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Is Geoengineering on the Table?

The AP is reporting that the Obama Administration is considering whether to support geoengineering to combat global climate change.

John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."

Oren:
There is a plausible argument to be made that reflection by particulate pollution masked the actual effect of carbon increases in the 20th century. Given that we've made much better progress in capturing particulates than increasing overall efficiency, this makes a decent amount of sense.

Of course, the last experiment didn't go so well, but I'm all for measured (and tentative) experimentation.
4.8.2009 8:10pm
second history:
Long term human occupation of the Earth is doomed. The money and time spent on futile efforts to thwart climate change would be better spent on preparing the next steps for humankind. What we should be doing is first terraforming the Moon followed by terraforming Mars.
4.8.2009 8:26pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I wonder if Venus wouldn't actually be a better target. Seems like it ought to be easier to get rid of stuff you already have have rather than having to ship in new stuff.

Kinda like how Mt. Rushmore was sculpted by removing rock rather than trying to attach giant concrete faces to an existing mountain.
4.8.2009 8:30pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I don't think our knowledge of the climate system is sufficient to conduct such experiments at this point. Nor is the idea of an irreversible change that credible. I remember Holdren from the 1970s, and in my opinion he's an alarmist.

Holdren authored this 1971 article on population growth. His crackpot co-author, Paul Ehrlich, predicted that 4 billion of people would die of starvation including 65 million Americans. I missed that.

Look at his so-called 5 theorems on population growth. Are they well defined? Do they make sense?

But more seriously Holdren and Chu are giving poor advice to Obama regarding nuclear energy. These are are scared of neutrons.
4.8.2009 8:38pm
second history:
I wonder if Venus wouldn't actually be a better target.

Too close to the sun--it's over 900 degrees F. You need to do it remotely. With the Moon and Mars you would at least be able to establish bases to work from.
4.8.2009 8:45pm
Fub:
"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table."
I'd like to see what will be "on the table" if geomagnetic reversal becomes the next big environmental panic.

It will be all our fault, for using so much electricity that we're sapping the vital magnetic essence of Mother Gaia. Maybe we could save the Earth, or at least some polar bears, by ripping out the electric power grid.
4.8.2009 8:47pm
second history:
Nor is the idea of an irreversible change that credible.

Doesn't matter--still want to leave. ;)
4.8.2009 8:47pm
Barrister's Handshake (mail) (www):
I saw this somewhere...didn't Superman do this once?. I know he threw nukes into the sun. Oh no, wait, it wasn't particles into the air, he just flew around the equator backwards and turned back time.

If Obama could turn back time, if he could find a way, I wonder if he'd take back those pollutants that could hurt you.
4.8.2009 8:53pm
Michael Ejercito (mail) (www):
Geoengineering would be cheaper than a carbon tax.
4.8.2009 8:58pm
Anderson (mail):
Considering anything is fine ... I doubt this one gets off the drawing board.

Coincidentally, here's a VQR article on the idea of global cooling via particles in the air. Note that the leadoff is the volcanic explosion of Tambora in 1815 that made 1816 the year of "the summer that never came." (Via 3QD).
4.8.2009 9:03pm
Chris Bell (mail):
Barrister's Handshake,

I'm pretty sure that was a Calvin &Hobbes cartoon. Calvin turned into Stupendous Man, flew into the Earth to reverse its rotation, and then didn't have to finish his school project because he had one more day.
4.8.2009 9:06pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Second_history:

I think Venus would be a better target. The reason for the high temperature is a runaway greenhouse effect. Really it isn't that much closer to the sun than the earth, so the polar regions might be quite temperate if we could get the atmosphere under control.
4.8.2009 9:11pm
Splunge:
We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.

Uh huh. Except, of course approaches such as...

* Try the all-natural "organic" route of increasing CO2 absorption by planting stuff. Of course, alas, this doesn't produce all those lovely high-tech "green" jobs, since anyone can plant weeds and bury them. More importantly, no massive government research program is needed to figure out how to do it. Boo!

Or how about...

