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Summary:

Just what you wanted to hear on a holiday: Thanks to a lack of political action, the controversial practice of geoengineering, or intentionally modifying the global environment, may be the only way to combat climate change in a necessary time frame, according to a group of […]

Just what you wanted to hear on a holiday: Thanks to a lack of political action, the controversial practice of geoengineering, or intentionally modifying the global environment, may be the only way to combat climate change in a necessary time frame, according to a group of scientists.

Researchers Brian Launder of the University of Manchester and Michael Thompson of the University of Cambridge have published a series of papers in the UK’s Royal Society that call for a serious look at a variety of extreme measures to stabilize global warming, like seeding the oceans with iron, injecting sulphur into the upper atmosphere and creating fake clouds over the sea.

The researchers say there have been very few measures put in place to meet carbon emission reductions, and the targets that have been put in place could fall far short. On top of that the researchers say there is new evidence that the Earth’s climate is even more sensitive to carbon emissions than previously thought. This all leads the scientists to conclude that geoengineering techniques — which have long been considered extreme, last resort measures — should be studied and reviewed as possible options to combat climate change.

These geo–scale interventions are undoubtedly risky: but the time may come when they are universally perceived to be less risky than doing nothing.

One of the papers in the group concludes that the practice of fertilizing oceans with iron to boost plankton blooms and sequester carbon through the plankton lifecycle has the “potential to enhance sequestration,” but that much is not known. Researchers need to do more fieldwork and create better mathematical models before scientists can evaluate the practice further, the paper says. We’ve previously covered startups Climos and Planktos, which are trying to create business models off of ocean fertilization.

Geoengineering techniques will undoubtedly have unknown consequences, which could possibly have negative effects on the Earth’s atmosphere. But we agree that more controversial strategies should be evaluated and researched. Here’s our Top 10 List Of Most Controversial Ways to Save the Planet, which we published last November:

  1. Ocean seeding: More iron causes more plankton blooms; plankton eat carbon and when they die sink to the bottom of the ocean, thereby sequestering it.
  2. Re-ice the Arctic: A University of Alberta scientist proposes a fleet of 8,000 barges to re-ice the Arctic with salty ice, thereby cooling the water and keeping the conveyor belt moving.
  3. Sulfur solar shield: Inject sulfur into the upper atmosphere, thereby creating a reflective shield that would keep the Earth cool.
  4. Ocean-cooling pipes: An ocean-cooling pipe that would cool the ocean in front of approaching hurricanes, as well as causing plankton blooms that could act as a CO2 sink.
  5. Cloud seeding: Shooting various things into the clouds to stimulate them into action to create a reflective, cooling cover.
  6. Genetically Modified CO2-Eating Trees: While all trees scrub CO2 from the air and produce the oxygen that we breathe, scientists are looking into genetically modifying trees’ ability to “eat” carbon dioxide.
  7. Fake Plastic CO2-Eating Trees: Modeled on trees’ ability to suck in CO2, these machines would pump air “through a chamber containing sodium hydroxide, which reacts with the CO2 to form sodium carbonate.” After a few more reactions, there’d be pure CO2, which could be injected into the ground like a regular old carbon storage system.
  8. Space mirrors: Using mirrors to reflect sun rays back into space. The problem is that they’d have to be huge and there would have to be a lot of them, and launch costs could be in the thousands of dollars per pound.
  9. Reflective space mesh: Proposed by Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb, this reflective mesh would be placed out in space, about a million miles between the sun and the Earth.
  10. Glacier Blankets: Blanket glaciers with a special material designed to protect high-value Alps skiing territory.

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By Katie Fehrenbacher

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  1. What about jet-packs?

    When can we expect the gov’t to give us all jet-packs to fly from island to island once the sea level increases by 20 feet?

    “These geo–scale interventions are undoubtedly risky…” — ah, yes the unintended consequences of liberal fascism…

  2. OK finally some mention of the necessity and utility of ocean eco-restoration using iron shows up in Earth2Tech. But the reporter Ms. Ferhenbacher continues with use of links to her previous missives in her effort to demean and dismiss the work of Planktos, now Planktos-Science with her misleading statements here on Earth2Tech. Her tactic is to attack and disparage the work of Planktos Science while giving a free ride to all who criticize its efforts.

    But now it seems the world of science is coming to the same conclusion as Planktos Science.

    But lets look at the Earth2Tech view, take for example the mocking dismay and disregard for the name Planktos Science adding the ‘science’ to its name. Had she the slightest bit of integrity she would have read and understood the legal issues clearly defined in SEC filings by Planktos Corp. which left the founders of Planktos with a need to choose a different name for the new private company through which they continue thier work. Rather than check on facts she simply let fly with her biased scientific and business illiterate point of view.

