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Science Technology

Will Climate Engineering Ever Go Prime Time? 281

coondoggie writes "You may or may not be old enough to remember the TV commercial for margarine that had the tag line: 'It's not nice to fool Mother Nature.' But that commercial came to mind as I was reading a report out recently that looked at the viability of large climate engineering projects that would basically alter large parts of the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gases or basically reverse some of the effects of climate change. The congressional watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office took a look at the current state of climate engineering science and technology (PDF), which generally aims at either carbon dioxide removal or solar radiation management."
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Will Climate Engineering Ever Go Prime Time?

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  • Wrong idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 2names ( 531755 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:23PM (#37267288)
    We need to GET OFF THIS ROCK. Stop wasting money on climate projects and get a plan together to colonize other planets. Wait, if we're going to colonize other planets, we will need to be able to change the climate on those planets to be liveable. Dammit. I hate it when my logic goes all circular.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by piripiri ( 1476949 )

      We need to GET OFF THIS ROCK. Stop wasting money on climate projects and get a plan together to colonize other planets

      And repeat the whole damn shit again? No thank you.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        And repeat the whole damn shit again? No thank you.

        We're quite happy for you to stay behind while we take over the rest of the universe.

        • by 32771 ( 906153 )

          How? Is there Oil on Mars?

          • by Lifyre ( 960576 )

            No but they have Rainbows and Unicorns and last I checked they were valid power sources for wishes and dreams.

          • Re:Wrong idea (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:16PM (#37268032) Homepage

            That right there is just one of the many reasons why the concept of settling other planets is so *#$#@$* difficult.

            To live on another planet -- to merely stay alive -- requires a whole raft of modern technology. And each modern technological component has a whole chain of component inputs for parts and manufacturing consumables, and each of those has a whole chain, and each of those, and so on down the line. And as much as we might like to pretend that we can just narrow things down to just a few parts or materials, you really can't. Try substituting nylon for teflon in a container that holds hydrofluoric acid or teflon for nylon in a high-abrasion part and see how well things go for you, for example.

            Plastics are a key critical part of modern technology, and there's thousands of them. Perhaps you could do with a couple dozen -- *maybe*, if you engineered each and every component carefully (a massive undertaking when you're saying, basically, "reinvent our modern industrial base"). So we need to have whole oil refineries and chemical plants operating on... wait, what? Oil, Mars?

            Right. So before you can even get to those oil refineries and chemical plants -- launched at absurdly expensive prices -- you have to have a way to make oil in the first place, on a planet that has none. This means some combination of the Fischer-Tropsch/Sabatier processes. Which means taking in and compressing the trace atmosphere, isolating the CO2 from the other gasses, reacting it with a steady stream of hydrogen from a water electrolyzer (fed by an ice mine) over a catalyst bed at high temperatures, and then fed into the refinery. And of course, every part will steadily corrode, moving parts will break, etc, and you need supply chains to produce *each and every part*. Every seal, every coil, every valve, every surface coating, every lubricant, every hydraulic fluid, every sensor, everything. In your whole refinery and chemical plant. And everything that goes into making those parts/materials -- not just their raw materials, but their production-process consumables? You have to be able to make them, too. And so on down the line.

            It's really a horribly daunting challenge, a colony that can completely support itself. Mostly support itself, with freighters of parts and replacement equipment /low level consumables showing up every few months? That's not that bad. *Completely* independent? That's centuries in the future at best.

            A while back I did a whole series going into this sort of stuff in more detail over here:

            Beyond The Space Elevator: A Glimpse Of Alternative Methods For Space Launch []
            The Colonization Of Other Worlds: Where Will We Begin? []
            The Colonization Of Other Worlds: Who Will Bring It About And Why? []
            The Colonization Of Other Worlds: The Industry Dilemma []

            • by 32771 ( 906153 )

              You might want to figure out what mineralogical barrier means and why because of that we don't have centuries left for a space program with our current energy sources.

              So it is either fusion and total environmental destruction or stone age in a few centuries.

              Read Georgescu-Roegen's works and a paper called something like "Elements of hope" by A. Diederen.

              Good night and good luck.

      • Right, because settlers on another planet, moon or exoplanet wouldn't have to worry about conserving every little thing they possibly could to survive. Releasing CO2 into the atmosphere would be colossally stupid since they'd most likely have a closed system where the plants can use this CO2 to provide oxygen and food in return. Plus it's not like we'll be using oil as an energy source since not only would it probably be nonexistent on another world, but it would also require oxygen to combust, something wh
    • Re:Wrong idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by realcoolguy425 ( 587426 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:38PM (#37267534)
      You first.

