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1 Daniel Ballard  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 7:58:42am

Just terrifying. It's really looks like it's too late.

2 Interesting Times  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 8:14:04am

re: #1 Daniel Ballard

I didn't quote that particular section above, but Prof. Wadhams seems to think the situation is desperate enough to warrant geoengineering:

In an email to the Guardian he says: "Climate change is no longer something we can aim to do something about in a few decades' time, and that we must not only urgently reduce CO2 emissions but must urgently examine other ways of slowing global warming, such as the various geoengineering ideas that have been put forward."

Normally such a thing is anathema to others in the climate movement, because they see it as a denier/delayer tactic to avoid CO2 mitigation. I've always felt the two are in no way mutually exclusive, and the situation is desperate enough that we need to do both. When you think about it, we geoengineered our way into this mess, so can we geoengineer our way out of it? We'd better figure out a way soon, for the sake of every person under 50.

3 lostlakehiker  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 8:48:33am

I think Prof. Waldham is rather out on a limb here. I've read of some simulations in which the Arctic was posited ice free this year. Going forward from there, those simulations found that the Arctic regrew a sea ice cap of some size. It's just not warm enough there, yet, to allow for open seas on September 1 at the pole itself and in the region between there and Greenland.

More likely, we will see a continued downward trend in Arctic sea ice, with the NW passage open to traffic escorted by icebreakers during August and part of September. The general breakup of the polar cap will probably come some 20 to 50 years later.

The trouble with end-is-near predictions is that when they don't pan out, people dismiss all the science, not just the speculative part.

As to geoengineering, it's an interesting idea and it might be necessary at some point. But to embark upon it while the climate is still tolerable, and in the absence of any agreement on CO2 reduction, is to sow the wind.

What will become of us if we slip into an agreeable routine of dumping first a little, then more, SO2 into the stratosphere, all the while merrily burning as much coal as we can get at?

Let there be a lapse in our diligent attention to the geoengineering task, and world temperatures would rocket up. No time for evolution to keep in step with the changes. No time, even, for our own industry. Seas would rise year by year, not decade by decade. Crops that had been OK one year would fail 5 years later. All of this at a time when we were least able to cope, because of the same civilizational stutter that caused us to drop the ball on the geonengineering in the first place.

The money that might now be spent on geoengineering could better be spent on R&D into wind and solar. These technologies are improving steadily, even rapidly, but with yet more R&D they could make faster progress. Major spending now on R&D will minimize the cost, and maximize the impact and scale of what we can achieve in the way of mass conversion of our economy to wind, solar, nuclear, and other non-fossil fuel energy.

Doing it that way gives the added bonus that we needn't make the sky permanently milky and hazy. Clear blue skies won't be a myth and an inexplicable metaphor to our descendants, but a birthright we vouchsafed them.

4 dragonath  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 8:58:55am

Slow or fast, it's still depressing. I wonder if people will remember all those National Review articles stating "Polar Bears are good swimmers" when that species starts to go the way of the Thylacine.

5 researchok  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 9:44:07am

re: #3 lostlakehiker

Very intresting remarks.

The 'now what?' and the possible responses seem to be just as contentious as the subject matter itself.

Do you know of anybody who is looking at possible responses in an organized manner?

6 Interesting Times  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 11:59:16am

re: #3 lostlakehiker

To clarify, I'm not talking about geoengineering instead of mitigation, but both. And the kind of geoengineering I have in mind as being helpful rather than harmful unfortunately does not yet exist (i.e. some kind of super-photosynthesis that sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere - I'm hoping that advances in genetic engineering could make it so). Aerosol spraying is the hail-Mary, last-ditch method which should be avoided at all costs...though a large-enough methane release could leave humanity with little choice.

As for speed of Arctic melt, it's already happening much faster than the IPCC predicted, so I'm willing to give Prof. Wadhams the benefit of the doubt.

7 aagcobb  Mon, Sep 17, 2012 2:43:18pm

Isn't LVQ the global warming expert? Wonder what he thinks.


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