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Earth Science Technology

Half-Assed Solar Geoengineering Is Worse Than Climate Change Itself (vice.com) 164

New submitter beccaf writes: Ecologists and climate scientists investigated the consequences of rapid initiation of solar geoengineering (pumping sulfuric aerosols into the atmosphere) in 2020 and then rapid termination of this solar geoengineering fifty years later. It provides only short-term benefits to biodiversity, and, if stopped abruptly, temperatures will soar faster than they would with climate change alone and the consequences to all living things will be even worse than if humans had never interfered in Earth's natural processes at all. The study has been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. Rebecca Flowers via Motherboard summarizes the effects of solar geoengineering, according to research conducted by Christopher Trisos, an ecologist at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, and his colleagues: "Initially, organisms stop having to change habitats in response to rising temperatures. Highly mobile species that had already moved, like migratory birds, might return to their original ecosystems, and species that were too slow to move before, like corals, have a higher chance of survival than they did before the geoengineering project began. After mere decades, though, living things in highly biodiverse areas like the Amazon Basin have to start moving again, as much as they would have to in a non-geoengineering scenario."

"Suddenly, it's 2070," Flowers continues. "Governments begin to disagree on how to handle climate change, and, besides, they can no longer afford to pump aerosols into the atmosphere. As a result, we stop pumping aerosols into the atmosphere. Then things really go to hell. The amount of warming that would have happened without geoengineering over fifty years is essentially squished into a decade..."
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Half-Assed Solar Geoengineering Is Worse Than Climate Change Itself

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is cane toads. The best intentions and not enough information make a destructive combination.

  • Thus I propose that a swarm of satellites be put into GSO, equipped with ultrasound emitters, to create bubbles in the Earth's oceans thus increasing their albedo. Problem solved.
    What do you mean sound doesn't travel through Space?!

  • Better option (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djinn6 ( 1868030 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @03:50AM (#55991503)
    Launch about 10 million square km worth of aluminum foil into mid-earth orbit. The foil will be small, one-square-foot pieces that can move about freely. At any instant, some will be facing into the sun and blocking out light, while others are facing the sun edge-on and letting light through. Together, they will permanently block out 1% of the sun and reduce surface temperatures to a manageable level.

    Yes, it'll be expensive, but it might not be so bad compared to the cost of ending all CO2 production. It's also a one-time investment so nobody can change their mind afterwards (or need to, since the cost is sunk). There are no undesirable side effects on the ground, and if you position it right, you can cool the equator much more than the poles, turning much more of the earth into livable habitat.

    Some might say this is Kessler Syndrome on steroids, but if all of the foils are within a relatively small range of orbits, it wouldn't be all that hard to avoid. Aluminum is also highly reflective and easy to see with radar, so if one does come your way, you can easily see and dodge it.
    • Global Warming is just G*d's way of telling you you need to build a Dyson Swarm.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      How do you propose keeping the foils in one orbit? Also, with global warming you don't generally care too much about cooling the equator, it's the poles that you need to keep cool.

      Dodging is completely impractical. You can dodge once a month maybe, if you want to have any reasonable longevity for your satellite. Dodging every hour makes you run out of fuel in no time.

      Also, you are proposing 100 trillion pieces of foil. Dealing with a million pieces would be a pain, and that's 8 orders of magnitude fewer.

      • How do you propose keeping the foils in one orbit?

        I propose doing it with the law of gravity.

        Also, with global warming you don't generally care too much about cooling the equator, it's the poles that you need to keep cool.

        I propose that orbits other than equatorial exist.

        I also propose that you arent very knowledgeable about anything dealing with physics but amazingly you somehow are pretending to think you are smart enough to form cogent valid arguments. You arent. You know it. Dishonesty. Thats you.

        • by fisted ( 2295862 )

          How do you propose keeping the foils in one orbit?

          I propose doing it with the law of gravity.

          Okay, how do you deal with *o-spheric drag? What orbital height do you propose?

          I also propose that you arent very knowledgeable about anything dealing with physics but amazingly you somehow are pretending to think you are smart enough to form cogent valid arguments. You arent. You know it. Dishonesty. Thats you.

          Not the guy you replied to, but color me curious. You're arguing for putting half a billion tons of aluminum into orbit. Since you're obviously very knowledgable about anything dealing with physics, please give a quick outline of how you'd do that.

          I'm not holding my breath.