      This again leads back to my conclusion that people with a liberal mindset believe that resources are running out, and that they need to force change on other people. I'm not saying they're completely wrong, even though I am, but this belief in extreme resource scarcity is at the heart of this sort of logic. Besides, we can do what China is planning, nudge big rocks closer and mine off of them. If you're worried about the climate not staying exactly the same from one year to the next, you have picked the wrong planet to be born on.

      The accusation that climate change alarmists are forming a secular religion I believe is not completely unfounded. Anyone who would follow the Goracle on the topic of climate change may not like it when the computer models are finally generated that finally reflect reality. It will be data gathered from satellites that I believe will finally put an end to playing climate games by sampling data in way that produces the desired results. Recent NASA data that shows more heat escapes into space than we previously thought is part of the point I'm trying to make here. I'm not pretending to be an expert on this topic, but I know more than enough to understand that there are people with a vested interest in perpetuating any narrative that casts CO2 as the enemy of man.

      • Re:Wrong idea (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:01PM (#37267826)

        This again leads back to my conclusion that people with a liberal mindset believe that resources are running out

        Resources will never run out, thanks to conservation of matter. What will get tighter all the time, however, is resources per capita. If technology fails to continue its trend of being able to do more with less and if we keep breeding like rabbits then necessarily we will all suffer important changes to our lifestyle as the amount of available resources per individual falls.

        Also you have to bear in mind that resources have a cycle - from discovery and mining, drilling, production or whatever - through being manufactured and distributed into usable products, to belonging to someone and being used in the manner they're supposed to be used and finally after succumbing to entropy, being discarded and/or recycled. That means that with many people you have a huge amount of resources "out of the loop" at any given time, meaning that either you have to make goods that last a lifetime, or highly disposable goods that are cycled quickly. Guess which avenue those who make and sell the resources would prefer...

        • by blueg3 ( 192743 )

          This is only true if "resources" is strictly the same as "matter", and note then that it's not really true. Not only do light gases and a small number of space exploration objects leave Earth forever, but radioactive elements are being converted (more or less irreversibly) into different elements.

          Only the sum total of energy in the Universe is really conserved by conservation of energy (matter).

          However, lots of resources aren't just matter -- from a physics perspective, both harnessable energy and particula

        • Re:Wrong idea (Score:5, Insightful)

          by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:14PM (#37268004) Journal

          Resources will never run out, thanks to conservation of matter.

          Even that is a bit misleading in most cases. For example, even if you assume that the energy to do so is readily available, turning the exhaust from a car's tailpipe, the heat from it's radiator, the sound waves from it's stereo, the cold air from it's AC system, and the vehicle's forward momentum back into gasoline is most impractical.

        • by gordona ( 121157 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:42PM (#37268316) Homepage
          I had a '56 chevy that I put on a bunch of devices that were supposed to save gas. Every few miles I had to stop and siphon the tank to keep it from overflowing!!!
        • Resources will never run out, thanks to conservation of matter.

          As long as you're content with the elements arranged (or dispersed) however they end up, that works pretty well.

          On the other hand, if you're looking for phosphorus in quantities sufficient for agricultural use, refining it out of the oceans is not going to be profitable. Likewise with helium from atmospheric extraction compared to tapping into geological gas pockets.

        • If technology fails to continue its trend of being able to do more with less and if we keep breeding like rabbits

          Actually, it is quite possible that we will stop breeding like rabbits. There is a strong inverse correlation between income and birth rate. As the "developing" world slowly but surely rises out of poverty, global population levels will eventually stabilize. They might even go down. I am not an expert on this but one interesting source of data is Their basic thesis is that

          • by Chemisor ( 97276 )

            Correlation does not imply causation. Just because people with higher incomes have fewer children doesn't mean raising incomes will lower birthrates. If you think about it for a second, it becomes obvious that causation here goes the other way. Incomes will not rise until birth rates go down and families can start accumulating capital in form of houses, personal possessions, and money to spend on increasing income through education, entrepreneural financing, and just plain survival until the next paycheck w

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

              Er you're backwards. People have fewer kids out of the fear of not being able to afford them or maintain their previous lifestyle. Understanding that this fear is real and not imagined is a function of education, not income. There's nothing magical about being poor that forces you to have more kids. Condoms and other forms of birth control are not that expensive. Here in the third world, where I live, there are government programs that give them away free. I've had many women from poor families save money t

      • The thing is everyone wasn't to be the guy on record saying I told you so. And they Giggle in Glee if it does happen, even though it may be quite desasterious. (Think Slashdot when there is a severe Microsoft volnerability)

        There is a lot of people saying there is a problem. Not not too many coming with valid solutions to it. And like all solutions they come with tradeoffs so this same group of complainers will complain about the solution.

