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Earth Science

Scientist Patents New Method To Fight Global Warming 492

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the and-we-will-need-an-additional-10,000-coal-plants-to-power-this dept.
SUNSTOP writes to tell us that a relatively unknown Maryland scientist has proposed a public patent that he claims could combat global warming. The proposed plan would require massive amounts of water to be sprayed into the air in an effort to bolster the earth's existing air conditioning system. "First, the sprayed droplets would transform to water vapor, a change that absorbs thermal energy near ground level; then the rising vapor would condense into sunlight-reflecting clouds and cooling rain, releasing much of the stored energy into space in the form of infrared radiation. Kenneth Caldeira, a climate scientist for the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University whose computer simulation of Ace's invention suggests it would significantly cool the planet. The simulated evaporation of about one-half inch of additional water everywhere in the world produced immediate planetary cooling effects that were projected to reach nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit within 20 or 30 years, Caldeira said."
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Scientist Patents New Method To Fight Global Warming

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  • by CajunArson (465943) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:03PM (#26177235) Journal

    A Little Known Maryland Scientist Has Made Public

    YES! We have a new winner for most descriptive Slashdot headline EVAR!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by timmarhy (659436)
      they can't even get the title right ffs.

      and as for the idea itself, omfg what could go wrong? luckily such crack pot schemes don't get off the ground.

      • I know, it's just as silly as dropping a big ice cube into the ocean. [wikipedia.org]
        • by putch (469506)

          "Just like daddy puts in his drink every morning. And then he gets mad." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqPjxsAuUxk [youtube.com]

          • by vandon (233276)

            What about all the new tropical storms and hurricanes this will cause?

            • by LandDolphin (1202876) on Friday December 19, 2008 @06:05PM (#26178187)
              That's a feature
        • by spud603 (832173)
          ...ONCE AND FOR ALL!!!
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by aurispector (530273)

          What scares me is that genuine concern over global warming could spur popular support for one of these crackpot schemes.

          "Green" activists, in their self righteous zeal to save the planet, have latched on to global warming as a means to further their anti-pollution, anti-industrial political agendas. These self appointed do-gooders *know* they're right, since their well-meaning desire to help others justifies any means to their end. This movement echos the "silent spring" hysteria used by the environmental

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mckinnsb (984522)

            "Green" activists, in their self righteous zeal to save the planet, have latched on to global warming as a means to further their anti-pollution, anti-industrial political agendas.

            I'm not sure I know anyone who is "pro-pollution", but clearly you are directly insinuating that "Green Activists" are anti-industrial. Are you aware that what this person is proposing would probably create an industry - even if it is a crackpot scheme? Are you unaware that you are making the illogical assumption that all industry necessarily creates pollution? Are you further aware that you are insinuating that all "Green Activists" are attempting to "stop our economy", as evidenced by your association of

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Sperbels (1008585)

              Uh, you mean as immature as Physics right? Climatology started a long time ago - 10th or 16th century, depending on who is counting - about when people started studying that thing we sometimes call "Gravity" (again, depending on who is counting).

              Oh please. You know what he meant by "immature". He means that the climate is not understood well enough to predict the climatological effects of the industrial revolution, much less how deliberately trying to counter those effects will affect things.

        • by Keen Anthony (762006) on Friday December 19, 2008 @06:15PM (#26178343)

          Actually, if you live in a very dry, desert climate, this works. All across Sun Valley in arizona (Phoenix, Scottsdale, etc), you'll find misters, a kind of out door A/C which sprays mists of water into the air. It uses very little water, but makes a very noticeable difference in temperature. The temperature in coverage area becomes comfortable enough for out door dining in summer. On a small scale, this works well... so isn't this prior art?

      • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:18PM (#26177473) Homepage
        Right! We just rely on voluntary emissions reductions from the people of the world to counter global warming! Not an impractical crackpot scheme at all!
        • by lgw (121541) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:26PM (#26177615) Journal

          Even more fun, wator vapor provides the vast majority of the greenhouse effect (95%?). CO2 is more like 2% of the greenhouse effect. Somehow, combatting CO2 emissions by adding water vapor emissions doesn't quite seem like the right answer.

