Nutty Story of the Day #2: whitewashing the ocean

How much lime does it take to treat the whole ocean? Where have we heard this before? Oh yes, dump powdered iron into the ocean. That one didn’t happen yet. Sure, let’s just toss a bunch of lime into the ocean and watch what happens. We’ll just order up a few billion bags of slaked lime and toss ’em into the sea, yeah, that’s the ticket. Note that there is no discussion of what all that lime might do to upset other balances, just so long as we get rid of that nasty CO2. Thank goodness another professor from James Hansen’s Columbia University gives a stamp of approval.

I’d love to see the environmental impact report on this one, especially when they find out that lime does not dissolve immediately or completely in water, but tends to settle. 

By the way, slaked lime + water = whitewash. I’ve mixed a few batches myself recently.

From Physorg: A dash of lime — a new twist that may cut CO2 levels back to pre-industrial levels

Scientists say they have found a workable way of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere by adding lime to seawater. And they think it has the potential to dramatically reverse CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere, reports Cath O’Driscoll in SCI’s Chemistry & Industry magazine published today.

Chemistry & Industry

Shell is so impressed with the new approach that it is funding an investigation into its economic feasibility. ‘We think it’s a promising idea,’ says Shell’s Gilles Bertherin, a coordinator on the project. ‘There are potentially huge environmental benefits from addressing climate change – and adding calcium hydroxide to seawater will also mitigate the effects of ocean acidification, so it should have a positive impact on the marine environment.’

Adding lime to seawater increases alkalinity, boosting seawater’s ability to absorb CO2 from air and reducing the tendency to release it back again.

However, the idea, which has been bandied about for years, was thought unworkable because of the expense of obtaining lime from limestone and the amount of CO2 released in the process.

Tim Kruger, a management consultant at London firm Corven is the brains behind the plan to resurrect the lime process. He argues that it could be made workable by locating it in regions that have a combination of low-cost ‘stranded’ energy considered too remote to be economically viable to exploit – like flared natural gas or solar energy in deserts – and that are rich in limestone, making it feasible for calcination to take place on site.

Kruger says: ‘There are many such places – for example, Australia’s Nullarbor Plain would be a prime location for this process, as it has 10 000km3 of limestone and soaks up roughly 20MJ/m2 of solar irradiation every day.’

The process of making lime generates CO2, but adding the lime to seawater absorbs almost twice as much CO2. The overall process is therefore ‘carbon negative’.

‘This process has the potential to reverse the accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. It would be possible to reduce CO2 to pre-industrial levels,’ Kruger says.

And Professor Klaus Lackner, a researcher in the field from Columbia University, says: ‘The theoretical CO2 balance is roughly right…it is certainly worth thinking through carefully.’

The oceans are already the world’s largest carbon sink, absorbing 2bn tonnes of carbon every year. Increasing absorption ability by just a few percent could dramatically increase CO2 uptake from the atmosphere.

This project is being developed in an open source manner. To find out more, please go to http://www.cquestrate.com , a new website, launched today.

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82 thoughts on “Nutty Story of the Day #2: whitewashing the ocean

  1. There are soooo many things that can go wrong with all of these goofy plans to save us from that evil gas!

    We can’t put thermometers in the right place!

    We really have no idea what we are doing!
    David

  2. Par’me., but, uh, where does the lime in those bags come from.

    Oh, wait, silly me, you wouldn’t put in those bags, would you? You’d put it in ships to get it out past, the….oh, wait, what if somebody doesn’t want it dumped in their … oh, gosh one problem at a time.

    Where does that stuff come from? Rocks, doesn’t it?

    Can you just throw the rocks in the ocean? How much fuel and all that does it take to get the rock to the ocean?

    And don’t you have to bake the rocks or something? what will that cost?

    I don’t think I understand.

  3. Carbon dioxide is now the new DDT and Thalidomide rolled into one. What evils cannot be blamed upon it and what ludicrous schemes hatched to try and reduce it?
    Bob Dylan recorded a song called “World Gone Wrong” and I can’t help but feel it is very appropriate in this case.
    Neil

  4. I suppose the notion that corals evolved when CO2 levels were about 10 times today’s levels hasn’t occurred to them.

    in fact, the sea was literally crawling with shelled animals when levels were even higher than that … closer to 15 times todays levels. These people have no idea what they are talking about. If you want to see what sea life looks like with twice as much CO2 in the atmosphere, simply pull up some core samples from when CO2 was twice today’s levels! That wasn’t all that long ago in geological time.