        Nuclear is a good solution, but it has good size tradeoffs.

        Winds So

      • Re:Wrong idea (Score:4, Insightful)

        by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @05:01PM (#37269178)

        a liberal mindset believe that resources are running out, and that they need to force change on other people

        As opposed to assuming they'll never run out despite every indication they will, and letting other people selfishly use them up? Gee, we're such assholes.

        If you're worried about the climate not staying exactly the same from one year to the next, you have picked the wrong planet to be born on.

        When climate change is avoidable by a little self-restraint, we should take steps to avoid that climate change. In life, pain is inevitable, but that's a pretty piss-poor justification for saying "It's okay for me to hurt you, because if you worry about pain you picked the wrong planet to be born on."

        The accusation that climate change alarmists are forming a secular religion I believe is not completely unfounded. Anyone who would follow the Goracle on the topic of climate change may not like it when the computer models are finally generated that finally reflect reality.

        Some people on this side of the debate are stupid yes, but that doesn't make all of us wrong.

        It will be data gathered from satellites that I believe will finally put an end to playing climate games by sampling data in way that produces the desired results.

        Your accusations that people are skewing the data have not been backed up. Most recently the whole climategate thing showed the skeptics were trying to make something out of nothing.

        If the data is being skewed, where's the smoking gun? If you don't have it, then stop throwing those lies around.

      • the "vested interest" some people have in perpetuating a myth of climate change?
    • Re:Wrong idea (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:55PM (#37267758) Homepage

      Colonizing other planets is *WAY* more difficult than geoengineering Earth where our entire industrial base is. The atmosphere is a super-thin skin over all of us.

      I like to help people picture how easy it is to change CO2 levels this way. Picture you have the Hindenburg full of pre-industrial-revolution air. How much gasoline would you have to burn to bring its CO2 levels up from that to modern CO2 levels?

      Pre-industrial CO2 was around 280PPM. Today's are around 100ppm more. The Hindenburg held 200,000 cubic meters of gas. STP air density is about 1.2kg/m^3, so the Hindenburg would hold about 240,000kg of air. 100ppm of CO2 from that is 24kg. The carbon content of CO2 is 30%, so that's 7.2kg of carbon. Gasoline has 2.4kg of carbon per gallon. So three gallons of gasoline.

      In short, a single fill of a gas tank on your average car could raise the CO2 content of a volume of air the size of *three* Hindenburgs to modern levels (+36%). When something is as diffuse as air, and when you're talking about gasses that are trace even within that, it becomes very easy to mess with them, even when you're talking about an area the size of the planet.

      The downside to most geoengineering projects, however, is that they're merely masking. Most of them -- not all, but most -- simply try to hide the effects of one symptom of CO2 rise or another (usually the heat, ignoring the ocean acidification). Several problems come from this. One, you need ever-greater measures to keep masking the CO2 rise, with ever-greater side effects from whatever side-effects that method has, and ever-greater costs. And two, if you ever stop, or your system ever fails, or you discover that the side effects are too great, or whatnot, there's a sudden surge in temperatures as all of the effects you'd been hiding take full force. Really, you need to address the cause, not the symptom. You don't treat cancer with Tylenol.

      There are some geoengineering projects, however, that do work on getting the CO2 out of the atmosphere. At the same time, they shouldn't be rushed without further study, or you risk causing more problems than you're trying to solve. The classic CO2 elimination proposal is of seeding the oceans with iron. Some wishful thinkers like to hope that as CO2 levels rise, plant growth will just correspondingly rise and eat up the additional CO2. But most of the world's surface area is not CO2-limited, but nutrient limited -- in the oceans, usually iron; proposing that CO2 will just increase global plant growth is like proposing that adding more sunlight to a desert will increase its plant growth. For most of the oceans, extra CO2 is simply an acidifier, which reduces maximum biomass. So the concept goes, add iron and you increase photosynthetic activity, and thus sequestration, turning the dead zones into oases of life. It's a neat concept, but a lot of things are still widely open for debate. Do you actually increase the sequestration rate, or does the additional bloom all just rot before it can be deposited? Do you cause hypoxia and severely negative downstream conditions from it? Do you rob the ocean of other minerals and cause severely negative downstream conditions from that? Etc. Basically, ocean seeding is something that bears investigation, but not a rush project. We need to know just what we're getting into before we get into it.