          • by ianare (1132971) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:52PM (#26178003)
            Water has one of the best heat transfers, so by having the water evaporate, you cool the surrounding area. This is what happens when you sweat, for example.
            The other thing is that clouds are highly reflective, so the sunlight would never even reach the ground in the first place.
            So I can see how these two effects would offset the greenhouse effect.

            In any case, doing this would be catastrophic for another reason : what goes up must come down. And where will all this water vapor come down as and where, exactly ? Does southern asia really need more rain ? Does buffalo need more snow ? Can an arid region cope with a high increase in rainfall without causing massive mud slides and other nastiness ? What other unforeseen consequences will putting vast amounts water vapor in the atmosphere have ? These are all questions I hope we never have a definite answer for.
            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by pipingguy (566974) *
              what goes up must come down

              I seem to remember from my industrial gas engineering days that CO2 is heavier than air (that's why we'd put powered vents near the bottom of enclosures that air breathers might go into). Can we please all just move on to the next 'the-sky-is-falling' media-hyped scenario like the scarcity of fresh water? It's probably a scarier situation but many of the invested AGW people haven't caught on yet. Or at least not enough of them to build a "consensus" and unilaterally decide tha
      • What like the plan to cover the ocean with little reflective particles that seems to be almost as popular as the giant space mirror?
    • by Sefert (723060) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:06PM (#26177289)
      That really does take the cake for a poorly written title. Seriously - how long does it take to write a dozen thoughtful words, then check it??
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Seriously - how long does it take to write a dozen thoughtful words, then check it??

        Find out in the upcoming /. article "Slashdot Editors Have Checked"

    • The OP is a brilliant literary artist.

      Kenneth Caldeira, a climate scientist for the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University whose computer simulation of Ace's invention suggests it would significantly cool the planet.

      I kept waiting for the second half of that sentence, but then *BAM* period. End of sentence. I was all like, "WOAH! This guy's messing with my brain by defying the convention of the written word!"

      If you don't understand the OP, then you don't appreciate avant-garde literature.

    • by jpedlow (1154099) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:23PM (#26177577)
      "A Little Known Maryland Scientist Has Made Public" .....And then he ACCIDENTALLY THE WHOLE THING
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:23PM (#26177579)
      I made in public once.
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Give them a break.. so they misspelled pubic. Does that really detract from the ambiguity of the headline?

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shark (78448) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:05PM (#26177257)

    Isn't water vapor one of the biggest greenhouse gasses?

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Thelasko (1196535) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:08PM (#26177337) Journal
      Mod parent up! [wikipedia.org]
    • by Lumpy (12016)

      Yup and a LOT of studies suggest his plan is backwards. When 9/11 happened, they measured a cooling effect of the lack of JEt vapor trails.

      There are a lot of other studies that also talk about it differently. we need a lot more info about his "plan" before any judgement but at first glance it seems to be more Evil than Good.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kpoole55 (1102793) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:18PM (#26177469)
      Yes, water vapor is the major green house gas only being augmented by carbon dioxide. This just points out that most of the people in the global warming camp know about as much real science as most kindergarten classes. A more sensible fellow was interviewed on TV recently who said that most of our climate change is driven by the Sun and that the best way for us to spend our capital in regards to climate change is to learn to adapt. The climate is composed of myriad systems that we still haven't enumerated, cannot properly inter-relate (since we don't know them all) and already contain enough energy that we couldn't drive them in a particular direction if we wanted. AND, if somehow we did manage to force a change, the system would likely react in a way we wouldn't be able to foresee. What was the line in that old Monty Python skit, about adapt and move on. That's our key to surviving, adapt to changing conditions and move on.
      • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by zappepcs (820751) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:48PM (#26177951) Journal

        While I may not agree with all you said, I do agree that we do not know enough about the problem to be suggesting cures. All that can be done is to stop doing what we suspect is helping to cause the warming problem, and even that has no guarantee of stopping the warming. So while we do what is possible to stop contributing to the problem, adaptation is a very smart thing to begin working on ... pass the tanning lotion, would you?

