Compilation: Geoengineering and the global climate EMERGENCY

Painted into a soon to be catastrophic corner, and ALREADY beyond the point of reasonable options, EMERGENCY, least-worst alternatives must be contemplated on a massive scale FAST.

Click image to enlarge.

Nutshell

Geoengineering‘ (geo-e) — the deliberate, large-scale, human intervention in / manipulation of the Earth’s natural systems to attempt to counteract global ‘warming’ (heating) and climate ‘change’ (breakdown, disruption, destabilization — See: climateye 101). Just like we’ve done through the burning of fossil fuels over the last 150 years, and with reckless, accelerated, super(carbon)charged abandon for the past 50 years but, in the (perhaps very near) future, with different methods / technology / intent to:

  • mitigate the devastation already in progress RIGHT NOW / delay / limit future impacts, many of which can no longer be avoided;
  • reverse course — drawdown / extract heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions from the air — with the hope to some day, somehow, undo all the damage.

Difficult as it is to communicate, absorb and process, let alone accept, and as shrill / alarmist as it may sound…

Our shared atmosphere is on an accelerating course to reach a state of potentially unsurvivable global climate extremes during the lives of today’s children and teens. (Compilation: +4°C by 2060s or sooner catastrophic / incompatible with organized civilization.)

Clear, present impacts ALREADY displace millions / KILL hundreds of thousands each year, and compromise the lives of billions RIGHT NOW.

No less than the fate of all generations of all peoples and most species hangs in the balance TODAY.  And only emergency international action at emergency (world war-time) speed FAST *may be* proportional enough to confront the scale, scope and urgency of what is ALREADY the greatest crime against humanity, most life and most future life EVER. (Compilation: Betrayal of Life.)

Wrought with life-or-death, mass extinction(s)-scale (the potential of our own included) ethical, legal, geo-political, social (justice), economic complexity / implications, and considerable opportunity for nefarious government, corporate (profit, delay, inaction), military or rogue (national, scientific, individual) abuse / misuse, geoengineering poses an epic dilemma.

And no individual or combination of methods would be a silver bullet:

  • It is NOT an alternative to the necessity for an emergency energy revolution / transition / transformation from our heavily subsidized, fossil fuel-based global economy to one powered by everlasting (non-burning), ‘zero carbon‘ sources (wind, solar, geothermal, tidal, etc.);

There’s also one other pretty big ‘hiccup’. From, Beyond the carbon price, a Faustian bargain, David Spratt, Climate Code Red, based on Dr. James Hansen’s research in the 2011 report, Earth’s energy imbalance and implications:

“Human activity modifies the impact of the greenhouse effect by the release of airborne particulate pollutants known as aerosols. These include black-carbon soot, organic carbon, sulphates, nitrates, as well as dust from smoke, manufacturing, wind storms, and other sources. Aerosols have a net cooling effect because they reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground and they increase cloud cover. This is popularly known as “global dimming”, because the overall aerosol impact is to mask some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases.

Hansen’s new study estimates this aerosol “dimming” at 1.2ºC degrees (plus or minus 0.2ºC), much higher than previously figured. Aerosols are washed out of the atmosphere by rain on average every 10 days, so their cooling effect is only maintained because of continuing human pollution, the principal source of which is the burning of fossil fuels, which also cause a rise in carbon dioxide levels and global warming that lasts for many centuries.

So on the one hand, we desperately need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to zero, and quickly. Emissions need to fall off a cliff… On the other hand, rapid and deep reductions in fossil fuel emissions (and emissions from burning cleared vegetation from rainforest destruction) will cut the aerosols and their temporary cooling. If all aerosols were removed from the system, about half the 1.2ºC of lost cooling would appear very quickly as a pulse of warming, with the other half following over a few decades.

And that is the Faustian bargain. If we keep burning fossil fuels the way we are, the planet will head towards four degrees of warming by century’s end, and a carrying capacity of less than a billion people. And if we cut emissions rapidly, we lose aerosol cooling and get a pulse of warming that creates very dangerous conditions.”

Dilly of a pickle, eh?

After years of consideration, and with conflicted trepidation, here’s where climateye comes down on this surreal, *almost* unfathomable, predicament:

A large proportion of ALREADY released global heating gases will remain in the atmosphere for a long time (15 to 40% of it persists for 1,000+ years) and our future well-being for centuries to millennia or more, let alone decades, is, no matter what, ALREADY assured to be at significantly greater and, in many places / ways, catastrophic, risk.

There’s a 30 to 40-year latent heat lag in the climate system, most of which (90%) is absorbed by the global ocean(s), which means the last few, super(carbon)charged decades of added heat energy from burned fossil fuels hasn’t even presented itself yet.

Of EMERGENCY, ‘life or extinction’-scale concern are the domino effects of Arctic meltdown that have ALREADY rendered the jet stream much slower, wavier, weaker (watch video) / prone to cause more extreme / prolonged weather events (storms, floods, droughts, wildfires), and threaten the potential, ALREADY increased escape of massive amounts of the powerful heat-trapping greenhouse gas, methane, buried in the frozen permafrost of northern Canada, Siberia and under water ocean shelves, which could very soon become an unstoppable blow torch accelerator of heat feedback. (Compilation: Methane time bomb.)

And despite all of this, political action is nowhere in sight. (Compilation: Betrayal of life.)

