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1 Mad Prophet Ludwig  Mon, Dec 6, 2010 12:00:29pm

Just to reiterate. We are currently due for a 4 degree warmer world by 2060-2070.

We do not have the time as a species for political shenanigans.

4 degrees is massive crop failures, loss of drinking water, flooding of coastlines spread of contagion and hundreds of millions of climate refugees. Growing dead zones in the ocean will also have many terrible and rippling consequences. What are considered freak storms will be much more common.

We are on track for a 5 or six degree world by 2100.

5 degrees is the collapse of civilization as we know it. Major cities will be washed away. Major rivers will dry up. Global food production will drop to the extent billions starve. Contagion will still spread. What are considered storms of the century will happen regularly.

6 degrees is mass extinctions. Possibly including our own.

2 lostlakehiker  Mon, Dec 6, 2010 1:02:55pm

Peter Ward's new book "Flooded Earth" gives some scenarios. He tries to not be too pessimistic. The mass extinction chapter does not include our own.

We, as a species, are as tough as cockroaches. We can live at damned near any altitude, so we can escape some really bad air. We can live at damned near any latitude, in damned near any temperature.

We will probably pull through as a species, however bad it gets. That's the good news. The bad news is, no birds make it. Too much sulfur fumes in the air, and their lungs suck it up. Our livestock doesn't make it either, for the most part. Perhaps goats. They're survivors too.

His optimistic scenario includes considerable efforts, from now going forward, at emissions reductions. But it also assumes a certain amount of geoengineering.

We can put particulate sulfur into the stratosphere, a megaton a year. On the scale of the earth, it's not that much. The earth has on the order of 10^8 square miles surface area, so we're looking at 10 kg per square mile per year fallout from that. It might be bearable, at least as a stopgap until we could get something better in place.

We can raise crops and char the waste foliage instead of just leaving it to rot and oxidize. If the charcoal thus generated is buried, plowed under, then that much CO2 has been removed from circulation. This can go on for quite a while before the soil becomes too much like coal to till.

His mid-range scenario has us ducking the sulfur-fuming ocean but taking all the other hits. Poor Holland---3 million dead in one night, after record winter rains [not snow!] flood down the Rhine, only to collide with a winter storm surge pushing already higher seas inland.

Bangladesh has its own troubles, in the story. As land becomes ever scarcer, Bangladesh tries its luck with invading an India that has problems of its own, including nothing much to spare for conventional military forces. Nuclear weapons will stop any invasion.

This is the mid-range! This is what a "C" for today's politicans, grading on the curve, brings.

Even an "A' means that our daytime skies are always murky, washed out whitish no-fun, like Beijing is now.

The world we enjoy today is not going to be there for our descendants. The only remaining question is the scale of the tragedy we have brought down on ourselves. It's a big question; there is a world of difference, literally, between losing this and that city, losing this and that nation, and losing civilization and being thrown back to multi-millennium epochs of subsistence agriculture in a world that is being poison gassed by sulfur-metabolizing bacteria.

3 Mad Prophet Ludwig  Mon, Dec 6, 2010 1:23:07pm

re: #2 lostlakehiker

Putting sulfur in the air means sulfuric acid rain. That kills the flora that would do the scrubbing of the CO2. That is a very bad idea.

4 lostlakehiker  Mon, Dec 6, 2010 1:39:04pm

re: #3 LudwigVanQuixote

Putting sulfur in the air means sulfuric acid rain. That kills the flora that would do the scrubbing of the CO2. That is a very bad idea.

I'm not a climate scientist, but Paul Crutzen is. wikipedia on Paul Crutzen.

He has a Nobel prize. If there's a reason why it's a bad idea, it has to be a pretty subtle one because Nobel prize winners are not utter fools in their own area of expertise. As always with poisons, the dose makes the poison. Putting a little sulfur in the air is different from putting in more. If we could get a big enough bang of cooling for a small enough buck of sulfur pollution, the idea could be workable.

5 Mad Prophet Ludwig  Mon, Dec 6, 2010 2:06:00pm

re: #4 lostlakehiker

I'm not a climate scientist, but Paul Crutzen is. wikipedia on Paul Crutzen.

He has a Nobel prize. If there's a reason why it's a bad idea, it has to be a pretty subtle one because Nobel prize winners are not utter fools in their own area of expertise. As always with poisons, the dose makes the poison. Putting a little sulfur in the air is different from putting in more. If we could get a big enough bang of cooling for a small enough buck of sulfur pollution, the idea could be workable.

And you are taking him out of context.

He is a chemist! Of course he knows that sulfur and sulfur dioxide in the air is going to produce acid rain.

His argument is that if we continue to be utter idiots about climate change, doing something that disastrous might be our only option to stave off the inevitable. The problem is that we will have to keep adding the sulfur to the air while the CO2 stays up there for centuries.

As we start massive dumping of sulfur into the atmosphere, that becomes its own problem, however, it is one that kills us less quickly. The hope would be that the limited time it buys us could possible allow for some form of as yet undiscovered mitigation strategy. It is triage and a stopgap.

He is not saying we should do it. He is saying we might be forced to in a case of loose a limb or die now. Better to not have to make that choice.


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