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Topic Title: Geo-engineering: necessary? reliable? safe? ethical?
Topic Summary: On track for 4 deg C rise rather than just dangerous 2C rise, time/safe to geo-engineer?
Created On: 24 November 2012 05:21 PM
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 24 November 2012 05:21 PM
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geoffbenn

Posts: 245
Joined: 08 July 2004

For a long time I've held the position that we should not attempt geo-engineering, and most environmentalists/ecologists will be horrified at the possibility. But what do you think?:

  • reliable/safe/ethical? Taking responsibility for a complex system is fraught with dangers. As engineers we're probably all aware of open loop control systems and positive feedback. Can we get it right, given political instabilities in the world, and potential negative effects on certain parts of the earth?

  • necessary? Instead we should learn to reduce our emissions. But the World Bank summary of existing research now suggests that rather than restricting temperature rises to 2 degrees C (ie. "dangerous climate change"), we are on track for 4 degrees C (who knows what that'll be called..., but not quite Dante's Inferno).
    Four-Degrees Briefing for the World Bank: The Risks of a Future Without Climate Policy
    Humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are breaking new records every year. Hence we're on a path towards 4-degree global warming probably as soon as by the end of this century. This would mean a world of risks beyond the experience of our civilization -- including heat waves, especially in the tropics, a sea-level rise affecting hundreds of millions of people, and regional yield failures impacting global food security. ... "If we venture far beyond the 2-degree guardrail, towards 4 degrees, we risk crossing tipping points in the Earth system." ... an irreversible process that could start soon

    Don't forget that the excess CO2 will still acidify the oceans, and (unilateral) geo-engineering could increase droughts with resultant effects on food security, and conflict...

    So rather than discussing climate science in general, what do engineers think about geo-engineering in particular?

    -------------------------
    Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
    George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
    skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
    sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation

    Edited: 25 November 2012 at 12:49 PM by geoffbenn
  •  25 November 2012 12:49 PM
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    geoffbenn

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    The following interview article arrived in my in box the other day: One of the world's leading geo-engineering proponents, Harvard Professor David Keith

    ...Why the urgency now? Why has the debate changed? ...people were sort of afraid to talk about them in polite company for fear that just talking about it would let people off the hook so they wouldn't cut emissions. .... And one thing that research may show is that this doesn't work as well as we think. And my view is: whether you're somebody who hopes this will work or hopes it doesn't, more knowledge is a good thing. ... might damage the ozone layer ... the honest answer has to be that we don't know ... For sure. There are a bunch of dangers. There are both the dangers of kind of side effects like ozone loss or interfering with atmospheric chemistry in other ways. There's the basic fact that this is not a perfect compensation for CO2. ...

    So for example, carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic and doing these things to cool the planet will do nothing to correct that. So in the end we will have to cut emissions no matter what, but the fact that we have to cut emissions in the long run doesn't mean that we might not want to do things in the short run that actually provide real protection, if in fact they do, protecting people from heat stress or protecting the Arctic from melting.

    So I think we need to get out of the kind of extreme either/or that says you only do this if you can't cut emissions. That's nonsense. Cutting emissions we need to do in order to reduce the risks over the next century or two, but we still might want to do some of this in order to reduce the risks over the next half century and those are really quite distinct things .... I think for better, for worse, what this technology gives us is this enormous kind of leverage and power to alter the climate and to do it with a very small amount of money or material and that power should frighten us, I think, and it presents real deep problems for governance. ... you could imagine India doing it unilaterally ...


    -------------------------
    Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
    George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
    skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
    sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
     25 November 2012 12:50 PM
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    geoffbenn

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    And another summary: US geoengineers to spray sun-reflecting chemicals from balloon
    solar geoengineering could be an inexpensive method to slow down global warming, but other scientists warn that it could have unpredictable, disastrous consequences for the Earth's weather systems and food supplies. Environmental groups fear that the push to make geoengineering a "plan B" for climate change will undermine efforts to reduce carbon emissions. ... multimillion dollar geoengineering research fund provided by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, ... Impacts include the potential for further damage to the ozone layer, and disruption of rainfall, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions - potentially threatening the food supplies of billions of people, ... It will do nothing to decrease levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or halt ocean acidification. And solar geoengineering is likely to increase the risk of climate-related international conflict - given that the modelling to date shows it poses greater risks to the global south. ... a scientific study published last month concluded that solar radiation management could decrease rainfall by 15% in areas of North America and northern Eurasia and by more than 20% in central South America."


    Hopefully now the thread is more digesable...