    This is the height of idiocy. You have people that have absolutely no idea what they are talking about suggesting moronic “solutions” to non-problems.

  5. Anthony Extremely important article:

    Compo,G.P., and P.D. Sardeshmukh, 2008: Oceanic influences on recent continental warming. Climate Dynamics, in press.

    The abstract reads

    “Evidence is presented that the recent worldwide land warming has occurred largely in response to a worldwide warming of the oceans rather than as a direct response to increasing greenhouse gases (GHGs) over land. Atmospheric model simulations of the last half-century with prescribed observed ocean temperature changes, but without prescribed GHG changes, account for most of the land warming. The oceanic influence has occurred through hydrodynamic-radiative teleconnections, primarily by moistening and warming the air over land and increasing the downward longwave radiation at the surface. The oceans may themselves have warmed from a combination of natural and anthropogenic influences.”

  6. Is slaked lime that much cheaper than just dumping lye (i.e. NaOH) into the ocean, considering Ca(OH)2’s really low solubility? I was all for the iron fertilization project before I was a skeptic, but that’s because I make my money doing iron-related research. ;-)

    Of course, if one is thinking, you also need to take into account the carbonate compensation depth. The carbonate compensation depth is the depth in the ocean where temp, pressure, pH, and pCO2 conspire to cause the dissolution of calcium carbonate shells of marine plankton. Side note: The CCD is a huge deal to geologists and paleoclimatologists, since paleoclimate reconstructions deeper in time than ice cores are based off of oxygen isotope ratios in plankton shells.

    You’d want to raise the pH and foster the precipitation of CaCO3 where it isn’t going to become a problem for future generations. So you would need to find the subset of places that where the ocean floor is shallower than the carbonate compensation depth so the CO2 isn’t just buried on the ~1500 year time scale, and also give you the biggest bang for your buck.

    As much as we know or don’t know about the atmosphere, I imagine we know less about the oceans…

  7. It would take a lot of money to manufacture all that lime (and to construct the energy plants to produce the required energy to manufacture the lime in out-of-the-way places). That means someone would make a lot of money. It also means a lot of people would have to pay a lot of money to do this. Could that be why this idea even sees the light of day?

    Here is an article at “New Scientist” that indicates we still don’t know what the natural carbon cycle is doing in areas where the oceans are fed nutrients by large rivers:
    http://environment.newscientist.com/article/dn14375-plankton-turn-tropical-atlantic-into-a-huge-carbon-sink.html

  8. When you solve most imaginary problems, you’ve got a bigger problem than you “thought” you had before. In this case, the planet is likely to need the added C02 in the next half century, at least, to compensate for shorter growing seasons in Canada, Siberia, etc.

    C02 is neither toxic nor evil in any way. Do you think that Al Gore would have a carbon footprint 20 times the national average with his home energy use in Tennessee and fly around the globe on jet planes every day or two if he really believed that C02 causes global warming?

  9. Even if CO2 was a problem, and this *was* a feasible idea to remove it, the environmentalists wouldn’t accept it because it doesn’t fit in with the socialist world goverment they are trying to achieve while at the same time trying to move the western world back to an 18th century lifestyle. Any technological fixes suggested by private industry will be shot down before they get out of the box.

  10. This is an excellent solution!! 10,000km3 of lime. there is only a measly 3000km3 of CO2 in the atmosphere. We could remove ALL the CO2 poison from the atmosphere, bad poison, bad posion, bad poison! Then ALL the plants would die, and that would kill ALL the animals, including humans. Then the planet will be steril. No more discussions about AGW then, eh!

    … Oh… the ocean contains 150,000km3 of CO2. Hmm, that 10,000km3 doesn’t look like it will have much effect then. Turn the whole ocean into a whitewash. That would be odd. Swimming in milk.

    Sorry, I could not resist! My point, the 150,000km3 (got that number from Wiki, sorry could not resist again). A .1% increase in solar radiation, would increase the temperature of the ocean by a tiny amount. that would in turn release a small amount of CO2 from the ocean, .1% would be 150km3 of CO2, perhaps. That would be 20 years of human emmissions right. As I am not even a good engineer perhaps someone could tell me how much CO2 would be release with a .1% solar radiation increase. After all the ocean pretty much absorbs all the sunlight and turn it into heat.