      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by node 3 (115640) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:55PM (#26178041)

        A more sensible fellow was interviewed on TV recently who said that most of our climate change is driven by the Sun

        *All* of our climate changes are driven by the sun. What this plan does (and what greenhouse gasses do in general) is alter the dynamics of what happens to the energy that reaches the Earth.

        Whenever people go on about how it's the sun, their motives are childish and selfish. "The problem is unsolvable, stop trying to fix it, and damn well stop asking me to help!" Of course it's the sun. What do we do about it? What can we do about it? These are valid questions. "Learn to adapt" is the last contingency (well, the last contingency is extinction, but we'll assume that's unacceptable).

        Look at it like a river. Rivers flood all the time--it's part of their natural cycle. That doesn't mean we have to "adapt". People like living alongside rivers. Cities naturally form around rivers. Some flooding may be man-made (runoff side-effects of clear cutting, for example), most may be due to the nature of the river, terrain and climate. But we can, and have done something about it. We've built dams.

        Thanks to dams, people don't have to "adapt" to the yearly floods. The cost of a dam is *huge*, even if you ignore the energy it generates. But the cost of *not* building a dam is larger. The lost productivity, the lost farm land and property development. The lost city infrastructure, or the added cost to make the infrastructure flood-resistant.

        And not to mention, the cost of lost lives.

        Rivers still flood, but our dams have essentially eliminated all but the 100-year and 1,000-year floods. Humanity is no longer required to endure the yearly floods that plagued our ancestors.

        Whether global climate change is man-made or not is one question, whether global climate change is happening is another. In a certain sense, whether it's man-made or not is irrelevant. What's relevant is whether it's happening, and if so, what can we do about it. Only then does whether it's man-made truly matter. If it's man-made, that gives us more options. If it's not man-made, then the task is more difficult.

        This proposal is, essentially, a dam in the sky, stopping energy from the sun from reaching us. Even if global climate change is due entirely to increased output from the sun, this plan, if it's sound, would negate the need to adapt. It would reflect that excess energy away from the planet.

        There are many questions that need to be addressed. Is the proposal sound? What are the side-effects? The risks? The costs? But to say "do nothing" is not a proper response from the species that gave us Aristotle and Archimedes, that gave us Apollo and the Internet, that gave us dams, trains, cars and planes. "Do nothing" is the response of the dinosaurs. "Do nothing" is the response of an incapable species, or a cowardly, selfish species. But most of all, "do nothing" is the response of a doomed species.

      • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Friday December 19, 2008 @06:09PM (#26178271)

        Yes, water vapor is the major green house gas only being augmented by carbon dioxide. This just points out that most of the people in the global warming camp know about as much real science as most kindergarten classes.

        Normally I try to be more civil, but this calls for a "Hey dumbass, Ken Caldeira has forgotten more about climate science than you will ever know".

        In particular, he is well aware of the greenhouse effect of water vapor. See here [slashdot.org] for more discussion.

        A more sensible fellow was interviewed on TV recently who said that most of our climate change is driven by the Sun

        Why is he more sensible? Because it supports the conclusions you want to reach? In particular, why is this fellow's claim more sensible given the large amount of evidence that most of the modern global warming is not driven by the Sun (e.g., here [nature.com], here [royalsociety.org]).

        and that the best way for us to spend our capital in regards to climate change is to learn to adapt

        We're going to have to adapt regardless, because we're already committed to some anthropogenic climate change even if there were no natural change, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't mitigate the problem. It's less expensive to adapt if you have a less extreme climate to adapt to. A real solution, as noted by pretty much every economist who works in this area, is a combination of mitigation, adaptation, and technological R&D. Read Nordhaus's latest book for a good lay overview of the policy problem.

