MIT takes on the politics of climate fixes

Photo - Graphic: Christine Daniloff MIT

Judith Layzer says there’s no easy way out when it comes to climate change — but that geo-engineering might be a last-ditch solution.

From David Chandler, MIT News Office

In the middle of a day filled with a stream of information-packed PowerPoint displays and alarming projections of what the future holds for our planet and our civilization, Judith Layzer’s talk was something of an anomaly.

Layzer, an assistant professor of environmental policy in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, was among the speakers at last Friday’s daylong symposium on “Engineering a Cooler Earth.” She immediately changed the tone of the day’s presentations by dispensing with graphs and charts and speaking only with the aid of her quite expressive gestures.

The symposium was a detailed exploration of a subject that has long been nearly taboo even for polite discussion: that instead of, or in addition to, the emissions-reduction strategies usually looked at as a way to stave off the dangers of global climate change, there might be other ways of solving or at least reducing some of the effects faster, more inexpensively or both, through grand schemes collectively known as geo-engineering. These include two major approaches: pulling carbon dioxide right out of the air, or blocking some percentage of incoming sunlight to reduce temperatures.

Drawing upon colorful anecdotes and historical references, Layzer described the uphill battle the world faces in dealing with the social and political realities of trying to change deeply entrenched habits, systems and interests.

She began by talking about the new bestseller, “SuperFreakonomics,” which ends with a chapter about geo-engineering and has attracted a storm of controversy for its suggestion of a possible cheap, easy fix. “[The authors] begin by saying that catastrophic climate change is unlikely,” Layzer explained, and then go on to suggest that any efforts to curb emissions, though worth pursuing, are likely to be “too little, too late,” but that instead the geo-engineering approach offers an “easy fix.”

The chapter focuses on one particular approach to reducing sunlight: injecting massive amounts of sulfur into the upper atmosphere to mimic the cooling effect observed after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. “There’s a fundamental disagreement,” she suggested, “over whether the risks of geo-engineering exceed the risks of climate change.”

The risks, as several symposium speakers described in detail, include the fact that such an approach would require an essentially permanent commitment to a massive project — injecting two Pinatubo’s-worth of sulfur into the stratosphere every year — that, if stopped at any time, could lead to an even more rapid rise in global temperatures than would happen with no intervention. And the fact that, with increased concentrations of carbon dioxide, oceans would continue to grow more acidic and thwart the growth of any marine shellfish and coral.

Virtually all of the symposium’s presenters agreed that the methods based on reducing sunlight, as with the sulfur injections, are too uncertain and prone to side effects to be serious candidates for solving the problem. Carbon-removal schemes, however, might have some promise and are worth at least researching. These ideas include enhancements to natural biological processes that remove carbon from the air, or the development of technological substitutes such as “artificial trees” that could have the same effect.

Layzer, like most of the symposium’s speakers, framed geo-engineering approaches as something that might turn out to be necessary if other measures fail to take hold, or if the rate of climate change turns out to be worse than expected. In short, something that should be studied just in case.

At its core, the intense controversy over global warming, and over concepts for ameliorating its effects through geo-engineering, is not so much about the science or the technology, she suggested. “The debate is and will continue to be driven by political considerations.”

She said she sees some hope for a common-sense path that may bypass the very different world views of the often-acrimonious sides in debates over global-warming policy. Increasingly, she said, big businesses that for many years were pressuring political leaders to delay any action on controlling carbon emissions now see a new clean-energy future as an opportunity. Helped along by President Barack Obama’s framing of the issue, she said, they have increasingly “changed the image from sacrifice to business gains.”

Nobody thinks the road to mitigating climate change will be easy. Any such efforts involve “going up against the biggest industry in the history of mankind,” Layzer points out. Still, “the political momentum does seem to be real,” she said, “and the collapse of coalitions that have opposed it is the best evidence of that.”

The main focus, she and most of the other symposium speakers emphasized, should remain on curbing greenhouse gas emissions. But with a problem so fraught with uncertainties and political complexities, it makes sense to hedge our bets.

And that’s a point that’s clear enough, without the need for a chart or a graph.

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101 thoughts on “MIT takes on the politics of climate fixes

  1. Total Madness. It’s bad enough that there is widespread dumping of wastes, but when it’s done deliberately, it will turn out to be the darkest days of Planet Earth. To entertain a global experiment that has the potential to wipe out half the population of the globe speaks loud & clear of hearts turned to stone.
    It is spoken as if it is already etched in rock.
    So it is reasoned, so let it be done.
    Nobody thinks the road to mitigating climate change will be easy.
    And how will this be undone?
    But with a problem so fraught with uncertainties and political complexities, it makes sense to hedge our bets.
    This is a bet? 1 trillion quatloos for 2 billion served the sentence.
    They be Caesar and we be the victims in the global Colliseum, if I read it right.
    Yes, Billy, there are Monsters in the dark.

  2. All of this assumes, of course, that there is some kind of unnatural warming taking place in the first place. I have seen no evidence of that to date.

  3. Convert coal plants to produce white ash. I am surprised that all these really bright people have not seen this obvious answer. We could then outlaw any cleaning of this ash fall output, with fines and imprisonment. This would also remove the future requirements of painting our roofs white. Did they mention Lindzen and maybe ask his opinion on either the problem or their solutions? Glad to here that they recognize that GE has been cleverly manipulated into supporting the AGW agenda, really it was clear all along that it was only a framing issue.

  4. Dare I point out that the thermostat model in the graphic uses an environmentally-incorrect mercury switch ?
    Can we place enough giant mirror assemblies out at L4 and L5 to stave off the next ice age ?

  5. “Convert coal plants to produce white ash. ”
    Or toss a magnesium engine block into the furnace from time to time.

