Geoengineering: Or how I learned to stop worrying and love Climate Change

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by Espaldapalabras, Nov 9, 2010.

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  1. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    First of all this thread is not to debate Anthropogenic Climate Change, because if you don't believe all those coal plants, factories, and oil slicks are really doing anything, I don't see why you'd worry about few more planes in the air.

    http://www.economist.com/node/17414216


    WikiLink

    The primary questions as I see them are:

    What effects will these actions have on humanity?
    Are those effects a greater net gain or loss for humanity?
    What are the effects on the planet as a whole?
    What is our moral duty to the natural ecosystem if we have such control over it?
    Whose interests does any Geoengineering serve?
    Do those whom it benefits owe anything to those it does not?
    How would such a debt be paid?

    I thi
  2. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Geoengineering should not be looked at as a solution to climate change.

    It's experimental, un-tested, and there's a lot that could could wrong if the test "fails." The biosphere is an integrated system, we could mess the whole thing up even more. Perhaps the Earth will have a way with dealing with this naturally, and then our actions stop it, making things even worse.

    There's also the financial expenses.

    Nevermind if we are actually technologically capable to fully implement anything like this.



    That's not what scientists are saying at all.

    Scientists used to say that we were coming close to a tipping point, a point of no return, when it would become impossible to reverse the climate changes happening. That we should cut back on pollution and habitat destruction, before we reached that point.

    Now some scientists are saying that point may have already been reached. That now it's already too late. Too late to prevent massive changes to the global environment being caused by our pollution, that we may have already passed a few tipping points that can't be undone even if we suddenly stopped all pollution and development. So that's why some of them are arguing for geo-engineering as a solution, that the environment may continue to trend away from human-friendly climates without further human intervention.

    Also, more catastrophic tipping points are still possible if we stay on the current trajectory. So we definitely shouldn't think "we passed the tipping point, now we can stop caring, it's out of our control, nothing else can go wrong now."

    But I do not think geoengineering is a solution, there's still so much we do not understand, we may end up just exaggerating the environmental problems.
  3. Raven Administrator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 5, 1998
    star 6

    I recently read Whole Earth Discipline by Stewart Brand. It gets into geoengineering a bit, and he's in favor of it. However, while I find is arguments for bioengineering, large cities and nuclear power to be quite solid and convincing, his arguments in favor of geoengineering basically boil down to "this might work the way we expect, and the alternative is probably worse, so what have we got to lose?"

    If we see ice cap melting trigger a gulf stream logjam that causes Europe and eastern North America to drop to Siberia-like lows, it might be time to do something. We can survive a winter or two like that, and start trying to engineer out climate. Until then, increasingly erratic weather might make farmers pull their hair out and might cause some food crisis in some areas at some times, but for the moment we can survive that handily in the western world.

    For now.
  4. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Efforts to control emissions ahead of any climate change are already trending toward complete and irrevocable failure. China and India are increasing fossil fuel consumption at a breathtaking clip. If there is a shortfall in oil supply as demand increases, a vast global free for all of un-carbon sequestered coal burning will be the last ditch effort to fill in some of the gap.

    At some point down the road, geoengineering will be the only option left to us to try to rebalance the global environment. The question of course is whether in 50-75 years when we've exhausted the last of the world's fossil fuel supplies we can access the energy that will be needed.

    Climate change, frankly, is the least of our worries at this point. Geoengineering will be as unncessary as it is out of our energy reach in any case when the human population settles back below 1 billion by the turn of the century.
  5. kingthlayer Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 7, 2003
    star 4
    You mean to say that all human population will be less than the current population of India by 2100?

    It isn't possible to predict such things. Who in 1910 would have predicted a moon landing in 60 years, or the rise of an American-led world order in 40 years, or a global economic depression in 20 years? Almost everyone was oblivious to a world war coming in 4..
  6. SithLordDarthRichie London CR

    Chapter Rep
    Member Since:
    Oct 3, 2003
    star 8
    Geoengineering...with what trees?
    We are causing massive deforestation, if we left things as they were then natural geoengineering would've solved most of this years ago. The sea and rainforests could absorb up to half the emmitted levels of carbon dioxide that we produced, but removing trees at a huge rate combined with melting glaciers and rising sea temperatures have rendered much of Earth's defense useless.

