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Biotech Science

Geo-Engineering to stop Climate Change 551

Posted by Hemos
from the trying-to-make-a-better-tomorrow dept.
MattSparkes writes "Following the latest report of the United Nations climate change panel, there has been a flurry of renewed interest in so-called geo-engineering. This is the theory of using technological schemes to stop climate change. These can range from sun-shades orbiting the Earth, to pumping millions of tonnes of sulfur into the atmosphere to the bizarre idea of painting the ground white to reflect more light. Let's reduce our emissions now, before I have to go and paint my roof bright white." Thanks to jamie for pointing out another potential solution of seeding the southern oceans with iron to spur plankton growth.
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Geo-Engineering to stop Climate Change

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  • anything (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polar red (215081) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:02AM (#17982700)
    anything to stop the people from acting responsibly?
    • Re:anything (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:13AM (#17982832) Homepage
      This kind of crap just amazes me. People think up trillion dollar plans like putting up million of tiny umbrellas into geosynchronous orbit to deflect sunlight, but we can't get people to just not drive SUVs, or even go so low as to take the bus, or even walk to the store which is only a block away. I've never owned a car, and I'm really not convinced that I ever want to. There's only a couple instance where I would really want a car, like picking up groceries, but they have a delivery service anyway, for when I want a lot of groceries. Going away for the weekend isn't too much of a problem. Renting a car for 1 weekend a month costs less than most people's insurance.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by spellraiser (764337)

        The problem is that there's just too many people. Trying to control or influence all of them is nigh on impossible, short of making the things you describe illegal, which would probably lead to a revolt.

        A large segment of the population, any population, will always be stupid, thoughtless, and self-centered.

        It doesn't help that the fastest growing and arguably the most powerful ideology in America today, evangelism, actively encourages bigotry, narrow-mindedness and a contempt for scientific principles tha

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          An experiment that hints we are wrong on climate change
          Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, says the orthodoxy must be challenged

          When politicians and journalists declare that the science of global warming is settled, they show a regrettable ignorance about how science works. We were treated to another dose of it recently when the experts of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued the Summary for Policymakers that puts the political spin on an unfinished scientific dossier on climate ch
          • Re:anything (Score:5, Informative)

            by electroniceric (468976) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:22PM (#17986542)

            Twenty years ago, climate research became politicised in favour of one particular hypothesis, which redefined the subject as the study of the effect of greenhouse gases. As a result, the rebellious spirits essential for innovative and trustworthy science are greeted with impediments to their research careers.
            Evidently the scientist in Mr. Caldwell and yourself feels no need to produce repeatable evidence for this claim. Show us the data, or quit repeating hearsay.

            And while the media usually find mavericks at least entertaining, in this case they often imagine that anyone who doubts the hypothesis of man-made global warming must be in the pay of the oil companies. As a result, some key discoveries in climate research go almost unreported.
            Is that why a guy who assumed the title of State Climatologist so he could sow doubt about global warming appears on CNN at least an order of magnitude more often than one of NASA's most senior and respected scientists? That definitely sounds like a media cover-up to me. C'mon, man, if you're going to use the tobacco lobby's disinformation techniques, at least use them with some finesse so they aren't just flopping around in the open all exposed and gooey.

            He saw from compilations of weather satellite data that cloudiness varies according to how many atomic particles are coming in from exploded stars. More cosmic rays, more clouds. The sun's magnetic field bats away many of the cosmic rays, and its intensification during the 20th century meant fewer cosmic rays, fewer clouds, and a warmer world. On the other hand the Little Ice Age was chilly because the lazy sun let in more cosmic rays, leaving the world cloudier and gloomier.
            Clearly such mundane and well-researched explanations for warming as carbon-driven greenhouse effect must not be right, if far-fetched ideas like cosmic rays could be invoked to magically produce clouds that give us the explanation we hope is true. Who needs Occam's Razor when we've got Occam's Crazy Straw?!? As it happens, my father has spent years studying cosmic ray showers. His group, which works out of a ragtag lab called Los Alamos, is obvious unfamiliar with the power of Occam's Crazy Straw, so they have made no predictions of global temperature change whatsoever.

            So one awkward question you can ask, when you're forking out those extra taxes for climate change, is "Why is east Antarctica getting colder?" It makes no sense at all if carbon dioxide is driving global warming. While you're at it, you might inquire whether Gordon Brown will give you a refund if it's confirmed that global warming has stopped. The best measurements of global air temperatures come from American weather satellites, and they show wobbles but no overall change since 1999.
            Amazing - someone must have broken into your ISP and blocked: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/ [nasa.gov], because it shows exactly the opposite effect (strong increases in surface air temps, offset by cooling in the stratosphere). Of course those silly NASA scientists are morons compared with some cold-fusion type cranks in a Danish basement producing unpublicable results. And as has been explained here countless times (though sadly without use of Occam's Crazy Straw), the word "global" next to "warming" means "averaging all over the globe", and therefore local cooling is not only permitted, it's often expected.

            You have done an amazing job researching and writing a book that incorporates absolutely no verifiable scientific fact, but relies exclusively on crackpots, unlikely theories, and misinterpretation of existing science, and you are to be roundly commended for your Herculean efforts. Move over Intelligent Design, there's a new pseudoscience in town.
          • Re:anything (Score:5, Informative)

            by Spoke (6112) on Monday February 12, 2007 @03:25PM (#17986582)

            Enthusiasm for the global-warming scare also ensures that heatwaves make headlines, while contrary symptoms, such as this winter's billion-dollar loss of Californian crops to unusual frost, are relegated to the business pages.