  6. Nope. Never heard of Peak Sulphur?
    The author is obviously in the pay of the Giant American Sulphur Producers. This is the last gasp.

  7. Interesting item. But very scary.
    “blocking some percentage of incoming sunlight to reduce temperatures.” It is utter insanity to start messing around with mega schemes that are fraught with uncertainty. Total uncertainty.
    Trying to reduce incoming sun energy?! Arrgh! On August 22, 1992 (one year after Pinatubo) there was snow on the ground all across southern Alberta … a lot of snow. Never seen before.
    It would be far better to put the sheep and children on high ground just in case Al Baby’s predictions come true. (What is he saying now? 67 meter sea level rise?)
    Even thinking about screwing with this geo-engineering stuff is inane.

  8. A number of years ago cold sea water was sprayed on lava to slow/stop its advance as it threatened to close of a harbor.
    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Eldfell#5
    So a geo-engineering approach can work for some problems. I wonder when these folks will switch to examining how they might fix the problem of a cooling Earth? Stopping the advance of a glacier on a major city seems like an easy one – compared to heating the global SST by half a degree. I see lots of big grants to study this problem. The real quandary is what new sources of taxes will be suggested when the carbon tax fails.

  9. crosspatch (21:16:33) :
    Or toss a magnesium engine block into the furnace from time to time.

    I saw a magnesium helo transmission on fire over in Vietnam. Awesome display, and no way to put it out. I think something like that would go right through the stoker grate and out the bottom of the furnace.

  10. the obvious fix for ocean acidity is to dump alkalines or a metal for the carbonic acid to feed on. of course refining the metal in the first place releases lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the first place….
    Or we could demand that China and India put their efforts into putting out the underground coal fires in their countries that make up 10% of their emissions (we could do likewise here). Getting rid of undergound coal fires would take us a long way to acheiving the 350 ppm the alarmists are setting as a goal.

  11. This is another interesting example of the changing narrative.
    It started with increased carbon dioxide emissions causing increases in temperatures of such magnitude that some human habitats would be rendered uninhabitable due to massively rising sea levels, hurricane activities and droughts. At that stage it was all about a “tipping point”. There was a scary (but ill-defined) point at which carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause mayhem.
    At that stage the call was to avoid the “tipping point”. If we never reached the tipping point, all was fine just. As fine as it had been while temperatures rose then fell then rose again throughout the last century in 30-odd year cycles that bore no apparent relation to levels of carbon dioxide.
    The message did not persuade the little people. Perhaps it just sounded too fanciful, perhaps it was put forward too zealously, perhaps the little people simply didn’t care; whatever the reason they remained unmoved.
    The next stage was to try to set in motion an irrational dread of any climatic change at all. Out went “man-made global warming” and in came “climate change”. A new ogre had been written into the fairytale. Any change was deemed to be bad whether or not caused by human activity.
    And now we see the consequences.
    Lunatic cures are suggested to combat a problem that is only thought to exist because lunatic notions were put forward by those with their own agenda. All sorts of agendas latch onto this because they see a means to achieve their desired end, even though many of them are sworn enemies.
    Those who desire supra-national government see a way to gain a foothold, those who wish to strengthen their existing grip on single-nation domestic politics do the same.
    Those who rue the fall of the communist bloc see an opportunity for eternal State control of all economic and social activity, those who seek personal profit know trading in carbon credits can make their fortune (and giggle at the thought of making a packet from buying and selling hot air).
    Tree-hugging, people-hating hippies find an outlet for their deranged mental meanderings, while those who really care about the poor are concerned lest the dire predictions might be true.
    The whole circus has something for every self-interest. That’s what makes it so dangerous.

  12. Words escape me. Unintended consequences are incalculable. I suppose before we do this we need to agree upon Earth-Normal-Temperature since apparantly its been static for 4.5 billion (minus 100) years. Perhaps we can target 70 °F @ noon @ sea level @ 45° N Latitude every day of the year.

  13. Mike McMillan (21:08:23) :
    Can we place enough giant mirror assemblies out at L4 and L5 to stave off the next ice age ?</i?
    Actually we could be insidious: suggest to place reflectors to avoid warming having in mind that they can become mirrors when the ice age cometh. I would think it would be a matter of controlling the angles of the mirrors.
    The bonus is that by the time they are built it will be evident that there is no warming and we are going down the present oscillations curve into cooling, so they will be set in inactive mode and ready if the ice gods rise. Building them will give a good push to the economy too.

  14. FatBigot,
    The problem is, back during the Cold War, the pinko bleeding heart fellow travellers were easy to spot, and any sane person knew the soviet union was worse than nazi germany, so anybody saying a kind word for Uncle Joe was known and ignored.
    Today, the environment is not the Soviet Union, and the very same pinkos are claiming it is we who are the aggressors against nature, and of course nature doesn’t give us any Kapetyn Forest or Gulag Archipelagos of extermination of humans to allow us to demonize the ‘enemy’. No, just a lot of cute and fuzzy creatures who look good on propaganda posters far better than chubby vodka besotted commies.
    Even in the age of liberation theology, where they tried portraying us as the exploiters of the 3rd world labor class, they failed because too many of us really didn’t give much of a rats behind about ‘those’ people.
    But now we have the perfection of communist revolution via Bambi Politics. Claiming you are not the agressor is not possible, akin to an attorney asking the impossible to answer question, “so when did you stop hitting your wife?” Everybody knows Bambi is getting killed and you, the idiot on a hike with a gun, are obviously guilty whether or not shots were fired.