* Instead of replacing one well-understood simple interference in global climate that's been studied for decades with a poorly-understood, complex interference that gets studied for 6 months before implementation -- boy does that sound intelligent, huh? What could go wrong? -- maybe just reduce the known interference as much as is practical, and think of ways to better predict and more economically ameliorate the consequences.

I love how the modern post-modern politician feels it's so much simpler to redefine reality in Orwellian fashion than to openly tackle differences in policy preferences.
4.8.2009 9:11pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
This is where sovereign immunity would be really important.
4.8.2009 9:14pm
Daniel San:
einhverfr,
If we can just get control over Venus' runaway greenhouse effect, couldn't we just get control over our own? Maybe we should terraform the earth.
4.8.2009 9:22pm
Splunge:
The reason for the high temperature is a runaway greenhouse effect

I don't think it matters that much. Venus is roughly half the distance from the Earth as the Sun, which means (inverse square law) it receives four times the solar radiation, and must re-radiate four times as much radiation as the Earth to be in thermal equilibrium.

The energy radiated by a black body (close enough here) goes like the fourth power of its temperature, so for Venus to radiate four times as much energy it should have an average temperature 4^(1/4) = 1.414 times that of the Earth. The Earth averages about 287 K, so Venus with the same greenhouse effect as the Earth would still average about 287*1.414 = 406 K, or 133 degrees C. Not very habitable.

IIRC, this is the argument for why Venus has no water. It all boiled away early on, and was then dissociated into H2 and O2 by solar ultraviolet, with the H2 escaping and the O2 oxidizing something (rocks, sulfur).
4.8.2009 9:29pm
pdxbob:
Anyone want to take a bet on whether or not Hollywood will put out a movie where the earth is destroyed by well-meaning geoengineering experiments?
4.8.2009 9:57pm
pdxbob:

Of course, the last experiment didn't go so well [...]


Thanks for the chuckle of the day.
4.8.2009 10:00pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm pretty sure that was a Calvin &Hobbes cartoon. Calvin turned into Stupendous Man, flew into the Earth to reverse its rotation, and then didn't have to finish his school project because he had one more day.
Chris: Try here.
4.8.2009 10:16pm
FantasiaWHT:
Wow, so the solution for humanity tampering with the climate is... humans tampering with the climate? It's like affirmative action, except affirmative action doesn't result in glaciers in my backyard if it overdone.
4.8.2009 10:17pm
John (mail):
Edward Teller and others suggested this, analyzed it, and found it would not be very expensive, in 1997. The report is here.
4.8.2009 10:20pm
Melancton Smith:
Daniel San wrote:

Maybe we should terraform the earth.


That was my prediction when I encountered the notion of terraforming in SCI FI.

That said, I just know these idiots are going to really hose us up with this BS. The fact that they are considering playing around with this is evidence they need to be locked up where they can't hurt anyone.
4.8.2009 10:22pm
Brooks Lyman (mail):
Velikovsky hypothesized that Venus was 8-900 degrees because of its high internal temperature, not because of insolation, though insolation is certainly a concern. Anyhow, we are probably several hundred years from such an ambition project as totally terraforming another planet. domed or underground bases on Mars or the Moon, even small cities, perhaps, but changing a whole planet including providing (and retaining) an atmosphere, unlikely.
4.8.2009 10:34pm
AndyK (mail):
We spent years getting this stuff out under the Clean Air Act and did a pretty good job, so now we should put it all back. Spare me from people like Holdren and "plausible arguments".
4.8.2009 10:43pm
John Moore (www):
It makes as much sense to geo-engineer our way out of this non-crisis as it does to social-engineer our way out.

Actually it makes more sense, because...

We can *wait* for the geo-engineering. Which means we won't have to do it at all when the ridiculous temperature forecasts are proven wrong (hint: 80-90% of the forecast temperature rise is NOT greenhouse effect). And if we do have to do it, we can use fusion powered lifters or laser lifters or other to-be-developed technology that we don't have today, and won't develop if we mire our economy in non-nuclear reductions of CO2 emissions.

So yes, by all means study geo-engineering!
4.8.2009 10:44pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
For people who proclaim to love nature, some of these folks really want to tinker with Mother Nature way too much for my taste.