            I stopped taking the author seriously after I read this line. The author obviously doesn't understand global warming, either and is using examples out of context to support his theory.

            Global warming will cause an overall warming effect across the entire planet. Over the entire planet, some areas of the earth will cool significantly, some will not change at all, and others will get warmer. Weather in general will get more extreme - This means more drought, more heatwaves and yes, more freezes and freak blizzards.

            While sea-ice has diminished in the Arctic since 1978, it has grown by 8% in the Southern Ocean.

            Nice, so give a hard number for how much ice has increased in the souther ocean, but decline to state by what percentage sea ice has declined in the Arctic. I suspect that Arctic ice has decreased by significantly more than 8%. I'm also sure that the collapse of that huge ice shelf in the Antarctic may have had something to do with the increase in sea ice in the southern oceans.
        • by rbarreira (836272)
          You don't have to make things illegal, some taxation goes a long way. Why don't people just admit that gas is not as cheap as it used to be? Lately, it required for example going to Iraq for a very expensive war. Many countries rebuilt themselves in a way which makes it more attractive to use public transports, which are usually safer and often faster than going by car anyway!
        • Re:anything (Score:5, Interesting)

          by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:01PM (#17983488) Journal
          Trying to control or influence all of them is nigh on impossible, short of making the things you describe illegal, which would probably lead to a revolt.

          False. [slashdot.org] If you just assess the actual costs of these activities on the people that do them, they have a strong financial incentive not to do them -- this is how it works with every product on the market. You don't need to, for example, encourage people to avoiding eating "unnecessary" foods -- the "unnecssary" expense already does that. If food was as socialized as roads and air currently are, I can 100% guarantee you we'd see proposals to give tax credits to people who exercise less than 1 hour per week in the hopes that this would lead them to request less food from the Food Department. (Just as you see proposals for tax credits for switching to specific energy-efficient technologies.) People who eat too much would be derided as "stupid, thoughtless, and self-centered."

          If you simply taxed in proportion to the costs imposed on others, people would be free to do whichever energy-saving alternative is least inconvenient for them. Even if they do nothing, hey -- at least you have a huge war chest with which to research better technologies or reduce the impact.

          If you can't bring yourself to advocate that, you have to keep in mind any other solution is probably less efficient. And if you can't trust a government to administer that properly, you have to think about what it would do with a less efficient solution.
      • by Lazerf4rt (969888)

        People think up trillion dollar plans like putting up million of tiny umbrellas into geosynchronous orbit to deflect sunlight, but we can't get people to just not drive SUVs.

        It's the same phenomenon at a different scale. Man sees himself as the ruler and conqueror of his environment, instead of coexisting with it. That's the root problem. If people realized that the earth was, literally, a physical extension of themselves, maybe they wouldn't find it so easy to abuse.

      • Re:anything (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Critical Facilities (850111) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:42AM (#17983238) Homepage
        While I agree that the orbiting umbrellas is a ridiculous proposal, I think you're looking at things from a skewed perspective with regard to automobiles.

        First of all, you obviously live in a major metropolitan area to be able to not own a car (that is, you must have copious and effective mass transit available to you). For many people across the country, owning a car is not an option if they are to be able to get ANYWHERE (see work, school, hospital, etc). While I agree that if one can feasibly find alternative means of transportation, then one should opt for that method, but we shouldn't demonize the very idea of owning a car under the assumption that the only reason people do so is out of selfishness/laziness.

        Second, the problem isn't in owning SUV's or other gas guzzling cars, it's the fact that those cars (and car makers, oil companies, and government decision makers) are forcing us to power those vehicles with petroleum. The idea of getting rid of these vehicles is a crude attempt to treat the symptom and not the disease. Don't make it a bad thing for the family with 4 kids to drive an SUV because they need the space, make it bad that no one seems interested in solutions to powering these vehicles differently.

        In short, just keep in mind that your particular circumstance (i.e. being able to walk to the store and carry your groceries home) isn't necessarily everyone else's (like the mother of 4 with the SUV...imagine her carrying those groceries when the nearest store is 7 miles away)
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by GooberToo (74388)
          Don't make it a bad thing for the family with 4 kids to drive an SUV because they need the space

          Simple fact is, most people don't need the space! People like to pretend that families never left home until the SUV came out. BS! Fact is, very, very, very few people actually need an SUV, 4x4 truck, dully truck, or other such gas hog. Fact is, most people can do quite well in a midsize car.

          If you want to argue their right to own it...fine...but please stop with the false claims that most families need SUVs
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            but please stop with the false claims that most families need SUVs as that is complete garbage.

            I never claimed that. Nevertheless, you seem to get my basic point which is, let's solve the PARENT issue of what powers these vehicles and stop bickering over whether this person NEEDS the extra space/horsewpower/4x4/etc. I think the idea of conservation is obviously a good one, but I think that sometimes people like to throw this argument up as a red herring to distract from the much harder to answer ques
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by FooAtWFU (699187)

        People think up trillion dollar plans like putting up million of tiny umbrellas into geosynchronous orbit to deflect sunlight .... I've never owned a car, and I'm really not convinced that I ever want to.