  15. Mike Lorrey (21:46:44) :
    “the obvious fix for ocean acidity is to dump alkalines or a metal for the carbonic acid to feed on. of course refining the metal in the first place releases lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in the first place….
    Or we could demand that China and India put their efforts into putting out the underground coal fires in their countries that make up 10% of their emissions (we could do likewise here). Getting rid of underground coal fires would take us a long way to acheiving the 350 ppm the alarmists are setting as a goal”.
    Mike Lorrey,
    Total nonsense.
    1. Ocean acidification is a non problem debunked in dozens of scientific reports.
    The first corals developed during a period when CO2 levels were much higher (12 times higher)
    2. The underground coal fires rage for thousands of years. Although huge efforts are undertaken to extinguish these fires the process will take a very long time.
    3. We add 2 ppmv/year CO2 to our atmosphere. (30 billion tons per year)
    Most of this CO2 is absorbed.
    There is no way we can reduce CO2 levels by CO2 emission reductions, let alone influence the temperature of our planet.
    Reduction of CO2 is a non solution for a non problem and so is geo-engineering.

  16. Robert Wykoff (22:12:21) :
    As someone who lives virtually on the 45th parallel, I can tell you that would be an improvement. Snow on the ground already, and it will be with us for most of the next six months.

  17. Here is the problem. letting people who study “environmental policy” loose. They don’t understand the science or engineering behind what they propose. Policy solutions are the bane of our lives. Where I live, I don’t want someone proposing “blocking some percentage of incoming sunlight to reduce temperatures”. I want more sunlight please. Right now I must go and throw some more logs on the fire and pray for some sunshine.

  18. Superfreakonomics
    I have only read a summary of this book in the Sunday Times. I did read the first which was entertaining but like a lot of books of its type, had a few interesting ideas followed by pages and pages of stultifying repetition.
    The strange issue is that having debunked AGW, the authors then come up with a completely barmy idea. Forget the basic stupidity of pumping sulphur into the atmosphere deliberately. It’s clear that none of the geniuses asked an engineer whether holding a 5 mile long tube from balloons was in any way feasible!
    It’s a bit like the thousands of IPCC scientists who accepted the hockey stick without question ignoring the weight of writen eveidence from history about the MWP and LIA.
    Cheers
    Paul

  19. Lunatics.
    Reminds me of the Simpson’s episode where Mr. Burns erected a giant umbrella to block out the Sun. That way he could sell more electricity from his nuclear power plant. As I recall, that was the double episode: Who Shot Mr. Burns?
    Is this life imitating art? Or did the Simpson episode correctly foretell the future?
    Extra: that was one of episodes where a new word was injected into the language: crapulence.

  20. “Artificial trees?” Don’t we have real trees?
    Apart from that, this is insane nonsense. Let’s keep those geoengineers on a short leash.

  21. The easiest way to reduce temperature is to correctly site the measurement instruments. As Anthony’s efforts have shown, there is a positive bias to the surface temperature data.

  22. “artificial trees”
    …or how about real trees, as a bizarre “alternative”? People are getting so excited about funding opportunities that the definition of “protecting nature” is morphing into a cartoon.

  23. John F. Hultquist (21:35:45) :
    Stop an advancing glacier from grinding your town to pulp? No problem. When seeking help from religion, forget the Agenda, get yourself a real Cardinal. No on nukes to melt advancing ice. Yes on the clergy. If the man of God is not successful, at least the place is inhabitable when the Little Ice Age is over.

  24. I wanted to say ‘God help us’, But ( I repeat) But, it would appear that ‘God’ has given up. The political insane have created a new elephant, the environmentally insane.
    Our planet has survived billions of years without the help of the village idiot, as the village idiot cannot read….history, there is no way of convincing him/her that it is just business as usual, now I read (google news) that the British brown government is proposing a personal carbon allowance for all, (wonder if that will include cows, with 4 legs ) I just hope that the British village idiot does not join the engineering insane in creating solutions.

  25. The risks, as several symposium speakers described in detail, include the fact that such an approach would require an essentially permanent commitment to a massive project — injecting two Pinatubo’s-worth of sulfur into the stratosphere every year —
    To say nothing of the detrimental effects of that much sulfuric acid rain descending upon hapless creatures and plants. We ruled and enforced clean air acts to minimize such emissions.
    I would not call such measures “hedging a bet”.
    I would call it “We are prepared to go Frankenstein if we don’t get our way.”

  26. Interesting,
    1. Chop down all the trees
    2. Stop all the particulates from power stations.
    3. Make artificial trees.
    4. Pump particulates into the atmosphere.
    Makes perfect sense to me. But why not just plant real trees and take the filters of the power stations?

  27. Paul Vaughan (00:47:39) :
    “artificial trees”
    …or how about real trees, as a bizarre “alternative”? People are getting so excited about funding opportunities that the definition of “protecting nature” is morphing into a cartoon.
    Geo-engineering is not the only lunatic solution to fight a non-problem.
    All the so called “green solutions”, from bio fuels to carbon sequestration, from wind mills to cap & trade, create more problems than solutions. They are poised to wreck our economy, our forests, our middle class, accelerate the use of carbon fuels and promote poverty and famine in the third world countries.
    Green solutions are counterproductive.

  28. — injecting two Pinatubo’s-worth of sulfur into the stratosphere every year —
    Wasn’t that the sort of thing we were doing previously with dirty coal fired power stations? And didn’t we have a problem with acid rain? Well a bit lower down maybe, but what goes up will come down – like temperatures are doing.
    Here in the UK, this method is used to lower the unemployment statistics slightly, and the nurks that can come up with this stuff are probably unemployable in the real world.
    “She immediately changed the tone of the day’s presentations by dispensing with graphs and charts and speaking only with the aid of her quite expressive gestures.”
    Woof woof, baa, cuckoo.

  29. Although the MIT makes the impression of a vibrant technology institute, I have huge doubts about their internal communication skills and exchange of scientific findings.
    Somehow the scientists from the different faculties are in a state of isolation.
    Our President is playing them for these deficiencies.