Seriously, everybody who thinks they can engineer large scale climate impacts at any level scares me. They are so religiously certain they are doing the right thing, they don't actually do a proper, rigid, thorough analysis. Frankly, climate is chaotic enough (in the mathematical sense) that I don't think one CAN accurately predict the impact of such efforts.

What do we do if they're wrong, and their efforts to "stop global warming" plunge us into a deep freeze, instead? Who do we sue, as we shiver in an igloo in Florida?
4.8.2009 11:01pm
PubliusFL:
Soronel Haetir: I wonder if Venus wouldn't actually be a better target. Seems like it ought to be easier to get rid of stuff you already have have rather than having to ship in new stuff.

Two words: Gravity well. It takes a lot more energy to get rid of stuff you already have than to ship in new stuff when the stuff you already have is sitting at the bottom of a planet's gravity well and has to be raised to escape velocity, while the new stuff just has to be nudged into a slightly different solar orbit to fall into a planet's gravity well.
4.9.2009 12:12am
The Real Pink Pig (mail):
Interesting. Are the environmentalists on the verge of blaming pollution controls for global warming? Or is it only inadvertent pollution that's bad, and intentional pollution is a good thing?
4.9.2009 12:15am
Bama 1L:
Velikovsky hypothesized that Venus was 8-900 degrees because of its high internal temperature, not because of insolation, though insolation is certainly a concern.

Velikovsky? Seriously?

Velikovsky hypothesized that Venus had been ejected from Jupiter during historical times and then careened around the Solar System, coming so close to Earth that the planets exchanged atmospheric gases. Velikovsky's Venus has an atmosphere of hydrocarbons and, being a new planet, emits more energy that it receives from the Sun; the real Venus has an atmosphere of carbon dioxide and, being an old planet, emits less energy than it receives from the Sun.
4.9.2009 12:18am
Real American (mail):
perhaps some Virgin sacrifices are in order.
4.9.2009 12:21am
Gary Imhoff (mail) (www):
Holdren is trying out for the mad scientist role in a very bad movie. "Geoengineering" on this scale is definitely an example of the hubris of the crazed fanatic in the laboratory who assures the politicians and military that his computer simulations prove that his experiment can't have any bad consequences.

The question is whether the Obama administration has cast or will cast anyone in the role of the sane skeptic who steps out from the corner of the lab and says to the general or the politician, "You can't do what he says. That's crazy!"
4.9.2009 12:25am
second history:
perhaps some Virgin sacrifices are in order.

Not enough in this day and age to make a difference.
4.9.2009 12:34am
Kazinski:
I don't think we have anything to worry about right now, they'll be too scared to actually try it during this or the next (God help us) Obama Administration, for fear that there will be a cold snap, like last week, that will be blamed on them.

Perhaps in half a century when, and only if, there has been consistent > .3C per decade warming, then and only then should we consider pulling a stunt like this.

Anybody old enough to have watched the Federal Reserve cut interest rates in the middle of an expansion where the economy is growing at >6%, or seen Congress extend unemployment benefits 3 weeks before the jobless rate collapses should be wary of the government taking climate into its portfolio.
4.9.2009 1:50am
Sonic Charmer (mail) (www):
Of course "geoengineering" is "on the table". If it weren't nobody would ever be talking about combating global warming - which would be, after all, "geoengineering". All methods of trying to consciously engineer some particular future climate are methods "geoengineering". This includes cap-n-trade and a carbon tax.

So the question is not whether "geoengineering" is "on the table". It is, and always has been, for this entire debate. The question is whether and to what extent it is worth it. This depends on costs-benefits. For that reason, multiple methods of geoengineering (i.e. this one) would be good to have in our quiver, rather than just the one (artificially limiting CO2 output via regulation etc).
4.9.2009 7:13am
Brett Bellmore:
Put nuclear power on the table, and I'll be impressed. I suspect this is just a distraction.
4.9.2009 7:40am
Oren:

I don't think our knowledge of the climate system is sufficient to conduct such experiments at this point.

The purpose of experiments is to test the state of our knowledge! Our knowledge will never become sufficient otherwise.
4.9.2009 7:59am
BenFranklin (mail):
Now let's all imagine the outcry if Bush had proposed such tinkering with the environment. He would be raping the planet so that big oil could continue its quest to make the world uninhabitable.