      • Colonizing other planets is *WAY* more difficult than geoengineering Earth where our entire industrial base is. The atmosphere is a super-thin skin over all of us.

        Yeah, but if we fuck it up on this planet, we risk destroying the entire species. If we try it out on another planet, well, there's always more of those.

        "I believe that the long-term future of the human race must be in space," he said. "It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster on planet Earth in the next 100 years, let alone next thousand, or million. The human race shouldn't have all its eggs in one basket, or on one planet. Let's hope we can avoid dropping the basket until we have spread the lo

      • by mcmonkey ( 96054 )

        I like to help people picture how easy it is to change CO2 levels this way. Picture you have the Hindenburg full of pre-industrial-revolution air. How much gasoline would you have to burn to bring its CO2 levels up from that to modern CO2 levels?

        Interesting. But how many Hindenburgs is the entire atmosphere?

        Put another way, it took us about 300 years to get atmospheric CO2 from the pre-industrial levels to current.

    • We would have to mess up this planet amazingly bad before Mars starts looking like a good option. I hope it won't come to that.

    • It always amuses me to hear all these ravings about "getting off this rock", as if doing so would somehow be of a direct benefit to you. Colonization of other planets may indeed eventually happen, in order to make our species less vulnerable to extinction due to damage or even destruction of the Earth. Likewise, we may want to send colonies to other stars to avoid going extinct if something were to happen to ours. What is definitely not going to happen is outward population migration to those other planets

    • We need to GET OFF THIS ROCK

      Yes, but not because of climate change. That's like saying "I've really ruined the carpet in this apartment. Better move to a new apartment in a new town."

    • Can't we do both? Fix this rock and find another nice rock?

  • Oh dear (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:27PM (#37267366)

    I really hope I'm a long way from Earth before some idiot decides to try one of these things. Otherwise I'll be getting out the skis because we'll be heading for a new ice age.

    Though I did like the proposal in the 60s to use Apollo lunar modules to carry big mirrors into orbit which would reflect sunlight into the Vietnamese jungles at night. Abosolutely insane, but good fun.

    • Right, don't try and remove carbon dioxide from the air, in fact, don't even look at the viability of it. There's absolutely no reason anybody would ever need to know how to do that.
    • Its already being done in most parts of the world. Lookup Cloud Seeding

      • by nido ( 102070 )

        Its already being done in most parts of the world. Lookup Cloud Seeding

        Or just look up in the sky. Some days you might see odd "contrails" from jets that don't disperse properly, and after a time there's a funny grid pattern up there, before strange "hazy clouds" form (in what was a perfectly blue sky). The "crazies's" websites say that there are patents for dispersing aluminum and other atomized elements through a jet engine... Or maybe "they" have a fleet of drones with spray nozzles on the wings.

        I've seen them in Arizona, and also in southern Oregon. Pictures here, so you k

        • srsly? Chemtrail conspiracy theories on slashdot?

          Contrails can become clouds in a clear sky, if the atmospheric conditions are right. I suppose you could see this as a kind of accidental geoengineering, since there's some evidence the increased cloud cover reduces surface temperatures.

      • Climate engineering is already being done in most of the developed and developing world. Lookup Global Warming.

    • Everyone talks about the weather. But no one does anything about it

    • I find it odd that you are sure releasing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere can't possibly be having negative effects, but attempting to regulate the Earth's temperature is sure to cause nothing but doom and ice. Reminds me of those people who won't take drugs they're prescribed because those doctors are out to get them with their "chemicals" but will inhale thousands of chemicals if they're sold by Philip Morris.
  • by samjam ( 256347 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:29PM (#37267398) Homepage Journal

    Sure, illegal interception of the intergalactic parcel post is a nice entry to the rest of the universe!

    Wait till the Zargons come around looking for their bundle of palladium and naquadah, and we've not even made parole since last time (whatever it was we did to the sphinx or something).

