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iapennell

Should We Go On The Offensive To Stop Global Warming IF All Else Fails?

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Dear All

Thought that, in the light of COP21 in Paris that produced lots of hot air and an absence of commitment to specific measures to steer the World towards carbon neutral within 50 years I would kick off the New Year of 2016 with discussion about what happens in 50 years' time if CO2 levels are still rising past 550 ppm and global temperatures reach dangerous levels above pre-industrial levels:  To Geoengineer or not to Geoengineer, that is the question.  And if we do Geoengineer and cannot get measures past the United Nations do we form a Coalition of The Willing- say the UK, USA, Canada, Germany and France- to commit to specific measures to reduce global temperatures (like H-bombs over remote Pacific islands, securing and bringing to Earth asteroids then firing at the south-side of Arctic mountains at noon in June to reduce the tilt of the Earth and keep high latitudes cool enough to preserve ice-fields)??  

Are the risks of doing nothing and allowing mean global temperatures to rise high enough to cause massive methane outpourings from the Siberian Tundra, to cause the Greenland and West Antarctica Ice-sheets to disintegrate raising sea-levels by over 10 metres worse than risking some [unintended] consequences of carefully planned operation to halt global temperature rise?? I am assuming that we in the West do all we can to reduce CO2 emissions and to lean on emerging markets as much as possible to do the same in the interim and we still fail (in fifty years' time- by which time things will start getting serious) to get global CO2 emissions to half what they are now.  If that's the case do we just continue trying to get the global community to respond and do nothing else except continue to have summits (Brasilia in 2030, Chennai in 2045, the Harare Cool Earth Summit in 2064, perhaps!) in which the world's Government continue their hand-wringing saying "Something Must Be Done To Save Earth!" without any collective willingness to commit to specific measures?

Lets get all the brains together to see what if, this comes to pass, we should do.  You might think that we should not to anything but adapt to a much warmer Earth with most of England getting a climate more akin to the hills of NW Portugal today.  Plans for evacuating London, Newcastle, Liverpool; getting all British homes equipped with air-conditioning to cope with long periods in July and August with a humid 35C and to take in refugees from much of Africa that will simply become too torrid for human civilizations anyone??

I do not think that this situation arising is far-fetched because the specific measures that Western and fast-developing economies would require to get them carbon-neutral in fifty years will be totally unacceptable to large percentages of their respective electorates and such policies would plunge the economies concerned into recession:  In other words their governments will cave in and refuse to implement the necessary policies unless of course they are dictatorships like Mao tse Tung or Robert Mugabe, or the governing parties want to be voted out of office for good!

On the other hand we do, in my view, have a little more time than most models suggest because natural variations in the Sun's output predicted to occur over the next 30 years (a number of solar physicists believe the Sun is about to enter a quiet Maunder-Minimum type phase during which its output drops by up to 0.5%).  Other factors such as worldwide man-made aerosol pollution from fast-developing countries like China, Brazil and South Africa will slow down the rate that rising CO2 levels leads to higher global temperatures.  But developing countries will learn to clean up their smoke-stacks in time and the Sun will increase in strength to current levels (or more) after 2060 so complacency will be costly. 

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I think the question will always be "will this cause worse problems than it solves?"  I can potentially see radical methods of geoengineering and the idea of H-bombing remote areas becoming the best option if the world descends into really desperate climate change, but I think we're still a long way away from that point at the moment.  Yes, there are worrying signs, particularly in parts of the Arctic, but nothing on the scale of the sort of devastation and unintentional knock-on effects that H-bombs or changing the tilt of the Earth could cause.  Thus, chances are that, as of now, it will cause more problems than it solves.  

I'm all for initiatives like "carbon capture and storage" though, which is sometimes cited as a form of geoengineering.   I've heard some people arguing that we shouldn't go that route because abruptly reducing CO2 concentrations would heavily impact on atmospheric circulation, but in my view, the ultimate goal of carbon capture and storage should be carbon-neutrality, rather than the radical and probably unattainable goal of using it to reduce overall CO2 concentrations.