Every impulse Obama has is towards tyranny. It's not enough that he wants the government to have everyone's medical records and to determine what treatments we are allowed to have, it is not enough that he proposed forming an army of child conscripts to do community service work, but the guy can't even resist trying to control the weather.

Of course, if we had ignored the environmentalists all along we would have a thriving nuclear industry and we would be throwing nice, dark particulate matter up into the atmosphere already. The solution becomes the problem becomes the solution... just so long as the government has a chance to interfere, and control, and pillage everything is just peachy.
4.9.2009 9:19am
PubliusFL:
Sonic Charmer: Of course "geoengineering" is "on the table". If it weren't nobody would ever be talking about combating global warming - which would be, after all, "geoengineering". All methods of trying to consciously engineer some particular future climate are methods "geoengineering". This includes cap-n-trade and a carbon tax.

There IS a difference between methods though. On the one hand you have measures of combating global warming that are intended to directly reduce the environmental impact of human activity. There may be a degree of uncertainty about the impact of manmade carbon emissions on the climate, but if you directly reduce (or slow the growth of) carbon emissions you moot the question. Whether carbon emissions were really a problem or not, the climate will continue on its course more like it would if human industry were not present at all. So in an engineering sense (with respect to the climate at least) it's fail-safe.

It's very different to actively geoengineer by first calculating what you estimate to be the impact of carbon emissions on the climate, then come up with some other active approach (like shooting particulates into the atmosphere) that you estimate will have an equal and opposite effect. If you're wrong on either side of the estimation, there's a potential for serious unintended consequences.
4.9.2009 10:21am
Oren:


It's very different to actively geoengineer by first calculating what you estimate to be the impact of carbon emissions on the climate, then come up with some other active approach (like shooting particulates into the atmosphere) that you estimate will have an equal and opposite effect. If you're wrong on either side of the estimation, there's a potential for serious unintended consequences.


Nobody seriously proposes to do it this way!

The idea would be to start with a small test that you calculate is insufficient by 2-3 orders of magnitude, see what it does, and then proceed incrementally (of course, leaving many years in between each successive test to get results.
4.9.2009 12:05pm
Dan Weber (www):
To terraform Venus you would need to get a bunch of CO2 out of the atmosphere. I think that Carl Sagan proposed developing an airborne plant that could consume the CO2, but given that Venus's atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of Earth's, we would have to import a tremendous amount of water for this reaction to happen. I think it was more than all the water on Earth and all the known and suspected ice-teroids in the solar system, but don't quote me on that.

Mars has a very thin atmosphere, and thickening it is, at least compared to Venus, much easier. If you were to steer a frozen asteroid into Mars's orbit and slowly burn it off, it would gradually thicken the atmosphere. There are also industrial things we could do from the surface, like trying to deliberately trigger a greenhouse effect.

Mars would make an excellent laboratory for atmospheric experiments.
4.9.2009 12:15pm
Abdul Abulbul Amir (mail):



The reason for the high temperature is a runaway greenhouse effect


I don't think it matters that much. Venus is roughly half the distance from the Earth as the Sun, which means (inverse square law) it receives four times the solar radiation, and must re-radiate four times as much radiation as the Earth to be in thermal equilibrium.


That ain't all. The surface is normally much warmer at 4:00pm after a day in the sun than at 4:00am after cooling all night. The day on Venus is longer than its year! That makes for a very hot "afternoon" on that planet.

In addition Venus has about 94 times more atmosphere. The weight of that alone would create heat. Plus that atmosphere is almost all CO2, whereas CO2 on earth is a trace gas at well under 0.1%. In short Venus has about 200,000 times more CO2 in its atmosphere and we could never approach even 1% of that even if we burned every drop of oil or ounce of coal on the planet.
4.9.2009 12:44pm
Oren:

The day on Venus is longer than its year! That makes for a very hot "afternoon" on that planet.

I think there would be a large market for both the light side and the dark side.

