347. LET'S TALK GEOENGINEERING
In my opinion, arguments about whether people "believe" or "deny" GW are a complete waste of time. Sure, everybody "believes" in GW because it's cool and trendy; they cite the IPCC consensus with their mouth, while they pump the accelerator of their carbon fartmobile with their foot. Al Gore himself -- a well-known climate hypocrit of gargantuan proportions -- is the perfect figurehead for this ship of fools. Congressman Dingell nicely harpooned these people in the US Congress last summer:
This week's prize for honest liberalism goes to Michigan's John Dingell, who is having fun with his fellow Democrats while also making a useful point about the politics of global warming. The venerable Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee--first elected in 1955--has announced that he plans to introduce as early as this week a new tax on carbon emissions.I could care less about what people "believe". Even the coal companies "believe" in global warming. The only important axis is what people do, and by that standard, virtually everyone is a denier. These are the relevant facts about doing:
Now, that's the way to clear a Capitol Hill hearing room. Americans are already miffed at paying $3 a gallon for gasoline, a fact that has the Members assailing oil companies on a daily basis. So the last thing Democrats seeking re-election want to do is pile on another dollar or two a gallon in taxes--especially in the name of "saving the planet" from the speculative danger of global warming 50 or 100 years from now. Their voters have to deal with the more immediate danger of missing the mortgage payment.
Mr. Dingell knows all this. His point is to force his colleagues--and the voters--to be more honest about the cost of their global-warming posturing. It's one thing to pay 100 bucks to hear Madonna at the "Live Earth" concert, or impress your girlfriend by wearing an "I reduced my carbon footprint" T-shirt. It's quite another to accept that energy prices would have to rise by many multiples to make even a degree's worth of difference to the world's climate. "I sincerely doubt that the American people will be willing to pay what this is really going to cost them," Mr. Dingell said on C-SPAN last week.Source
1) The only large-scale carbon initiative on the table, the Kyoto Protocol, will have virtually no impact whatsoever on temperature, sea levels etc. This is a peer-reviewed, demonstrated fact.
Yet Kyoto matters little for the climate. Even if all countries had ratified it (the United States and Australia did not), and all countries lived up to their commitments (which many will have a hard time doing) and stuck to them throughout the 21st century (which would get ever harder), the change would have been miniscule. The temperature by 2050 would be an immeasurable 0.1°F lower and even by 2100 only 0.3°F lower. This means that the expected temperature increase of 4.7°F would be postponed just five years, from 2100 to 2105. (Source: Cool It by Bjorn Lomborg P. 22, citing Wigley, T.M.L. (1998). The Kyoto Protocol: CO2, CH4 and Climate Implications. Geophysical Research Letters, 25(13), 2285-2288.)2) We can't even get it together enough to implement an anemic, pointless plan like Kyoto. The Kyoto Treaty is an abject failure:
Some, such as Italy and Canada, are raising doubts about the sacrifices required. Britain admits it may not reach its target, while Japan flat-out says it can't reduce emissions by the expected amount, which is 6 percent below the 1990 levels.SourceNow, in the last few threads, a number of people (like KarenRei) have conceded that Kyoto will do nothing, and stressed that we need to make much deeper cuts which go beyond Kyoto. My opinion is that any real proposal for doing this (and I haven't seen one yet, just a lot of hot air and self-righteous posturing) will go the way of Congressman Dingell's legislation. If Kyoto is too expensive, and impossible, even for wealthy, high-tech nations like Japan, there's no reason to believe that something far more economically strenuous will be doable. The idea that we can easily kick the fossil fuel habit with windmills and solar is idealistic nonsense. In the real world, economics trump climate concerns, and, at best, carbon control measures will be token gestures. That is the reality on the ground.
Climate scientists themselves have seen the writing on the wall, and, in the past couple of years, have gotten dead serious about panic-button measures to cool the planet with geoengineering. Currently, efforts are focused on dimming the planet by injecting large amounts of sulphur compounds into the stratosphere. Some of the leading figures in this research are:
1) Paul J. Crutzen, atmospheric chemist and 1995 Nobel prizewinner for work on the hole in the ozone layer. In Aug. 2006 Crutzen published an article titled ALBEDO ENHANCEMENT BY STRATOSPHERIC SULFUR INJECTIONS: A CONTRIBUTION TO RESOLVE A POLICY DILEMMA?(pdf) in the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change. For a quick overview, here's an article in the popular press.
2) Tom Wigley, National Center for Atmospheric Research, "mathematical physicist with a doctorate from the University of Adelaide in Australia, Tom is one of the world’s foremost experts on climate change and one of the most highly cited scientists in the discipline". Wigley published a peer-reviewed paper on sulphate injection in the peer-reviewed journal Science in Sept. 2006Source
3) Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Dept. of Global Ecology at Stanford University. He writes: "The least expensive option might be to use a fire hose suspended from a series of balloons. Scientists have yet to analyze the engineering involved, but the hurdles appear surmountable. Seeding the stratosphere might not work perfectly. But it would be cheap and easy enough and is worth investigatingSource. Here's a video of Caldeira lecturing on geoengineering at Google.
So, there you have it. Eminent climatologists, members of the consensus, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, boldly advocating the idea of pumping sulphur into the stratosphere to reverse global warming. Thank god somebody is shedding the airy-fairy idealism and facing the realities on the ground.
This might be a very cost-effective solution. And, of course, there shouldn't be any problem vetting the safety and effects of this procedure because current climate models are highly accurate, capturing all macroscopic behaviors of the climate, and capable of making reliable predictions literally hundreds of years into the future.