Global Warming: Problem Solved!

Well, maybe not quite yet, but perhaps geo-engineering may provide an alternative, vastly more cost-effective means of halting global warming, oops, climate change, than reducing carbon emissions.

On today’s GPS program, Fareed Zakaria spoke with Nathan Myhrvold (formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft) about this and other projects his company Intellectual Ventures is presently investigating.

Steven Levitt has also suggested a similar geo-engineering approach to the problem in his latest book.

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32 Comments

Filed under Environmental Policy

32 responses to “Global Warming: Problem Solved!

  1. The Leavitt book’s chapter on global warming got scorched by every climatologist and economist on the planet. The spewing sulphur thing is probably the most obviously stupid means of geo-engineering. Pump it up here it comes down as pollution in someone elses country. Also doesn’t touch ocean acidification. Plus if you stop without also cutting back C02, all the warming catches up with you real quick.

  2. DavidCOG

    > …vastly more cost-effective means of halting global warming, oops, climate change, than reducing carbon emissions.

    It’s been called Anthropogenic Climate Change for decades. That’s why it’s the IPCC and not the IPGW – and that body was formed in 1988. Oops.

    Have you heard of ‘ocean acidification’? You might want to go do some reading on that before believing that some non-existent technology is going to solve the problem of CO2 emissions.

    You might also want to ponder on how much it would cost to deploy a technology (which doesn’t currently exist) and have it running every minute of every day to counteract the billions of tons of CO2 that humans pump out every year.

    There’s a reason there is no serious discussion of using geoengineering in place of CO2 reduction – it’s a dumb idea.

    P.S. You might want to do a little research on the response to Levitt’s book. It was rubbished by climate scientists, economists and various other expert commentators.

  3. Yeah, let’s go for it! And carbon capture and storage, too! Let’s try to fix technological problems with even more technology!

    Unfortunately, the root causes will have to be addressed some time, regardless of a comparatively cheap bandaid fix in the present.

  4. David — You might also want to ponder on how much it would cost to deploy a technology (which doesn’t currently exist) and have it running every minute of every day to counteract the billions of tons of CO2 that humans pump out every year.

    Might it be less than the $1 trillion estimated to save small island nations that nobody has ever heard of before? Or the untold billions/trillions of dollars required to help 3rd world countries “mitigate” the effects of climate change?

  5. BCL — The Leavitt [sic] book’s chapter on global warming got scorched by every climatologist and economist on the planet.

    Wow. Imagine that… EVERY climatologist and economist on the planet in agreement. That truly is a singular achievement of historic proportions!

  6. Ryan — Let’s try to fix technological problems with even more technology!

    I believe that’s the nature of the game, yes.

  7. MoS

    Unfortunately, Red, BCL is right on this one. This is not a new idea. It has been explored, very carefully. It’s no accident Myhrvold doesn’t even mention that. What you’ve posted is a lovely, totally one-sided argument.

  8. Mass genocide until we’re down to about 100,000,000 people seems cheapest, and, heck, we already know how to do that! Cheap, and war is always good for the economy!

    Seriously, I worry about unintended effects wrt this idea.

    CO2 does stay aloft for a long time, but CO2 kept at current levels, or near to it, would not be a substantial problem… we think.

    He does state that there’s lots of work to be done to make sure this would even work. And, he argues this is something to do only if we are clearly facing hitting a tipping point. Those are important caveats.

    For example, his proposal would do a number on the ozone layer: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/04/pumping-sulfate-particles.php

    Of course, denialists note: This is based on modeling. So, it can never be right… LOL.

    Climategate regarding additional transparency: Grants will need to reflect that need. There’s a lot of extra work required to redefine “replication of results” to also mean being able to reverse engineer line by line, data by data what was done in any any model. The problem is with placing all of the meta data online — that is, the information describing all the work and justifications done on the data.

    There’s also some ongoing work on the reviews of peers being anonymously published so that a papers’ peer-review criticisms while under development are available.

    As for reproducibility of results, well, that’s been done. “Hockey sticks” all over the place using different data, different researchers. And *sigh* not that paleoclimatology is the be all and end all of Global Warming science.

    Re: superfreakonomics

    Global warming from waste heat is actually not very significant compared to trapping heat due to CO2 emissions. Also, think of the difference between dark solar cells on a dark roof and the roof alone. Both absorb heat, but at least the cells are converting some of it. And, over time, the cut back in electricity generated by dirty sources like coal reduces overall CO2 emissions, even after accounting for manufacturing the solar cells. As for reducing albedo in deserts, the math shows this isn’t a significant issue: see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/10/an-open-letter-to-steve-levitt/

    ===
    Still, fascinating issue. Always think outside of the box. What is needed is *some* research into this with published peer-review papers.