        The climate is composed of myriad systems that we still haven't enumerated, cannot properly inter-relate (since we don't know them all) and already contain enough energy that we couldn't drive them in a particular direction if we wanted.

        We can't dial in an exact climate state, but we can drive the climate in different directions. We're already doing it with CO2. Reducing CO2 will reduce and slow the warming due to CO2. This is not a difficult concept. The system doesn't respond instantaneously, and it's not realistic to completely halt emissions, but we can slow them to mitigate the resulting climate change.

        if somehow we did manage to force a change, the system would likely react in a way we wouldn't be able to foresee

        It is not really that hard to figure out that returning CO2 emissions to closer to pre-industrial levels will direct the Earth system to closer to a pre-industrial climate.

    • Isn't water vapor one of the biggest greenhouse gasses?

      Exactly what I was thinking.

      This invention would do one of three things:
      1)Cause runaway greenhouse effects that make the earth unmanageably hot. 2)Cause little to no change at all at the cost of thousands of what will probably be taxpayer dollars. 3)Cause appropriate temperature correction.

      The interesting part is that if number 3 is true, then the earth getting hotter would also cause more evaporation creating in essence the same effect. If whatever research findings he has are correct it would mean

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      It works both ways. Clouds can trap heat, but they also reflect it. As such, having more clouds in the atmosphere helps primarily if they're going to be over something that was darker to begin with, like Oceans or Forests, and not so much over deserts or the midwestern US.
      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Which, if more heat is reflected before it hits ground, then the plant could enter a severe cooling cycle.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by jackspenn (682188) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:22PM (#26177553)

      Isn't water vapor one of the biggest greenhouse gasses?

      Yes it is, but what do you expect? This guy is not a rocket scientist, he is a little known scientist.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by StikyPad (445176) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:35PM (#26177739) Homepage

      It might not be the biggest, but it could definitely stand to lose a few pounds. Ba dum dum.

      But seriously, the evaporative cooling effects and shielding of increased cloud cover would more than offset the greenhouse effects.. at least, according to their model. And unlike CO2, water tends to precipitate out of the atmosphere rather than hang around for decades.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jav1231 (539129) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:47PM (#26177919)
      His intentions are good. That's all that matters in politics. Wait this is science...no my bad. It's Global Climate Change so it's politics.
  • Concerns: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CheshireCatCO (185193) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26177299) Homepage

    1) Where does the energy come from to spray this water?

    2) Clouds are fickle where temperature is concerned. Depending on the type of cloud, they can either raise or lower the temperature. (The article, I see, also notes this.) This is one of the trickiest points of climate modeling, if memory serves.

    3) Water vapor is also a particularly powerful greenhouse gas. Pumping a lot more of it into the air could exacerbate the problem rather than fix it. (Also noted in the article, but not actually discussed.)

  • by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26177303)

    "No sir, I do not believe you are 'doing your part to prevent global warming.' Now please stop spitting. No, I don't believe the other patrons need to be cooled."

  • Less is more (Score:4, Insightful)

    by plasmidmap (1435389) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26177319)

    Yes, let's fix the planet by changing the environment in more weird ways. That ought to work.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Burnhard (1031106)
      Parent should be modded up. The warmists are in favour of the precautionary principle. All of these hair-brained (actually, idiotic) schemes like Carbon Capture are bound to fall foul of the law of unintended consequences. The fact is we don't know enough to come up with a scheme to stop "it", whatever "it" actually is (assuming "it" exists at all).
  • if he wasn't public till now...
    • There is probably a good reason he has avoided the public. You should not pick on people who may have a social disorder like agoraphobia [wikipedia.org].

      In case you don't want to follow the link and learn something, agoraphobia means a person is scared of large open spaces, much like the space between your ears.

  • by Lije Baley (88936) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:07PM (#26177331)

    Obama has appointed him as Secretary of the Absurd.

  • by jonbryce (703250)

    Water vapour is generally considered to be a greenhouse gas, ie it makes the planet warmer than it would otherwise be.

    It isn't as much of a problem as CO2 or methane only because it doesn't stay in the atmosphere for long.