        Thoughts are cheap. Moving to an urban center where there's a grocery store a block away, and decent public transit, is much more expensive. (And there's probably less fresh clean air, fewer trees, less green space, more noise.) If you're already comfortably settled in NYC or Toronto or Los Angeles or som

      • It appears that we are well within tolerances [americanthinker.com] of atmospheric co2:

        When dinosaurs walked the earth (about 70 to 130 million years ago), there was from five to ten times more CO2 in the atmosphere than today. The resulting abundant plant life allowed the huge creatures to thrive. . . . Based on nearly 800 scientific observations around the world, a doubling of CO2 from present levels would improve plant productivity on average by 32 percent across species.

        However, this does not obviate the need for researc

      • Re:anything (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ajs (35943) <ajs@noSPam.ajs.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:51AM (#17983370) Homepage Journal
        Actually, not driving SUVs doesn't help much. The real alternative to SUVs (and trucks, minivans, etc.) is lighter vehicles. Hybrids sound good, but really their efficiency is almost entirely based on their weight, not the fact that the oil is being burned at a powerplant rather than in your car. In fact, power generation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gasses [epa.gov].

        What would help quite a lot is converting from coal and petroleum to nuclear power generation. That would pretty much solve the problem over-night, slashing our CO2 production by nearly 50%! What impact that would have on the climate... isn't actually 100% clear. It certainly is likely to have some impact, though.

        Personally, I'm not concerned. I'd rather address mercury pollution than greenhouse emissions any day of the week. After all, warmer weather never caused my father to stop being able to tie his own shoes .... :-/
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by qazsedcft (911254)
          What would help quite a lot is converting from coal and petroleum to nuclear power generation. That would pretty much solve the problem over-night, slashing our CO2 production by nearly 50%! What impact that would have on the climate... isn't actually 100% clear. It certainly is likely to have some impact, though.

          I agree, but the problem is that a lot of these coal plants are in countries where there are more urgent problems to solve than CO2 emissions. For example, here in Poland over 95 percent of powe
        • Re:anything (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Bigboote66 (166717) on Monday February 12, 2007 @06:56PM (#17989576)
          Hybrids sound good, but really their efficiency is almost entirely based on their weight

          Completely untrue. Compare, for example, the Toyota Yaris to the Toyota Prius:

          Yaris [consumersearch.com]: 2288 pounds, MPG: 34/40, with "real world" mpg being about 36.

          Prius [consumersearch.com]: 2932 pounds, MPG: 51/60, with "real world" mpg being about 45.

          36 mpg is great gas mileage for a ICE car, but it's far short of 45. That's not saying that you shouldn't buy a smaller car if you can. My 1996 Maxima got, at most, 29 mpg (24 mpg mixed driving) when I first bought it, and it weighs only 80 pounds more than Prius. Sure, it's zippier, but did I really need that power? No; my next car will be small & efficient, possibly a hybrid.

          Given that the Prius is almost 700 pounds, and 33% heavier than the Yaris, and gets 25% greater gas mileage, I'd say that weight is not really the most important aspect in its efficiency.

          -BbT
      • Re:anything (Score:5, Interesting)

        by nightfire-unique (253895) on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:37PM (#17983980)

        Firstly, I respect your choice not to drive.

        Having said that, I do drive. I actually ride to work in the summer (mainly for health), but in the winter, I drive. Yes, I burn oil to do this, and that is a very bad thing. I will move to electric the second I can afford an electric car. I will be an early adopter.

        I think what you need to consider is that "this kind of crap" is not just needed because many of us drive oil burning cars. There are many sources of CO2 emissions and you are 90% as guilty as I am at producing them. You and I are westerners. We waste enormously. I don't know if you realize how much you waste, relative to the vast majority of the inhabitants on this planet.

        So you don't drive. Cool. I appreciate that. Do you own a leather couch? A private condo? A house? Do you take hot showers in the morning? That water was likely heated by electricity generated at a coal power plant.

        Do you eat processed food? Lots of meat? Do you take jets to go on vacation? Perhaps you buy musical instruments? Computers?

        Cars are ONE waste of energy, but there are thousands.

        Living "in harmony with nature" to some people means more than not driving, it means abandoning our modern society: the chemicals we use to grow enough food to feed everyone, the dams we use to prevent flooding, the fire planes we use to stop forest fires, the hot showers, the delivery of luxury sofas, and abandoning worldwide travel.

        To me it means nuclear power and emission free transportation. If the science supports "meddling" with atmospheric properties (and I don't think it does in this case) then I don't have a problem with it to preserve our way of life.

        Don't forget - you will always eat. You and I are rich. It is the poor who will starve when the price of food triples.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by wrook (134116)
          I understand what you are saying, but I think you've missed one very important issue.

          If you want to reduce your energy usage, it makes sense to actually look at the impact each of these things has towards energy usage. I did this and was surprised by the result.

          Yes, taking an airplane is unbelievably wasteful. We should all avoid it if at all possible. But the biggest ones in my life (in order) are:

          1) Car. And this is with a TDI Golf. I got rid of it last week.
          2) Heat. Sigh... this one is hard to fix.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by KKlaus (1012919)
        The plans are kind of stupid on the whole, but (no offense) so is yours. After 100's if not thousands of years of countless people saying "but if we just used less" with regard to common resources and being ignored, you'd think they'd stop suggesting it.

        Look at it this way: anyone that's predisposed to use less for no return to themselves is selected against evolutionarily. So it's not surprising that things have turned out this way. PEOPLE ARE NOT, AND NEVER WILL BE, THAT ALTRUISTIC. MOVE ON.