A retirement community with 24-hour sunlight!
A goth community with 0-hour sunlight!
4.9.2009 1:02pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
As far as doing this as an experiment, I have a hard time beleiving we would be able to measure the effect to fine enough detail to know whether it worked or not. Measuring the changes in a patch of ocean sure, but atmosphere moves around far too much.

There are enough uncertainties in the measurements we are already taking that I would be extremely uncomfortable with any pronouncments made after performing this sort or trial.
4.9.2009 1:06pm
Sonic Charmer (mail) (www):
PubliusFL,

The idea that the difference in 'intent' you cite is important to anything in this debate, let alone makes the methods substantively different, is precisely what I dispute. The fact that one approach would work by reducing humans' 'environmental impact' while the other wouldn't is not relevant to anything. 'Reducing environmental impact' qua environmental impact is not an end in itself; keeping it friendly to humans (by whatever means) is. To say otherwise would be a moral proposition not a scientific or pragmatic one.

The reduce-footprint approach is 'fail-safe' only in the sense that it point s in the direction of making the climate - as you say - 'continue on its course more like it would if human industry were not present at all'. But so what? What's so great about the Human-Industry-Uninfluenced-Climate?

If your goal is something more objectively well-defined and measurable, such as a good climate for humans- and it should be! - there is no a priori reason to call the one 'fail-safe' and the other not or make the distinction you do. It becomes solely a question of desired outcomes, methods to achieve those desired outcomes, and costs vs. benefits. In short, it becomes an engineering problem. Al Gore's proposals (stripped of the moral baggage that permeates his sales pitch just as it permeates your comment) embody one solution approach to that engineering problem. I'm hoping there are others. But it makes things difficult if we cannot separate out the moral from the pragmatic and continue to make artificial distinctions such as that between what is "geoengineering" vs what is supposedly "fail-safe" or "natural".
4.9.2009 1:15pm
PubliusFL:
Sonic Charmer: The idea that the difference in 'intent' you cite is important to anything in this debate, let alone makes the methods substantively different, is precisely what I dispute. The fact that one approach would work by reducing humans' 'environmental impact' while the other wouldn't is not relevant to anything. 'Reducing environmental impact' qua environmental impact is not an end in itself; keeping it friendly to humans (by whatever means) is. To say otherwise would be a moral proposition not a scientific or pragmatic one.

Sorry for using the word "intended," the important difference is in effect not in intent. The people most likely to propose these kind of measures believe human activity has a negative effect on the Earth's climate. From that perspective, there is a real difference between "passive" geoengineering like reducing CO2 emissions (which cannot possibly have a worse effect on the climate than no human activity), and "active" geoengineering like trying to actively counter the effects of CO2 emissions (which can potentially have a worse effect than no human activity. Your point that the "natural" state of the climate is not necessarily the most desirable one from a human perspective is well taken, though.
4.9.2009 3:57pm
John Moore (www):
Sonic Charmer:


So the question is not whether "geoengineering" is "on the table". It is, and always has been, for this entire debate. The question is whether and to what extent it is worth it. This depends on costs-benefits. For that reason, multiple methods of geoengineering (i.e. this one) would be good to have in our quiver, rather than just the one (artificially limiting CO2 output via regulation etc).


This is very often missed in the debate (see below). However, the question also depends upon ideological (or religious) purity of the approach. To many, it is sinful to "actively" geo-engineer as opposed to doping our penance by "reducing our footprint."


PubliusFL

It's very different to actively geoengineer by first calculating what you estimate to be the impact of carbon emissions on the climate, then come up with some other active approach (like shooting particulates into the atmosphere) that you estimate will have an equal and opposite effect. If you're wrong on either side of the estimation, there's a potential for serious unintended consequences.
4.9.2009 3:58pm
John Moore (www):
OOPS - somehow it published in the middle of my edit. Continuing

PubliusFL


It's very different to actively geoengineer by first calculating what you estimate to be the impact of carbon emissions on the climate, then come up with some other active approach (like shooting particulates into the atmosphere) that you estimate will have an equal and opposite effect. If you're wrong on either side of the estimation, there's a potential for serious unintended consequences


The same is true with CO2 emission reductions, for reasons obvious to those of us who hold social engineers to be idiots. CO2 emission reductions will have an impact on a very complex, dynamical system which is poorly understood: society. In addition to massive damage to humanities health and happiness, it may also lead to increased deforestation (result of increased poverty), wars for resources, etc.
4.9.2009 4:00pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Mr Weber:

To terraform Venus you would need to get a bunch of CO2 out of the atmosphere. I think that Carl Sagan proposed developing an airborne plant that could consume the CO2, but given that Venus's atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of Earth's, we would have to import a tremendous amount of water for this reaction to happen. I think it was more than all the water on Earth and all the known and suspected ice-teroids in the solar system, but don't quote me on that.