  • by goldspider ( 445116 ) <> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:31PM (#37267424) Homepage

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • by blueZ3 ( 744446 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:43PM (#37267598) Homepage


      Someone expects the government to diagnose and correctly prescribe treatment for AGW? Where have these people been the last 40 years? Unless you're a basement dweller who has cut off all communication with the outside world, you have to know that "unintended consequences" is the touchstone of modern government action of any kind. We're talking about the same group of brilliant idiots who can't agree on which direction the sun rises and who believe that the solution to the debt crisis is more spending. Hello McFly!

      It practically writes itself as a disaster movie script: In a world where the greenhouse gas problem has become too bad to ignore...

      • If a government policy promises consequence A, and gets 95% of A and 5% of unintended consequences, is it something that should just be thrown away?

        I'm all in favor of judging a government policy based on the usefulness of its goals and its effectiveness in achieving its goals. I'm not in favor of rejecting all government actions of any kind because it's not going to be 100% of what was planned on.

        To make this a bit more concrete: Assume 5% of recipients of unemployment are rejecting job offers because they

        • by Shatrat ( 855151 )
          The other problem is that the 95% which comprise intended consequences consist entirely of making the correct people filthy fucking rich, see cap and trade.
    • Some technologies are obviously risky but how is removing CO2 from the atmosphere going to create major unintended consequences? We know how the effects of less CO2 because we experienced in the recent past.

      Compare this to our current geoengineering project of raising the CO2 levels in the atmosphere where we have no idea what the consequences are.

      • The unintended consequences aren't from the lower CO2 levels, but from the method we use to lower the levels. For example, seeding the ocean with nutrients to stimulate growth of algae to take CO2 from the air. The consequences we have to consider for that are what happens to existing ocean life? Would they be unable to compete with the new algae thus causing a die off of oceanic fish and mammals?

        Certainly the current state of affairs with rising temperatures isn't ideal, but it would be a mistake to assume

  • by RichMan ( 8097 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:34PM (#37267470)

    We are already doing several forms of environmental engineering

    1) sulpher release - who knew it caused acid rain
    2) CFC release - Ozone, whats that, and who needs it anyways
    3) flooded land for resoivoirs leads to mercury release from rocks that contaminates fish - nah couldn't happen.
    4) urban heat islands
    5) plane contrails - planes make clouds, again who could make that connection
    6) CO2 release from long term geological storage - well it's good for the plants .....

    whats a few more.

    • True, this is the best argument I've seen for geo-engineering. We're already fucking with the environment drastically with no plan or real intent (but with known negative effects), why not fuck with it in a planned way towards a positive goal?

    • I am already modifying my bike:

      1) bumped into a street sign pole yesterday - who knew my front wheel will turn into 8?


  • Maybe they should look for a way to diminsh the strength and impact of hurricanes and typhoons.
    • Once fusion or other excess power is viable, the abundance of energy combined with advanced automation and robotic technologies could easily enable even enormously large scale environmental projects that are out of reach today. For example large artificial ocean floating islands producing heat/cold/vapor could easily be manipulating atmospheric condition to prevent hurricanes... There is no doubt that there will be technology in the future that is capable to affect weather this way.
    • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )
      Hurricanes have been known to occur in the Caribbean Sea by Europeans since the year 1500 - and paleotempestology has shown those to have been hitting on ocean shores of the USA basically for ever. That includes both of the spots where New Orleans and New York have been founded. If you don't prepare for things that have been happening for centuries, it's your own damn fault. []

      Don't blame climate change for things that never needed any change at all to occur in the past.
  • by 32771 ( 906153 )

    We could use the remaining half of Oil reserves to do this for instance.

  • Circular problem (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:40PM (#37267560)

    a report out recently that looked at the viability of large climate engineering projects that would basically alter large parts of the atmosphere to reduce greenhouse gases or basically reverse some of the effects of climate change.

    The problem with removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is that those gases (CO2, H2O) are given off as end products in energy production because they are at a low energy potential. To split up or convert CO2 and H2O into other molecules involves putting energy back into them, which defeats the reason why they were created in the first place - to release energy.