        It would b
    • Re:anything (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jav1231 (539129) on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:20PM (#17983760)
      Yep. We're all making the assumptions that Global Warming isn't a natural cycle of change. What if, like a hoard of scientists believe (granted, not the "gods" most environmentalists want to agree with), it is a natural warming? Then our efforts to reverse this are a perversion. We, then, become what we claim we loath: someone negatively impacting the environment. But hey, we can sit back on our fat grant checks living la vita green.
  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by kitsunewarlock (971818) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:03AM (#17982714) Journal
    As an architect, let me say that the moment you try to force me to paint my beautiful roof-top gardens white, I will be forced to get...hostile...

    If only "hostile" meant more than "think about sending a nasty e-mail."
    • Don't worry -- you can still feel morally superior to people living with a quarter of the space (indoor and outdoor) by pointing out how you use CFL's, while they don't.
      • by brunes69 (86786)
        People who don't use CFL's in this day and age IMO are just being anally retarded.

        Modern CFLs are cheaper for the consumer, better for the environment, and indistinguishable from incandescents when placed in any enclosed fixture.
        • No, they're not. They're really, really not.

          Most calculations I've seen, even assuming you have to buy a stronger light to replace incandescents, give an effective ROI of over 100%, untaxed. (You're not taxed on avoiding consumer expenses.)

          I wet my pants at the idea of a 13% ROR, pre-tax.

          You really think I'm passing that up for no reason?

          By the way ... when you focus on controlling inputs (what kinds of light I can use) rather than outputs (total energy use, or total CO2 emissions necessitated) ... you st
          • Inputs ARE WHAT CAUSE THE OUTPUTS.

            CO2 emimssions don't come from nowhere. The majority come from power plants (yes... this figure dwarfs automobile emissions).

            As long as the majority of our power still comes from coal and oil, less power used == less emissions. It's not rocket science.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
              Based on your response, and your apparent level of confusion, it appears you've never seriously thought about this issue or done anything like a cost-benefit analysis. I don't say that to insult you, just to suggest how much you're missing.

              Inputs ARE WHAT CAUSE THE OUTPUTS.

              Yes, but, to extend the metaphor some more, outputs are caused by *all* of the inputs. When you ban one input, without penalizing the output, you simply change one input into another. So I can't use incandescents? Then I can't relax a
        • by greginnj (891863)

          Modern CFLs are cheaper for the consumer, better for the environment, and indistinguishable from incandescents when placed in any enclosed fixture.

          Help me out here, before I finish my Kool-Aid on this -- what exactly does 'modern' mean? I bought a few packs of 100W-equivalent CFLs about three years ago, and they had a _horrible_ burnout rate -- more than half of them burned out within two years. Not cheaper for the consumer, at the approx $4/bulb price I paid. Not a no-name brand, either; I believe they w

    • We'd have to monitor the effect every few months, and instruct people to lighten them up or darken them.
      'This month we all need to go with battleship-grey to keep the optimum temperature...'
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      It's ok man, Chia-Shingles come in multiple colors of white: White, Off-white, supremacist, Mother of Pearl, and yes even the ever so popular "Tighty Whitey."
       
    • Re:Well... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Technician (215283) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:13AM (#17982846)
      As an architect, let me say that the moment you try to force me to paint my beautiful roof-top gardens white, I will be forced to get...hostile...

      Will enough roofs get painted white to counter the number of solar collectors being installed for hot water, pool heaters, PV and other dark surfaces?

      You put up a black solar panel and you just thought you were doing the right thing.
  • Bad Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ArcherB (796902) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:04AM (#17982730) Journal
    The road to permafrost is paved with good intentions.
  • Scares me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by spikexyz (403776) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:07AM (#17982778)
    ...to think we're clever enough to find a technical solution that massive alters the fuctioning of a biosphere we understand to little about and not cause bigger, unanticipated problems.
    • by spikexyz (403776)
      Scares me to think that we think we're...I mean.
    • by UbuntuDupe (970646) * on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:15AM (#17982882) Journal
      The Simpsons: Australia edition

      Skinner: Hm, it would be great if we had something to hunt here. I know! Let's import rabits and turn them loose!
      Lisa: But they'll have no natural competition and could devastate the ecosystem!
      Skinner: Don't be silly, then we'll just turn cats loose. They'll go feral, and the bunnies won't have a chance.
      Lisa: But cats are even worse in the wild!
      Skinner: Don't be silly, then we can just bring in leopards. You think cats have a chance against them?
      Lisa: But leopards are even more dangerous!
      Skinner: Don't be silly, if it ever gets bad, we can just give everyone a high-powered rifle and tell them to shoot the leopards on sight.
      Lisa: Isn't it kind of dangerous to tell people to fire high-powered rifles at rapidly-moving targets in population centers?
      Skinner: Don't be silly, we'll just abolish the right to a trial by jury and have the death penalty for accidental killings. You think anyone's stupid enough to be reckless with a rifle if that's the consequence?
      Lisa: But then you'll have a totalitarian government!
      Skinner: Ah, but that's the easy part -- then we just vote in a new constitution.
  • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:08AM (#17982796)
    Find some way to vent 20% of the planets atmosphere into space. That should get rid of enough CO2.
    • That's easy, all you have to do is to crash the moon, and as a bonus, you'll have far enough dust in the atmosphere to totally cancel the greenhouse effect and few enough survivors sothat you won't have to worry about natural resources for a few hundred million years.
  • While I found speculation on technological solutions for climate change entertaining in the terraforming context of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy (beginning with Red Mars [amazon.com] ), I question whether the same concepts would work for Earth. Using some kind of orbital shade to limit sunlight would cause problems with wildlife. If you've been through a total solar eclipse, you've seen how the birds go crazy, imagine sudden loss of sunlight lasting for a long time. And who's going to pay for this? In terraformi