Given that:

  • atmospheric concentrations of CO2 (and their clear, present, accelerated impacts) are ALREADY far too high and can ONLY be reduced once emissions STOP / return to ZERO, because ANY further emissions, even if at reduced amounts and rates, will continue to increase total concentrations (and worsen what are ALREADY devastating consequences);
  • the DIRE EMERGENCY of the climate (energy / population / democracy / justice) crisis and the severe impacts ALREADY observed / suffered by the most vulnerable / least culpable peoples and species requires a rapid return to a less than +0.85-degree Celsius (our current, already out of energy balance) world, if we are to attempt to restore the more stable climate that enabled humanity to evolve / civilization to ‘develop’;
  • within mere decades, the epic forces that have been set in motion are predicted to result in intolerable, if not uninhabitable, chaos and ruin EVERYWHERE;
  • there is — not now, not ever — NO known way to reduce / reverse the current amount of heat trapping greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere without geoengineering; NO other way to restore energy balance to the climate — which includes options like reforestation and other current or future potential methods to somehow remove / drawdown GHGs from the air…

without geoengineering, how else can we attempt to ensure any reasonable chance that most life will survive?  How much longer can we afford to wait before a cascade of multiple tipping points sends us into a runaway scenario beyond which no action can counter the heat forcing and abrupt climate shifting (breakdown, disruption, destabilization) momentum we’ve ALREADY set in motion? And when is / was / will it be … too late?

Excerpt from: Time to prepare for the one degree war, Paul Gilding

“Amidst the noise of the day-to-day debates, we have lost sight of the simple logic of the advice coming from the world’s top climate scientists. Despite the uncertainties in the details, the science carries one underlying message from which we can draw only one rational conclusion. It is time to declare a global emergency and mobilise all available resources, political will and human ingenuity towards one task – to reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change to an acceptable level.

Excerpt from: Serious talk about geoengineering better than pious hand-wringing about +2ºC, David Spratt, Climate Code Red

(Quoting Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) “There is a widespread view that a +4°C future is incompatible with an organised global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of eco-systems and has a high probability of not being stable (i.e. +4ºC would be an interim temperature on the way to a much higher equilibrium level).”

David Spratt: “If the Arctic sea-ice goes in a few years and events unfurl as (Professor Peter) Wadhams and the peer-reviewed science suggests, 4 degrees will be difficult to avoid, to put it politely. Then it will be too late to talk about geo-engineering, and the billion or so people left on a hot planet will be wishing like crazy we had taken the idea more seriously. Not because it’s win-win, but because our collective stupidity over the last two decades now makes it the least-worst option.

Necessary action

Only multiple, multi-pronged ‘Marshall Plan / Manhattan Project / Apollo Program‘-scale research / development and, sooner than later, implementation programs, and a coordinated, greater than WW2-equivalent emergency global mass-mobilization at emergency speed, in concert with a rapid transformation to a zero carbon / emission / energy world / global economy as fast and as soon as possible *may* be proportional enough to confront the climate crisis.

Specifics include the necessities to:

  • cool / stop Arctic sea ice melt and somehow encourage it to re-freeze;
  • halt / reverse the rapid acidification and heat absorption of our one, all connected ocean;
  • prevent the growth of oxygen depleted dead-zones, the decimation of coral reefs (home to 25% of all marine species), and the mass die-off of phytoplankton, the base source of food and oxygen that all other life relies on / requires in order to exist, and which has declined by 40% in the northern hemisphere since 1950 (See: Compilation: Phytoplankton, and Compilation: Ocean Acidification);
  • restore ecosystems and their key components like glaciers and other precious fresh water sources, forests, soil, peat lands, and arrest and turn back the steady creep of desertification that is in progress RIGHT NOW over two thirds of all land on the planet;
  • short of the ‘system change‘ ideal, it is, RIGHT NOW, imperative to put a price on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions in proportion to what economists refer to as ‘externalities‘ — the present and future costs (depletion, damage, breakdown, destruction, biodiversity loss, extinctions) incurred to the environment / natural systems humanity and most other life depends on to survive — which are NOT factored into our current economic calculations (video);

But what about that super wicked, ‘Faustian bargain’, problem?  David Spratt again (based on Dr. James Hansen’s research in the 2011 report, Earth’s energy imbalance and implications):

“There are two conclusions that help us find a way out of this maze. The first is that part of the answer is to develop and deploy, at very large scale, methods that draw down carbon from the atmosphere (whether by reforestation, biochar or other means) to reduce the energy imbalance and the warming to come. The second is that some form of geo-engineering, that provides temporary cooling while carbon emissions and aerosols are run down and carbon drawdown is scaled up, is probably the least-worst option…

The choice is between some significant disruption now while we make the transition quickly, or a state of permanent and escalating disruption as the planet’s climate heads into territory where most people and most species will not survive.” ~ Beyond the carbon price: A Faustian bargain, David Spratt, Climate Code Red

Deus ex machina

If this were a movie, it would be difficult to foresee how the ‘heroes’ (most life on Earth) could survive such daunting obstacles without a deus ex machina — an act of God or some unforeseen game changer, usually out of the blue with no basis for expectation.

The use of this plot device is considered poor writing because it indicates that the author was painted into a corner with no reasonable escape plan and, therefore, could not come up with a believable resolution.

This is where we are RIGHT NOW: painted into a soon to be catastrophic corner, and ALREADY beyond the point of reasonable options to ensure our survival.

Like it or not (and I, for one, very much don’t, but the laws of physics simply do not negotiate), EMERGENCY, least-worst alternatives must be contemplated and acted upon on a massive scale — FAST.

Have a look at the videos in the playlist above for an overview.  And check out some of the admittedly voluminous resources below.

More

What is geoengineering?

Urgency

Recommended discussion

Recommended pro leaning, and / or in favour of research or more

Recommended con leaning (and / or critical of research / experimentation)

Canada

Selected reports

Selected books

General + Wikipedia

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