Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Geoengineering's self-fulfilling prophesies and other rendered moot arguments against research.

By Oscar A. Escobar

Last update March 5, 2015 for formatting, clarity and new content re. NAS webinar.

"Perhaps the most worrying issue at this early stage is that the initiation of serious SWCE research would create interest groups that have strong incentives to continue SWCE research and even implementation. The first interest group would consist of scientists who have devoted significant portions of their careers to SWCE [4]. A secondary group might arise with significant commercial interests in SWCE [22]. Either of these groups would resist efforts to abandon SWCE research, and they might push for SWCE implementation even if it proves to be unwise. Thus, it would be naïve to think that, once SWCE research is undertaken, it could be terminated promptly if proven undesirable.

In many scientists' minds, these worries are outweighed by the need for better information about SWCE [5, 10]. There may come a time, goes the argument, when SWCE is society's only option for averting climate disaster. In order to ensure that society knows enough to deploy SWCE effectively, should the need arise, we need to begin doing SWCE research now. This argument has been challenged on numerous grounds [47], but its prominence in scientific circles underwrites our assumption that climatic SWCE research may occur in the near future."  Morrow et al 2009

The academic debate on Geoengineering is precisely that.. academic; but at times this 'debate' seems would be more appropriately venued in a kabuki theater.

'Unintended', wink wink, Geoengineering [1] has been a fact of life for so long that some have argued it would be counterproductive to stop. [2] Never mind that consequences such as global droughts, ocean fertilization leading to increased acidification, ozone layer destruction and acid rain are too, part of the equation; each of these with their own set of consequences further down the line. And beyond that, the possibility that SRM and cloud brightening and ocean fertilization may not be as efficient or may in fact, in some cases, do the opposite of what the stated purpose of GE has been.

Even so, I find that some proponents of GE are or have been at some times more forthcoming on the realities of unintended GE [3] where, to date, I fail to hear a call for investigation into unintended GE from the 'against' crowd whom with this silence, perhaps unwittingly, may have issued their tacit approval to the intentional kind.

Undermining the efforts against GE

To this moment, academic arguments against research into GE have been erroneously premised on the possibility of future deployment when in truth this deployment already happened, even if  in an unintended way.

For years now it has been hard to walk outside and not see the sky 'blanketed' by persistent contrails. Yet the silence on the subject from the Geoengineering community, both pro and con, has been deafening.
It apparently does not matter that for all intends and purposes some of the effects and look of these contrails, much as the ocean ship tracks, match the descriptions of what SRM would look like and do, maybe down to the dire consequences.

So perhaps those in the GE community who are genuinely opposed to Geoengineering should revise their premises and call for research into GE with the purpose of ending this'unintended', but failed and still ongoing experiment.

Update Aug 23, 2014

Andrew Lockley from the 'geoengineering google group' commented about this post (Goengineering's self fulfilling prophesies) on twitter via geoengineernig1: 'that article is utter claptrap'. Then he proceeded to post this on the google group:

"The scary tipping point nobody talks about here

A personal view :

Solar costs are falling precipitously. And this makes geoengineering more urgent, not less. To quote from the article linked below

"Citigroup said solar already competes in the growing regions of the world on "pure economics" without subsidies. It has reached grid parity with residential electricity prices in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Australia and the US southwest. Japan will cross this year, Korea in 2018. It forecast that even Britain will achieve grid parity by 2020, a remarkable thought for this wet isle at 51 or 52 degrees latitude."


Solar power is not only cheap, it's available everywhere (if not everywhen).

After years of fruitless negotiations, we're about to see technology hand decarbonisation to us on a plate.

When the transition comes, it will be frighteningly fast. I suggest that we'll see large scale grid decarbonisation within a decade of the crossover, and this will take vehicles with it. Only winter heat and air travel will be stubbornly resistant, as EV batteries buffer demand through the day.

Herein lies a problem. The tropospheric aerosols are going to go away, and fast. They're shielding us from a substantial fraction of present warming.

We have until around 2030 to decide what to do about this. Nothing anyone can say or do will defer this day of reckoning. We'll need to be deployed on adapted by then, and I don't think adaptation will happen.

What's your view?"