  • by nietsch (112711) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:13AM (#17982842) Homepage Journal
    Harvest the top layer of them, concentrate and convert them to biofuel using TCP [wikipedia.org] (total conversion proces, a kind of wet pyrolysis)
    A biofuel tanker with the appropriate machinery would go out on the ocean with a load of iron (or iron rich earth), spread the iron and at the same time harvest the algae and convert them to biofuel. Since it injects more minerals than it harvests, more carbon will be removed form the carbon cycle than would be harvested with the biofuel.
    Just an idea I would not like to see patented.
    • by WindBourne (631190) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:43AM (#17983258) Journal
      Well, groups are already working on just this idea. The funny thing is that others are perusing the conversion of cellulose to ethanol/oil. I find the later one laughable. It is inheritantly a batch process of the feed stock (used by pigs and cattle) then mulched into the ground. Worse, the process is spread over a 2-d area. In contrast, algae is a stream process AND is a 3D. What that means is that it will use a fraction of the land, resources, and energy that cellulose (and other approaches) will use.
  • by FredDC (1048502)
    ... of Futurama.

    Let's start dropping giant ice cubes into the sea to stop global warming!

    Why enforce silly rules like cutting down emissions if you can come up with a half-baked crazy idea instead?
  • by ThePopeLayton (868042) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:17AM (#17982910)
    How many times do we have to screw up an ecosystem before we learn that we don't understand ecosystems well enough to predict what our acts will do.

    1st. In Moab, Utah the forest service planted Russian trees to prevent the erosion of the river bed, only to find out that the plants have drained the river and killed many endogenous plants and animals.

    2nd. Cane Toads were introduced into Australia to eat the insects that prey on the sugar cane. It turns out that the insects that eat sugar cane in Australia and Hawaii are completely different and there are no predators that can eat the Cane Toads. Now Australia is over populated with a Cane Toads which again are killing the natural plant life and animal life.

    3rd. I can't think of another off the top of my head but I am certain there are probably hundreds of examples of this.

    We must stop screwing with the ecosystems. When I hear of orbiting solar shields and massive projects to paint the desert, I get really scared because a scientist who really understands the delicate balance of the ecosystem would never dare to suggest such an idea. Only one who doesn't and is looking to make a buck and get on time for "saving the planet from global warming" would do it. These ideas will only result in causing more problems then they solve.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by steevc (54110)
      Someone introduced a few rabbits to Australia so he could shoot them. There's a few million now, even after myxomatosis [wikipedia.org] was used to try and control them.

      Pigs and goats have ruined a few ecosystems. Rats too, but they were not put there intentionally. Gardeners have introduced a few plant species that that taken over, e.g. giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed.

      Ecosystems only get balanced over long periods. I'm sure there are plenty of cases in pre-history where a new species has moved in and destroyed what was t
    • by cvd6262 (180823) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:38AM (#17983166)
      3rd. In Arizona they planted broom grass (or something like that) to stop erosion, only to find that it bridged the natural fire breaks in the habitat. A region that used to suffer few fire is now threatened annually.

      4th. By not allowing woodlands to burn periodically, we've created the potential for much worse destruction by fire.

      5th. I'm sure people can think of others.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by thefirelane (586885)
      How many times do we have to screw up an ecosystem

      Don't worry, come winter the apes will all freeze to death.


    • The motivation for this kind of scheme is that we are already messing with the ecosystem in a big way. That said, the space based things seem very expensive and looking at alternative desperate measures first, or more seriously makes sense. The first thing we could do is stop messing with the ecosystem. It is already clear that this costs much less than continuing to do so. But, what if that is not enough because we've gone too far already? Thinking about these kinds of options is important just to show
  • by canuck57 (662392) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:18AM (#17982916)

    Ok, lets say the world is warming up. Is that bad? Seriously, is that really bad? Who has determined this? Where do they live? What are their motives?

    At one time when for natural reasons the earth had lots of CO2 in the atmosphere it warmed up and taller trees grew towards the poles. Great prairie fires dumped millions of tons of CO2 in weeks. Warmer temperatures and more trees resulted. This reduced CO2 and on came a subsequent ice age. It also left behind coal, natural gas and tar sands where today it is too cold for this to happen.

    Nature is just fine tuning for the 6.5 new critters crawling on it. It needs to warm up to have more vegetation to scrub out the CO2. Let nature do it's thing.

    Man contemplating whole scale planetary changes like this is similar to giving children an atomic bomb kit.

    • > Ok, lets say the world is warming up. Is that bad? Seriously, is that really bad?

      Consider the direct cost of moving all the world's coastal cities to higher ground.

      Consider what's going to happen when the world's current breadbaskets turn to deserts, and some of the present day's have-not countries find themselves sitting on the new best farmland.

      > Nature is just fine tuning for the 6.5 new critters crawling on it. It needs to warm up to have more vegetation to scrub out the CO2. Let nature do it's
      • What makes you think it would be economically costly to move the cities? Remember the timescales we're talking about are hundreds of years. Most buildings simply don't last nearly that long.