  11. People who talk about “acidifing” of the oceans have no idea what they are talking about. The maximum amount of carbon dioxide taken up by the ocean is controlled by the solubility of carbon dioxide in the ocean, which in turn is the function of the ocean temperature. The lower the ocean temperature the more carbon dioxide it can take up.
    If the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is less than the ocean’s solubility then the ocean can respond by taking up more carbon dioxide, but only up to its limit of solubility. Since carbon dioxide in geologic times was orders of magnitude higher than today and possibly took up sufficient amount of carbon dioxide to reach its limit of solubility. It probably is not at the solubility limit today, because it can still take up carbon dioxide. As crosspatch pointed out, higher past concentrations of carbon dioxide in the geologic past did not prevent numerous creatures with calcium carbonate based shells to develop and prosper.

  12. Does anyone have any idea when the general public will revolt against this epic insanity that embarrasses our species? Anyone? Will it take the cold, hard reality of Al Gore socialism?

  13. An old survival skill I learnt is to chuck a load of lime into a river and then wait for all the suffocating fish to float to surface and skim them off. I wander what chucking tonnes of the stuff into the sea will do?

  14. “Does anyone have any idea when the general public will revolt against this epic insanity that embarrasses our species?”

    They haven’t revolted against epic insanities before; why should this be any different? eg. carbs are good, fats are bad; carbs are evil, fats are good, eggs are good, eggs are bad, eggs are good (again). Look at religeous wars: one person’s god is another person’s myth and we’ll go to war over it.

    The current epic insanity is Zimbabwe. Where are the protests in the streets over that? Why are embassies not being demonstrated against every day? Where are the boycotts, the demonstrations?

  15. Pingback: STAY WARM, WORLD… Roger Carr « Stay Warm, World…

  16. The last technical fix I recall being advertised was some months ago when a proposal to build a fleet of ships which would do oceanic cloud seeding was made. The costs were quite low compared to the assumed AGW impact cost, and the environmental advantage was that this simply exaggerated a natural process, so could easily be scaled back if any problems arose.

    The AGW crowd went banannas! This was a TECHNOLOGICAL fix – didn’t we realise it was technology which got us into this in the first place? All technology is therefore bad, and we must address this problem only by behavioural change.

    I have rarely seen so strong an indication that AGW is a religion, not a science….

    With regard to the current ‘debate’ in the APS forum, I note that much of the argument considers theoretical proposals for what MAY be happening in atmospheric physics. There is little application to real life. Science, however, proceeds by making testable hypotheses, and then testing them. I would be much more inclined to believe either side if an experiment could be proposed, agreed by the main protagonists as being capable of providing a conclusive result, and then undertaken.

    Where is the Pascal barometer or the Young’s double slit of global warming?

  17. Dodgy Geezer,

    Do you think you’ll actually get some scientists to agree on an experiment and stick to the pre agreed position after it has been run?

    Look what happened to the Viking Mars landers. 4 life detection experiments. Presumably these were agreed upon as being definitive. When a couple actually appeared to detect life(one was shown to be too insensitive) a new hypothesis (peroxides and superoxides in martian soil) was invented to explain the apparent detection. A billion dollars or so blown away.

    Seen any talk of peroxides or superoxides with the current rovers? Didn’t think so.

  18. I believe that ABC’s own John Stossel says it best, “Give me a break!”

    All these looney tunes hustlers come crawling out of the woodwork with schemes in response to looney tunes science. Thirty+ years ago, in response to a different flavor of looney tunes science, the looney tunes solution was to place soot on Arctic ice to stop the new Ice Age. Just recently, another looney tunes scheme was to fire rockets or whatever to inject sulphur in the stratosphere, to cool the climate. And all this in response to a looney tunes hypothesis buttressed by computer models that are more likely wrong than right.

    The public needs to wake up and smell what’s cooking and it ain’t fish!

    Give me a break!

  19. Dodgy Geezer,
    I think Nature is about to provide us with the grand experiment you were wishing for. All indications are that the Sun is about to enter a period of low magnetic activity. This has been well correlated with increased Galactic Cosmic Ray flux hitting the Earth’s surface. According to Henrik Svensmark such an increased Galactic Cosmic Ray (GCR) flux creates an increased low level cloud cover, which reduces the Earth’s temperature. This was theory he put forward to explain the cold climate during the Maunder and Dalton minima of sunspot activity, which was the most visible evidence of reduced solar magnetic activity. The length of the current solar cycle 23, already well over 12 years compared to the average of 11 years is indicating a lower solar magnetic activity. Since this is taking while atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is marching inexorably higher, a continued low solar activity will provide us with a unique opportunity to find out whether carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, or solar activity is the main driver of our climate. A significant cooling in the next several years
    while atmospheric CO2 continuing to increase will be very hard for the AGW crowd to explain away. On the other hand, continued warming in an environment of reduced solar activity would strengthen their case immeasurably.

