Sunday, July 7, 2013

How do we stop messing with nature? and How do we know Climate Change wasn’t by design? Re: Earth Systems Engineering and Management

Earth Systems Engineering and Management
10/09/2007 5:00 PM 10"250 Brad Allenby, Arizona State University

Statements in bold letters are my emphasis, while italics mean I may have a comment which will be
referenced. [ ]
The question about geoengineering was interesting to me, because in some ways none of us would be here if in fact we weren’t already geoengineering this planet, that is the whole reason we are worried about it. The fact that we may have not intended to do it, the fact that we didn’t think about it rationally, ethically, nor was it part of our design[1]; that is relatively immaterial from the point of view of the systems involved in the planet. It’s a geoengineered planet.

 Beginning from that perspective I think we have to ask some questions about what our responsibility is.

I like to begin by suggesting that these approaches to earth systems are critical but they all tend to overlook perhaps the most fundamental earth system of all as we go forward and that is the human system.
I propose to talk about some of the aspects of the human in a couple of ways:
The first is… I think that raises the complexity of the issues that we are dealing with far more than we realize, one of the things that happens when you have meetings like this, is that we all tend to come from roughly similar backgrounds in terms of values and priorities. But there is a lot of people in the world that don’t share them, that becomes an important criteria.
The second is the we tend to assume that we have a reasonable handle going forward on what some of the possibilities are and therefore we can talk about it with some degree of rationality. I think that is at best an optimistic assumption.

 (Quotes on slide)
“We are as Gods, and we might as well get good at it.” Stewart Brand, 1968, Whole Earth Catalog
“The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.” William Gibson
“Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” Vishnu, Bhagavad Gita. Robert Oppenheimer at Trinity Test, 1945. White Sands, New Mexico

A couple of observations,
I picked up a couple of quotes that I like for a number of different reasons.

The first one is from Stewart Brand, 1968, Whole Earth Catalog:

We are as Gods, and we might as well get good at it.”

The reason this is interesting is that this goes back to a period when environment and technology were coupled. Stuart Brand was talking about developing technologies than integrated the social, the cultural and the environmental. He was talking about sustainability before it was hip. What it's happened since then is that we have de-coupled those activities; the sustainability discourse tends not to talk to much about technology.
The science discourse tends to talk about technology but not understand its most important dimensions which is that it is profoundly destabilizing of our basic assumptions
The second one is there because; first if you don’t know it, you really should, it’s a very useful quote to use in all occasions.

The future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed.” William Gibson

One of the things that is fascinating is the way that technology rolls on and most of us are blithe-fully un-aware of the overall frontier of technology and the way it is changing.
I’ll make a couple of suggestions as some of the most profound. But a very simple example, is the fact that in the biotech community there is a reasonable probability that we will be able to extend human life to somewhere between one hundred to one hundred and twenty in the next decade or two.
My students are generally pretty excited about that, I am not so excited.
Pretty interesting to me is... you could go the conferences on industrial ecology in Stockholm last year and you could listen to a number of very educated, very deep analyses virtually every one of which is obsoleted if you assume that the life span in developing countries goes to a hundred and ten or a hundred and twenty. There is a profound disconnect between the implications of technology that is happening today and the assumptions that we are so blithely building into our models.
The third of course, must of you are probably familiar with,

Now I am become Death, destroyer of worlds.” Vishnu, Bhagavad Gita. Robert Oppenheimer at Trinity Test, 1945. White Sands, New Mexico

What is interesting to me is the original quote was by Vishnu, Bhagavad Gita, but when it was said by Robert Opnehamimer during the Trinity test 1945.
If you want to look at the single cusp where the human species went from the ability to just do interesting things to itself to the being able to do serious damage to the planet that was the cusp.
A lot of this is not new, if you look at Heidegger for example, which we will, I regret to say, he was writing in the fifties about the implications of a world where technology was beginning to dominate the structure. And this is Heidegger as promised


So long as we do not, trough thinking, experience what is, we can never belong to what will be.

The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness to the historical moment.