    We could build artificial Carbon dioxide holders, but what does that teach us?
    The point of promoting renewable energy is not just to combat global warming, it is to utilise the renewable resources of Earth in a way that doesn't damage it. Stripping it of finite resources only serves to destroy it and ultimately ourselves.

    We have a duty of care to the Earth and the species in it, especially as many have been around much longer than we have. If we can't even protect the species we are killing, how can we be expected to combat climate change effectively?
  7. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    Human depopulation is the most practical and potentially effective means of geoengineering available to us. With or without our help, most likely with, the earth will rebalance by ridding itself of most humans.
  8. Vaderize03 Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 25, 1999
    star 5
    Jabba is correct.

    The most likely avenue for this is disease. As humans encroach deeper and deeper into ecosystems with which we have had no exposure during evolution, we encounter new diseases to which the human population lacks any immunity. Ebola is the best example of this. The only reason it hasn't thinned out our ranks by > 90% is that it is very hard to spread, and kills so quickly that it burns itself out before it can ignite a conflagration.

    Eventually, it could mutate, or a common germ, such as influenza, could swap genes with similar bugs to become much more lethal.....or a new virus could emerge entirely. Either way, the biosphere can, and will, re-balance.

    Of course, warfare, most likely over dwindling resources, will likely kill more people than anything else.

    Peace,

    V-03
  9. Jabbadabbado Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 19, 1999
    star 7
    I'd consider widespread disease a mere side effect of the coming food production peak.

    The bid up of the human population from 1 to 2 billion was supported by the large scale global mining of guano that provided a source of both critical nitrogen and phosphorous for agriculture. Global guano supplies were nearing exhaustion and a worldwide crisis scenario when the Haber-Bosch process for creating ammonia fertilizer from natural gas and atmospheric nitrogen was developed. Phosphorous was then obtained by a global expansion of phosphate mining. Combine these seemingly unlimited resources with petroleum driven mechanized farming and bidding up the population to 6 billion was a piece of cake. We leaned more and more heavily on freshwater resources and the draining of underwater aquifers to irrigate all these crops to the point that we have actually raised ocean levels measurably from all the underground freshwater we've pumped up and allowed to flow out to sea.

    Which brings us to a confluence of events:

    -Phosphate rock mining has probably peaked - there is no replacement for phosphorous in agriculture. We will be facing phosphate shortages and crash phosphate reclamation programs to try to mitigate the damage, but the inevitable result will be lower crop yields worldwide.
    -many fossil freshwater resources are nearly exhausted and glacial meltwater has been drastically affected by climate change, not to mention the competition for groundwater between urban, agricultural and industrial uses. The inevitable result of freshwater exhaustion will be lower crop yields worldwide
    -oil production has been at a plateau for going on half a decade. The result of static oil production coupled with a growing population will be the diversion of ever increasing volumes of oil away from other economic activity back into basic food production.

    I don't see a way around widespread famine, coupled of course with pandemics of things like cholera. Genetically modified crops might help mitigate the downward slope. Phosphorous recycling through national sewage reclamation and composting programs will help. Water conservation will help. High oil prices will encourage conservation.

    What it all means is that a much reduced population will have a reduced effect on climate and will be better able to ride out the effects of any climate change that cannot be reduced in the short term. Geoengineering of the type often envisioned will no longer be necessary.

    By 2015, peak food and every nation's ability to access either food supplies directly or indirectly the resources necessary to produce food (phosphorous, ammonia, water and oil), will be the world's most pressing foreign and domestic policy issue.
  10. Lowbacca_1977 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 28, 2006
    star 6
    Vaderize, I'd think more likely would be the odds of superdiseases that are highly resistant being what does it rather than one from a new ecosystem, where you rely on it being able to make the jump into humans.
  11. Ghost Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Oct 13, 2003
    star 6
    Or a disease created, accidentally or intentionally, through bioengineering. That would be more dangerous than nuclear weapons.
  12. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    Planting trees, but in a more badass way!
  13. Espaldapalabras Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 25, 2005
    star 5
    I think the threat of us catching something from nature that would wipe us out pales in comparison to the threat widespread biotechnology poses by giving the keys to create such things into the hands of a wide variety of people.

    Regardless my reference to the power to destroy the planet was to nuclear weapons. Those were just an on/off switch we knew not to touch. Now that we have a dial it makes the decision whether to use it much more complicated.

    And I don't think anyone advocating Geoengineering thinks that this will solve Global Warming, at best it will mitigate it.
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