  20. Jennifer Marohasy had an interesting short piece on C02 concentrations and coral reefs (July 2nd 2008 – look in the July archives on her blog). The two photos in the article show coral and seagrass flourishing in an environment quite literally “bubbling” with C02.

    I guess the ocean acidity/toxicity crowd haven’t told the coral here that it can’t possibly exist according to their models.

  21. Lime is manufactured by heating limestone rock which drives off CO2 gas.

    CaCO3(s) –> CaO(s) + CO2(g)

    The amount of CO2 taken up by lime cannot exceed the amount of CO2 produced in its manufacture and is almost certainly less.

    Having said that, I think I understand the rational behind this, which doesn’t mean I agree. Produce lime and CO2 in an industrial process. Capture the CO2 use it for say oil field injection. Then use the lime to capture atmosphere and ocean CO2.

  22. “All technology is therefore bad, and we must address this problem only by behavioural change.”

    As long as said behaviour is being smug because they’ve bought a Prius (instead of a more CO2 friendly car) or thrown out all their working lightbulbs to replace them with “energy efficient” bulbs.

    Why is it that the real believers still refuse to give up the trappings of modern life and revert to a more pastoral existence? Don’t they realise they are killing the planet?

  23. Two points about lime. It is made from limestone (CaCO3) by burning it, producing quick lime (CaO) and CO2. So there is no net gain in the amount of CO2 in the air/ocean system. Also, the reaction between hydrated lime (made by mixing quick lime with water) and dissolved CO2 raises the pH to over 9, which is the toxic limit for most fish. Hence Grovesmuk use of lime to kill fish.

    By the way, the iron experiment has been tried on a small scale, and it failed.

  24. This reminds me so much of an old anti-submarine warfare “plan” I once heard. Fill the oceans with LSD, and the fish will cluster around submarines in a frenzy of affection, rendering the submarines inoperative.

  25. You folks just don’t understand. The idea is to net all the dead fish the lime will produce, and feed the world.

    Win-Win!

  26. Evan Jones (00:49:16) :

    “Why not paint Al Gore white to increase his albedo?”

    I dont think that would be a good idea, since such dramatic changes in the albedo will throw earth into another ice age.

  27. I can think of a lot of uses that I could put lime to, and a lot of people that could could get adapted quickly

  28. Here in Sudbury where the lakes are acidic from sulfer emissions due to smelting, we have limed our lakes to reduce their acidity. It has helped to bring life back to some near dead lakes.

    The liming the oceans idea is horribly ignorant.

    John M Reynolds

  29. Of course they have a solution for the carbon created by the land and sea transportation. Don’t they? Ah come on, these are the academic leaders of the world.

  30. Spectral analysis of infrared emissions from earth show two large CO2 notches where very little energy gets through, one at 4.3 um and one at 15 um. Doesn’t the existence of these notches indicate that all energy that can be absorbed by CO2 is already being absorbed, and that any increases in atmospheric CO2 cannot possibly result in any additional greenhouse effect? It seems to me that the whole effort to halt the rise of atmospheric CO2 is an exercise in absurdity, given that the only remaining effect it can possibly have is to benefit plant growth.

  31. Oh my – this is too funny!! We’re gonna dump slaked lime into the ocean to soak up all of the nasty CO2…..

    Reminds me of a recent article discussing the role of ‘coccolithophores’ in the role of ocean calcification. Seems they are getting bigger and bigger recently as CO2 concentrations rise, thus sequestering more CO2 than ever before. Recently confirmed in experiments as discussed here:

    http://www.physorg.com/preview128613620.html

    The funny part is that earlier “studies” on the effects of ocean acidification used hydrochloric acid for acidification rather than dissolved CO2. Of course the CO2 was observed to increase the mass of the little buggers whereas the HCl dissolved them – Duh!. Apparently the original thinking was ‘any old acid will do’ to prove their point. The shear arrogance and ignorance of the AGW researchers in general is truly stupefying.