        Simple attrition should take care of the problem. No one would actively move the cities anywhere, but in a couple hundred years people would notice that some cites just kind of waned away, while others shifted slightly.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume (22995)
          New Orleans has flooded three times this century. The third time was the worst, as people had constructed more buildings in the low areas, and the Mississippi river delta was smaller than it had been, making New Orleans a worse place to have a city than in earlier times. It is currently being rebuilt anew. I do not share your faith that simple attrition will do one damn thing.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by woozlewuzzle (532172)
        To me, all those things you mention simply sound like new business opportunities.

        "Consider the direct cost of moving all the world's coastal cities to higher ground."

        For everyone having to spend a dollar to move there's someone else making a dollar. Encouraging spending is good for the economy.

        "Consider what's going to happen when the world's current breadbaskets turn to deserts, and some of the present day's have-not countries find themselves sitting on the new best farmland."

        When cars became popular, the
        • by FooAtWFU (699187)
          Okay, first of all: I'm not a big OMG Global Warming guy. I think, now, that it's happening, but we'll deal with it, and it's not going to be the end-of-the-world issue certain people are painting it as. Now, that said...

          For everyone having to spend a dollar to move there's someone else making a dollar. Encouraging spending is good for the economy.

          WOOP! WOOP! WOOP! WOOP! Alert! Alert! Broken window fallacy! Broken window fallacy! [wikipedia.org]

        • by khallow (566160)
          FooAtWFU already pointed it out [slashdot.org], but when you have to move cities, then society has collectively lost resources. Namely, the effort of moving the city is taken from somewhere else and would be a huge opportunity cost. The only mitigating factor I can see is that substantial rise in ocean level is going to take centuries to play out. So the cost of moving cities can be spread out over a long period of time.
      • by gfxguy (98788)
        And what's going to happen when the worlds desserts turn into lush forests?

        There's not only bad, there's a lot of good. Flooding that cost hundreds of millions of dollars provided an agricultural yield that was worth billions more than it would have been.

        It's not all bad, it's just different. There's always been trials and tribulations, and weather has always both helped us and hurt us, and the future will be no different.
    • by GundamFan (848341)
      But but but change is scary!

      We have to totally rethink everything and come up with new processes to prevent change!

      I don't believe or trust ether side of this debate anymore, but at the same time conserving energy and emitting less waste makes sense to me so I guess I am for new technologies.

      Remember we do have a relatively safe, clean, carbon neutral and power source that the rest of the world seems to be clamoring for but we are to scared to use because of a few movies and an episode of McGiver.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Asic Eng (193332)
      Ok, lets say the world is warming up. Is that bad? Seriously, is that really bad?

      Probably - humans have adapted their settlements to the areas they live in. Change in their environments means that their agriculture and housing won't be suited anymore.

      E.g. lots of people live in coastal areas, if the sea level rises (which is relatively likely) that means they'll lose their houses and land. On the other hand inland areas which are dry could become even drier - people there might not be able to grow food

    • by Eccles (932)
      Ok, lets say the world is warming up. Is that bad? Seriously, is that really bad?

      The problem isn't so much that it's getting warmer, but that it seems to be doing so quite quickly. The polar bears may be the canary in the coal mine, but it seems like Arctic changes are happening fast enough that the polar bears can't adapt. While mankind doesn't particularly need polar bears for more than their aesthetics, the concern is that temperature changes could have similar effects on creatures we do depend on. A
    • by geomon (78680) on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:10PM (#17984418) Homepage Journal
      "Ok, lets say the world is warming up. Is that bad? Seriously, is that really bad? "

      Yes. Dumping a bunch of fresh water into the world's oceans can stop these:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermohaline_circulat ion [wikipedia.org]

      Not only do they control coastal climates, they also control the deep circulation of nutrients bottom-to-top of the ocean's food chain. Stop these and the coasts become wetter and the interiors become dryer and colder. The moderating effects that these belts have on our climates allows us to have agriculturally productive continental interiors.

      "Who has determined this?"

      Scientists.

      "Where do they live?"

      Everywhere, around the world.

      "What are their motives?"

      We like to eat and live just like you do.

      Funny that.
    • i knew it (Score:4, Funny)

      by circletimessquare (444983) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [erauqssemitelcric]> on Monday February 12, 2007 @01:11PM (#17984428) Homepage Journal
      global warming is a conspiracy by canadians to become the new california and the scandinavians to become the new riviera

      fight the canuck/ nordic global consiracy theory! let the truth come out!
  • Here, I've asked for folks interested in competeing for the $25 million prize to get in touch http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=221624&cid=179 62344 [slashdot.org]. I'd be interested in structuring this in a manner similar to open source development. The basic idea is to use ocean seeding to build new fisheries, thus turning a profit and making the carbon sequestration economically viable.
  • Global Warning (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    No one disputes Global Warming.
    We can see that it has occurred in the past and is occurring now.
    What is in dispute is cause and cure, if any.
    These cycles have taken place long before we had ANY impact on the planet.
    *shudder* I can only imagine the swings once we start "tweaking" the cycles! */shudder*
    • Less than 15 years ago, Rush Limbaugh was declaring that NASA was able to build satellites that could detect the influence of the full moon on temperature, but that they hadn't yet been able to detect global warming. Although one might be tempted to, it's not fair to call Rush "no one".
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      No one disputes Global Warming... What is in dispute is cause and cure, if any.
      The cause is academic, and only matters insofar as it affects the Cure.

      But you're right. When Reason Magazine [reason.com], the unofficial publication of Libertarian politics, "Free Minds and Free Markets", says "global warming is an issue", then... well, in my book, there's not much more sense to holding out on the issue.

