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SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE  January 2009

SCIENCE-FOR-THE-PEOPLE January 2009

Subject:

Re: Climate scientists: it's time for 'Plan B'

From:

Larry Romsted <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 2 Jan 2009 13:58:41 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (249 lines)

Back during the Vietnam War an environmentalist friend of mine had a pithy
saying:  "growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell."
Basically the dominant ideology of the US and, since Reagen, when
uninhibited growth has ever more obviously been creating an environmental
crisis. 

I have no idea how to evaluate the merits of tech solutions or how strong
the need is for them, but given the class structure of this society, there
is always the danger that any solution(s) offered by our current government
and corporations will be good for profits and bad (or much less good) for
most people.
 
Strikes me that the political conditions may have changed enough that
talking about and finding socialist solutions might be taken seriously by
the public.  Scientists with socialist politics might be able to provide
useful cogent analyses that gain peoples' attention.

Larry
> 
>> It seems to be that enacting these very expensive technological solutions
>> would take just as much public support and political will as cutting
>> emissions, but curious to know what others think.
>> 
>> MB
>> 
>> On Fri, Jan 2, 2009 at 5:14 PM, Phil Gasper <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> 
>>>  http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/climate-scie
>>> ntists-its-time-for-plan-b-1221092.html
>>> 
>>> January 2, 2009
>>> 
>>> *Climate scientists: it's time for 'Plan B'*
>>>  Poll of international experts by The Independent reveals consensus that
>>> CO2 cuts have failed - and their growing support for technological
>>> intervention
>>>  By Steve Connor, Science Editor and Chris Green
>>> 
>>> An emergency "Plan B" using the latest technology is needed to save the
>>> world from dangerous climate change, according to a poll of leading
>>> scientists carried out by The Independent. The collective international
>>> failure to curb the growing emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the
>>> atmosphere has meant that an alternative to merely curbing emissions may
>>> become necessary.
>>> 
>>> The plan would involve highly controversial proposals to lower global
>>> temperatures artificially through daringly ambitious schemes that either
>>> reduce sunlight levels by man-made means or take CO2 out of the air.
>>> This
>>> "geoengineering" approach - including schemes such as fertilising the
>>> oceans
>>> with iron to stimulate algal blooms - would have been dismissed as a
>>> distraction a few years ago but is now being seen by the majority of
>>> scientists we surveyed as a viable emergency backup plan that could save
>>> the
>>> planet from the worst effects of climate change, at least until deep
>>> cuts
>>> are made in CO2 emissions.
>>> 
>>> What has worried many of the experts, who include recognised authorities
>>> from the world's leading universities and research institutes, as well
>>> as a
>>> Nobel Laureate, is the failure to curb global greenhouse gas emissions
>>> through international agreements, namely the Kyoto Treaty, and recent
>>> studies indicating that the Earth's natural carbon "sinks" are becoming
>>> less
>>> efficient at absorbing man-made CO2 from the atmosphere.
>>> 
>>> Levels of CO2 have continued to increase during the past decade since
>>> the
>>> treaty was agreed and they are now rising faster than even the
>>> worst-case
>>> scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United
>>> Nations body. In the meantime the natural absorption of CO2 by the
>>> world's
>>> forests and oceans has decreased significantly. Most of the scientists
>>> we
>>> polled agreed that the failure to curb emissions of CO2, which are
>>> increasing at a rate of 1 per cent a year, has created the need for an
>>> emergency "plan B" involving research, development and possible
>>> implementation of a worldwide geoengineering strategy.
>>> 
>>> Just over half - 54 per cent - of the 80 international specialists in
>>> climate science who took part in our survey agreed that the situation is
>>> now
>>> so dire that we need a backup plan that involves the artificial
>>> manipulation
>>> of the global climate to counter the effects of man-made emissions of
>>> greenhouse gases. About 35 per cent of respondents disagreed with the
>>> need
>>> for a "plan B", arguing that it would distract from the main objective
>>> of
>>> cutting CO2 emissions, with the remaining 11 per cent saying that they
>>> did
>>> not know whether a geoengineering strategy is needed or not.
>>> 
>>> Almost everyone who thought that geoengineering should be studied as a
>>> possible plan B said that it must not be seen as an alternative to
>>> international agreements on cutting carbon emissions but something that
>>> runs
>>> in parallel to binding treaties in case climate change runs out of
>>> control
>>> and there an urgent need to cool the planet quickly.
>>> 
>>> Geoengineering was dismissed as a distraction a few years ago but it has
>>> recently become a serious topic of research. Next summer, for example,
>>> the
>>> Royal Society, in London, is due to publish a report on the subject, led
>>> by
>>> Professor John Shepherd of the National Oceanography Centre at
>>> Southampton
>>> University. Professor Shepherd was one of the scientists who said that a
