Today in apocalyptic geoengineering news

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Unlike some other scientists engaged in geoengineering, Eisenberger is not bothered by the notion of tinkering with nature. "We have devised a system that introduces no additional threats into the environment,'' he told me. "And the idea of interfering with benign nature is ridiculous. The Bambi view of nature is totally false. Nature is violent, amoral, and nihilistic. If you look at the history of this planet, you will see cycles of creation and destruction that would offend our morality as human beings. But somehow, because it's `nature,' it's supposed to be fine.'' [...]

The most environmentally sound approach to geoengineering is the least palatable politically. "If it becomes necessary to ring the planet with sulfates, why would you do that all at once?'' Ken Caldeira asked. "If the total amount of climate change that occurs could be neutralized by one Mt. Pinatubo, then doesn't it make sense to add one per cent this year, two per cent next year, and three per cent the year after that?'' he said. "Ramp it up slowly, throughout the century, and that way we can monitor what is happening. If we see something at one per cent that seems dangerous, we can easily dial it back. But who is going to do that when we don't have a visible crisis? Which politician in which country?''

Unfortunately, the least risky approach politically is also the most dangerous: do nothing until the world is faced with a cataclysm and then slip into a frenzied crisis mode. The political implications of any such action would be impossible to overstate. What would happen, for example, if one country decided to embark on such a program without the agreement of other countries? Or if industrialized nations agreed to inject sulfur particles into the stratosphere and accidentally set off a climate emergency that caused drought in China, India, or Africa?

Game Over for the Climate

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground. [...]

But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world's governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

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2 Responses:

  1. phuzz says:

    Great.
    That's cheered me up this morning, thanks :(

  2. Matt K says:

    I'm amazed that the New Yorker only hinted at the most amazing (and reversible) geoengineering scheme of all - using space mirrors.

    My old boss, Roger Angel, wrote a paper on launching about a trillion diffraction gratings to L1 to scatter 2% of the solar light away from the Earth. He carried out all the relevant calculations and came to the conclusion that it was possible. To save on rocket fuel costs (and therefore avoid dumping back the carbon via burnt rocket fuel into the atmosphere) you'd have rail launchers along the equator, firing up Pringle-like stacks of 10,000 diffraction gratings in one shot up to L1. Once there, they would float in the unstable saddle point and remain there with active solar sail steering, guided by radio signals from a few GPS-like satellites.

    There'd be no permanent effect on the atmosphere (apart from the piles of dead birds killed by the sonic booms of the rail launchers firing off every few minutes for a 50 years or so) and you could disperse them by switching off the radio GPS satellites steering the cloud of blockers and letting gravitational peturbations at L1 do the rest.

    It really hit home to me that he'd done his homework when he found out that the limiting factor in the whole scheme was that capacitors would be too expensive - high capacity, high duty cycle caps for the launch system fail too much and are a major manufacturing problem.

    And you couldn't avoid using nuclear reactors to power them. Any other power delivery system is carbon based or too slow to work effectively.