There are two things that can be said about these. The first thing is that these are probably the only two sentences he wrote that can be understood without the use of powerful pharmaceuticals...
he was a german metaphysician.
The second in particular, is that last sentence:

“The flight into tradition, out of a combination of humility and presumption, can bring about nothing in itself other than self-deception and blindness to the historical moment.”

I would argue that not only do we deceive ourselves, not only are we blind to the world that we have created and are creating in an ongoing basis, but we have every incentive to remain so. To remain buried in our disciplinary boundaries because it enables us to posture in ways that don’t involve taking responsibility for the systems.
One of the ways you can see that is the way that we talk about energy. The patterns are very clear… right?
I mean you got India and China, they are developing rapidly, they are putting up cold power plants and we are arguing about Kyoto. There is serious disconnect.
So a couple of things we should care about. We mentioned the anthropocene .
Technology, the integrated impact of technology is staggering and it is not well understood


·        Welcome to the Antropocene (Nature editorial in 2003) 
      -- Welcome to the human earth
·        Technology, especially the converging foundational streams of nanotechnology, biotechnology, cognitive science, robotics, and information and communication technology, is critical focus on accelerating evolutionary pressures.
·        The world is becoming much more complex and information dense, and information structures are growing at every level – and information is culture; accelerating ICT evolution is accelerating cultural evolution

Look at what the railroad did to things as diverse as the pattern of business in the United States. Small business was the dominant pattern before the rail road, why? It was a local economy.
Comes the railroad, what is the dominant pattern? Trust.
What did that change, it changed the entire financial structure of this country because in order to finance the railroad, you had to change the way in which finance was done across the country. It changed culture, it profoundly changed Americans view of their fundamental theology was, their view of themselves. Before the railroad we tended to view ourselves as Jeffersonian agrarianists, after the railroad that was impossible. The railroad destroyed, tore up, Jeffersonian agrarianism, we changed into a very different country.
Now we are facing not just the railroad, but an integrated change in Nano which accelerates our understanding of materials down to the lowest level; robotics, biotechnology, information and communication technology and cognitive science. It’s all changing at the same time. The idea that we understand this; that we can make projections out a hundred years on anything is laughable!  … With all due respect.
The world is becoming much more complicated and information dense. How much have we heard today about information structures, the impact of cyber space and the difference in systems operation that is implied by the information structures we are busy imposing on ourselves? Virtually nothing, why? Because the discourse we are involved in comes out of the environmental discourse which focuses on energy and materials… and environmental impact. That’s fine, but if we want to understand this world we have to understand the information dimensions of it and frankly that entire discourse is not plugged into any of the things we usually talk about.


              Trends We Should Care About
·        Natural systems become integrated with human and built systems, and subject to their dynamics: (e.g., reflexivity, intentionality) – examples                                                              genetic engineering and IP: carbon cycle and sulfur cycle management. There is no “natural history,” only human history.
·        Professionals and firms are being charged by society with responsibility not just for their actions, but for their technology systems (ef: Monsanto and genetically modified organisms).
·        Sustainability is becoming a powerful mythology

Part of the way you can see this is… think about natural systems and the way they are now becoming integrated into human systems with results that are very profound.
 Perhaps the best example is biology; 50 years ago, biology was something you study out there, we were beginning to get a grip on ecology.. Odum… people like that, but we really were studying it like a subject out there.
Now if you think about what we are doing is as rapidly as we can and we are taking information structure biology, genomics, proteomics; we are taking through it the IP system, the intellectual property system, and we are turning it into various kinds of economic products.
Synthetic biology, what is the goal of synthetic biology in its design? Its goal is economic.

But what that does is, it takes a system that was previously outside the human domain and it puts it squarely in the human domain and it makes it subject to the constraints of the human domain and the behavior of the human domain which are much more complex that some of these natural systems.

