Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
jethro

Geoengineering

Recommended Posts

Here's a new thread to discuss whether or not we should actively try to counter the impact of climate change, is it possible or wise to do so? Many ideas have been suggested, from seeding the oceans to painting mountain ranges white, just how viable would this be?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I must admit that the latest proposal for geoengineering has only recently caught my eye and I have to say I’m completely underwhelmed. It smacks a little of the proposal some years ago that marine phytoplankton growth might be stimulated by fertilising surface waters of the North East Pacific, the Equatorial Pacific, and the Southern Ocean (an area a of over 10% of the world’s ocean). These waters contain abundant nitrate and phosphate, but support an unusually low biomass. It was thought that this was due to lack of iron so the idea of iron enrichment of surface waters was born, thus increasing the biomass, and sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Anyway back to the latest:

In 1892 Edvard Munch witnessed a blood-red sunset over Oslo, Norway. Shaken by it, he wrote in his diary that he felt "a great, unending scream piercing through nature". The incident inspired him to create his most famous painting, The Scream.

The striking sunset was probably caused by the eruption of Krakatoa, which sent a massive plume of ash and gas into the upper atmosphere, turning sunsets red around the globe and cooling the Earth by more than a degree.

Now a powerful group of scientists, venture capitalists and conservative think tanks is coalescing around the idea of reproducing this cooling effect by injecting sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere to counter climate change. Despite the enormity of what is being proposed - nothing less than seizing control of the climate - the public has been almost entirely excluded from the planning.

http://www.countercurrents.org/hamilton240710.htm

A more detailed article.

http://arstechnica.com/science/news/2009/10/weighing-the-pros-and-cons-of-stratospheric-geoengineering.ars

I view this with much trepidation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were rubbish at this attempt at geo engineering and still cannot gauge the full impacts so why would we fare better with anything else we try?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We were rubbish at this attempt at geo engineering and still cannot gauge the full impacts so why would we fare better with anything else we try?

I'm not sure that whether we fare better or not is the correct question to ask. That may be "should we even be considering going down any route that is fraught with unknowns (as you point out) at all"? It smacks of a quick fix to me. As Clive Hamilton points out, instead of decoupling growth of the economy from growth of carbon emissions, the climate engineers want to decouple global warming from growth of carbon emissions.

The Royal Society has published the findings of a major study into geoengineering the climate

http://royalsociety.org/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10768

Edited by weather ship

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've seen a couple of references to that article recently- it's definitely worth a look. My view on geoengineering is that methods that aim to counter, or reverse, anthropogenic inputs into the climate system (such as carbon capture and storage) are well worth having a go at. They aren't really "tampering with nature" (as is often suggested), they are more concerned with countering our already-existing ways of tampering with nature.

There was a piece of recent research suggesting that if we try to remove all anthropogenic CO2 from the atmosphere over a short space of time then we may risk causing big short term changes to global precipitation patterns. Thus this kind of technology is probably best used to help stabilise CO2 concentrations and maybe, in the long run, we can aim for a slow decline back to pre-industrial levels over a number of decades.

It cannot replace adaptation and mitigation though. We have other contributors to anthropogenic global warming besides CO2 and we also have an oil crisis looming. But it can be part of a range of solutions.

However when we're talking methods to produce anthropogenic global cooling in order to offset warming (such as the methods given in the links to #2), while I think it's worth having a look into them, they should be last resort measures due to the large uncertainties associated with attempts to generate AGC which could have many unwanted side-effects.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hasn't this been going on since the 50's at least? Cloud seeding has been happening for years. Why are we always looking for quick fixes and new ideas to deal with a system we have developed that is against the natural way of things.

Can we not stop the raping of our world by big business at the source rather than spending more money and fuel forming groups to study ways to cover the wound rather than healing it.

Beam me up Scotty, i think i landed in the wrong planet!

Edited by jethro
Time to put the soap box away, please stay on topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This sounds like a fantastic idea, not only would it help solve the emissions problems for power plants but eradicate one of the most harmful (from a CO2 emissions perspective) industries.

http://www.nytimes.com/cwire/2010/08/13/13climatewire-can-green-cement-make-carbon-capture-and-stor-9325.html?pagewanted=all

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think carbon capture is a non starter for a number of reasons and is basically being trumpeted by the coal lobby. Just to take a couple.

Firstly, independent analysis suggests that that full-scale commercial implementation of carbon capture will not occur until 2030. Even if it worked the time scale is far too long.

Secondly, as Clive Hamilton points out, the scale of the proposed carbon capture enterprise is vast.

“By 2050 some 6000 underground carbon dioxide repositories, each receiving a million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, will need to be in operation. Carbon capture supporters frequently point to the Sleipner project as proof that the technology can work. Located over a gas and oil well in the North Sea, the Sleipner storage project separates carbon dioxide from natural gas produced from the Sleipner West gas field and injects it into a large saline formation some 800 metres below the seabed.(This does not, of course, eliminate the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when the natural gas is later burned to generate energy.) Jeff Goodell writes:

It is an enormous engineering project deploying one of the largest offshore platforms in the world. But compared to the engineering effort that would be required to stabilise the climate, it's nothing. It would take 10 Sleipner-size carbon dioxide storage projects to offset the annual emissions of a single big coal plant.

An even more striking indication of the size of the enterprise comes from energy expert Vaclav Smil. He calculates that in order to capture just a quarter of the emissions from the world's coal-fired power plants we would need a system of pipelines that would transport a volume of fluid twice the size of the global crude-oil industry".