    • Re:Global Warning (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gfxguy (98788) on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:23PM (#17983806)
      I think a failing of many environmentalists (and don't take that as a slam, because I consider myself an environmentalist) is they feel this need to "preserve" everything when nature itself doesn't do any such thing.

      We are preserving forests with certain kinds of trees dominant when every few hundred or thousand years the dominant trees would have naturally cycled to another variety.

      We try to strictly preserve animal populations when, for millions of years, the dominant animals have cycled between various predators that over hunt to various prey that thrives becasue predators died off.

      And now we're going to try to preserve the global average temperature when, since the planet came in existence billions of years ago, the temperature has always cycled for various reasons. And there's more than one cycle at work, too.

      We try to preserve every animal from exinction when nature has killed off far more species than man ever has. Now, I agree it's tragic when a species is lost, and it's more tragic when it's lost because mankind has over hunted them, but those are not the only protected species. It's a fact of nature that some species simply don't deserve to exist; evolution didn't treat them kindly. Most species die because they are NOT suited to the EVER CHANGING environment our planet gives us. So while I do agree with laws protecting species from over hunting, the fact is that we try to protect too many from nature itself.

      Lastly, we are human beings. Unless you believe some alien dropped us here as an experiment, then we are part of nature, too.

      So yes, I consider myself an environmentalist; I think we ought to stop polluting as much as we do, I think we need to protect our drinking water, I think we ought not hunt species to extinction. I many of the lightbulbs (no, not all) are flourescent. I turn the water off when I'm brushing my teeth and shaving. Both my cars are ULEV, and I make it a point to combine trips when I go out.

      My question is why do so many environmentalists want to prevent nature from happening?
      • All of the examples of natural (non-human-driven) change you mentioned happened on time scales that are vastly different from the apparent time scale of global warming, deforestation, and the current rate of species loss.

        There are no doubt environmentalists who want to preserve everything, and some of what they want is written into US law (Endangered Species Act). However, on the human time scale, there is little difference between preserving everything and the natural rate of change.
  • "Geo engineering" (Score:4, Insightful)

    by hackus (159037) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:23AM (#17982996) Homepage
    Errrrr.......no.

    Leave the planet alone please.

    We know WAY too little about the planet to start screwing around with its Biosphere.

    Not only that, but you do not get a second chance if you screw it up.

    I say we start someplace else and experiment there, so if we do screw it up, no biggy.

    Even the dumbest WINDOZE admin knows you always experiment on a TEST server before doing anything to your production server if you do not want downtime.

    "Downtime" in this case would mean the Earths Biosphere.....I hope I do not have to explain what that means.

    Besides, if we experiment with a different world, the WORST that can happen is it doesn't work.

    Best possible thing that can happen is we get another planet to live on.

    Half the people on this planet belong on Mars anyway....IMHO. :-)

    -Hack
  • by finarfinjge (612748) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:34AM (#17983124)
    This article and the one earlier, concerning the causitive nature of cosmic rays on climate should be read together. Many of the readers here are scientists, engineers (applied scientists) or at least capable of a fundemental understanding of science. To those people I say: If you are a proponent of man influenced climate change, you had better be right. This issue has now progressed to the point where the majority of people on the planet believe that there is no scientific doubt whatsoever about human influence and more precisely carbon dioxide. If this is wrong, if humans are not influencing climate or if that influence has nothing to do with carbon dioxide, science will be at fault and science will (rightly) lose credibility.

    This means that arguments against intelligient design will now have to show how the "certainty" about evolution is any different from the "certainty" about global warming. Similar issues will come up in arguments for vaccination and other issues where real deaths could follow. Arguments will come up about funding levels at universities and research institutes. Arguments will come up against new initiatives for reducing pollution.

    There are a large number of interest groups out there that are waiting with increasing anticipation that this issue will blow up in the face of the global warming proponents. A large number of the rest of us will get hit by the shrapnel of that explosion. As an engineer and consultant who gets a great deal of work and money out of efforts to curb green house gasses, I personally love the hype. As a believer in the importance of science in all of our lives, I am now getting very nervous about the future reputation of science.

    Cheers
    JE
    • by danpsmith (922127)

      This means that arguments against intelligient design will now have to show how the "certainty" about evolution is any different from the "certainty" about global warming. Similar issues will come up in arguments for vaccination and other issues where real deaths could follow. Arguments will come up about funding levels at universities and research institutes. Arguments will come up against new initiatives for reducing pollution.

      Let's stop roping evolution into it, okay? Evolutionary theory has nothing to

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by AutopsyReport (856852)
        Maybe most scientists could agree that global warming is caused by man and later be proven to be wrong, but that doesn't mean you throw away all the useful information you've learned through scientific theory and start acting like they got it all wrong.

        Of course you don't throw away that information -- but you also don't force a solution on something that may not be a problem.

        The real problem is that most scientists do not admit uncertainty in their findings, so the general public is led to believe t
  • "Let's reduce our emissions now, before I have to go and paint my roof bright white."

    If you do it now anyway, your air conditioning bill in the summer will be lower. And depending on how you get your electricity, painting your roof white would, in fact, reduce emissions.

    Why the bias in favor of strict controls over individual actions?
  • by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:41AM (#17983226) Journal
    If you go into the middle of the rain forest, and dig down a couple of feet you hit sand. You would think that if trees were removing all this carbon from the atmosphere the layer would be a 100 feet deep. What happens is the wood rots and releases most of the carbon as CO2 and methane.