          • by Dr. Evil ( 3501 )

            Wait until somebody tells them about the Lagrange points.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_sunshade [wikipedia.org]

            "Creating this sunshade in space was estimated to cost in excess of US$5 trillion with an estimated lifetime of 50 years.[7] Thus leading Professor Angel to conclude that "[t]he sunshade is no substitute for developing renewable energy, the only permanent solution. "

            oops.

        • by amorsen ( 7485 )

          I also propose that you arent very knowledgeable about anything dealing with physics but amazingly you somehow are pretending to think you are smart enough to form cogent valid arguments. You arent. You know it. Dishonesty. Thats you.

          Way to go. Very impressive. You totally got me there with your well-reasoned arguments.

          PLONK

    • Cute. Solar space ain't as stable as you'd think though. Solar winds, and all those damn teapots just mess up ALL your feng shui you're trying to set up, whenever you're trying to make a zero-gravity zen garden out there.

      Seriously though, it's difficult enough to have anything on this planet deal consistently with the chaotic effects of a giant nuclear furnace blazing down on it for portions of the day through an atmosphere and frequent clouds. A metal sheet of even significant size would be battered in

    • by Anonymous Coward

      We don't need to halt all CO2 production to solve global warming. We just need to just need to equalise it. Basically for every ton of CO2 that gets pumped into the air through human activities we need to remove a ton of CO2. There are a few ways we can do this, one of easier ways would be to just plant trees. We could also do industrial CO2 scrubbing. I am sure there are a ton of things that we could do with excessive carbon that has been captured as part of the scrubbing process (plastics and oils co

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        We don't need to halt all CO2 production to solve global warming. We just need to just need to equalise it.

        We need to actually run it back the other way for a while. We're over 400 ppm CO2 now, we should be under 300 ppm...

    • ... agriculture goes down by 1% etc. 1% might not sound much but on a planetwide scale is huge.

    • by RobinH ( 124750 )
      ...and she swallowed the spider to catch the fly... I don't know why she followed the fly.
    • Launch about 10 million square km worth of aluminum foil into mid-earth orbit. The foil will be small, one-square-foot pieces that can move about freely

      Create space debris? What could go wrong? It would make more sense to put a mylar soletta mirror at L1, and station-keep it with ion drives. Plenty of solar power at L1.

      • Yes it makes more sense to build a mylar space mirror (with ion drives) rather then launch about 10 million square km of foil. Space nutters.
    • You remind me of a Futurama episode [wikipedia.org] where Wernstrom built a huge mirror outside the earth to reflect the sun. But in the end, it works the opposite way.

    • TLDR version: the 75 percent of them that aren't between the earth and the sun at any point in time will reflect sunlight into the Earth that wasn't going to hit it. This is a net gain in solar heating.

      TLDR 2: Unless you literally fill the sky with these things, you can't keep them between the Earth and the sun at all times of the year.

      TLDR 3: If you do fill the sky with them, say goodbye to geostationary communication satellites, which you will no longer be able to communicate with because of all the cha
    • [Insert tinfoil hats reference as a source of material here]
    • why not figure out a (better) way to sequester carbon dioxide?

      Maybe use some fancy plant breeding / gene editing to make trees that grow really dense trunks, and modify the wood so it's harder to break down (sort of like what happened before lignin could be broken down.

      Seems much more within our means of developing in the near-term, without launching shit into space with potentially dire unintended consequences, nor hampering economic output in order to reduce emissions.

      Of course emissions can be lowered by

  • by Wrath0fb0b ( 302444 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @03:57AM (#55991529)

    ... and, besides, they can no longer afford to pump aerosols into the atmosphere.

    The cost of such a program, especially after it's been going for decades, is minuscule compared to the cost of carbon reduction. The idea that we'll suddenly not be able to afford it is nuts, but moreover, it's applicable a fortiori to any other plan. Who would claim that "well, we could cut carbon emissions, but then in 2050 we might no longer be able to afford it and go back to coal, which would be worse" is a legitimate argument against carbon reduction?

    There are a million legitimate objections to geo-engineering. This one, however, is total nonsense.

    • by pots ( 5047349 )
      It's less about "afford" than about "willing to spend." Regardless of the reason why, if we start doing this then eventually we will stop. It's deferring the problem rather than solving it.
      • Shouldn't it then also be regardless of the 'what'?

        I meant, irrespective of whatever (combination of) solutions we chose, it's possible that eventually we will stop. That's true in the most trivial sense, but what I don't is why it has impact on the merits of any particular solution.