  9. Well, we’d better come up with some kind of alternative solution because reducing CO2 emissions to any significant degree (no pun intended) is simply NOT going to happen.

    So even if one rejects Myhrvold’s suggestion as unworkable, the fact remains that all of the proposals to reduce GHG output that are currently on the table, even if fully realized, won’t make much of a dent in the problem (at least not according to the U.N. itself).

  10. “The nature of the game” mostly has to do with construction, efficiency and conservation of the technology we have already as well as intelligent systems design. Geo-engineering is untested, and could have unintended consequences much worse than actual climate change.

    The notion that we can keep carrying on is delusional. I’m sure if the folks on Easter Island discovered some more trees, they would have just cut them down–only later. The piper always comes calling eventually.

    You might be right… there may be dick-all chance of cutting greenhouse gasses thanks to the perversely myopic powers of this world. That doesn’t make these proposals any less dangerous, and I fear an excuse to take the easy way out with disastrous results.

  11. I’m certainly not averse to discovering an “easy way out” if such a thing is possible.

  12. Guzzeuntite

    “I believe that’s the nature of the game, yes.” – RT

  13. billg

    Until there are viable alternative sources of energy humans will have to burn fossil fuels to survive, it is a basic fact that seems to get lost in the C02 arguement. Canada’s economy right now is floating because of the sale of fossil fuels. Our social programs, health care and old age benefits all surviving right now mostly due to the useage and sale of fossil fuels. It has to change, but, it wont until alternative energy such as wind, solar, nuclear and hydrogen sources are funded and developed. You Libs want an election game changer? If the LPC comes up with a platform of R&D money for alternative fuel, full tuition for any high school student who can qualify for the math and science’s in regards to research I’ll not only vote for them I’ll work for them.

  14. That’s a vastly problem to solve, thanks to share this news.

  15. billg.

    Best post here today.

    So often, we see things from only one perspective.. until something happens to hit us in the face. The “profit” of big business was unfair to organized labor, until we started shutting down auto plants because the profit was no longer there.

    So much of society is symbiotic. Loss of revenue in Alberta oil sands, perhaps, will turn Alberta from a “have” (sending money, say, to Quebec) to a “have not” province (putting their hands out TO Quebec).

    As billg alludes to, because tax is paid on “profit”, when profit goes down, well, government revenue goes down. And that means less money for things like health care and education and other social programs.

    So, except for the most strident communist.. and they are thankfully in dwindling supply, there is a need for a healthy business economy, not just for the wealthy, but also for the poor.

    We can shut the oil sands down.. and in the bargain, have, at best, a small impact on the climate relative to places like, say, China and the U.S., but the reality will be real lost jobs and real lost government revenue. With nothing to replace it.

    Whether you agree with the concept of carbon capture a la the Alberta government or not.. I might suggest that for the benefit of the planet and our own self-interest, Copenhagen/Kyoto money might be better spent funding real research and industry related to alternative energy INSIDE our country.

  16. I agree with bill and Rob. I recall reading an article in CB a couple months ago about the clean energy industry. The Canadian innovators they profiled were all upping and leaving for Germany where the government was willing to support them through technology grants and tax incentives. The entrepreuners wanted desperately to stay in Canada but the governments just refused to play ball, to the same degree that other developed nations are willing to. A new industry just slipping past us out of pure laziness and an assumption that oil and gas will always pay our bills.

  17. Ti-Guy

    I agree with bill and Rob.

    Well, they’re part of the problem. There’s isn’t going to be much incentive to develop alternatives so long as Alberta (and its bought-and-paid-for gang in Ottawa) are hell-bent on squeezing every last cent of value out of the tar sands. They don’t even care if manufacturing along with the centres of educational excellence in the East disappear completely in the short- to medium term or if they have to dangle “oil security” in front of the Americans like crack to an addict to do it.

  18. Ti-Guy

    By the way, Shiner nice post over at your blog. I’m always encouraged by stories of “Conservatives” who’ve stepped back from the brink and have rejoined us here in the reality-based world.

    Rob and billg have a ways to go yet, but they show signs of being redeemable. 😉

  19. Thanks Ti-Guy. It really didn’t take that much exposure to the “progressive” blogosphere to realize just how divorced from the real world the new right is. The last American presidential election kicked the shit out of what few feelings of attachment I had left to those on the right.