  30. To me, these crackpot geo-engineering projects are the most dangerous of all with probable irreversible consequences. Especially when you think that the same people who promote them are likely to be the first to scream about OGM or nuclear for the same reasons.

  31. Ron de Haan (22:55:02) :
    “Frontal attack on IPCC climate models by NASA”
    Goddard Institute? Did I read that correctly? What’s this, mutiny aboard Hansen’s ship? Hang them all from the yardarm!

  32. To me, these “geo-engineers” are no different from abortion clinic bombers. They take something that some idealist says and pervert it into a kind of direct action that is wrong, wrong, wrong.
    And yes, I’m absolutely terrified that these dimwits will get to experiment. Anyone with a lick of observational skills knows these last few years have been cooling. 2009 never actually had a hot day in summer, our record high was for an afternoon in late September, and a few days later we set a record low.
    Sure, call it anecdotal, but I’m only aware of a few areas in North America that don’t have people complaining about the cool year.
    Here’s an idea… develop methods that can be used IF warming or cooling ever threatens our civilization, our ability to grow food, etc. Then DON’T USE THEM unless such threats actually appear. And no such threat is here, or even looming.
    Honestly, this scare is WORSE THAN PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT.

  33. This scares the bejesus out of me. We see the Chinese seeding the atmosphere with silver iodide to generate rain. Instead they get snow. And that’s just on a small temporary scale. Imagine doing that on a planetary scale for years.
    Then how would we know what was natural and what was man made, when we’re incapable of disassociating the two now. We’d end up like Elvis Presley taking pills to help him get asleep and more pills to help him stay awake.
    And as has already been pointed out, this is for a problem that doesn’t exist. My respect for MIT has taken a huge knock between this and the report earlier this year that temperatures would be 8 degrees higher in 2100.

  34. Mike D. (00:05:07) :
    Extra: that was one of episodes where a new word was injected into the language: crapulence.
    _______________________
    Mike, that word has been around a while.
    Crapulence: sickness or indisposition caused by excessive eating or drinking; intemperance; debauchery; excessive indulgence.
    Were you perhaps thinking of “cromulent”? The Simpsons did embiggen our language with that one.

  35. paulhan (04:05:02) :
    Has posted pretty much what I was about to post – thanks, saves me the effort of constructing the sentences.
    Other than accidents and attempts to analyse volcanic activity we have little by way of experimental data to work with on this sort of envionmental engineering from an engineering perspective.
    However there have been some active attempts at natural bio engineering, many of which have resulted in unpredicted (or at least predicted but rejected as low risk) yet significant results that were most definitely not what the originators expected or intended.
    There have been many other resutls that were the caused by unplanned activities.
    Now if you consider that we know very little about the real workings of the environment some people would like to re-engineer you have to wonder why individuals who seem to be so averse to risk of any sort would even contemplate what they talk about and present papers about given the ‘success’ rates of similar ‘natural control’ based experiments in other disciplines.
    It is fine that the acedemic world should have the freedom to come up with ideas. It is dumb to pay too much attention to them without a critical eye. It borders on being criminal to make them public as a serious representation of possible ‘soultions’ to problems (whether they exist or not) on the basis of directing research money towards them so that the politicians can be seen to be ‘doing something’.
    ‘Doing something’ is easy. Doing the right thing, which could be nothing, is far more difficult to achieve.
    Never mind, just press on and leave the problems to the following generations. There will surely be some problems.

  36. From what I can tell, we’ve been doing geoengineering for about two hundred years, trying to keep it from getting too damn cold. 😉

  37. The fact that this sulfur dioxide cooling proposition keeps coming up, even if they shoot it down right after, is rather bizarre.
    Sulfur dioxide converts into sulfate aerosols and produce their biggest cooling effect high up in the stratosphere where they also destroy/convert Ozone.
    So, in an effort to cool the planet from the predicted warming, the proposition wants to destroy the Ozone layer. It should have been shot down, never to resurface again, right after it came out. I thought these were atmospheric scientists.
    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/hazards/gas/s02aerosols.php

  38. Let me get this straight, the same kind of people that can’t even run a post office want to take on geo-engineering?
    Yeah, sounds real plausible to me.
    What idiots.

  39. A presentation «dispensing with graphs and charts and speaking only with the aid of her quite expressive gestures»… that’s called a political speech! 😉

  40. It reminds me of that scene from matrix, where Morphius tells Neo how humans “scorched the sky” to block sunlight from getting in. A case of life imitating fiction.

  41. Well, there goes another 10 years before I will bother to donate to MIT. Between these clowns and Noam Chomsky lending the name of MIT to things, I have better things to do with my money.

  42. RE: FatBigot-
    You brilliantly summed up our current administration and legislative bodies
    (Esp regarding healthcare legislation and ‘stimulus’)–“The whole circus has something for every self-interest. That’s what makes it so dangerous.” Not sure if truer words have ever been spoken.
    Also, who decides what ‘optimal’ is–and how/why do they deserve or earn that power? Sheer madness…just insane.

  43. “big businesses that for many years were pressuring political leaders to delay … now see a new clean-energy future as an opportunity”
    Big businesses had no other chance than to prepare for the worst, set by politicians. Now, having prepared themselves they want to see some cashback for the money invested.
    So politicians and big business have reached identical mindset:
    Science doesn’t matter anymore.
    Well, my hope is that average citizen one day will get tired paying for expensive nonsens.

  44. Ron de Haan, could you post some links to the studies debunking ocean acidification?
    I’ve suspected it was a lot of hooey, but I haven’t seen the evidence.