I for one am glad that with this one post he is trying to take the conversation in that direction there. At least the debate would be better premised. OE 
(PS I do recommend the NOAA and BBC articles below the Aug. 22, 2014 update about the slowdown  )

Added Mar 5, 2015

In a webinar of the National Academy of Sciences on February 26, 2015 I asked:

#ClimateIntervention Given the risk of lock in to albedo modification Why the lack of urgency on ascertaining effects of 'un-intended' SO2 CI

That in twitter speak meant:

Given the risk of lock-in to albedo modification [geoengineering]. Why the lack of urgency on ascertaining effects of 'un-intended' [climate intervention] [with sulfur dioxide]?

Another person made similar question in reference to industrial pollution, Mr. Waleed Abdalati the 'Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) -University of Colorado' replied focusing on the Arctic and the problem of warming from black carbon or soot.

I also asked,

#ClimateIntervention Where can spanish speaking lay people in the global south,  learn about and weigh the consequences of proposed CI?

Update Aug. 22, 2014:

Two articles refer to the 'global warming hiatus' and point to the effects of aerosols on climate. One from 2011 and the most recent from Aug 2014. I think it is important to acknowledge the beneficial or desired effects of SO2 such as cooling, but also to point the undesired ones too. Such as droughts, biodiversity loss, and deleterious human health effects of for example SO2. Witch may be the cause of up to 400,000 yearly deaths, but let us not forget the non fatal health effects and the costs of prolonged illness. (see article)
 http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/11/business/worldbusiness/11chinacoal.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&) The previous article also points to how the burning of coal has lifted some of populations out of poverty. Energy poverty is one of the many facets that makes the issue highly complex. But I think there are better 'feasible' alternatives to the burning of coal. (See article) https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140821192526-258664-sorry-bill-gates-but-you-re-wrong-on-this-issue "Ending energy poverty requires the right tool for the job: Distributed energy". 

A question that should not be forgotten is: why then Arctic ice loss continues to accelerate as it is being reported?

The articles about aerosols and climate:

NOAA study: Increase in particles high in Earth’s atmosphere has offset some recent climate warming

July 21, 2011
Light from a lidar instrument forms a beam in the sky over Boulder, Colo.. NOAA researchers and colleagues used lidar data to better understand recent changes in the amounts of tiny particles high in Earth's atmosphere.
Light from a lidar instrument forms a beam in the sky over Boulder, Colo.. NOAA researchers and colleagues used lidar data to better understand recent changes in the amounts of tiny particles high in Earth's atmosphere.
Download here. (Credit: CIRES/NOAA)
A recent increase in the abundance of particles high in the atmosphere has offset about a third of the current climate warming influence of carbon dioxide (CO2) change during the past decade, according to a new study led by NOAA and published today in the online edition of Science.