Mars has a very thin atmosphere, and thickening it is, at least compared to Venus, much easier. If you were to steer a frozen asteroid into Mars's orbit and slowly burn it off, it would gradually thicken the atmosphere. There are also industrial things we could do from the surface, like trying to deliberately trigger a greenhouse effect.


I disagree on both. I actually see terraforming Mars to be next to impossible due to the lack of gravity, hence the difficulty in maintaining an atmosphere. Venus has almost the opposite problem (too much atmosphere).

A second issue has to do with atmospheric makeup. Both Mars and Venus have atmospheres made up of CO2. This means that if/when you start generating O2, the temperature will drop. On Venus, that becomes a good thing, on Mars, that becomes a bad thing.

The third issue is hydrogen supply. Hydrogen supply is important because it affects the ability to generate water and sustain life. In Venus you have H2SO4 in the cloud layer in Mars you would have to import water before even getting started.

AFAICS, the big limitation though is in nitrogen. Neither planet has much nitrogen. A low N2 atmosphere is likely to make creating organisms which can reproduce or even grow very problematic (lack of protein development). However Venus has a higher N2 concentration than does Mars. If we could sequester a fair bit of the CO2 (perhaps by carbon capture), this would help a great deal.

To terraform Venus one would need to:

1) Convert H2SO4 to sulpher and water
2) Convert water and CO2 to sugar and O2.

Each of these would require special airborne microbes. And it would take a long time......

Also you have issues of Venus's solar day (a little over 100 earth days) and more significantly the lack of a magnetic field. I think for Mars, you would have to add atmosphere, and watch the drop in greenhouse gases. In Venus one would need to reduce the overall atmosphere and use what you have.

Honestly, Venus seems like it would pose fewer problems with the exception of the magnetic field.....
4.9.2009 7:35pm
Sonic Charmer (mail) (www):
The people most likely to propose these kind of measures believe human activity has a negative effect on the Earth's climate.

That's right. They do. But this 'belief' is not backed up by anything objective. There is no scientific basis for saying a priori that 'human activity has a negative effect on the Earth's climate'. (All activity?? Uniformly negative?? What's 'negative'??)

This is a moral belief, hence the (essentially religious and Puritanical) conclusion that minimizing the 'impact' of human activity on the climate is an end in itself that we are all required to support.

It is not. I do not.

From that perspective, there is a real difference...


I realize that. But that perspective is flawed and polluted by moralistic content, as I explain above.

"passive" geoengineering like reducing CO2 emissions (which cannot possibly have a worse effect on the climate than no human activity),

Actually I disagree with the spirit of this point. For example, let's say that the more alarmist AGW advocates are correct - that human CO2 emissions have already set us down a course of fairly catastrophic global warming, and we are in a feedback effect.

If that's the case then merely 'reducing CO2 emissions' will not help (such is the nature of a feedback loop). Once you've kicked a ball down the hill and set it rolling, then 'Let's Just Stop Kicking The Ball Down The Hill' is not a good way at all of preventing the ball from smashing into the sandcastle at the bottom. In such a case, active measures (space mirrors! or whatever) are better than none at all, or than 'passive' measures.

But if we focus on the 'passive' measures we will waste time and capital that could have been spent on active ones. In such a situation, then, the 'passive' approach would be counterproductive.

So if the more alarmist AGW believe their own rhetoric, there is no logically consistent basis then for them to stay wedded to the 'passive' approach because of its supposed 'fail-safe' nature. To Holdren's credit (the guy who suggests exploring such measures), it sounds like he is being consistent and logically sound in his approach to the problem he perceives.
4.10.2009 7:58am
Oren:

Actually I disagree with the spirit of this point. For example, let's say that the more alarmist AGW advocates are correct - that human CO2 emissions have already set us down a course of fairly catastrophic global warming, and we are in a feedback effect.