    In other words, aside from sequestering (burying CO2 deep underground where hopefully it'll never get out again), due to efficiency losses, you are better off coming up with new cleaner methods of energy generation. Any system you develop which can disassociate atmospheric CO2 and H2O will be less effective than simply using that system to generate energy. e.g. Running CO2 scrubbers powered by natural gas would generate more CO2 than it scrubbed. Running a wind/solar-powered CO2 scrubber would remove less CO2 than if you just hooked the wind/solar-powered mechanism up to the grid and used its electricity to offset electrical generation from coal plants. The only technology we have right now which could potentially satisfy both our current energy demands and provide excess power to disassociate greenhouse gases is nuclear.

    • There are ways to sequester CO2 that don't require much energy input, like planting trees or spreading iron in the ocean to encourage algae growth. Other climate engineering ideas don't involve sequestering CO2 at all but rather reducing the amount of sunlight absorbed on earth and increasing the amount of sunlight reflected back into space. These can vary from orbiting mirrors, to really high smoke stacks on existing coal-fired plants, to painting your roof white. Many are local and scalable so that the

  • Because people who bought into the BS about how mankind is somehow responsible for the weather are now realizing that it's nothing but a hoax perpetrated by a handful of scientists shilling for research grants, governments desperate for new ways to tax peopole, and a washed-up politician who refuses to debate the issue with anyone who dares to disagree.

    • Hey dude you typed in the URL for Freerepublic wrong.

    • by brit74 ( 831798 )
      I'd bet a billion dollars that, if you told the companies responsible for global warming that the government was going to pay them to correct global warming, they'd flip 180 degrees and admit that the science for global warming is solid. Afterall, it was only the lust for money that they denied it in the first place. (The oil companies stand to reap a hundreds trillion of dollars* worth of money in oil revenue -- which is far larger than any money earned by climate scientists. So, if you're going to bein
  • If ever somewhere in the world someone died because climate related issues after doing things, fingers will point to whoever "knowing" did some change. At least now you can say that you weren't aware of the consequences. But once you say that know the consequences, and did it with the intention of changing climate conditions, you will be seen as responsible.
  • Works the following way:

    First, cut down all those huge areas of forests all over the earth, in order to decrease vegetative respiration and general evaporation of water. This gets you a double benefit. It means that you decrease the formation of those pesky clouds with their high albedo, which should increase surface temperature through additional sunshine.
    But actually, the temperature increases because less water is evaporated through sunlight, which takes up a lot of energy and severely decreases surf
  • I saw a feature on Discovery Channel a while back about solar-powered CO2 extractors. It makes me wonder if you could spin that into carbon fibers directly and produce vacuum formed or injection molded composites for a wide variety of applications.

    Carbon is such a versatile element that it would be fantastic to mine it from the air and bend it to whatever use you have while lowering atmospheric CO2 levels; kills two birds with one stone.

    • I've seen these Terrestrial Reclamation Energy Exfoliates too! I hear that when they are fully charged, you can make all sorts of neat stuff out of them chairs, tables, houses...

      I know what you are getting at, I just couldn't resist....
  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:20PM (#37268078) Journal

    1) Stop deforestation, try to re-forest lands previously cleared. This will help remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    2) Try to determine and limit the damage we are/may be doing to the ocean, to help preserve and maybe increase the ocean's natural ability to sequester CO2.

    3) Voluntarily control our own birthrates, so that population gradually declines, so that less land is required to be used by mankind, and can thus be returned to natural growth patterns.

    4) Exploit carbon-neutral or low-carbon energy generation technologies - you know the list. . . biofuels, solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hydro, nuclear fission and/or fusion.

    5) Continue the trend which has been ongoing since the 1970's to increase energy efficiency, so that we consume less energy to achieve the same levels of benefit (if we can successfully decarbonize our energy supply, this may not be too critical, but may still have an effect on how much land needs to be dedicated to use for growing biofuel precursor plants, wind turbines, solar collectors, etc; and thus unavailable for use by natural forest growth).

    • Yes. Just because it's likely to work doesn't make it less exciting.

    • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )
      Actually, reforestation has a much more direct impact [] on temperatures than sequestering CO2 could ever have. It also prevents water from directly running off in rivers - with helps with mitigating all the floods that are occurring these days after people have sealed too many surfaces that would usually have held back the rain. (Which people ignore and instead blame all floods on climate change.)

      But forests also increase evaporation, because water running off in rivers has a much lower surface area and doe
  • it would take incredible amounts of funding to engineer climate, and so naturally one would assume corporations to take the role
    this wont work, because the majority of the worst offenders in terms of climate simply dont care about the problem and are only working to
    marginalize scientific dissent.

    government would have to do something like this, but in america it would never work due to our various legislative and regulatory branches being
    comprised largely of corporate kingpins and mouthpieces.