“Professionals and firms are being charged by society with responsibility”

Not a bad thing you would think, except if we have to charge firms with responsibility for social issues what does it tell you about the failure of your governance system?
It tells you that the failure of your governance system is pretty much accomplished. That’s what it tells you.
Because if it weren’t you wouldn’t have to take firms and try to get them to do environmental and social responsibility because the government would have those in hand and then would impose it on firms as appropriate operating through the appropriate mechanisms trough regulation.
The fact that NGOs have to go to firms to try drive firms to do it indicates a failure in the governance system, moreover, it’s a dangerous failure. Why?
Because, firms don’t know that much about social responsibility. So what do they do?
They implement what gets them out of trouble. It works for the NGOs because they are the ones that can establish the agenda. It works for the firms because they can manage to stay out of trouble, whether it works for greater social good is a different question.
Sustainability is becoming a powerful mythology, this is important… by the way, by mythology I do not mean it in a disparaging sense, mythology as in a sense of a fundamental belief structure. The reason that it is important is because sustainability becomes more and more of the dialogue in for example engineering, and if engineers try to quantify sustainability it becomes very problematic. If they understand it as a general social goal to which they must be responsive but it may change in different ways depending on the system they are working on, then they can understand the system.

Ethical structures


              Trends We Should Care About
·        Ethical structures (macroethics) appropriate for complex adaptive systems have not yet been developed.
·        Highly likely that technological evolution will become discontinuous in terms of cultural ability to adapt.
·        Foundational values and cultural constructs become contingent over much shorter time frames (swamp/wetlands, jungle/rainforest, wilderness evil to good; natural/supernatural to natural human).
·        End of Cold War destabilized global power relationships (fundamentalism vs. modernity – in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, environmentalism, Hinduism, and else ware).

Ethical Structures appropriate for these kinds of systems have not yet been adopted, this is a major problem. Part of the reason is… think about the ethics that we bring to things like, is this a good energy system? Is this a good regulation?
Those ethical  structures tend to be fairly utilitarian, that is to say I figure out what the effects of my actions are going to  be and then I implement them in such a way that I benefit the most people as much as I can.
13: 26
Oversimplified but that is the general idea of regulation.
The problem with that is that presupposes you know what that system is going to do. If we get to a point where we are involved in these complex adaptive systems and we don’t we should not be relaying on ethical systems that presuppose a knowledge that we can’t have. We should instead be developing ethical systems that enable us to interact with the system in ways that are rational, reasonable and ethical given that we know the system will evolve in ways that are unpredictable.
I don’t want to get too much into It, but I do want to make the point that there is a danger as we begin to go out pass the relative short term in assuming that we are competent to understand what the future will want and able to impose it on the future.
One of the things that you find if you begin to look back at the history of critical concepts; is that they change fairly dramatically over time.
The idea of wilderness when the Europeans first came to this country tended to be associated with the satanic; and it was not figurative, it was literal. Read Emerson, read some of the transcendentalist, read Whitman and the job of the European settler in North America is seen as overcoming the satanic wilderness and creating a garden.
But now of course wilderness is where you go when you died and have been good all your life.
 My point is not that one is right and the other is wrong. My point is that we are inadequately sensitive to the fact that our culture constructs are historically contingent, and we need to be sensitive to that.
Because if they begin changing more rapidly than our policies what we are going to be doing is embedding culturally contingent concepts into policies that then become imperialistic on future generations.
Case in point:
I was at the Smithsonian…  actually it was MIT ??? first conference and there was an environmental economist there. And he spoke before me and he put up a picture of New England factory with the smoke coming out of the…
The postcard saying how wonderful was because we all had jobs, and of course everybody spent 10 minutes laughing at it, and how stupid they were…
And then before I got up I had the sudden realization, struck on the way to Damascus, that I was probably going to be saying things that would sound just as stupid and just as out of place 20, 30, 40, years from now.
So I went up there trying to figure out what was about to say that was in fact stupid.
Because there is no guarantee that what we think now and what we are trying to impose through our policies is any less contingent than that picture of the factory and what’s even worse is… they may both had been right for their era. Which is truly frightening because it means that our understanding of what we think we are all about is more contingent than we think it is?
End of Cold War destabilized global power relationships… why is that in there?
It’s in there for a very good reason.
We tend to get caught up in whatever activity we are involved in, and I think that is important to go back at points and trying to figure out what the real issues are. So for example with sustainability, one of the issues that came up in a discussion that we had at ASU at the Global Institute for Sustainability is one of the real challenges to sustainability in the short term, and of course one of the real challenges is the democratization of weapons of mass destruction.
People talk a lot about democratizing technology as if it were a good thing and in some ways it is, but we have also democratize the dark side of technology.
The biotechnology, I am sure that now there are many, many laboratories around MIT where you can build the 1918 flu virus if you want. I don’t recommend it, I am sure homeland defense doesn’t recommend it, but, it’s doable.
The democratization of nuclear weapons is what scares a lot of the expert that look at potential 5,10, 15 year meltdown scenarios for the world. Why? Because if you set off a nuclear weapon in a mayor America city there is not city, including NY that we couldn’t survive having disappear, as difficult and ugly as that would be.
It’s the after effects of such an attack, the United States very emotional, very angry, heavily armed and undoubtedly very susceptible to demagoguery at that point.
That’s the thing that people worry about in the State Department and in the Pentagon.
That’s the kind of challenge we need to think about as we bring these other issues.