    • by Gat0r30y (957941)
      FTFA:

      "It does seem like evaporating water outside the tropics would be more effective," Caldeira said. Some complications related to releasing huge amounts of water into the air are not well understood, however. Among the side-effects: It absorbs latent heat near the earth's surface and transports it to higher altitudes, for a cooling effect. When it condenses at higher altitudes, it releases the latent heat, which then can radiate into space, producing more cooling. It's a greenhouse gas, trapping heat and causing warming. It can form low clouds that reflect solar energy, a cooling effect. It can form more high clouds, which block some sunlight but mostly prevent the release of infrared radiation from below, another warming effect.

      yup. It really isn't just that simple, even in this cursory analysis. So, it could backfire horribly, and isn't a terribly well conceived idea in the first place. Perhaps instead of harebrained schemes to combat this problem, we could just quit abusing the planet?

  • SNOW! (Score:4, Funny)

    by arizwebfoot (1228544) * on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:08PM (#26177353)
    As I dig out from several feet of snow, I'm not entirely sure I want the earth cooler.
  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:11PM (#26177377) Homepage Journal
    ... the energy expenditure of putting the water into the air?

    Unless he has a carbon-neutral method of doing that, too...
  • Hmmmmm.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Valcrus (1242564)

    Ok but what about side effects. How will it effect rain fall if we are adding to the current evaporation. Also it seems like this would or could possibly change the ecosystem of the areas it is done in. And finally who would foot the bill and what would be an approx. cost on it. The story paints a nice pic but there isn't enough info to tell if this is even realistic other than the "practical, nontoxic, affordable, rapidly achievable" comment there isn't much info on what his comparisons are.

  • by istartedi (132515) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:16PM (#26177443) Journal

    I was there a few weeks ago. When the waters are in operation, the air gets noticeably cooler. This only works because Vegas has very dry air. He would get pretty much zero evaporative cooling in Washington DC during the summer.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:19PM (#26177493) Homepage

    Someone has gone and done it. They have PATENTED vaporware! Now every company that promises to deliver software and never does will be sued by this clown!

  • by Gat0r30y (957941) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:20PM (#26177519) Homepage Journal
    When a loner who suggests altering the weather in a massive unpredictable manner would be a mad scientist from a crappy b-flick.
  • I couldn't find any books by either this Ron Ace (the inventor of this "idea") or Kenneth Caldeira. However I did find some books in which Caldeira is quoted [tinyurl.com].

  • I wonder (Score:5, Funny)

    by SnarfQuest (469614) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:23PM (#26177575)

    I wonder if this idea will ever

  • And we all know how that [wikipedia.org] worked out...

  • Are we even sure that Global Climate Change is something that we need to stop? If this is all part of a cycle (all signs point to yes), then isn't f*king with it sortof the last thing that we should be doing?

    The earth isn't a computer. We can't just reimage it and try again. There are no backups. If we fuck this up, we have to live with it. Seriously, all of these ideas like poisoning the ocean with C02 or spraying tons of extra water into the air seem to be completely and utterly retarded.

    Are cars and

  • wasn't this the plan from futurama? it even failed in futurama. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqPjxsAuUxk [youtube.com]

  • That would only give a one time effect. What we really need to do is replant the thousands of square miles of forest that we've cut down. Trees are a big part of the lungs of the planet. They put a lot of moisture back in the air. They suck up CO2 and emit Oxygen as well.
  • This project is simply another... Vaporware!
  • So this guy has patented mist-ers in quantity?

    Besides, this only works either temporarily or in discrete locations. If the whole world gets misty it's going to be humid and feel hot and sticky. Also, since there's no way that the water vapor and clouds (back to mist again) would stay uniformly distributed, this will probably make for some very powerful storms.
  • by raguirre (986049) on Friday December 19, 2008 @05:54PM (#26178023)
    Capture a 150ft (50m) asteroid and throw it into the middle of the Atlantic. That will rise A LOT of water into the atmosphere. Remember, you heard it first from me.

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