  45. John Wright (02:38:13) :
    Ron de Haan (22:55:02) :
    “Frontal attack on IPCC climate models by NASA”
    “Goddard Institute? Did I read that correctly? What’s this, mutiny aboard Hansen’s ship? Hang them all from the yardarm!”
    Yes John, it’s remarkable.
    That’s why I wondered if they’ve told the Copenhagen clan already.

  46. blondieBC (05:29:25) :
    “This is my favorite idea for geo-engineering – A dam between russia and alaska.
    http://www.cleverclimate.org/climate/12/diomede_crossroads/
    On the plus side, dam building is proven technology.”
    Blondie BC
    And what about the migrating whales, do you expect those animals to jump over the dam? Only to compensate for 0.6 degree of computer made warming?
    The dam will be there, when Ocean levels drop because it’s getting colder and more ice accumulates at the poles.

  47. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with our climate, so it doesn’t need “fixing”. What needs fixing is the climate madness and carbon-phobia burdening humanity and causing us to do stupid, and even destructive things in the name of a complete fantasy.

  48. For all those who think Copenhagen will be a disaster, Lord Monckton remembers us once more what our deer political representatives are going to hammer out, despite disagreement about the CO2 reduction quota and the money.
    It’s the “political framework”, the main reason they have started the climate scare in the first place.
    http://www.australianclimatemadness.com/?p=1225

  49. Not so long ago in human history the best thinkers in medical science had a vague notion that serious diseases had something to do with the blood.
    Their proposed treatment? Bleed the patient and dispose of some of that troublesome blood. Sometimes the patient improved because they would have anyway. We know now that bloodletting made things worse in most cases due to anemia. They were utterly unaware of just how much they didn’t know.
    Does anyone actually believe that we are so advanced in our understanding of long-term climate change that we know exactly what’s wrong and we can confidently prescribe treatment? Are we arrogantly refusing to acknowlege how much we still don’t know? God help us!

  50. L4 and L5 aren’t between the Sun and the Earth all that often. Like never. L1 is, but isn’t stable. And how much CO2 will it take to get mirrors up there?
    Solutions that won’t work.
    For a problem that doesn’t exist.
    Paid for with money we don’t have.
    Makes sense to me.

  51. Ms Layzer is an assistant professor (tenure?) with a PhD in Political Science. She is hardly a credible source or qualified to analyze anything to do with any hard science. She might as well be a sociologist.

  52. There was an illuminating interview on the BBC this morning with the authors of SuperFreakonomics. It started as a joke item, with a question on why suicide bombers should buy life insurance, but then a questions was asked on “climate change”. The authors did not show sufficient respect to the new religion and so the interviewer suddenly became hostile and the whole tone of the interview changed.
    Make your obeisance to the new deity or be cast out as a heretic

  53. Curiousgeorge (04:57:50) :
    From what I can tell, we’ve been doing geoengineering for about two hundred years, trying to keep it from getting too damn cold. 😉

    Apparently, it isn’t working. Hope everyone has a good coat.

  54. This would be like medical experimentation on your own body when you know only the rudiments of physiology. Maybe we need giant, smog-sucking mega-leeches.

  55. Well the solution is so obvious. Since we now know that all we need to cool the planet is more sulphur in the atmosphere; and we are also learnign that CO2 doesn’t have anything to do with global warming; we have the perfect solution.
    Start generating all our electricity needs using that “low sulphur” coal that Clinton tied up for ever, to help out his Indonesian buddies; who have the rest of the world’s low sulphur coal.
    Well of course it is “low sulphur per tonne” coal’ but then it is also low energy coal so it is actually “high sulphur per Joule” coal.
    Burn the stuff to make electricity, and remove all the scrubbers from the chimneys to let the sulphur go.
    It would also be environmentally beneficial, because we would never have to mine sulphur again; just get it out of the smokestacks.
    Where do they get such idiots from; and how do they ever get anywhere near a university.
    As for setting the global thermometer at 70 degrees; I don’t like having to wear a whole lot of clothing layers so I would prefer to set the thermostat at 75 deg F if you don’t mind. That would also save energy and resources, as I wouldn’t need to have so much clothing.

  56. “Manmade snowfall drives Beijing to distraction”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/manmade-snowfall-drives-beijing-to-distraction-1816578.html
    “Beijingers are watching the sky apprehensively this weekend after an unexpected, artificially induced snowstorm last weekend caused havoc and led to an outraged response from citizens, who were given no warning”
    “An official from the Beijing Weather Modification Office said the boffins had “enhanced” the natural snowfall to ease drought conditions in the city.”
    Take care when messing with the weather

  57. Will this happen??????????????
    Who’s going to pay for it?
    Can it be taxed?
    Two questions the powers that be will want answers to.

  58. Retired Engineer (08:48:10) :
    L4 and L5 aren’t between the Sun and the Earth all that often. Like never. L1 is, but isn’t stable. And how much CO2 will it take to get mirrors up there?

    Missed the point.
    .
    anna v (22:17:56) :
    Actually we could be insidious: suggest to place reflectors to avoid warming having in mind that they can become mirrors when the ice age cometh. I would think it would be a matter of controlling the angles of the mirrors.

    Got the point.
    By the time we get them up at L1, it will be time to move them to L4 and L5 to stave off the ice age.
    If you need some sulfur, there’s a big pile at 29°18’30” N, 94°49’12” W.

  59. Ron de Haan (02:21:33) “Somehow the scientists from the different faculties are in a state of isolation.”
    That’s how the system works. They all respect each others’ kingdoms.
    This mutually-assured autonomy may be administratively convenient, but it cannot meet society’s complex interdisciplinary needs.
    Institutions write policies and set up structures to appear to be promoting multidisciplinarity, but I can assure you from plenty of first-hand experience that in practice it amounts to mostly facade. This complex problem has deep roots. Sensible players must interfere in a subtle manner (that does not generate instability) to slowly coax the system to where it needs to go.