  32. These people appear to be getting funding for their lunatic idea. It would be quite interesting to set up some fake anti C02 technology company and see how easy it is to make some money.

  33. this is the most unthinkably destructive scheme I’ve ever heard of, not only from an economic standpoint but from an ENVIRONMENTAL one!!! The previous poster who mentioned lime and dead fish had it right – water creatures are all very sensitive to PH levels. Change them up or down, and most life in that water dies. As another previous poster noted, that’s why acid rain (sulfur compounds) are so damaging to lakes. In that case, lime brings the pH balance back towards normal. This moronic plan would lay waste to the oceans. Unbelievable to think that anyone could be fool enough to even suggest this.

  34. Why don’t we just re-introduce phosphate in detergents? The resulting algae bloom would soak up additional CO2 and create a similar environmental catastrophe but, our clothes would be cleaner. Where can I get grant money to research this approach?

  35. So let me understand this:

    We heat limestone using a heat source (maybe natural gas) which releases CO2 from combustion which then releases more CO2 as limestone converts to quicklime.

    Assuming that a certain amount of the lime settles out and never reacts with dissolved CO2, there would be a significant net increase in atmospheric CO2 not a reduction.

    Seems brilliant to me!

  36. Here’s a development of the Al Gore idea (inspired by something I saw on YouTube once). All the throngs of people worried about CO2 and ocean acidification could be invited to go on a Greenpeace-sponsored mass skinny-dip across the Pacific, having first coated themselves head to toe in eco-friendly lime-based white body paint. I even have a slogan for them: “Be A Lemming For Gaia”. Think of the benefits: Earth’s albedo is raised, the ocean’s pH balance is restored, no technology is used and any swimmers who fall to marine predators will contribute valuable protein to the food chain. Now that’s surely a win-win solution.

  37. I used to read SciFi as a kid when they engaged in terraforming other planets (Venus was a favorite) but I never, in my wildest dreams, that we would seriously consider doing this to our own planet.

    This is the most idiotic idea I’ve heard yet. Giant mirrors in space, dump iron into the oceans, dump gigatons of lime into the oceans … *sigh*

  38. agree – the idea as such is nuts, but the business model is worth checking out (have been ruminating about something like that on deep-ocean understanding for years…)

    cquestrate’s tag line says it all:

    “Developing an open source solution to climate change” –

    the foundation of the concept is the theory that climate change needs a solution. In other words, it’s their progression way beyond hypothesis, accepting the consensus of AGW.

    I would think that most readers of this blog are quite comfortable with having falsified the original hypotheses – that man-made CO2 emissions are the main drivers of global warming or even climate change as such. We look at differentiated ways to refine climate science towards understanding of regionally observed phenomena (Roger Pielke Sr.’s excellent work comes to mind), and how they are forced by a multitude of factors and balanced by that huge hot water bottle (thank you, Stephen Wilde) which gets its heat from that big source out there.

    In short: climate change is one of the real basics of life, driven by photons and cycled through complex interactions between the main compounds water, CO2 and O2, quasi-inert buffers as well as a myriad of critical trace contributors.

    Rather than falling into the arrogance that we need and can change that, we should strive toward better and better understanding – embracing and celebrating these fundamental processes – so that we can adapt our societal metabolisms into these much larger dynamics of life.

    Back to the business model stipulated by cquestrate – open source solution – this fits well into our wiki world (compare with Don Tapscott’s Wikinomics – how mass collaboration changes everything. Penguin Books 2006/07).

    Any comments on how similar approaches can be used to create a pathway to sanity, beyond the “combat climate change” craze?

    I am working on a specific subset (interactive deep-ocean explaration for the Net generation) and plan to re-launch once more within weeks. Towards this, I have started personal discussions with a few of you – thank you for responding – more to come as soon as the bread-and-butter stuff flows smoothly.

    Anthony – thanks again for this terrific forum that fills the need for rational balance seasoned by healthy and civil discussion with a good dose of sly and quirky humor!

    ulrich lobsiger

    (the deepslope smart camera – vintage 1986 – non-invasive long-term observation of deep-sea processes at the millimeter scale; digital follow-through is underway carried by many others…)

  39. Okay, let me this straight. An OIL COMPANY funded this study. Hiring a PR firm (oops, I mean ‘consulting’) to front a dodgy blogish-looking website, one would think folks like desmogblog would be all over this one – that sort of thing is right up their alley. Funny I don’t see articles knocking this crazy scheme in any of the greenie blogs. Guess Exxon is the only ‘evil’ oil company.

