1, p675, Vol 1 IPCC Report AR4. http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-chapter9.pdf .) (I haven't bothered to read the latest report AR5, but I invested quite a bit of time in understanding AR4.)

We have very reliable measurements of the temperature of the tropical troposphere from balloons going back to the 50's and its never warmed an iota last I looked (which again was a few years ago).

So why would you pay any attention to any of their simulations predictions?

Engineer-Poet said at January 5, 2014 5:32 AM:

The GCMs predict the greatest warming at the poles, not the tropics.

Mark Power said at January 7, 2014 8:29 PM:

Global Warming is a proven fraud. It's hard to believe people are so dumb.

Engineer-Poet said at January 8, 2014 6:54 AM:

The people saying "Global Warming is a proven fraud" are the same people who said smoking tobacco didn't cause cancer and nicotine wasn't addictive.  It's hard to believe anyone is dumb enough to take them seriously.

Ronald Brak said at January 8, 2014 6:32 PM:

Mark, I agree entirely with the second part of your statement.

Rvic said at January 12, 2014 2:49 PM:

Engineer Poet exposes himself unintentionally when he equates scientifically trained and disciplined skeptics of CO2 - doom religion with people who deny that nicotine is addictive. Making such a loose-association comparison is typically the work of a schizoid and insular echo chorus. An infantile "talking point" as it were.

Taking such comparisons seriously in the silence of the mind is bad enough, but putting it out in public as if to be taken seriously by others is sad.

Ronald Brak said at January 12, 2014 4:36 PM:

Rvic, do you agree with either of the following statements:

1. CO2 is not a greenhouse gas.

2. Human activity has not increased its concentration in the atmosphere by over a third.

Engineer-Poet said at January 12, 2014 9:41 PM:

Rvic exposes himself unintentionally when he denies the fact that not just the same "think tanks" were involved in both the nicotine-denial and CO2-denial programs, but in fact some of the same individuals.

Rvic said at January 13, 2014 8:43 AM:

Brak: Jumping from "CO2 is a greenhouse gas" and "CO2 levels have risen at the same time that humans have burned more carbon" to "Oh my God! by the year 2100 the planet is doomed!" is equivalent to someone who jumps from seeing proof of a historical David to believing that everything written in the Bible is true, word for word.

An unjustifiable leap of fancy, in other words. Models are fabricated hypotheses, more than a little contrived. To the extent that they are falsifiable, most have already been falsified. Expect them all to fail, because all models fail.


The problem with going all in with an unproven hypothesis is when it is proven not to be true, you unwittingly leave large parts of yourself behind. It doesn't matter how much company you have, when you are wrong you are wrong, and you will have to pay the price. Precautionary principles do not signify, when they are wrongly invoked.

Engineer-Poet: You are changing the frame. Your earlier claim was an inclusive one. Now you will be lucky to find one individual who meets your criteria. Don't let your emotions tie up your brain this way. Take a step back, a deep breath, and understand that you are not tied to that increasingly shaky hypothesis.

Ronald Brak said at January 13, 2014 4:05 PM:

Rvic, I'd prefer it if you have your conversation with me, the Ronald who is asking you questions, rather than the Ronald inside your head. Do you agee that CO2 is a greenhouse gas? And do you agree that human activity has increased its concentration in the atmosphere by over a third?

Bluto said at January 16, 2014 12:02 PM:

Ronald, he answered your questions and a lot more. Don't be intentionally obtuse. The argument in question isn't worth all your hair-pulling! ;>)

Ronald Brak said at January 17, 2014 4:43 AM:

Bluto, could you tell me from what he has written what Rvic believes? Can you tell whether or not he thinks CO2 is a greenhouse gas or that human activity has increased its concentration in the atmosphere by over a third? I certainly can't.

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