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i wont be here in 50 years..but im guessing tech will have moved on by then co2 levels will be dropping below todays level with cleaner and more efficient production and carbon capture 

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On 1/7/2016 at 8:20 PM, iapennell said:

 

4 hours ago, cheeky_monkey said:

I wont be here in 50 years..but im guessing tech will have moved on by then co2 levels will be dropping below todays level with cleaner and more efficient production and carbon capture 

 

I agree and we should wait for more evidence before we plan to evacuate london

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And diasters like this and BP oil catastrophe don`t help.

LA's Gas Leak Is a Global Disaster.

As of this week, the leak has sent over 73,000 metric tons of methane gas skyward, according to estimates published by the Environmental Defense Fund, which is providing real-time updates on the situation. And that’s a big problem for our climate. Although short-lived in the atmosphere, methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with up to 80 times the global warming potential of CO2 in the first twenty years of its lifespan. 73,000 metric tons of methane is the global warming equivalent of over six million metric tons of CO2. Put another way, the daily emissions from Porter Ranch are essentially equivalent to sticking seven million additional cars on the road.

http://gizmodo.com/las-gas-leak-disaster-is-a-bigger-problem-than-you-real-1750035270

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I think the best thing we can do regardless if one believes in all of the above is to implement alternatives to fossil fuels ASAP.

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On ‎09‎/‎01‎/‎2016 at 1:33 AM, Thundery wintry showers said:

 

I'm all for initiatives like "carbon capture and storage" though, which is sometimes cited as a form of geoengineering.   I've heard some people arguing that we shouldn't go that route because abruptly reducing CO2 concentrations would heavily impact on atmospheric circulation, but in my view, the ultimate goal of carbon capture and storage should be carbon-neutrality, rather than the radical and probably unattainable goal of using it to reduce overall CO2 concentrations.

There is certainly merit in exploring whether we could use nature to help fight against rising CO2 levels by, for instance planting trees on a very large scale so that these would take up carbon dioxide.  Other initiatives include putting large amounts of iron filings on the sea surface in an attempt to encourage algae, developing and planting drought-resistant plants in dry regions that would absorb CO2 from the atmosphere:   These are all things that should be done sooner rather than later in an attempt to stop CO2 levels rising too much; then we would not have to employ Geo-engineering solutions in say, 40-50 years' time!

All these solutions would cost ££ billions, certainly to do anything on the scale required to make a tangible difference.  The other thing about trees and plants; trees tend (on the whole) to be darker than the bare ground they replace and so absorb more heat from the Sun and the moisture they put into the atmosphere (through evapotranspiration) has different impacts dependant on where this happens:  At high latitudes in autumn (above about 50N) where the trees could still be evapo-transpirating the Sun is weak so the importance of extra clouds reflecting more heat from the Sun is not as important as moist cloudier air preventing the heat near the ground escaping into space.  In winter at high latitudes dark conifers take up no CO2 when they hibernate and absorb a little more of the Sun's heat (weak though it is).  Elsewhere and at other times of the year in high latitudes a lot of the Sun's heat is taken up to make chlorophyll and to convert CO2 back into oxygen; the Sun is strong in the tropics and at higher latitudes in summer so the effect of more cloud cover is likely to be a cooling as well.  However dark palm forests/plants established over bright subtropical deserts is likely to stimulate warming- the atmosphere contains more moisture so the net radiative heat loss at night is less and the dark forests absorb more of the Sun's heat than barren rock  or sand.  In moister savannah type areas the increased moisture is likely to stimulate cloud cover sufficient to reflect the strong tropical Sun.

It does depend on the trees used; more palm trees and more rain-forest type trees in the tropics and subtropics (outside the most arid deserts) would work.  This type of vegetation grows quickly (given the heat and enough moisture) and takes a lot of the Sun's energy in photosynthesis so it is likely to have (over time as CO2 levels stabilise) a profound cooling effect.  At higher latitudes too, deciduous trees that produce white blooms in spring and bright yellow/gold leaves in autumn (these reflect more of the Sun's heat than dark conifers which also, like deciduous trees, still don't evapo-transpirate in winter).  White or light-coloured plants and flowers planted over wide areas (rhodedendons with white flowers, oilseed rape, cotton) could be developed and grown over large areas and not only would these take CO2 from the air but also reflect the Sun's heat.  There should be serious R & D put into developing resilient easily-multipliable hybrids of white or pale-green grasses that could be expanded en-masse across the agricultural plains of the World.