In the stratosphere, miles above Earth’s surface, small, airborne particles reflect sunlight back into space, which leads to a cooling influence at the ground. These particles are also called “aerosols," and the new paper explores their recent climate effects -- the reasons behind their increase remain the subject of ongoing research.
“Since the year 2000, stratospheric aerosols have caused a slower rate of climate warming than we would have seen without them,” says John Daniel, a physicist at the NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. and an author of the new study.
The new study focused on the most recent decade, when the amount of aerosol in the stratosphere has been in something of a “background” state, lacking sharp upward spikes from very large volcanic eruptions. The authors analyzed measurements from several independent sources – satellites and several types of ground instruments – and found a definitive increase in stratospheric aerosol since 2000.
“Stratospheric aerosol increased surprisingly rapidly in that time, almost doubling during the decade,” Daniel said. “The increase in aerosols since 2000 implies a cooling effect of about 0.1 watts per square meter – enough to offset some of the 0.28 watts per square meter warmingeffect from the carbon dioxide increase during that same period.”
Sources of stratospheric aerosols.
Sources of aerosols reach the stratosphere from above and below, as shown in the graph. Sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbonyl sulfide (OCS), and dimethyl sulfide(DMS) are the dominant surface emissions which contribute to aerosol formation.
Download here. (Credit: NOAA)
The reasons for the 10-year increase in stratospheric aerosols are not fully understood and are the subject of ongoing research, says coauthor Ryan Neely, with the University of Colorado and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). Likely suspects are natural sources – smaller volcanic eruptions – and/or human activities, which could have emitted the sulfur-containing gases, such as sulfur dioxide, that react in the atmosphere to form reflective aerosol particles.
Daniel and colleagues with NOAA, CIRES, the University of Colorado, NASA, and the University of Paris used a climate model to explore how changes in the stratosphere’s aerosol content could affect global climate change – both in the last decade, and projected into the future. The team concluded that models miss an important cooling factor if they don’t account for the influence of stratospheric aerosol, or don’t include recent changes in stratospheric aerosol levels.
Moreover, future global temperatures will depend on stratospheric aerosol. The warming from greenhouse gases and aerosols calculated for the coming decade can vary by almost a factor of two — depending on whether aerosols continue to increase at the same rate as over the past decade, or if instead they decrease to very low levels, such as those experienced in 1960.
If stratospheric aerosol levels continue to increase, temperatures will not rise as quickly as they would otherwise, said Ellsworth Dutton, also with NOAA ESRL and a co-author on the paper. Conversely, if stratospheric aerosol levels decrease, temperatures would increase faster. Dutton and his colleagues use the term “persistently variable” to describe how the background levels of aerosol in Earth’s stratosphere can change from one decade to the next, even in the absence of major volcanic activity.
Lidar instruments - pointing up from the ground or down from satellites - use reflected light to measure the amounts of particles and their locations, which can influence climate.
Lidar instruments - pointing up from the ground or down from satellites - use reflected light to measure the amounts of particles and their locations, which can influence climate.
Download here. (Credit: CIRES/NOAA)
Ultimately, by incorporating the ups and downs of stratospheric aerosols, climate models will be able to give not only better estimates of future climate change, but also better explanations of past climate changes.
“The ‘background’ stratospheric aerosols are more of a player than we thought,” said Daniel. “The last decade has shown us that it doesn’t take an extremely large volcanic eruption for these aerosols to be important to climate.”
Authors of the paper are: Susan Solomon, University of Colorado; John Daniel, Chemical Sciences Division of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory; Ryan Neely, CIRES-University of Colorado and NOAA-ESRL; J.P. Vernier, NASA-Langley Research Center and University of Paris; Ellsworth Dutton, Global Monitoring Division of NOAA-ESRL; and Larry Thomason, NASA-Langley.
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us onFacebookTwitter and our other social media channel
Article at NOAA news webpage:

Global warming slowdown 'could last another decade'

The hiatus in the rise in global temperatures could last for another 10 years, according to new research.
Scientists have struggled to explain the so-called pause that began in 1999, despite ever increasing levels of CO2 in the atmosphere.
The latest theory says that a naturally occurring 30-year cycle in the Atlantic Ocean is behind the slowdown.
The researchers says this slow-moving current could continue to divert heat into the deep seas for another decade.
However, they caution that global temperatures are likely to increase rapidly when the cycle flips to a warmer phase.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),global average temperatures have increased by around 0.05C per decade in the period between 1998 and 2012.
This compares with a decadal average of 0.12 between 1951 and 2012.
More than a dozen theories have been put forward on the cause of this pause in temperature growth that occurred while emissions of carbon dioxide were at record highs.
These ideas include the impact of pollution such as soot particles that have reflected back some of the Sun's heat into space.
Increased volcanic activity since 2000 has also been blamed, as have variations in solar activity.
The most recent perspectives have looked to the oceans as the locations of the missing heat.
Full article from de BBC:

May 2013
Studying geoengineering with natural and anthropogenic analogs
Alan Robock el al.

Solar radiation management (SRM) has been proposed as a possible option for offsetting some anthropogenic radiative forcing, with the goal of reducing some of the associated climatic changes. There are clearly significant uncertainties associated with SRM, and even small-scale experiments that might reduce uncertainty would carry some risk. However, there are also natural and anthropogenic analogs to SRM, such as volcanic eruptions in the case of stratospheric aerosol injection and ship tracks in the case of marine cloud albedo modification. It is essential to understand what we can learn from these analogs in order to validate models, particularly because of the problematic nature of outdoor experiments. It is also important to understand what we cannot learn, as this might better focus attention on what risks would need to be solely examined by numerical models. Stratospheric conditions following a major volcanic eruption, for example, are not the same as those to be expected from intentional geoengineering, both because of confounding effects of volcanic ash and the differences between continuous and impulsive injection of material into the stratosphere. Nonetheless, better data would help validate models; we thus recommend an appropriate plan be developed to better monitor the next large volcanic eruption. Similarly, more could be learned about cloud albedo modification from careful study not only of ship tracks, but of ship and other aerosol emission sources in cloud regimes beyond the narrow conditions under which ship tracks form; this would benefit from improved satellite observing capabilities.