>>> plan B was needed because he was now less optimistic about the prospects
>>> of
>>> curbing CO2 levels since Kyoto was agreed, and less optimistic about the
>>> ability of the Earth's climate system to cope with the expected CO2
>>> increases. "Geoengineering options... must not be allowed to detract
>>> from
>>> efforts to reduce CO2 emissions directly," said Professor Shepherd, who
>>> studies the interaction between the climate and oceans. In answer to the
>>> question of whether scientists were more optimistic or less optimistic
>>> about
>>> the ability of the climate system to cope with increases in man-made CO2
>>> without dangerous climate change, just one out of the 80 respondents to
>>> our
>>> survey was more optimistic, 72 per cent were less optimistic, and 23 per
>>> cent felt about the same.
>>> 
>>> Professor James Lovelock, a geo-scientist and author of the Gaia
>>> hypothesis, in which the Earth is a quasi-living organism, is one of
>>> those
>>> who is less optimistic. He believes that a plan B is urgently needed. "I
>>> never thought that the Kyoto agreement would lead to any useful cut back
>>> in
>>> greenhouse gas emissions so I am neither more nor less optimistic now
>>> about
>>> prospect of curbing CO2 compared to 10 years ago. I am, however, less
>>> optimistic now about the ability of the Earth's climate system to cope
>>> with
>>> expected increases in atmospheric carbon levels compared with 10 years
>>> ago,"
>>> he told The Independent. "I strongly agree that we now need a 'plan B'
>>> where
>>> a geoengineering strategy is drawn up in parallel with other measures to
>>> curb CO2 emissions."
>>>  Among those who oppose geoengineering is Professor David Archer, a
>>> geophysicist at Chicago University and expert on ocean chemistry.
>>> "Carbon
>>> dioxide released to the atmosphere will continue to affect climate for
>>> many
>>> millennia," he said. "Relying on geoengineering schemes such as sulphate
>>> aerosols would be analogous to putting the planet on life support. If
>>> future
>>> humanity failed to pay its 'climate bill' - a bill that we left them,
>>> thank
>>> you very much - they would bear the full brunt of climate change within
>>> a
>>> very short time."
>>> 
>>> *Fixing the planet Could technology help save the world?*
>>> 
>>> Injecting the air with particles to reflect sunlight
>>> 
>>> Volcanic eruptions release huge amounts of sulphate particles into the
>>> upper atmosphere, where they reflect sunlight. After Mount Pinatubo
>>> erupted
>>> in 1991, sulphates reflected enough sunlight to cool the Earth by 0.5C
>>> for a
>>> year or two. The Nobel Laureate Paul Crutzen suggested in 2006 that it
>>> may
>>> be possible to inject artificial sulphate particles into the upper
>>> atmosphere - the stratosphere. However, the idea does not address ocean
>>> acidification caused by rising CO2 levels. There may be side-effects
>>> such as
>>> acid rain and adverse effects on agriculture.
>>> 
>>> Creating low clouds over the oceans
>>> 
>>> Another variation on the theme of increasing the Earth's albedo, or
>>> reflectivity to sunlight, is to pump water vapour into the air to
>>> stimulate
>>> cloud formation over the sea. John Latham of the United States National
>>> Centre for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado is working with
>>> Stephen
>>> Salter of Edinburgh University and Mike Smith at Leeds to atomise
>>> seawater
>>> to produce tiny droplets to form low-level maritime clouds that cover
>>> part
>>> of the oceanic surface. The only raw material is seawater and the
>>> process
>>> can be quickly turned off. The cloud cover would only affect the oceans,
>>> but
>>> still lower global temperatures.
>>> 
>>> Fertilising the sea with iron filings
>>> 
>>> This idea arises from the fact that the limiting factor in the
>>> multiplication of phytoplankton - tiny marine plants - is the lack of
>>> iron
>>> salts in the sea. When scientists add iron to "dead" areas of the sea,
>>> the
>>> result is a phytoplankton bloom which absorbs CO2. The hope is that
>>> carbon
>>> taken up by the microscopic plants will sink to deep layers of the
>>> ocean,
>>> and be taken out of circulation. Experiments support the idea, but
>>> blooms
>>> may be eaten by animals so carbon returns to the atmosphere as CO2.
>>> 
>>> Mixing the deep water of the ocean
>>> 
>>> The Earth scientist James Lovelock, working with Chris Rapley of the
>>> Science Museum in London, devised a plan to put giant tubes into the
>>> seas to
>>> take surface water rich in dissolved CO2 to lower depths where it will
>>> not
>>> surface. The idea is to take CO2 out of the short-term carbon cycle,
>>> cutting
>>> the gas in the atmosphere. Critics say it may bring carbon locked away
>>> in
>>> the deep ocean to the surface.
>>> 
>>> Giant mirrors in space
>>> 
>>> Some scientists suggest it would be possible to deflect sunlight with a
>>> giant mirror or a fleet of small mirrors between the Earth and the Sun.
>>> The
>>> scheme would be costly and prompt debate over who controls it. Many
>>> scientists see it as contrary to the idea of working with the Earth's
>>> systems.
>>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> --
>> ******************************************
>> Michael Balter
>> Contributing Correspondent, Science
>> Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
>> Boston University
>> 
>> Email:           [log in to unmask]
>> 
>> Website:       michaelbalter.com
>> Balter's Blog: michael-balter.blogspot.com
>> ******************************************
>> 
> 

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