  40. “Why not paint Al Gore white to increase his albedo?”

    A ‘brilliant’ idea!

    Actually, some time ago I was thinking of patenting a personal ‘carbon footprint reducer ‘(TM)

    It was to be a white sheet which you draped on your roof, or pegged out in your garden (killing all the plants underneath!). I did some simple maths, and reckoned that 6 of them would completly balance a family car. Much better than a roof windmill! I could have been a millionaire….

  41. With regard to dumping stuff in the ocean to ‘decrease’ atmospheric CO2; I think we may end up with the consequences, as in the law of unintended consequences. As at least one other poster has observed, dumping large quantities of lime in a fishery isn’t much good for the fish.

  42. Evan Jones (00:49:16) Why not paint Al Gore white to increase his albedo?

    I want to know in advance, so I can buy stock in paint companies. The resulting shortage should drive the price through the roof.

    The only really viable solution is for all true believers to stop breathing. Enough stupid ideas, and an angry (& starving) public may assist them in this endeavour.

  43. What a goofy idea… cement is the world’s most important adhesive. Without it construction will come to a grinding halt. Not to mention diverting hundreds of millions of pounds of lime will drive the price of concrete sky high.

  44. Is this the time to say: ” Goodbye and thanks for the fish”?

    So long and thanks for all the fish.”

    “Does anyone have any idea when the general public will revolt against this epic insanity that embarrasses our species?”

    Let me check my infinite improbability generator…

    Al Gore plans to get his hands deep into all our pocketbooks. I don’t know why you are complaining. The plans have been available to read for 15+ years now!

  45. My experimental analysis shows that pop holds more CO2 at lower temperatures than at higher ones. So if we dump ice cubes in the ocean, that should do the trick. Or maybe we could turn down the thermostat on the sun, for a couple of decades. Let’s paint all asphalt white. We can melt the sand in the desert, and mirror the surface. We can ban all snow shovelling in the winter.

    “Saving the world for dummies” is great, and now I feel sooooo good about myself. Where is my government grant?

  46. “The Nutty Professor” is beginning to look quite sane in comparison.

    Seriously, it could be that this epidemic of deranged scientists and “intellectuals” is actually a byproduct of our energy-dependent wealth, so that letting them ruin it by returning us to the Bone Age might at least get get rid of them.

    -Gotta think positively, and all.

  47. Could we grind up coral reefs for the limestone? After all, the living corals are living on the work of their ancestors, so just consider it an estate tax.

  48. This is unbelievable. When will we learn from all our past mistakes at trying to manage a “problem” we don’t yet fully understand. See this excerpt from a speech Michael Crighton gave:

    To see what I mean, let’s take a case history of our management of the environment: Yellowstone National Park.

    Long recognized as a setting of great natural beauty, in 1872 Ulysses Grant set aside Yellowstone as the first formal nature preserve in the world. More than 2 million acres, larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. John Muir was pleased when he visited in 1885, noting that under the care of the Department of the Interior, Yellowstone was protected from “the blind, ruthless destruction that is going on in adjoining regions.”

    Theodore Roosevelt was also pleased in 1903 when as President he went to Yellowstone National Park for a dedication ceremony.
    It was his third visit. Roosevelt saw a thousand antelope, plentiful cougar, mountain sheep, deer, coyote, and many thousands of elk. He wrote, “Our people should see to it that this rich heritage is preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with its majestic beauty all unmarred.”

    But Yellowstone was not preserved. On the contrary, it was altered beyond repair in a matter of years. By 1934, the park service acknowledged that “white-tailed deer, cougar, lynx, wolf, and possibly wolverine and fisher are gone from the Yellowstone.”

    What they didn’t say was that the park service was solely responsible for the disappearances. Park rangers had been shooting animals for decades, even though that was illegal under the Lacey Act of 1894. But they thought they knew better. They thought their environmental concerns trumped any mere law.

    What actually happened at Yellowstone is a cascade of ego and error. But to understand it, we have to go back to the 1890s. Back then it was believed that elk were becoming extinct, and so these animals were fed and encouraged. Over the next few years the numbers of elk in the park exploded. Roosevelt had seen a few thousand animals, and noted they were more numerous than on his last visit.

    By 1912, there were 30,000. By 1914, 35,000. Things were going very well. Rainbow trout had also been introduced, and though they crowded out the native cutthroats, nobody really worried. Fishing was great. And bears were increasing in numbers, and moose, and bison.

