Saturday, December 10, 2011
GEO-ENGINEERING - Earth's Last Resort
We've done it. At this time of unprecedented urgency, we've decided to wait.
After Bush "waited" eight years, and Obama four, we've globally voted to wait some more - not another one year, not two, not three, but four, and then, sure, we'll talk again. We're now down to our last card, and if it's a losing card, we'd be toast. And the way we've been playing our previous cards, it looks like we're probably not going to make it.
But, hey, "It ain't over till it's over", right?
The previous lost cards have led to our current desperate predicament, which is not viable, tenable, feasible, nor sustainable. We are walking into a deadend, where our children will have no future.
1. In the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (1880 AD), the atmospheric carbon concentration was 280 ppm, which was about the maximum the Earth had experienced for the last half million years. 350 ppm is the maximum sustainable, beyond which Runaway Global Warming will begin to take hold. We are now at 390 ppm, rising at about 1 ppm per year, and escalating. The Oil-controlled nations are now talking about an incredible 450 ppm - a suicide scenario.
2. Even supposing no more than 390 ppm, The temperature rise will far exceed the projected 2.0C/3.2F ceiling for this century which, even so, James Hansen opines to be already a formula for disaster. By the look of things, we'll exceed the 2C threshold not in 2100, but likely 2030.
3. As recently as 2006, scientists had thought that the Arctic summer would be ice free by 2100. Now, it has been moved up to some time this decade, right in our face. We have driven the Arctic past its tipping point, meaning that the Albedo Feedback Loop has taken hold, where less ice means more dark ocean water exposed to absorb solar heat, and the faster the remaining ice will melt. The end will be sudden, and its heating effects abrupt.
4. Because the melting ice cap absorbs the Latent Heat of Fusion to the tune of 80 calories per gram of ice melted without any rise in temperature, the melting ice temporarily cools the Arctic. But once the ice is gone, the Arctic summer temperature will skyrocket.
5. With the Arctic temperature skyrocketing, the methane trapped in and under the permafrost on the land surrounding the Arctic Ocean, especially Siberia, and the solid methane hydrate deposits on the undersea continental shelf, will be release into the atmosphere. Even now, at only +0.8C, the permafrost is already melting fast. Methane has been observed being released on land and from the sea in copious quantities. When this happens, the second Arctic Feedback Loop has been started, where the more methane released, the warmer the air will become, the faster the permafrost will melt, and the faster more methane will be released. There are billions of tons of methane waiting to be released in the Arctic alone. If the methane feedback loop goes out of control, the planet will become an oven.
We are now within several years of the Methane Time Bomb detonating, while stupidly burning oil and coal faster than ever before.
Even if we stopped burning yesterday, the CO2 already in the atmosphere will keep om heating the planet for centuries to come, and the M-Bomb will detonate sooner or later. It's just that we are behaving in such a way to make it detonate as soon as possible.
Good thing we're not completely done for. We still have one last card to play. It is not a "bonus" card. It is a card that we will have to play one way or another. As I have pointed out, 350 ppm is the ceiling of sustainability, and we have to lower the atmospheric carbon concentration back down to this level before our children can have a stable world to live in, and the longer we wait, the higher will be the current ppm, and the harder it will be to bring it down to 350.
What I am saying is that we should play this card ASAP, now, when it is 390 ppm, rather than in 2020, at over 400 ppm. Plus, when it comes to 400 ppm, there is no guarantee that the M-Bomb has not detonated. Once it has detonated, the bet is off.
I know what this card is. It is called Geo-Engineering (GE).
Many environmental groups are against it, saying it will slacken the drive to cut down on carbon emissions. I can see this, but, since I've said, we cannot avoid doing Geo-Engineering if we want to stabilize the planet. To reduce the ppm from 390 to 350 needs to be done, and it is Geo-Engineering.
It should be realized is that we have to do BOTH, SIMULTANEOUSLY, and there is no better time than now.
And we should not be over-confident about the strength of this our last card, and should play it with great deliberation. If you see what we've got on this card, you wouldn't be celebrating too soon.
There are two main classes of Geo-Engineering: Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Carbon Removal (CR)
A. Solar Radiation Management
A1. Desert Surface and Arctic Ocean Albedo - This means to cover the desert surface with a highly reflective material that can scatter solar heat back out to space. This might indeed cool the planet down somewhat, but it is just a stop-gap measure. It cannot lower the C-ppm by one iota, nor can it decrease ocean acidification. Also, if we want to go as far as to cover the desert with something, I would much rather have it be solar panels than aluminium foil. Arctic Ocean Albedo means to cover the ice-free part of the Arctic Ocean with white plastic. Again, this might keep the Arctic cooler, but it won't lower the C-ppm, nor ocean acidification, and I would much rather save what remains of the Arctic sea ice as well as the land glaciers from melting off while we still have them.
A2. Solar Radiation filtration - by a range of means from sulphur aerosol to millions of reflective balloons to billions of orbiting space mirrors. Again, these may screen off enough solar radiation to give Earth a break, but at the same time, it is impacting negatively on the solar panels on the surface of the planet. And neither can it reduce the C-ppm nor address ocean acidification.
B. Carbon Removal:
B1. Ocean fertilization, mainly with iron or urea towards encouraging phytoplankton growth which will absorb Ocean carbon, which in turn will reduce ocean acidification.
B2. Atmospheric Carbon Capture, by afforestation, reforestation and "chemical trees".
In all of Geo-Engineering, there is not a single guarantee of success anywhere, but without it we will fail for sure.
Of all Geo-Engineering I favor Afforestation and Reforestation most, but first STOP DEFORESTATION already!
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)