  60. A colder Earth is not better than a warmer Earth. It’s just that a colder Earth is the ultimate outcome just prior to the Sun expanding to the point of cooking the planet once and for all.
    If the Solar System did not cool, it could not have condensed to form in the 1st place.
    We are fortunate enough to have just the right elemental makeup and distance from the Sun in order to support billions of years of life. We are unfortunate enough to have those in power who see science as something to support thier ambitions to play with that balance. We could conceivably be around another billion years. What we won’t survive are the better living through Geo-Chemistry for lunch bunch computer-generated fantasies.

  61. chillybean (01:39:02), Failure in cutting down the trees in step 1. We have more trees than 500 years ago, although these are younger and growing faster.
    Retired Engineer (08:48:10), would using an Orion drive reduce the CO2 for launching mirrors? And a sulphur barrel launcher which tosses the stuff into the general vicinity of the nuclear fireballs can be added if we want to seed sulphur aerosols on the way up.

  62. If you need some sulfur, there’s a big pile at 29°18′30″ N, 94°49′12″ W.

    That’s convenient, being right on the waterfront. Load it into ships, set off a nuclear bomb under each one (far enough under to lift the vapors into the convection cloud rather than scatter dust into the ocean), and the stratosphere becomes different. I’m sure the environmentalists will be happy to no longer have to worry about global warming.

  63. Amazing, not amazing in the manner of “Wow, those clever people!!!” But amazing in that there are people that simply assert ideas without thinking and actually have people listen to them. I wonder, did people pay for access to the symposium? That would add to the level of my amazement.

  64. Jeff Id (10:08:18) :
    “I solved global warming at tAV myself this morning – all before 10 am.
    Reading this article was the final push to write it.
    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/11/09/none-of-the-above-an-alternate-solution-to-global-warming/
    Jeff ID, Tanks for the article.
    1.The arguments against bio fuels (with the only exception of bio fuels produced by
    algae which in my opinion could make sense) is that most bio fuels compete directly with the food chain and propels food prices to the level of oil price, thus triggering famine in the third world countries.
    Before the financial crises we had 350 million people living from less than 1750 calories. Now the number has reached 1.3 billion people.
    In the tropics the production of Jatropha palm oil goes at the costs of tropical forests and the latest generation of ethanol (Shell) will make use of wood.
    Besides that the production of bio fuels, especially methanol uses a lot of water.
    2. Wind energy: People are made to believe that wind is a viable replacement for coal.
    It takes thousands of windmills to replace a single coal power plant and the electricity price will rise by 400% partially due to the need of a back up plant to kick in if the wind lays.
    The most important argument against any alternative but “not so green” and expensive energy is:
    1. the fact that we have sufficient conventional fuels, oil, coal and gas for at least the next 300 years leaving us with sufficient time to find real alternatives.
    2. CO2 is not a driver of temperature on this planet and mittigation in any form has no effect.
    Why? We only introduce 30 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year which is no more than 2 ppmv/yr of the total airborn CO2 budget.
    We have to forgo at least 1 trillion tons of CO2 in order to reduce the Global Temperature by 1 degree Fahrenheit. In order to achieve this we would have to shut down the entire world economy for a period of 33 years which is impossible.
    In realty this period will be at least 200 years because the warming capability of CO2 is much smaller than predicted by the models from the IPCC (1/6).
    So mitigation of CO2 is the is like emptying the pacific ocean with a tea spoon.
    A very expensive tea spoon because the mitigation costs very well could bankrupt the world economy.
    This is the complete calculation (from Monckton)
    Global CO2 emissions at present are 30 billion tons/year (EIA), causing atmospheric concentration to rise by 2 ppmv/year (NOAA). So 15 billion tons emitted will increase atmospheric concentration by 1 ppmv/year. The UN (IPCC, 2007; see also BERN climate model), on scenario A2, which comes closest to the pattern of actual emissions today, says its central estimate of CO2 concentration in 2100 will be 836 ppmv. So the UN thinks we’ll add (836-368) = 468 ppmv to the atmosphere during the 21st century. Multiply that by 15 billion tons/ppmv and the UN is implicitly projecting that, in the absence of any mitigation, the world will emit (468 x 15 bn) = 7 trillion tons CO2 this century. It also projects (IPCC, 2007) that this extra CO2 will raise global temperature by around 7° F. So we need to forego 1 trillion tons of CO2 emission per 1° F warming forestalled. Divide 1 trillion by 30 billion and one concludes that we’d have to close down the entire world carbon economy for 33 years just to forestall a single Fahrenheit degree of warming. Since the UN has exaggerated the warming effect of CO2 sixfold (Lindzen & Choi, 2009), make that 200 years. Therefore, there’s no point in mitigation because the cost is extravagantly disproportionate to the benefit(s).

  65. Okay…everyone who wants the world to be colder raise you hand. Lets see…one, two, three…um…yes…and there! Final count: 6,773,203,094 opposed to a colder Earth. 22,864,912 think colder would be better. 22,654,500 of those live within 20 degrees of the equator. The other 210,412 are self-anointed, egotistical moron’s who believe their limited, mis-education and a long-ago reading of ‘Silent Spring’, entitles them to determine how everyone else on the planet should live, so that they may feel particularly good about themselves. These people usually reside in communities set up for the overly self-important, commonly known as ‘Academia’ and/or ‘Government’.
    (While the actual polling of the entire human population was not, in reality, completed or ever even attempted, a logging of complaints and popular anticdotes has determined that the vast majority of humans on the planet do not want the Earth to be colder. The debate is over! The consensus is unquestionable and overwhelming. Anyone opposed to this pronouncement is obviously a Walmart Executive, for the fire bombing of ‘no-kill’ animal shelters and probably voted for Bush…TWICE!)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWnmCu3U09w (for gravitas)