As regards algae, research into developing plankton and algaes that are able to duplicate quickly, thrive with the right conditions and (better still) be light in colour to reflect heat from the Sun (as well as absorb CO2) would prove invaluable.  Since we are talking about tropical ocean surfaces (over which the Sun is high) changing an ocean surface with albedo 0.05 to one with surface albedo 0.2 (or even 0.15) could help greatly in the fight against global warming. 

All these things should be researched into; it is perhaps surprising that the World's best brains are not already onto much of this!        

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btw an interesting dilemma- In the view that CO2 levels are rising and the Earth is creeping towards a level of warmth that will promote irreversible changes (i.e. masses of methane outgassing from Siberian permafrost leading to catastrophic warming, disintegration of Greenland Icecap) is it so wise to insist that all countries insist their industries and homes don't put aerosols and sulphur-related compounds in the atmosphere.  Sulphur dioxide and aerosols in the atmosphere intercept some of the Sun's heat and act as a buffer against global warming.  Medical knowledge and facilities are much better than 60 years ago so people can get treatments/medication to prevent a lot of respiratory problems that could result.

This would not cost ££ billions, it would just involve a relaxation of legislation.  It could buy us another 20 years.

Anyway, what are your views.

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Allowing homes and businesses worldwide to put aerosols and SO2 into the atmosphere would also encourage fog to form more easily in autumn and winter months in middle latitudes.  The top of a layer of fog fog acts like a snow surface in that it reflects heat from the Sun (albedo 0.6 or above) but longwave terrestial radiation from the top of a fog layer is strong; hence the formation of fog with clear skies above results in a strong heat sink. Aerosols near the surface are very good at encouraging fog formation but clearly there also needs to be a supply of moisture and a near-surface radiative balance conducive to the formation of fog then its persistence.  Extra aerosols in the atmosphere would weaken the oblique rays of the autumn and winter sunshine in mid-latitudes to encourage radiation conditions conducive to fog, but there is no way the right conditions for its formation (and persistence) over a large area would happen in the tropics.   

Extra aerosols in the atmosphere also encourage the formation of clouds higher in the atmosphere; so there would be a small increase in cloud-cover. The tops of clouds are (on balance) much colder than the radiative surfaces below that they replace so reductions in long-wave terrestial radiation caused by increased cloud-cover are substantial, but clouds also reflect a lot of the sun's heat back into space (albedos are typically 0.6 to 0.7). On the whole increased cloud-cover has a net cooling impact on our planet.  So increased fog and cloud-cover would greatly slow global warming as CO2 levels marched inexorably upwards.

It is, of course, a moot point whether humankind is prepared to adjust to living in smoky towns and cities (with regular winter fogs); my take is that adapting to it would be less painful and certainly less deadly than billions of folk worldwide having to cope with rising sea-levels and killer summer heatwaves in both low and middle latitudes.  I would be interested to hear if some of you have some more ingenious ideas about how to fight global warming head-on (or indeed whether we should do)  should the situation arise whereby governments cannot muster up the collective will on a global scale to reduce CO2 emissions and we reach dangerous "tipping points".

 

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On 1/11/2016 at 4:17 PM, iapennell said:

As regards algae, research into developing plankton and algaes that are able to duplicate quickly, thrive with the right conditions and (better still) be light in colour to reflect heat from the Sun (as well as absorb CO2) would prove invaluable.  Since we are talking about tropical ocean surfaces (over which the Sun is high) changing an ocean surface with albedo 0.05 to one with surface albedo 0.2 (or even 0.15) could help greatly in the fight against global warming. 

All these things should be researched into; it is perhaps surprising that the World's best brains are not already onto much of this!        

Why would you wipe out the whole of the oceans eco system on a theory ?

Paint everything white has been suggested.

 

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On 15/01/2016 at 8:06 PM, stewfox said:

Why would you wipe out the whole of the oceans eco system on a theory ?

Paint everything white has been suggested.

 

I thought we'd already done for over 50% of ocean life over the past half century stew? With no grand initiatives to reverse that trend why would we expect our Oceans to fare any better?

The fact we find ourselves looking at such extreme actions really pulls up the fact that we left things too long before deciding to act.

