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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.
  • 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @02:42PM (#37267586)

    Unscientific hype about the flooding risks from climate change will cost us all dear

    The warmists have sound financial grounds for hyping the dangers of flooding posed by climate change, writes Christopher Booker

    On Friday came the fullest and most expert dissection of the Nature paper so far, published on the Watts Up With That website by Willis Eschenbach, a very experienced computer modeller. His findings are devastating. After detailed analysis of the study's multiple flaws, he sums up by accusing Nature of "trying to pass off the end-result of a long daisy-chain of specifically selected, untested, unverified, un-investigated computer models as valid, falsifiable, peer-reviewed science".

    His conclusion is worth quoting at some length:

    "When your results represent the output of four computer models, fed into a fifth computer model, whose output goes to a sixth computer model, which is calibrated against a seventh computer model, and then your results are compared to a series of different results from the fifth computer model, but run with different parameters, in order to show that flood risks have increased from greenhouse gases..." you cannot pretend that this is "a valid representation of reality", let alone "a sufficiently accurate representation of reality to guide our future actions".


  • 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...

  • 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 [dailykos.com]
    The Colonization Of Other Worlds: Where Will We Begin? [dailykos.com]
    The Colonization Of Other Worlds: Who Will Bring It About And Why? [dailykos.com]
    The Colonization Of Other Worlds: The Industry Dilemma [dailykos.com]

  • 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).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @03:22PM (#37268114)

    Once we start changing the climate in anyway

    Then by all means, please continue to ignore the likes of HAARP [wikipedia.org]. The article is heavily slanted, provides some misinformation, but still serves as a good basic introduction.

    Immediately following the completion of the initial project, weather changed in the US at unprecedented ways. When the Russian's device went online, it changed again, whereby one of the worst droughts in US history immediately began. There are now some 20-30 of these devices online all around the world. According to papers released by FOIR, the USAF has actively sought weather combat capabilities and these projects confirm research created by Tesla. Furthermore, both DARPA and USAF agree these devices easily have the capability to affect global weather and if left on long enough, global climate.

    In reality, contrary to the inaccurate and slightly misleading Wikipedia article, this is all proven science. Its a scientific fact these devices can affect global weather. The only question, which governments refuse to answer, is it being used to manipulate weather. According to the DoD and USAF, weather manipulation is a goal of so importance it is considered a matter of national security.

    "Once" started many years ago.

  • 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 cmholm ( 69081 ) <<cmholm> <at> <mauiholm.org>> on Wednesday August 31, 2011 @05:43PM (#37269496) Homepage Journal

    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.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken