Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Anthony Marr's response to "Geo-engineering? No Thanks!"


Shaun C.:

Geo-engineering? No thanks...

Anthony Marr:

Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels globally yesterday and use nothing but wind and solar, the CO2 already in the atmosphere (currently around 390ppm, up from 280ppm in 1880) will continue to heat the planet and acidify the oceans for centuries to come, and the planet will still roast. Scientists have determined that unless we could lower the atmospheric carbon concentration back down to 350ppm or below, we would not be able to escape runaway global heating, and millions of species will go extinct, possibly including our own. As well, direct cooling of the planet by other means will probably have to be called into play. If you have a better solution, please let us know.

Pearl L.:

Hi Anthony Marr. Have you considered reforestation, [which would be a direct consequence of humans readopting our evolutionary plant-based (frugivorous) diet] .. for CO2 absorption/sinks? Maybe you might clarify exactly what you're referring to with "geo-engineering". thanks.

Anthony Marr

Hi Pearl, definitely reforestation will help, but it won't be anywhere near enough. No doubt, healthy forests are net carbon sinks, but in their present states, even large areas of the Amazon rainforest have become net carbon emitters. Just yesterday, there is a new media article titled "Planting trees no magic bullet to fight global warming". And even if we could massively reforest, we would still be suffering a net loss due to industrial pressure (e.g. the Alberta tar sands mining, which necessitate removal by the thousands of sq.mi. of the overlying boreal forests which are carbon sinks. plus releasing huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. In the planetary system, oceanic phyto-plankton is a main carbon sink, but ocean-acidification, caused by high carbon content, has impacted negatively on it already; so the potential solutions are currently being overwhelmed by the problem. 251 million years ago, the End-Permian mass extinction, caused indeed by the global average temperature increasing by as much as 16C, wiped out 75% of all land species and 95% of all marine species, including mosts of the phytoplankton species. Further, there isn't much time for us to debate, because at the present rate, the atmospheric carbon content increase by 1ppm per year. The longer we delay, the worse the problem will get.

In terms of geo-engineering (some call it "terraforming"), the technology most counted on is ACCS (Atmospheric Carbon Capture and Sequestration), which constitutes millions of carbon absorbers deployed around the world. Forests can be considered one such system, but, as I pointed out, not half enough. So, even if we count on forests, we still have to supplement them with ACCS, for which there are lots of theories. But this little story will illustrate the desperation of the situation. The British billionaire Richard Branson has for years offered a $25million reward to anyone coming up with a working model of an ACCS system. So far, no one has claimed it. What does this tell us? Basically, we have no working solution, while the carbon concentration increases by 1ppm per year, and the longer we resist finding a solution to the problem, the more serious the situation will get. Other techniques include shielding the planet with an orbital belt of solar heat absorbing/reflecting material, and increasing the albedo (reflectivity) of Earth's surface, e.g. painting all roofs white.

Also, we have to find some way to de-acidify the oceans. Due to ocean acidification, the End-Permian mass extinction mentioned above wiped out ALL the corals. The present day corals were re-evolved anew in first the 10 million years of the succeeding Triassic period. Unless we could some how reduce the acidity of the present-day oceans, ALL the corals will be wiped out, again. Since plankton is the foundation of the marine food pyramid, if the plankton goes, so will the fish and marine mammals, including the seals, dolphins and whales. This too is geo-engineering. Do we have a working model right now? Not that I know of.

As I said, if anyhone has a better idea, please share it with us, but the most brilliant technological minds have been working on the problem for years, so, lay people will likely not come up with anything new.

Next comes an even more daunting problem. Where do we find the money for these tasks. Bear in mind that a global ACCS system will not produce ANY immediate financial pay off (profit), so, no industry will touch it, nor will any national government, because each dollar sunk into ACCS is one dollar removed from, say the military. And to solve these problems will require not a few dollars, but over $1 trillion in the first decade alone. So, where does this money come from? This I have never read anywhere, so, I have to propose it. Good thing I mentioned the military, because this is the only place I can think of where the money can come from. Current, the world is collectively spending $1.5 trillion a year on military expenditure. If all nations on Earth agree to cut their own military by 10% a year over the next decade, we'd have $1.5 trillion this decade to solve our planet's environmental problems, for the long term survival of life on Earth.

Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)
www.DearHomoSapiens.blogspot.com (AM's 3rd-book-in-the-making)

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