  20. Oh Shiner.. I don’t think we’ve lost you yet.. and deep down, TG is a conservative-in-waiting as well.. he’s just in denial for the moment 🙂

  21. Though, seriously, I think there are those who currently are camped out in liberalland and conservativeland who are, deep down, just wanting to see a government who is devoted to good ideas that work.. not following some dogmatic effort based upon some warped ideology that probably ceased to have relevance some time ago.

  22. Navvy

    By the way, please excuse the state of things over there. I had a brief interest in website design and codes back in high school, but bolding text was about as far as I got. So, I’m reliant on blogspot templates and gidgets or widgets or whatever the heck they’re called.

    Rob, I’ve followed your blog and, while I seldom agree with you completely, you’re certainly a refreshing voice of moderation on the right.

  23. Navvy

    And yes, Navvy=Shiner. 😉

  24. Navvy.. the trick.. one day, might be a “refreshing voice of moderation”. Period. With no further qualification that it’s either “left” or “right”.

    I’ve said it before, but for the obvious confusion the acronym would raise, it would be interesting to start a “Non Dogmatic Party”.

    Problem is.. it would appear without preying on the stupidity of the masses and creating partisan hysteria, we’d never get elected.

  25. Ti-Guy

    Oh Shiner.. I don’t think we’ve lost you yet.. and deep down, TG is a conservative-in-waiting as well.. he’s just in denial for the moment

    In your dreams. I don’t believe there’s any chance of most “Conservatives” coming back to reality anytime soon. And as long as the CPC remains a home for Western and Southern Ontarian populists, the Party will not appeal to me. There is a cultural divide there that cannot be bridged for people like me. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just not a group of people I identify with at all.

    In any case, I’m not looking for people to agree with me all the time. I just want irrationality banished from public discourse and from our governments.

    If you can’t help with that, the least you can is not encourage it as much as you do. You could work harder to keep rational conservatives in your own Party by making sure there’s a place for them; Liberals will never be much of an alternative.

  26. TofKW

    You could work harder to keep rational conservatives in your own Party by making sure there’s a place for them; Liberals will never be much of an alternative.

    I believe David Orchard and Scott Brison are the only high priority former PCers that went over to the dark side. Joe Clark gave half-hearted support to the LPC back in the 2004 election, but has not endorsed anyone since because neither large party offered much hope.

    I figure Ti- has a point as most of us tend to be uncommitted, though I have a couple of old PC party member friends who’ve jumped into the Greens.

  27. I would be hard-pressed to find anyone who feels strongly alligned to the broad policy of any particular party right now.. in the Conservative party, there is this divide between those who still feel the creepy hand of social conservatism luring about (so-called ‘law and order’ issues for example) and others who, yet, find the party too far left, particularly regarding fiscal issues..

    The Liberals I think have a similar divide with the Bob Rae crowd trying to drag the party to the left as hard as possible, and, probably, the Ignatieff crowd trying to move it back to centre, or in some respecs, even centre right which really was the potential for Paul Martin’s government..

    And what it keeps coming down to, is a lot of people are just lost looking for someone to “stand for something”, without being close-minded partisan zealots. It’s a fine balance.. but its a balance the public is starving for.

  28. Drake

    “…the Ignatieff crowd trying to move it back to centre…”

    Iggy’s way to the right of the Liberal Party of Canada establishment. As we all know, he spent almost his entire adult life in England and the U.S. where the entire political culture is further to the right than Canada’s. And even in those countries, he could be counted on to defend the Thatcher and Bush administrations.

    Iggy’s center is not Canada’s center. The Liberal rank and file know it, and don’t like it. Harper’s straddling the place on the political spectrum where Iggy’d like to be. And that’s his big problem.

  29. Okhropir rumiani

    I’m no scientist but I wonder if putting aerosols in the atmosphere wouldn’t have consequences to the productivity of crops.

    Warming would stop, but light would be reduced. And plants don’t produce food from heat but from light.

    So maybe stripping CO2 from the atomosphere would be better.

  30. Ti-Guy

    Let’s try the space elevator again.

  31. billg

    I’m redeemable? That calls for a cold beer..something Conservative…Blue Light…:)
    Picked up my daughter and some of her friends from Toronto yesterday…first year University.
    They just finished a “Copenhagen” hunger strike.. ugh!!… its gonna be a long holiday.

  32. Ti-Guy

    They just finished a “Copenhagen” hunger strike.. ugh!!… its gonna be a long holiday.

    Quickest way to get one of your kids to abandon something is to show enthusiasm for it.

    Live and learn, Billg. 😉

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