    By 1915, Roosevelt realized the elk had become a problem, and urged “scientific management.” His advice was ignored. Instead, the park service did everything it could to increase their numbers.

    The results were predictable.

    Antelope and deer began to decline, overgrazing changed the flora, aspen and willows were being eaten heavily and did not regenerate. In an effort to stem the loss of animals, the park rangers began to kill predators, which they did without public knowledge.

    They eliminated the wolf and cougar and were well on their way to getting rid of the coyote. Then a national scandal broke out; studies showed that it wasn’t predators that were killing the other animals. It was overgrazing from too many elk. The management policy of killing predators had only made things worse.

    Meanwhile the environment continued to change. Aspen trees, once plentiful in the park, where virtually destroyed by the enormous herds of hungry elk.

    With the aspen gone, the beaver had no trees to make dams, so they disappeared. Beaver were essential to the water management of the park; without dams, the meadows dried hard in summer, and still more animals vanished. Situation worsened. It became increasingly inconvenient that all the predators had been killed off by 1930. So in the 1960s, there was a sigh of relief when new sightings by rangers suggested that wolves were returning.

    There were also persistent rumors that rangers were trucking them in; but in any case, the wolves vanished soon after; they needed a diet of beaver and other small rodents, and the beaver had gone.

    Pretty soon the park service initiated a PR campaign to prove that excessive numbers of elk were not responsible for the park’s problems, even though they were. This campaign went on for a decade, during which time the bighorn sheep virtually disappeared.

    Now we come to the 1970s, when bears are starting to be recognized as a growing problem. They used to be considered fun-loving creatures, and their close association with human beings was encouraged within the park:

    Bear feedings were a spectacle in the 1930s. Postcards treated it humorously:

    But now it seemed there were more bears and many more lawyers, and thus more threat of litigation. So the rangers moved the grizzlies away to remote regions of the park. The grizzlies promptly became endangered; their formerly growing numbers shrank. The park service refused to let scientists study them. But once the animals were declared endangered, the scientists could go in.

    And by now we are about ready to reap the rewards of our forty-year policy of fire suppression, Smokey the Bear, all that. The Indians used to burn forest regularly, and lightning causes natural fires every summer. But when these fires are suppressed, the branches that drop to cover the ground make conditions for a very hot, low fire that sterilizes the soil. And in 1988, Yellowstone burned. All in all, 1.2 million acres were scorched, and 800,000 acres, one third of the park, burned.

    Then, having killed the wolves, and having tried to sneak them back in, the park service officially brought the wolves back, and the local ranchers screamed. And on, and on.

    As the story unfolds, it becomes impossible to overlook the cold truth that when it comes to managing 2.2 million acres of wilderness, nobody since the Indians has had the faintest idea how to do it. And nobody asked the Indians, because the Indians managed the land very intrusively. The Indians started fires, burned trees and grasses, hunted the large animals, elk and moose, to the edge of extinction. White men refused to follow that practice, and made things worse.

    To solve that embarrassment, everybody pretended that the Indians had never altered the landscape. These “pioneer ecologists,” as Steward Udall called them, did not do anything to manipulate the land. But now academic opinion is shifting again, and the wisdom of the Indian land management practices is being discovered anew. Whether we will follow their practices remains to be seen.

    See his full speech here:
    http://www.michaelcrichton.com/speech-complexity.html

    Sorry about the long post.

  49. Is this really such a nutty idea? I don’t see it as any more ridiculous than the promise of using terra prete (agrichar/biochar) to fixate CO2 & improve croplands. There are other, more troublesome IMO, acid sources falling into the seas, pollutant aerosols of sulfates and nitrates which are far more acidic than carbonic acid and deplete calcium carbonate as well.

    The question to me is which of these three acids have been – or will be – the most responsible for ocean acidification and how much ongoing coral bleaching events may reflect acid precipitation of sulfates and nitrates, not CO2.

  50. When Newsweek in 1975 ran the infamous article, “The Cooling World”, they mentioned how some scientists wanted to melt the Arctic ice cap by covering it with soot. I think too many people actually believe Star Trek was reality, not fiction. The idea that we can reengineer the planet is stunningly arrogant, in terms of both understanding and ability.

  51. “It was to be a white sheet which you draped on your roof,”

    I’ve always wondered how much UHI could be countered by having all cars painted white, and have all roofs covered in that aluminum paint.