        • by pots ( 5047349 )
          We will stop eventually, regardless of the reason why. - Does that make more sense? This is how that sentence was intended.

          The difference is a solution which requires doing something, vs. a solution which requires not doing something.
          • I think I understand your claim (not 100% agreeing or disagreeing).

            What I don't understand is the difference between a solution that "requires doing something" versus "requires not doing something". As I see it, both are something that can be stopped later in time.

            For instance, we might have (among others) a solution of "not burning coal". In 50 years, however, we might stop that solution by starting to burn coal again.

            I guess my point is anything can be stopped, including stopping ...

    • by stephanruby ( 542433 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @05:43AM (#55991767)

      I can't believe you read that far.

      This isn't 2020. Someone is just trolling Slashdot to see if they could get past the Slashdot editors, and of course, they succeeded.

  • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @04:38AM (#55991641)

    Instead of try a chemistry experiment of unprecedented proportions, it would be much better if we simply addressed the problem directly: remove the excess CO2 from the air. It will take years and millions of CO2 reclamation plants but it will get the job done! The question is not if we can do it but if we will do it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      How long do you think it will take to build millions of CO2 reclamation plants, and actually have an impact? We've been hearing from many that we're already beyond the "tipping point", so what good would this do if we're already fucked?...could it be accomplished in time, or would we need a short term interim solution to hold us over? I'm no climatologist, but I don't think calling attempts at solutions (temporary or otherwise) "chemistry experiment" is helpful in any way.

      • How long do you think it will take to build millions of CO2 reclamation plants, and actually have an impact?

        It depends entirely on how serious we are about it.

        We've been hearing from many that we're already beyond the "tipping point", so what good would this do if we're already fucked?

        The "tipping point" was where we could stop emitting CO2 and it would eventually balance itself out. Since we are past that point, we need to actually remove CO2.

        ...could it be accomplished in time

        Yes.

        or would we need a short term interim solution to hold us over?

        Nope.

        I'm no climatologist, but I don't think calling attempts at solutions (temporary or otherwise) "chemistry experiment" is helpful in any way.

        Actually, discouraging exceptionally dangerous ideas that could potentially wipe out all life on Earth is a good thing.

        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          "The "tipping point" was where we could stop emitting CO2 and it would eventually balance itself out"

          I could link many articles that point to numerous "tipping points", and that it's too late, which is why I asked. So, while I'd be in favor of doing the clean up as part of an overall program, I highly doubt that we won't need other solutions before it's too late.

    • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @07:54AM (#55992009) Homepage Journal

      It will take years and millions of CO2 reclamation plants but it will get the job done!

      Those CO2 reclamation plants are called trees. However, for them to work, we not only have to plant them and care for them until they are self-sufficient, but we also have to stop emitting so much atmospheric carbon.

      • Our machines are 1000x more effective than trees and unlike trees, they don't die and release the CO2 back into the atmosphere. Trees can NOT solve this problem.

        • Obviously not. The answer would be much more efficient and rapid-growing algae, which is then largely processed into useful materials, possibly with some preservative agents to prevent quick decay.

          Granted, trees do make the 'useful materials' part simpler, and your complaint about them dying is ridiculous, because we can already treat wood, and there are plenty of trees older than our extensive usage of fossil fuels, so your entire reasoning for why trees are not the solution is wrong, but you are correc

          • Trees are the best solution because they solve other problems at the same time. For example, plants hold down the soil and permit the land to absorb more moisture, and trees are part of that. They also slow down winds near the land which literally blow soil away. A percentage of that soil gets deposited into waterways and causes problems there.

            The cheapest way we know to hold down the land and sequester CO2 is to let trees do it.

            • I'd agree that they are part of the solution, but CO2 capture is a matter of plant biomass, and trees are not the most effective method of rapidly increasing biomass.
      • Those CO2 reclamation plants are called trees. However, for them to work, we not only have to plant them and care for them until they are self-sufficient, but we also have to stop emitting so much atmospheric carbon.

        Oh, is that all?!

        It's obviously not that easy, therefore mitigation measures may be needed.

      • Not to mention stopping people from clear-cutting tropical forests to grow crops.
    • Instead of try a chemistry experiment of unprecedented proportions, it would be much better if we simply addressed the problem directly: remove the excess CO2 from the air. It will take years and millions of CO2 reclamation plants but it will get the job done! The question is not if we can do it but if we will do it.