    With the most highly regarded scientific organizations in the world now standing up for the same proposition that the founders of Planktos have long championed – that being research scale projects – she and Earth2Tech apparently see no reason to step back from thier mocking attacks on Planktos and Planktos Science. As the record now shows the research scale projects proposed by are precisely what is being called for in numerous forums.

    That the opponents of this work who engaged in the smear campaign against the work of Planktos is unreported upon by Earth2Tech in spite of the clear evidence. Rather Earth2Tech add thier jeering admonition that Planktos practice poor PR when revealing the nature of these smears. One merely has to read the WWF attack piece on Planktos proposed work near the Galapagos to see the misinformation and utterly anti-science methods employed.

    Read one of the WWF missives at http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/media/press/2007/WWFPresitem973.html . In short it states that the research proposed by Planktos endangered the environment of the Galapagos, it goes into considerable misleading bafflegab science detail.

    The complete distortion of the facts in this release, and many similar by other green groups, stand in stark opposition to the fact that the Galapagos Islands themselves leach over a million tonnes of iron each year into the seas enveloping those islands. This natural iron from the Galapagos creates a vast natural plankton bloom and this results in the marine oasis effect that makes this such a special environment. The fact is that the proposed Planktos research was intending to use 50-100 tonnes of natural iron mineral dust in a region far to the west of the islands and very near where two previous, unopposed, and internationally operated and acclaimed iron restoration bloom experiments had been conducted. In those experiments and in the vast natural iron stimulated bloom that is created by the Galapagos Islands no report has ever been made of the sort of harmful effects WWF cited to scare the media and public into fearing and opposing the work of Planktos.

    This was not an isolated example of what took place in the smear campaign against Planktos, many many more examples of similar lies by these green organizations are readily exposed thanks to the internet.

    What really happened to Planktos Corp. was that the ruthless smear campaign stopped our work last year and delayed our efforts to attempt to discover whether we humans have any hope of saving our oceans and our planet from reverting to a primitive biological ecology similar to what existed 600 million years ago before green plants evolved and made it possible for animal life including species to come into existence. Yes we had to dissolve the public company Planktos Corp. but we have restarted as a private company Planktos Science. Yes this was a severe blow to the work but we are moving ahead once again.

    I urge you to consider how important this work is for life on this small blue planet. The crisis facing the oceans is not a slow moving one like that of the effects of CO2 to create climate change. The hundreds of gigatonnes of fossil CO2 already in our atmosphere and dissolving into the surface ocean is a gigatonne carbon bomb that is alone capable of changing ocean chemistry and ecology beyond repair. Think of this carbon bomb like the chemical shock treatments used to eradicate slime (life) in swimming pools. In such treatments the normal swimming pool chemistry is ‘shocked’ with a super dose of chemicals in a single day. The microscopic life in the pool cannot adapt to this shock as is eradicated. The same super dose of CO2 now impacting the oceans in the first of our gigatonne carbon bombs is having the same effect on an oceanic scale. Already 17% of all green plants in the North Atlantic have been pushed to extinction, the number is 26% in the North Pacific, and 50% in the sub-tropical tropical Pacific. The rate of this extinction of ocean plant life is accelerating very fast as fossil CO2 from the first carbon bomb already airborne changes the surface ocean water to carbonic acid via H2O+CO2=H2CO3. The energy of that carbon bomb is the 10-15 terawatts of energy it took to make that CO2.

    Only by matching the energetics of that chemistry do we have any hope of mitigating the deadly effects. Thanks to Mother Nature the green plants of the ocean can harvest the terawatts of solar energy and compete with that deadly acid reaction and convert the CO2 into living plants, life instead of death for the oceans and ourselves.

    Are you still unsure? Consider the fact that the missing green plants of the oceans were only 30 years ago converting 4-5 billion tonnes (gigatonnes) of CO2 each year into ocean life instead of acidifying ocean death. The crisis of climate change is frequently quantified as being a problem of 6-8 billion tonnes to much CO2 each year accumulating in the air (and oceans). How might restoring those ocean plants be any different than restoring and protecting our rainforests from a rate of extinction that is less severe than the rate of ocean plant extinction.

  3. UK scientists: Geoengineering may be our only hope | greengrowthguys.com Thursday, September 4, 2008

    [...] [via Earth2Tech] [...]

  4. I think you should add damming the Strait of Gibraltar to your top 10 list of controversial theories. The idea has been around for over 11 years and unlike other theories:

    1. It uses existing technology (i.e. we know how to build dams) and;

    2. It is a change that is very easy to undo (i.e modern dams can be open or closed so if climate scientists decide that the dam is a bad idea, we just press the ‘open’ button).

    Some of the other strategies are more in the realm of science fiction and if ever implemented have unknown consequences that would be much harder to reverse.

    http://globalwarming-factorfiction.com/2007/12/21/will-global-warming-trigger-next-ice-age/

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