    First there would be the direct affect of all that sunlight beeing bounced back to space, then a secondary affect as all those air conditioners have to work less hard.

  52. I am an economic geologist working for a private consulting company. Does anyone else wonder why the guys who concoct these totally wierd ideas continue to get paid ?

  53. Why not paint Al Gore white to increase his albedo?

    Considering Gore’s massive surface area that might work. ;-)

  54. I am truly stunned….. Lime the oceans!….. These people are beyond belief.

    I have no doubt now in my mind, that they are completely mad.

    ….. The only Lime I have in a belief in, belongs in a margarita…. And that’s th’ green sort off a tree!

  55. ah come on, the libido post was funny.

    REPLY: Decorum has been lax lately, I deleted several other posts also that were just OT or ad homs, so don’t feel singled out.

  56. Greenpeace will be all over this. Sometimes, I agree with them, such as would be the case here. In fact, in this case, maybe they need deck guns?

  57. “Is this the time to say: ” Goodbye and thanks for the fish”?”

    ITYM “…all the fish.”

    But I’m guessing there won’t be any edible fish left after this experiment.

  58. leebert:

    1. Every cubic meter of seawater naturally contains about 6 pounds of sulphate ions. Nothing we can do is likely to change that significantly.

    2. Nitrates stimulates growth of the symbiotic algae in corals, i e the opposite of bleaching.

    3. Seawater is alkaline, not acid.

  59. Why stop at painting Al Gore white? You can further increase your personal albedo by by wearing reflective headgear. A tinfoil hat will help cool the planet AND stop aliens messing with your brain.

    I see a business opportunity here.

  60. P. T. Barnum would have loved this.

    I happen to think it’s brilliant:

    Crush limerock
    Heat in gas-fired kiln (making CO2)
    Drive off CO2 from limerock
    Add to ocean to absorb some of the CO2 released in production.
    Charge the rubes an arm and a leg for doing it.
    Repeat.

    It’s an economic perpetual motion machine.
    Brilliant.
    i only wish I’d thought of it.

  61. What? Star Trek isn’t real? You risk being phasered into oblivion. A couple of good lime-photon torpedoes would take care of this ocean acidification problem. If the fish die, well, we’ll just send the Enterprise back into time to retrieve them. I think somebody has been slipping lime into my drinks.

  62. The military definition of “folly” is “redoubling your effort when you’ve lost sight of your objective”. For some, it seems, the objective remains forever elusive.

  63. Before doing this, one would want some evidence that in the past, reducing CO2 has produced cooling. Otherwise we will just be engaging in enormous pollution of the oceans in a way that will have no effect on temperature.

    However, there is no evidence like this. Even if you believe that rising CO2 has produced warming, there is no evidence that cooling has resulted from falling CO2. It is a quite different question and needs independent proof.

  64. I think there isn’t enough oil or coal right now to grind up part of Australia, heat up the rocks into lime and dumping that into the ocean. And there is a nice ecosystem there, like snakes and kwalas, and maybe some Dingos.

    I think maybe we should leave that ecosystem alone and not think about this anymore. For sure some politician will decide maybe it is worth nuking Australia just to dump the heated rocks into the ocean!

    Rather, maybe it would be better if we ground up New Jersey and dump it in the ocean. The oil and chemical companies have made such a mess of part of Jersey, with Thoms River and all, it is probably bette to dump it.

    I think humans have been devastating our eco systems and forests since the time of the Romans. They devasted forests to make wooden ships. Lebanese Cedars are practically gone, and they find boats entumbed in Egypt.

    I think that by fabricating a lot of solar water pumps, puttting them in areas in the desserts of the world, where it used to be wet, and replanting these forests you might actually absorb that much CO2. Think of the entire Sahara becoming another forest, or Lebanon, or even the Middle East.

    And, when water, humity and trees return to the area, guess what, probably no more fighting over resources.

    Maybe a better idea then grinding up Autralia, or nuking it or destroying Nj.

    Anyone

  65. I think that by fabricating a lot of solar water pumps, puttting them in areas in the desserts of the world, where it used to be wet, and replanting these forests you might actually absorb that much CO2. Think of the entire Sahara becoming another forest, or Lebanon, or even the Middle East.

    Isn’t that altering the ecosystems? Dry places aren’t “bad” by default. There are plants and animals there that enjoy the dryness, that depend on it. You’re just proposing another silly idea like the posted story.

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