      So instead you'll do a financial, political, and geo-engineering experiment of unprecedented proportions?

      I'm not sure which one is better; just sayin' ...

  • All of this, of course, is based on those oh-so-reliable models that can't account for the "pause" and generally fail to distinguish adequately between natural and anthropogenic warming. Just the kind of basis you want to use as the basis for a massive experiment with the planet's atmosphere.

    First understand. Then tinker.

    At the moment, the models generally fail to make any specific and falsifiable predictions. Where people have tried to make such predictions, based on the models, they have generally been wr

    • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

      Not disagreeing with you on the models. But, suppose we get to the point where our coastlines are being battered, and people are dying, and we still don't have a good model. At what point would you suggest that it's time to tinker vs. continuing to study while people die?

      • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        But, suppose we get to the point where our coastlines are being battered, and people are dying, and we still don't have a good model.

        Suppose we don't have to suppose, because we're there already. That's the part you can't get denialists to accept, not the idea that it's possible for it to get bad enough that something should be done, but that it's already that bad. They'll deny that their local weather can be a sign of climate effects (what do they think weather is?) right up until they're drowning or on fire, or somehow both at once.

      • Our coastlines are getting battered because we have removed all the buffer wetlands that used to protect them. That is the real danger, not some multiple centimeter of rising ocean. But you can't solve that problem, because people really like to live on the coastlines. I am sure carbon credits will fix the problem.
        • by dcw3 ( 649211 )

          Um no, your comment is bullshit, and has nothing to do with climate change, or the article, or the question I posted of the GP.

    • by PoopJuggler ( 688445 ) on Wednesday January 24, 2018 @09:42AM (#55992387)
      The thousands of climatologists that actually study this stuff and know what they're talking about disagree with you. But I'm sure you know more about it...
      • While I agree there is some compelling evidence, your argument that "it's true because thousands of climatologists" is complete garbage. The majority of scientists have *often* been wrong about things in the past: low-fat diets, exoplanets being rare, dinosaurs being reptiles that lived in swamps, neanderthals not existing alongside humans, AGW leading to an ice age, dietary cholesterol, Moore's law ending umpteen times in the last 20 years, etc etc etc. Experts are wrong about things surprisingly often. Wh
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      What pause?

  • Making the popcorn as I await the handwringing, and finger pointing from both sides. Happy hump-day everybody!

  • Plants are already very good at carbon sequestration. We just need nation-state level industrial projects to use solar to irrigate currently uninhabitable desert regions with desalinated sea water. Then, completely cover those regions in bamboo forests. Harvest the bamboo and bury it or use it for construction materials instead of cutting down pine treas. We already have the technology to do this on a grand scale.
  • by PPH ( 736903 )

    ... this chain of events is predicated on a breakdown in some government agreements necessary to support the required ongoing geo-engineering tasks. Fine. So how do they expect the Paris accords to work? What will happen if there's a change in consumer markets away from Teslas and back to diesel bro-trucks?

    The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center needs to realize that National Socialism one of the shortest-lived and most hated political movements on this planet. And if we depending on that for a

    • The only way to make a solution stick is to develop a technology that has an economic up-side which will make it 'stick' in the long term.

      Developing technologies of that description is a job for the private sector. Government's primary role is to outlaw or otherwise discourage (e.g. through tariffs) the technologies which are actively harmful.

  • Direct sequestration of CO2?

    All that's required is a nuclear plant and access to water.
    Pumping CO2 into volcanic rock to create limestone?
    Or any of how many other technologies?

  • Why is Slashdot publishing a bad science FICTION story?

    • All the MSM outlets are publishing fluff these days. Takes the heat of the Dems for caving on the shutdown, off the Deep State's latest embarrassments re: election shenanigans, and avoids having to acknowledge the economy is improving.
      • The MSM has been publishing fluff for a long time. It's been getting things wrong for a long time. It hasn't changed as much as some people think.

        There will be another CR to keep the government going before Trump's DACA deadline. This is tactics, not caving.

        I don't really know what you mean by the Deep State, but the Republicans sure don't want fair elections.

        The economy has been improving for a long time. Trump and the other Republicans haven't had time to screw it up yet.

  • So, we are being told that small steps are worse than no steps at all? That'll discourage everyone. I wish they would just accept that nuclear power is clean and cheap and easy.

The last thing one knows in constructing a work is what to put first. -- Blaise Pascal

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