            Trends We Should Care About
·        Terrorism and national security increasingly drive technological evolution (e.g., reversing cognitive enhancement to create cognitive de-enhancement weapons).
·        Role of nation-state changing profoundly, leading to multinational governance power structure.
·        The New Great Game continues horses are EU, US, Japan, China, Russia, others. This drives competitive technological explosion, especially of NBIRC.
·        Technological changes undermines our language and the disciplines we try to use to understand and model our world. Evolutionary biology segues into synthetic biology, and the biodiversity crisis becomes a cusp as biology changes to a design space.
·        Our Ignorance is profound, and hidden by ideology, fundamentalism and fear.

I think here the point of technological change, and this is something that Leon Cass points out and it does so very effectible from his perspective. His argument is that the difficulty with technological change is that it is extraordinarily destabilizing… and he is right. The problem is that this technological wave that is coming down on us is going to be very difficult to avoid. It will be destabilizing but in way we are not prepared for.
So for example, one of the arguments that one hears is that the biodiversity crisis is not a crisis, that is a cusp that what you are seeing is a shift in the information content in biological systems from evolved biodiversity to design biodiversity, and that the amount of information in the system is going to become even greater as we move towards a biology dominated by design systems.
I don’t know if that is true or not.
I don’t even know how you measure biodiversity because if you are doing traditional biodiversity you use species; if you are doing designed biodiversity it’s not clear that you use species as a meaningful grouping of information structures, because you can change them at will.
So there are those measurement problems, but more importantly, until we begin to think about those possibilities, you don’t begin to think about some of the implications, such as:
Natural biodiversity tends to evolve towards stability. Evolved (designed?) biodiversity tends to evolves because we want to accomplish something, usually economic. Those to drivers create very different kinds of systems and arguably an economic biodiversity structure is far more fragile. If that is the case, then we need to understand that before we get to the point where we start shifting biodiversity over from natural to design systems at significant scale.
What is liable to drive that? Look at some of the slides you saw earlier. Some of the slides about agriculture for example. What is one of the obvious responses to the challenges to agriculture? to develop different kinds of bio designed species. Before we do that we need to think about stability issues and you don’t think about that until you begin to understand the contingency that is now beginning to creep into virtually all of the aspects of our systems, human and otherwise.


              Key Concepts
·        “Earth systems” include economic, technological, and cultural systems, not just physical systems. Moreover, the human natural built integrated systems of the Anthropocene cannot be understood through just one worldview, be it scientific, theological or postmodern.
·        Complexity and focus on systems
·        Mutually exclusive but equally valid ontologies
·        The world as design space (e.g., from withdrawn from using fossil fuels to designer atmosphere)
·        The human as design space
·        Result: radical contingency