  66. John Wright (10:22:53) :
    Ron de Haan (08:30:18) :
    “Climate Change, Human Impact, Creative Solutions
    http://www.treehugger.com/galleries/2009/06/coolest_environmental_advertis.php?page=1”
    “And watt will that poor little girl be hanging from – a sky-hook?”
    John, you have to ask the Creative Director Fred Claviere, who is responsible for this production. He said “It was a hard choice to use an image this provocative. But in his own words: “We have to make people react…it was simply too urgent to not use it.”
    I think it is far beyond the rules for good taste and it’s an indication how far the proponents of the AGW religion are willing to go.
    It’s shameless and tasteless.
    Also look here:
    http://www.act-responsible.org/ACT/ACTINCANNES/THEEXPO2009.htm

  67. Why come out with a plan to cool the planet when the planet is apparently cooling all by itself? All this in the face of increasing C02 levels, recovering Arctic sea ice, expanding Antarctic ice, growing Polar bear numbers over 40 years etc., etc.,

  68. John Wright (10:22:53) :
    Ron de Haan (08:30:18) :
    “Climate Change, Human Impact, Creative Solutions
    http://www.treehugger.com/galleries/2009/06/coolest_environmental_advertis.php?page=1”
    “And watt will that poor little girl be hanging from – a sky-hook?”
    It also indicates that we can expect a shift from CO2 reduction to population reduction.
    This requires the Totalitarian World Government announced in Copenhagen Climate Treaty.
    So, you are not only fighting for your freedom, but also for your life.
    These crazy fascists should be locked behind steel doors in a mental institution.

  69. Paddy (09:18:45) :
    “Ms Layzer is an assistant professor (tenure?) with a PhD in Political Science. She is hardly a credible source or qualified to analyze anything to do with any hard science. She might as well be a sociologist.”
    Or a First World Revolutionary Apparatchik

  70. Jimbo (14:14:18) :
    “Why come out with a plan to cool the planet when the planet is apparently cooling all by itself? All this in the face of increasing C02 levels, recovering Arctic sea ice, expanding Antarctic ice, growing Polar bear numbers over 40 years etc., etc.,”
    The warmists deny the facts of science and the real world conditions.
    This is why we call it a the Religion of Global Warming.

  71. Climatology is like economics, an inexact science.
    What happened to the markets late last year despite the markets using advanced financial computer models?

  72. Paul Vaughan (10:41:32) :
    Ron de Haan (02:21:33) “Somehow the scientists from the different faculties are in a state of isolation.”
    That’s how the system works. They all respect each others’ kingdoms.
    This mutually-assured autonomy may be administratively convenient, but it cannot meet society’s complex interdisciplinary needs.
    Institutions write policies and set up structures to appear to be promoting multidisciplinarity, but I can assure you from plenty of first-hand experience that in practice it amounts to mostly facade. This complex problem has deep roots. Sensible players must interfere in a subtle manner (that does not generate instability) to slowly coax the system to where it needs to go.
    Paul, I agree with your assessment.
    However, the people involved in the decision making process, from their isolated position at a certain moment in time become overconfident.
    Gore made his remarks about World Government, Sarkozy and Rudd made similar remark at the G20 meeting in Italy this summer.
    Their policies leak, the first measures are put in practice and the population wakes up. Their biggest problem in fact is that they underestimate the opinion of the man in the street. Their biggest fear is that it will backfire on them and that is the only reason why they are in a hurry to close the legal aspects of the Copenhagen Deal, which is centralized control over our financial systems, our economy, the free markets, our resources and our lives.
    Government run Health Insurance also is a significant part of the control mechanism.
    What was supposed to become an affordable insurance for those currently without, now arrived in the Senate as a rip off proposal that could criminalize millions of Americans if they are not able to pay for the premiums.
    According to the current Bill, Americans that are uninsured must buy a 15.000 dollar policy. If they refuse or fall behind on their payments, they will risk up to 250.000 dollars in fines or five years imprisonment. With increasing job losses you don’t need to be a rocket scientists to conclude that, if implemented, millions of Americans will be criminalized and jailed in no time.
    The others will fear any situation that brings them is a similar position so as a result they will have turned our our society into a “State of Fear”.
    This is just another step on the way to dissolve the free world, undermine our democratic systems and turn their power grab into a success.
    The discussion about CO2 mitigation will quickly move in the direction of over population. Strange enough most people agree that over population is a real problem.
    Draconian policies and measures will be taken to achieve their objectives and it won’t take long before the true face of the new doctrine and it’s intentions become evident.
    This is the very reason why sensitivity and subtle manners have to be applied at this moment in time, because we are dealing with a real monster here.
    A monster with the intention to reduce the world population to 1 billion inhabitants.
    With the facts at the table , informed and sane people have to come to a conclusion.
    My conclusion is that humanity currently is under assault or more to the point, at war! The only problem is that they don’t know it yet.