Added Feb. 7, 2014

Met Office Study: Solar Radiation Management with stratospheric sulfate aerosols leads to drought
Video from The Met Office via Laboratory Equipment.

Added Nov 13, 2014

Sulfur Dioxide: Its Role in Climate Change

Attribution of the United States “warming hole”: Aerosol indirect effect and precipitable water vapor
Shaocai Yu,     Kiran Alapaty,     Rohit Mathur,     Jonathan Pleim,     Yuanhang Zhang,     Chris Nolte,     Brian Eder,     Kristen Foley     & Tatsuya Nagashima
doi:10.1038/srep06929 Published

Aerosols can influence the climate indirectly by acting as cloud condensation nuclei and/or ice nuclei, thereby modifying cloud optical properties. In contrast to the widespread global warming, the central and south central United States display a noteworthy overall cooling trend during the 20th century, with an especially striking cooling trend in summertime daily maximum temperature (Tmax) (termed the U.S. “warming hole”). Here we used observations of temperature, shortwave cloud forcing (SWCF), longwave cloud forcing (LWCF), aerosol optical depth and precipitable water vapor as well as global coupled climate models to explore the attribution of the “warming hole”. We find that the observed cooling trend in summer Tmax can be attributed mainly to SWCF due to aerosols with offset from the greenhouse effect of precipitable water vapor. A global coupled climate model reveals that the observed “warming hole” can be produced only when the aerosol fields are simulated with a reasonable degree of accuracy as this is necessary for accurate simulation of SWCF over the region. These results provide compelling evidence of the role of the aerosol indirect effect in cooling regional climate on the Earth. Our results reaffirm that LWCF can warm both winter Tmax and Tmin.


[1] Geoengineering takes a ride in shipping lanes
February 19, 2010 
Mary Beckman

By Oliver Morton -August 20, 2009

[3] Using Aerosol Injections for Geoengineering
Joyce Penner, University of Michigan 

Excerpt from:  
Toward ethical norms and institutions for climate engineering research
David R Morrow1,3, Robert E Kopp2 and Michael Oppenheimer2 (2009)

Other resources (Updated July, 2013):

Africa's Worst Drought Tied to West's Pollution. June 2013

Sooty ships may be geoengineering by accident. Feb 2013

WW2 Air Raids Affected the Weather
JUL 10, 2011 05:47 AM ET // BY TIM WALL


Memorandum submitted by Dr James Lee GEO 01
1. Summary of Main Points

Cloud seeding is a geo-engineering tool that is widely used by more than 30 countries. With climate change, fresh water resources will be in decline in many parts of the world, particularly around the equator. One result may be an increase in the use of cloud seeding.. As cloud seeding becomes more effective and widely disseminated, it may be a factor in conflict situations or a reason to precipitate conflict. Disputes over cloud seeding could fall under the Environmental Modification Treaty.

2. Brief Introduction about Me
I currently hold administrative and faculty positions at American University. Prior to that, I have worked at the U.S. Trade Representative and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

3. Factual Information

Most recently, I am the author of Climate Change and Armed Conflict (Routledge, 2009), "Global Warming Is Just the Tip of the Iceberg", Washington Post, January 4, 2009, and "A Brief History of Climate Change and Conflict", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 14, 2009. I also run the web site, Inventory of Conflict and Environment.http://www1.american.edu/ted/ICE/index.html

4. Recommendations
There needs to be a better understanding of the modes for cloud seeding and its impacts. A beginning point would be a multilateral registry of cloud seeding events with information and data collection on key characteristics.

"There has been extensive use of cloud seeding in the United States (see Figure 2), largely in the southern states near the Mexican border. Programs concentrate on two geographical areas. First, there are several south central states, such as Texas, prone to dry conditions in the summer or during spring planting. Hail suppression is a concern in Kansas and Oklahoma. The other major nexus of use is the states in the Colorado River Basin, including Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California, who use it to increase winter snowpack. North Dakota seeds clouds for hail suppression and Idaho for increasing fresh water resources"

Dr. James R. LeeAssociate Director for Technical Support and TrainingCenter for Teaching Excellence and Adjunct Professor, School of International ServiceAmerican UniversityWashington, DC (2009) 

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A #Geoengineering #Climate Issues blog - Geoingeniería by Oscar and Jocelyn Escobar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Licencia Creative Commons
A #Geoengineering #Climate Issues blog por Oscar y Jocelyn Escobar se distribuye bajo una Licencia Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial 4.0 Internacional.