Sunday, 7 December 2014

Discussion of geoengineering

There has been a lot of discussion about geoengineering since yesterday's AMEG press conference - whether we should, whether we shouldn't.

I could see the emotion on the faces of the participants as they confront what no-one else is willing to do - the reality of the clathrate gun being fired and abrupt climate change. I cannot criticise them for clinging to this one last hope.

My own opinion is that it doesn't make any difference what we, as a species decide to do - we are already largely irrevelevant as an increasing number of positive feedbacks are triggered. The genie is out of the bottle.

This is simply WHAT IS. Some people have what it takes to recognise this head-on - and others don't.

The evidence seems to show that geoengineering is not going to 'save the planet' and may cause huge harm to human health and agriculture.

A case of applying a bit more of what caused the predicament in the first place?

Perhaps the introductory comments were the most real - it is time to pray.

"...and do we really think environmentalists, Arctic scientists atmospheric scientists etc are *free* from the same hubris/grieving the rest of us are aware of? No. They too are human. It is a horrible realization. What i am seeing in this conversation is just that."

---Wendy Bandursk1-Miller

Geoengineering Won’t Fix Climate Change, Researchers Say
Geoengineering—which sometimes seems to be the despairing climate scientist’s Plan B—simply won’t work. It won’t offer a quick fix to the planet’s burden of global warming, and it will be difficult to convince anybody that it could work at all.


30 November, 2014

Geoengineering is any deliberate, large-scale intervention in the workings of the climate machine that might offer a way of containing global warming. The accent is on the word deliberate.

Humans are already “engineering” the climate just by continuously adding carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels, but the climate change that will follow is an unhappy consequence, not a deliberate pln.

Since governments have been either slow, or very slow, to agree on systematic plans to drastically reduce dependence on fossil fuels, researchers have in the last decade or so begun to propose ways in which deliberate steps might counter global warming.

Problems underestimated

They have suggested darkening the skies with deliberate discharges of sulphate aerosols to block incoming radiation. They have proposed “seeding” the ocean with iron to encourage photosynthesis and increase carbon uptake by phytoplankton, they have suggested brightening the clouds by spraying salt particles into them to make them more reflective.

Now British researchers have taken a long hard look at three aspects of geoengineering researchand arrived at a bleak conclusion: it would just be better not to emit greenhouse gases on a prodigal sale.

Geoengineering projects would certainly never offer an easy answer: they may not be disastrous, but they don’t look good, or popular. The public would prefer more investment inrenewable energy to, for example, the deployment of artificial volcanoes that pumped fine particles into the stratosphere.

Piers Forster, professor of physical climate change at the University of Leeds, said: “The devil is in the detail. Geoengineering will be much more expensive and challenging than previous estimates suggest, and any benefits would be limited.”

This is consistent with a number of studies within the last two years. Researchers have repeatedly concluded that such schemes either won’t work or could actually generate more heat or could upset rainfall patterns or could have serious consequences for specific regions or could simply generate intractable problems for governments, science ministries and international agencies that might have to make the big decisions.

But the interest in geoengineering continues. One good reason is that—at least as a theoretical exercise—it could help climate scientists better understand the fine detail of the workings of the planet. Major volcanic eruptions can discharge so much ash and sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere that they actually cool the planet for years, and a recent study has argued that the slowdown in global warming in the last decade could be a consequence of a series of relatively minor eruptions.

But human attempts to replicate the effect would be fraught. “The potential for misstep is considerable,” said Matthew Watson, a natural hazards scientist at the University of Bristol, UK.

The British scientists don’t dismiss geoengineering outright. That is because if, under the notorious “business-as-usual” scenario, nations go on burning fossil fuels, then by 2100 the consequences could be catastrophic.

Dr Watson said: “Full-scale deployment of climate engineering technologies will be the clearest indication that we have failed in our role as planetary stewards. But there is a point at which not deploying some technologies would be unethical.”

Here is some discussion on geoengineering from Australian intellectual, Clive Hamilton


  1. I think using boats to make contrails and clouds might be necessary in the arctic-
    to cool the ocean above places where methane clathrates are melting and increasing methane release- since that can prevent an out of control greenhouse effect.

    1. How long do you think it might be necessary to do this? Probably forever, for once you stop the temperatures go up quickly. Then there's the other effects of this on human health and agriculture. This is a PREDICAMENT, not a problem.