    I would say that most of the carbon 'sinking' is done by algae that dies and falls to the bottom of the ocean, where it is cold and oxygen is limited. We don't know though if we fertilize the ocean that the algae will end up in the right spot, or just find its way to an area where the carbon would return to the atmosphere.
  • by ericdujardin (623023) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:41AM (#17983228)
    There's a simple way to reflect the Sun's light: clouds. So how about putting a large number of barges in the sea: their bottom would be reflective and insulated, they would hold a small depth of water inside, so that the Sun's rays would be used 100% to produce clouds instead of heating the ocean, and the extra clouds would reflect the Sun's rays, and if we're smart enough, some desert areas would get some rain.
  • ...they used to call it terraforming [wikipedia.org].

    They renamed it when it stopped being Star Trek and started becoming real life.
  • by Autonomous Crowhard (205058) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:52AM (#17983388)
    The key is to stop adding to the problem. The planet will level things out over time if we give it a chance. If we actively try to fix the problem we'll be facing an ice age in a few centuries.

    Yes, I said centuries. Look how quickly we started the whole global warming mess. I think we can reverse it even faster, but I doubt we're good enough to decelerate it and bring things bad to where they belong.

  • Control Chaos? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thethibs (882667) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:52AM (#17983390) Homepage

    The problem with this and all the other dingbat proposals is that climate is of its essence chaotic; there's no way to predict what any particular action will end up doing. That's why past climate models have been so far off the mark (of course, the next one will be bang-on!). That's how it is with dynamic systems: Even God can't predict climate, and humans certainly can't control it.

    When we can control the flow of water down a mountain with a little push here and a nudge there instead of digging a ditch, we might be ready to start thinking about controlling climate.

  • 1. Pumping sulphur into the atmosphere. Injecting millions of tonnes of sulphur into the upper atmosphere would reflect 1% of sunlight back into space to keep the Earth cool, an idea proposed by Nobel-Prize-winning chemist Paul Crutzen. On the downside, it would increase acid rain and might cause respiratory problems, too.

    and Earth will smell like egg-farting ass....NEXT!!!

    2. Trillions of little sunshades in space (pictured). More like lenses than shades, these would bend sunlight away from Earth, reduci
  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Monday February 12, 2007 @11:57AM (#17983440) Homepage
    The EdGCM [columbia.edu] project has wrapped a NASA global climate model (GCM) in a GUI (OS X and Win). Our goal is to 'democratize' climate change science by allowing anyone to run a global climate model. If you can attach some numbers to these geo-engineering techniques you can study their effects yourself.

    For example, to simulate the sun-shade, you can just turn down the sun a few percent with a checkbox and a slider!. Painting roofs would be equivalent to increasing albedo slightly, and I don't think the model would let you pump sulfur into the atmosphere (that is hard-coded, not exposed to the GUI interface), but you can change the amount of all the greenhouse gasses via the UI.

    Supercomputers and advanced FORTRAN programmers are no longer necessary to run your own GCM.

    Disclaimer: I'm the project developer.
  • Ok... People can put bricks in their ovens to force temperature variations to be minimal over the on-off cycle of a typical oven. At what point do we stop building roads and crap that (seemingly) have the potential to do the same damn thing? Maybe I'm too uneducated on the whole mess, but it seems like city after city of giant thermal capacitors can't be helping.
  • Good news, nobody! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by RyoShin (610051) <tukaroNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:39PM (#17984008) Homepage Journal
    If we're going to spend a billion dollars, how about doing something that not only helps the planet but also has a longer effect. The main thing we need to focus on is travel. Aside from the pollution that millions of cars spew, the lack of good public transportation is causing quite a few other problems- road repair, obesity, tearing up land to put in more roads, etc. Spend those billions of dollars on the larger cities (and some of the medium ones) to install good bus and/or subway systems (trollies are pretty spiffy, too). This will have the added side effect of creating more jobs (driving the buses, setting up schedules, maintainence, etc.) and making life easier for those who can't afford a vehicle of their own. ...Oh, but the CAR-tel (haha) won't allow that, will they? Anyone know how much it costs to buy a senator? We could use one for this, and I wouldn't mind owning a few of my own.

    And, because I couldn't resist:

    These can range from sun-shades orbiting the Earth
    Brilliant idea! In fact, let's take that one step further and make it a giant mirror to not only block the sun, but deflect the rays back. There's no possible way this will go wrong.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Monday February 12, 2007 @12:43PM (#17984048)
    All it took was about a 30% price drop in the price of gasoline and the hybrid companies have vehicle surplus. Even Prius has a marketing incentive now after years of dealer premiums.

    It took a sustained oil price increase like 1973-1983, to reduce oil usage. US consumption actually declined throughout the 80s until the invention of SUV which bypassed mileage contraints because they were trucks.
  • by drew (2081) on Monday February 12, 2007 @02:20PM (#17985470) Homepage
    Why paint the ground white? In any decent size city, you'll see thousands of buildings with black tar roofs. For a little extra money, paint those white instead of black. No one will see it, it would have the same effect on global warming, and it will save the building owners a decent amount of money on their air conditioning costs as well. (Whether this would really have any effect on global warming, I have no idea, but it would definitely have an affect on local warming.) Better yet, put a couple planter boxes of hardy plants up there, and you can help take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere while alleviating your storm water runoff load.

    Along the same lines, finding something other than black asphalt to surface our gajillion miles of streets and highways with might help too.

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