Ref: Tony Hamilton, Requiem for a Species, P. 163

Edited by weather ship

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This sounds like a fantastic idea, not only would it help solve the emissions problems for power plants but eradicate one of the most harmful (from a CO2 emissions perspective) industries.

http://www.nytimes.c...?pagewanted=all

Interesting article. Apparently there are plans to have an industrial scale plant up and running by 2011 in the UK, and for the cement to be mainstream by 2014-15.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/382357/carbon_from_pollutant_to_potential_resource.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Surely the first step is to stop polluting the atmosphere? Systems such as these have surprising behaviours; there may very well be, for instance, some unforeseen effect of suddenly reducing CO2 in the atmopshere.

Geoengineering, in a social context, also takes a very narrow view of the biosphere: perhaps, that a given chemical or set of chemicals are bad. This leads enevitably to the underlying philosophy that it was *somehow* better before the industrial revolution. Wake up call: it wasn't.

Any money available should be spent on establishing alternative non-polluting energy supplies, and leave Mother Nature to (gradually) process that few hundred years of pollution on her own.

After all she managed to process the Yukatin peninsula meteorite and harbour and environment that allowed us to evolved didn't she?

Edited by VillagePlank

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think we have much choice.

Either engineer or perish.

What happens if we tip it too far in the opposite direction? Historically cooler global temperatures have caused more deaths than warmer ones.

Do we have enough knowledge to even begin to understand the impacts of meddling further?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What happens if we tip it too far in the opposite direction? Historically cooler global temperatures have caused more deaths than warmer ones.

Do we have enough knowledge to even begin to understand the impacts of meddling further?

Good questions.

Of which I do not have such answers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Geoengineering is a big mistake in my opinion, when will be learn not to try and control nature and work with it. CO2 is vital for life on earth, it naturally increases when temperatures increase and decreases when temperatures drop, its part of the worlds natural cycle. All we need to do is restore natural habitats and live in harmony with nature and then the earth will look after its self.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What happens if we tip it too far in the opposite direction? Historically cooler global temperatures have caused more deaths than warmer ones.

Do we have enough knowledge to even begin to understand the impacts of meddling further?

Probably not to the second question but I'm very reluctantly beginning to think it's the lesser of two evils.

A german power plant has started testing CO2-scrubbing algae. I wonder how much this would reduce emissions. I have to admit I'm a tad doubtful that the MIT figures will be repeated in practice.

http://www.physorg.com/news199006396.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I really wish that New Scientist would make their climate-change related articles available to all the public for free. People need access to information on this important issue.

We don't agree on a lot of things, PP, but I agree that access to knowledge should be free and without impediment. Otherwise, only the rich, or worthy, are allowed to become informed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

New research proposes that as many as 150 million people could be affected as ocean levels increases by 30cm to 70cm by the end of this century.

This could result in flooding of low-lying coastal areas, including some of the world's largest cities.

The team published the study in the journal PNAS.

Scientists led by John Moore from Beijing Normal University, China, write that to combat global warming, people need to concentrate on sharply curbing greenhouse gas emissions and not rely too much on proposed geoengineering methods.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-11076786

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very interesting piece on Climate Change and Geo-engineering in the book Superfreakenomics which was a good read on the plane recently.

On Geo-engineering, most of the solutions on the table are very cheap comparatively. Some are completely clean. Book suggests any geoengineering will be used as a last resort if warming is at the top end of expectations.

On emmissions, C02 was much higher in the past, although climate has never probably had to react to changes in C02 levels as fast as we have seen recently which may be a driver of rapid climate change. Other gases present are far more dangerous, methane and water vapour to name two. GM grass for cattle being developed which will result in methane free emissions from them. Book argues that it is impossible to stop developing nations (China and India in particular) from having rising emmissions.

On climate change - temperature changes between 1958-1973 were enough to convince scientists that we had progressed 1/6th of the way towards the change we would need to tilt us into an ice age. Accepts that that fall has been reversed and passed by some significant way since. Notes that global temperatures havent really risen much since 1998 (book probably published before 2009 figure available). Does accept climate change seems to be warming us up and that greenhouse gases are likely to be part of the reason.

General - and this is the most important bit - both this book and it's predecessor (Freakenomics) have a common theme in that they examine human behaviour when presented with incentive. The results aren't always as you would expect but there is always a behavour change. The book critises the $300 million dollars that Al Gore has raised to heighten awareness of AGW and pay for research into it's cause and effect and argues that any conclusions drawn will inevitably be as a result of bad science.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is interesting: -

The man behind the technique: -

http://www.mmm.ucar.edu/people/latham/

Agreed, very interesting. Sounds almost too easy to be true. It's hard to imagine generating enough power to spray the particles high enough to get into the clouds. Though if an atmospheric physicist and an engineer believe it will work, I'd trust them more than myself on that matter!

Edited by NaDamantaSam

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A team of marine scientists has found that toxin-producing algae once thought to be limited to coastal waters are also common in the open ocean, where the addition of iron from natural or artificial sources can stimulate rapid growth of the harmful algae. The new findings, reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, add to concerns about proposals to use iron fertilization of the oceans as a way to combat global warming.

http://news.ucsc.edu/2010/11/domoic-acid.html

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Geoengineering is the idea of applying engineering global warming. Several strategies have been proposed geoengineering. It is important for nations to get all the results in each of the following without success in any field-conservatives elsewhere. The protection of tropical forests is well covered in the media. Biodiversity can be best preserved through seed banks, parks and wildlife corridors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×