Well, if we are already doomed then there's no point in any case.

I think the reasonable thing is to look at the range of options that the data suggest are plausible and see what can be done. There are plenty of good reasons to switch to nuclear power even if AGW is totally wrong, and it it's right that's just icing on the cake (and if catastrophic AGW is right, it doesn't matter what we do!).
4.10.2009 10:43am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Sonic Charmer:

That's right. They do. But this 'belief' is not backed up by anything objective. There is no scientific basis for saying a priori that 'human activity has a negative effect on the Earth's climate'. (All activity?? Uniformly negative?? What's 'negative'??)


See, I don't get this. Really, the primary impacts of global warming would be:

1) Agricultural zone shifts (economic costs and possibly famines as well)
2) Rising sea levels and property losses (economic costs)
3) Likely more issues with hurricanes (property losses, economic costs, human costs)
4) Some sorts of businesses becoming uneconomical (econimic costs)

Now, a lot of the folk on the left say "like all problems, these will hurt the poor the most." I say "not really. While agricultural zone shifts might hurt the poor, every other major impact will mostly hurt the rich."

So in my opinion, rapid climate change is only a good thing if you want to hurt the rich, i.e. if you are a communist.
4.10.2009 10:50am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
speaking of costs of rising sea levels (not global-warming related in this case but gives you an idea):

On my last trip to Indonesia, we went to a restaurant by the sea. In the way there, we took a detour through a very wealthy oceanside neighborhood. Many people had boats moored in their back yard, etc. Lots of expensive, new SUV's parked on the street, etc. I noticed (to my concern) that in places there was 1-2 inches of sea water on the road. I brought my concern up to my wife.

Later that night, the entire neighborhood was evacuated and was flooded by over 3 feet of sea water (a very high tide....). Most of the cars were not moved (because they were second or third cars), and at that rate there would have been damage to things inside the houses too.

Now, the property losses for the folks living there would have been much less substantial if they didn't own much to start with, and if everyone only had one car, they would have driven it in the evacuation.
4.10.2009 10:57am
John Curran (mail):
I can't help but notice that the Obama administration has undertaken the belief that humans, meaning Democrats, can control the weather.
4.11.2009 9:00am
Sonic Charmer (mail) (www):
Oren,

Well, if we are already doomed then there's no point in any case.

Not quite. In that case there would be no point of sticking with a restrict-CO2-based method only. But there might be other ways of interceding the feedback effect (for example the method described in the above post, perhaps). But restricting CO2 might distract us or impoverish us from being able to try those other methods.

All I was trying to illustrate is that 'let's just restrict CO2' is not nec. the fail-safe, can't-hurt option sometimes painted to be.

I think the reasonable thing is to look at the range of options that the data suggest are plausible and see what can be done.


Bingo. Agreed 100%. Look at range of options and evaluate them on a cost-benefit basis.

It's far from a foregone conclusion that the best option (or even a good option, net-net) involves CO2 restriction. As illustrated above the logic leading to such a conclusion is flawed and based partially on predetermined moral concerns about 'human impact on the environment' and such. This was my point.


einhverfr,


So in my opinion, rapid climate change is only a good thing if you want to hurt the rich, i.e. if you are a communist.


Well, albeit that your point is at least partially tongue-in-cheek, you have a point. It's far from obvious (and AGW advocates have not demonstrated) that the global warming scenario the median global warming advocate predicts would be 'bad', net-net. This would require defining and measuring 'bad' vs 'good' in some way. 'Bad' for whom? 'Good' for whom? That involves value judgments, and brings politics into it. I'm afraid there may be no objective way of deciding.

But even granting the badness of GW arguendo, the CO2-restriction approach is not the only possible one. And in case I do become convinced that the predicted GW would be intolerably bad, I'd like for us to have an array of options to deal with it, not just the one that GW advocates happen to prefer a priori, for reasons of their own. Best,
4.11.2009 11:08am

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