  73. Friends:
    With respect, everybody here seems to have missed the point concerning geo-engineering proposals: i.e.
    the existence of the geo-engineering proposals provides politicians with the possibility of stopping their attempts to constrain emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) notably carbon dioxide (CO2).
    Several here have reacted with knee-jerk reactions of horror at the suggestion of geo-engineering. I ask them to stop and think for a moment.
    The emission constraints are a response to the hypothesis of anthropogenic (i.e. man-made) global warming (AGW).
    At present there is no empirical evidence of any kind that the AGW hypothesis is correct. But supporters of the AGW-scare assert that action must be taken now to avoid the possibility of dangerous AGW in the future.
    Politicians are responding to the AGW-scare by trying to constrain anthropogenic emissions of GHGs. Such constraints would do much harm and, therefore, they should not be accepted unless absolutely necessary. But politicians of several countries are committed to their having accepted the AGW-scare as being a potential threat which warrants the constraints.
    The politicians need a viable reason if they are to back-off from this commitment to the constraints without losing face.
    They cannot say they were wrong to have supported AGW because that would lose them votes.
    And they cannot be seen to be doing nothing in response to the AGW scare because that would lose them votes.
    They need to be seen to be doing something while really doing nothing unless and until something needs to be done. And a rapid response to an observed problem of AGW is needed.
    The geo-engineering option provides the needed viable reason to do nothing about AGW now.
    Simply, the geo-engineering option allows the AGW-scare to die a natural death by providing politicians with a ‘way out’ and it has very little risk. I explain this as follows.
    The AGW-scare is founded on an unproven assumption that global temperature is determined by net radiative forcing, and increase to greenhouse gases in the air provides additional positive radiative forcing.
    Increase to aerosols in the air increases cloud cover to provide additional negative radiative forcing. So, increasing atmospheric aerosols would drop global temperature. And this could be done at relatively little cost, for example, by emitting sulphates from commercial aircraft distant from land.
    Hence, if AGW does prove to be a problem then the geo-engineering is a method to immediately stop its effects when it is detected. Actions to constrain the GHG emissions could then be implemented. The cost of the geo-engineering would be much less than the costs of the constraints to GHG emissions in the period until effects of AGW are detected. Indeed, the costs of the geo-engineering would be trivial compared to the costs of 20% reduction to world-wide GHG emissions for a single year.
    Importantly, very importantly, if AGW does not prove to be a problem then no constraints to greenhouse gas emissions and no geo-engineering would be needed.
    In the extremely improbable event that the geo-engineering were needed then it would have very little risk because aerosols wash out of the air in a few days so the geo-engineering and its effects could be stopped instantly in the event that it were to cause a problem. And no such problem is foreseeable.
    And individual countries would be inhibited from unilateral geo-engineering for fear of accusations of harming their neighbours’ weather. Indeed, negotiations between countries prior to implementing geo-engineering trials could be difficult.
    Whether or not AGW does become a real problem in the real world, the geo-engineering option is preferable to adopting constraints on GHG emissions in the near future.
    And politicians could be seen to be doing something by implementing small geo-engineering trials with press publicity and with photo-shoots while continuing to talk about how to constrain CO2 emissions should such constraints ever become needed.
    I repeat, the geo-engineering option allows the AGW-scare to die a natural death by providing politicians with a ‘way out’.
    The alternative to the geo-engineering option is the naive assertion that polticians should do nothing in response to the AGW-scare. But that assertion is naive because ‘doing nothing’ is not an option available to the polticians (they would lose votes).
    This suggested political ploy of potential geo-engineering is not fanciful and it has precedent. Opponents of the nuclear industry have objected that there is no “safe” method to dispose of nuclear waste. And the nuclear industry has responded by asserting that the waste could be vitrified. A practical method for the vitrification still remains to be developed, but assertion of the possibility of the vitrification has been sufficient to overcome objections to nuclear power in several countries for nearly 40 years. (Incidentally, I am in favour of nuclear power).
    Richard

  74. Richard Courtney
    With no less respect (I am familiar with your writings and often recommend your article “Global warming, how it all began”), I would just like to ask you one question:
    Was the proposed vitrification of nuclear waste a “political ploy” too?
    (Incidentally, I am not in favour of nuclear power, although if vitrification could be proved viable, I might change my mind, but your last remark does not give much hope on that count, does it?)

  75. Ron de Haan (14:32:47):
    I could have said sociologist or lawyer. But I am a lawyer who retired after 48 years. And, I know enough about science to recognize that AGW is a fraud. Thus, I don’t want to denigrate those of us with highly refined BS sensors.

  76. Richard: should scientists really pander to politicians? More than ever now, scientists need to deal in the truth, not more lies. And, saying that we “need” geoengineering to “stop global warming” is a lie.

  77. Friends:
    I am away from my base and have limited internet access here so this response is brief. Sorry.
    John Wright:
    You ask me;
    “Was the proposed vitrification of nuclear waste a “political ploy” too?”
    I answer, yes.
    And the fact that after nearly 4 decades the vitrfication has still not been perfected makes that answer obvious.
    Bruce Cobb:
    I did not say;
    “we “need” geoengineering to “stop global warming””.
    I said;
    “the geo-engineering option allows the AGW-scare to die a natural death by providing politicians with a ‘way out’.”
    Richard

  78. Richard:
    Obvious yes, but in the face of such candid cynicism, one is tempted to ask for confirmation.
    And I shouldn’t worry too much about providing politicians with a ‘way out’, they are virtuosi of the pirouette – although this time it’ll have to be a good ‘un!

  79. richardscourtney (02:48:34) “The alternative to the geo-engineering option is the naive assertion that polticians should do nothing in response to the AGW-scare. But that assertion is naive because ‘doing nothing’ is not an option available to the polticians (they would lose votes).”
    You are way off the mark here.
    I’ll give you one example:
    Here in Canada every political party with climate change policy based on climate alarmism sits low in the polls.
    We possibly won’t have a change in government here before the Liberal Party of Canada makes serious changes to its climate alarmism position.
    The solution (including the political one) is not to replace insanity & paranoia with patently worse [geo-engineering] insanity & paranoia, but rather to sensibly refocus the public’s attention on the real problems faced by our environment (without evoking fear & paranoia).

  80. How about just ignoring it? If the hoax becomes real and the earth does warm, then the atmosphere will have a lower relative humidity and so evaporate more water, which will transport a LOT more energy from the surface and radiate it out into space, thus cooling the earth, AND forming more clouds in the process, and THAT is a lot better and cheaper that dumping sulfur into the atmosphere.

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