Why do you think we have delayed to the point of self destruction stew?

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On 17/01/2016 at 7:22 PM, Gray-Wolf said:

The fact we find ourselves looking at such extreme actions really pulls up the fact that we left things too long before deciding to act.

Why do you think we have delayed to the point of self destruction stew?

@Gray-Wolf Maybe things are no so dire yet- the 40 years of the Sun going quiet (Maunder-style minimum) will buy us some time.  However, we will be in a really serious situation circa 2050 if governments around the World have failed to reduce CO2 emissions much and the CO2 level is pushing 550 ppm:  It will then be a case of either implementing effective geoengineering solutions that have minimal side effects (they all have some, unfortunately) or we have to prepare for a much warmer world, rising sea-levels, intolerable summer heat and droughts (in northern Europe) and side-effects that (I believe) will be much worse than at least some of the geoengineering solutions that could stop this happening.

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Hi iapennell ! Sadly I do not see the changes coming in straight line graph form? More like flat bits, climby bits and blinking scarey 'changey' bits? ( black Swan events?)

Should we do nothing in the hope that technology will arrive to 'clean up the mess' we could be courting with global catastrophe? A sudden unloading of methane across the Arctic basin due to continued melt pressures on permafrost ( off shore and on land) could find us suddenly facing a very immediate and nasty future?

The newly discovered 'ice layer' in the snow cover of Greenland must now open the spectre of catastrophic flows ( avalanches) if we see another heavy melt year ( like 2012) destabilise the layers above the run off ice sheet? We could see both this darkened 'ice layer' opened to melt and massive tonnage of snow suddenly in the lower level melt zones..........

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13 hours ago, Gray-Wolf said:

Hi iapennell ! Sadly I do not see the changes coming in straight line graph form? More like flat bits, climby bits and blinking scarey 'changey' bits? ( black Swan events?)

Should we do nothing in the hope that technology will arrive to 'clean up the mess' we could be courting with global catastrophe? A sudden unloading of methane across the Arctic basin due to continued melt pressures on permafrost ( off shore and on land) could find us suddenly facing a very immediate and nasty future?

The newly discovered 'ice layer' in the snow cover of Greenland must now open the spectre of catastrophic flows ( avalanches) if we see another heavy melt year ( like 2012) destabilise the layers above the run off ice sheet? We could see both this darkened 'ice layer' opened to melt and massive tonnage of snow suddenly in the lower level melt zones..........

This sounds like an argument to get researching cost-effective (but with as minimal side-effects as possible) ways of going on the offensive to stop global warming sooner rather than later, but by doing what, precisely??  Do we:

1) Cover all tropical mountains in salt, so that this reflects more of the Sun's heat.

2) Plant loads of trees of the type that absorb excess CO2 well but do not absorb too much extra heat from the Sun.

3) Fly an asteroid from the south into a remote Arctic mountain at midday in June to reduce the tilt of the Earth so as to stop the Arctic and antarctic ice-sheets melting in their respective summers

4) Pass legislation permitting companies to put more aerosols and sulphur into the atmosphere (but not CO2) so that more aerosols get into the atmosphere and reduce the intensity of the Sun's rays near the surface.

5) Put one million tonnes of TNT inside some volcanoes like Krakatoa, Pinatubo, Eyjafalajokull (Iceland) and denotate; the explosion is sure to get at least one or two to erupt violently putting sufficient dust and ash into the atmosphere to counteract global warming (nb, the drilling and placing of TNT inside volcanoes should be done remotely- as (of course) should the detonation).

6) Try some other geoengineering plan.

If some of you have some better ideas regarding what should be researched and done do share them.  It will be interesting to see what comes up!

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The problem is that since the lions share of aerosols come from burning fossil fuels would it even be possible to increase aerosols without increasing CO2 (the villain of the piece) even further and faster?  The only way possible would be via Carbon Capture and Sequestering - a technology itself only in its infancy and very costly.

Better still, assuming all else fails of course, would be a chemical that breaks down the major greenhouse gasses apart from water vapour.  Such a chemical would have to be used very carefully to avoid causing runaway cooling and should be focused initially on those areas most sensitive to the greenhouse effect in terms of tipping points and amplification which are currently the Poles and the rainforests.

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