    -------------------------
    Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
    George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
    skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
    sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
     12 December 2012 01:39 PM
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    westonpa

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    If you get the chance take a look at this program http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00hr6bk if you have not already seen it. Most of the program is the 'normal' stuff which is widely known but in this program an 'energy specialist' is asked to do some calculations with regards to our future energy requirements, and is given some very reasonable guidelines on what those requirements will be. He is asked to work out what energy sources can then provide for those requirements and how quick they would need to be built etc., etc. The results are quite staggering and yet these are additional energy requirements.

    This led me to the conclusion that regardless of CO2 or 'climate change' some major readjustments are going to have to be made at some time. The fact is we need to become more efficient in our use of energy just to have a chance of standing still, so to speak. This means, for example, put on extra clothes and turn the heating down a bit both at home and at work. How many offices do you see which are very cosy and warm in the winter months? How many people still make uncessessary journeys in their cars or on planes? How many business people still fly abroad for meetings when businesses could instead make use of communication tools like Skype? The company I work for committed to being CO2 neutral by 2020 and we have one of the worlds leading energy specialists working for us....he was learning his trade from 30 years ago before it became a popular subject. The company is a high energy user but has cut its energy use by about 35% in 4 years through investment in energy saving projects with regards to lighting, boilers, cooling water systems, resizing of chilled storage areas, etc. Now most of these have a payback in reduced energy costs and minor tax savings etc., however they still require a financial investment and for someone within the company to be able to look at the energy use and work out where savings can be made etc. How many companies are able to do this?

    There remains a huge potential for energy saving but a part of this also requires people to make some changes to their lifestyles and thus far I do not see the appetite for it. Human behaviour is on the whole more inclined to act in the last moment, i.e., when the flames are licking at the door, so to speak, and as we know if at that point the fire is beyond control then all we can do is hope to escape to a safer place. As Mr Hawking said, Earth is our only home and so we have all our eggs in one basket and so let's hope we do not drop the basket.

    We need to reduce our energy usage just to stand still while working on providing new sustainable energy sources.....regardless of whether it is to cut CO2 or just to provide a better standard of living for the bulk of the worlds population. Geo-engineering may have a part to play but there are other better options available at this time, in my opinion.

    Regards.
     14 December 2012 01:13 PM
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    Ipayyoursalary

    Posts: 265
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    Geoff, what problem are we trying to solve here? Temperatures haven't risen this century. Hurricanes and storm strengths are at a record low. Sea levels have been rising at roughly the same 3mm/yr rate for hundreds of years without causing any problems. Crop yields are at record highs. Even your favourite alarmists at the IPCC admitted that warming up to 2oC would be a net benefit - improving crop yields and reducing deaths from cold - chance would be a fine thing - it looks like we're heading for colder times with the sun entering a funk.

    Westonpa, sounds like you haven't heard about the shale gas revolution. There are huge deposits all over the globe. The "Peak Oil" meme is over, done, a busted flush. We've got enough gas to last hundreds of years - and after that nuclear will last us thousands. The Malthusians have been proved wrong yet again. Although I don't expect that'll stop them doomongering.
     14 December 2012 01:59 PM
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    westonpa

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    Ipay, I have heard of the shale gas revolution....it's brought down the energy bills in the USA and the government have just given the go ahead to restart drilling here in the UK. I am all for it.

    Regards.
     04 January 2013 07:51 PM
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    geoffbenn

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    a few relevant links including the latest science:
    Methane leaks suggest fracking benefits exaggerated

    Fracking Methane

    Bridge To Nowhere? NOAA Confirms High Methane Leakage Rate Up To 9% From Gas Fields, Gutting Climate Benefit

    Regards

    -------------------------
    Geoff Benn BSc(Hons) CEng MIET
    George Washington: Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains taken to bring it to light.
    skepticalscience.com: getting skeptical about global warming skepticism
    sourcewatch.org: exposing public opinion manipulation
     18 February 2013 05:39 AM
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    Ipayyoursalary

    Posts: 265
    Joined: 21 November 2009

    Geoff, do you ever post any original thoughts which don't consist exclusively of links to left-wing alarmist rags like 'New Scientist' and 'Climate Progress?'.

    The new scientist article relates to a non-peer reviewed spot check on natural gas seeps. "They found higher levels of methane in the air above the Tara gas field... The team suspect fracking changes the soil structure, letting more methane escape. The work is undergoing peer review."

    Regarding your second link to the notoriously biased Howarth paper, a later paper from Cornell demonstrated their analysis was seriously flawed as did another from the University of Maryland, not to mention this recent EU study which also rubbishes Howarth's claims. But by that time the bogus Howarth claims, so welcomed by the multi-billion dollar green subsidy farming industry, had already travelled several times around the world.

    Edited: 18 February 2013 at 05:52 AM by Ipayyoursalary
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