    • Corporations can profit off geoengineering.

      The problem with the Kyoto Protocol was that it required nations to use less energy which would hurt energy companies profits. It will also put one country at a disadvantage because other nations will ignore the Kyoto Proctocol and have the advantage higher energy usage. There is no economic incentive for an individual nation to follow the Kyoto Protocol.

      With geoengineering, we can theoretically burn all the cheap fossil fuels we want and not have to worry about

  • by justleavealonemmmkay ( 1207142 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @04:12PM (#37268654)

    It took us 250 years to ramp up a (profitable) industry that ultimately boils down to turn turning craploads of alkane chains into water and craploads of carbon dioxide. Unless we find a process that does the opposite orders of magnitudes faster and at near zero cost, it'll take thousand of years to reverse the effects.

    And I haven't begun yet on how we could possibly control such a system with 1) no measurable effect before decades 2) no idea if we fuck up something else with the side effects before centuries.

    Frankly, we'd be better off learning to live with the effects.

  • by bmo ( 77928 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @04:13PM (#37268666)

    *snip the rest of the song*

    There was an old woman who swallowed a cow,
    I don't know how she swallowed a cow!
    She swallowed the cow to catch the goat,
    She swallowed the goat to catch the dog,
    She swallowed the dog to catch the cat,
    She swallowed the cat to catch the bird,
    She swallowed the bird to catch the spider,
    That wriggled and jiggled and tickled inside her,
    She swallowed the spider to catch the fly,
    I don't know why she swallowed the fly,
    Perhaps she'll die.

    There was an old woman who swallowed a horse,
    She's deadâ"of course!


  • by azgard ( 461476 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @04:21PM (#37268768)

    The only reason why to think about climate engineering is to fix the problem caused by current "unintended climate engineering", i.e. the global warming due to accumulation of CO2. And unfortunately, climate engineering, as any large scale project, needs a lot of energy.

    Where are we going to take the energy? We have basically 2 options:
    - Use a carbon-based source. Then this doesn't make sense, because if you actually calculate it, you will find out that to fix the amount of CO2 released by geoengineering you need to release more CO2 than you will fix. Even if you wouldn't, you still need to release CO2 from the energy source somewhere, at some point, so this is in fact always less efficient than not using that energy at all.
    - Use a renewable source. Then this doesn't make sense either, because we can do that now and forget about the problem.

    So simply, either way you look at it, it's better to stop releasing the CO2 in the first place rather than trying to finance (energetically) an adhoc solution for unintended CO2 released.

  • by BlackSabbath ( 118110 ) on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @04:49PM (#37269060)

    I find it difficult to fathom why people think geoengineering is feasible.
    In terms of cost, effort, technical know-how and potential risk, there seems to be a clear hierarchy of options:
    1. Conservation/efficiency - do more with less
    2. Alternative sources - biofuels, algae, solar, thermal storage etc
    3. Geo-engineering - deal with the consequences of failing on 1 and 2
    4. Colonize another planet - !!!

    If people can't be convinced to make even the smallest dent in their lifestyle to support the costs of doing 1 and 2, what on earth makes anyone think taxpayers will be willing to fund the true cost of 3 (or 4)?

    Talk about jumping the shark.

  • Short answer to story title: No, geoengineering will not go prime time.

    Longer answer: Geoengineering schemes to counteract climate change would all be large scale efforts and enormously costly... even if they worked as hoped the first time. There is an excellent chance they wouldn't work as well as hoped or even anywhere near as intended, and so additional funds would likely be required. Sort of like a war: you don't really know what it's going to cost until you stop fighting it.

    Given the costs and risks, it would be a difficult sale to those who'd have to pay for it. Those at the top of the business model that causes climate change aren't going to, since it's their desire to hang onto an existing income stream that makes geoengineering even a topic of discussion. The mass of taxpayers aren't going to buy in, especially when they see that their individual out of pocket cost is vastly greater than what it'd take to just reduce the emissions that caused the problem.

    But, this is all specious. Geoengineering is PR, is a distraction intended to comfort voters who are a bit undecided about climate change that everything will be OK, and if Al Gore turns out to be right, we'll get a crew out there to fix the problem, pronto.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.