What are some of the key concepts?
Earth systems includes not just the ones that we are used to thinking about but also include economic, technological, and cultural systems. They have a lot to do with what we end up with.
It’s very hard for example to talk about island biology without knowing that there was a large European migration which affected the biology of most islands that it came across one way or another.
The second one is the complexity and focus on systems.
Everybody says this, but we still don’t know how to do it, we like to think in terms of simple systems, we think in terms of disciplinary structures and we react badly when we are pushed beyond disciplinary structures at the edges of our community.
I like the answer that was given to the question about shouldn’t scientists be skeptical about geoengineering… absolutely they should!
But the point is not that the scientists are skeptical, the point is that what they are doing is preventing publication at all.
In law that is the difference between,  for example saying what you published about me is wrong and actionable, which you can do; and preventing publication at all which under American law, Constitutional law is very, very difficult; because the framers of the constitution basically say is: Hey look the way you get the truth is by dialogue and debate. We tried the other way and it doesn’t work so well.
Dialogue and debate
What is happening now is communities are cutting out dialogue and debate, that’s very problematic. It’s understandable but it’s very problematic
             Mutually exclusive but equally valid ontologies
This is really, really hard.  This is not just engineers sitting down with scientists, which is hard enough. This is engineers and scientists sitting down with postmodern English critics… and that is very, very hard! It’s hard on all sides. And the problem is you go to the scientists and say look, you need to understand the complexity of human systems far better than you do. So they say ok, and they go out and they pick up some book by some whacked out postmodernist and it gets into some neo-Marxist jargon and it falls apart completely you know; If I wanted to read about forwardism I’d read a science fiction novel.
It’s a problem! But it is not a problem that is solvable by retreating to our own disciplinary boundaries. It is a problem that is inherent in the complexities of the human world. If you don’t like it you should have been born 300 years ago. If you want to be responsible in this world you need to learn to talk across those boundaries, and not add to them which unfortunately happens to much of the time.
The World is designed space
This and the humanist designed space are what really is going to cause the most problems. We are talking in terms of some of this model about a hundred years, some even more than that. Well within that period there is lot of evidence that probable scenarios, and any time you start talking in the future as regards to technology you are talking scenarios, and the question should be: is it reasonably probable;  is it, no very probable Not, is this what is going to happen. Because nobody has a clue what’s going to happen. Well… no body knows the path, you can make fairly broad statements about boundaries but you don’t know the path between those boundaries.
The world is going to be a designed space; and the human is going to be a design space.
This is very, very difficult.
Now, talking about climate change for example. If you start talking about trying to change cultivars through genetic engineering, you are going to get a fair amount of push back. I can’t imagine what it’s going to happen down the line as we begin to talk about changing what it means to be human.
 If you think that is funny. Walk into a classroom and see how many kids have their computers up and are on google… what does that say?
That says that facts are irrelevant to an education… you can get the facts. What we need to be teaching you as educators is frameworks, and patterns and models and how to build meaning out of these different kinds of realities.
Why can we not do that?
Well, for the most part, we haven’t been trained to do it.
Look at the way we are sitting today… you could walk into a medieval university and they would understand this. I am here talking to you, you are there listening to me, everything is right with the world. The great chain of being is in place. But that’s wrong.
The way that students think these days is profoundly different that the way their professors think. Those kinds of changes are critical to understanding the world that we are in. The result is that those things that we base our policies on, our values, our structures, we know we are right; all of those are partial and contingent, and what’s happening is they are being undermined by technology and culture and evolution in ways that are very problematic more rapidly that they have been in the past
Ok, what’s one example?


              Case Study: The Autonomic City
·        Trend 1: increasing integration of ICT at all scales in urban systems: smart materials, smart buildings, smart infrastructure, regional sensor systems of all kinds – an all interconnected.               – And increasingly virtual: highly complex Net-based systems (e.g., Google Earth) are being mashed up against these evolving “smart urban components” to create far more complex information topographies.
·        Trend 2: ICT itself evolving to be qualitatively more complex                                                           -- automatic ICT at all scales, from chip, to PC/assembly, to global communications networks.                                                                                                                                                  -- Piggybacked on Net, an auto-catalytic, self-designing system.
·        Result: The Automatic City, already here, profoundly different from anything we know, but essentially invisible to us.  
One of my favorites is sort of the autonomic city.
There is a couple of things that come together in ways that we don’t understand which means I don’t have to try to explain it which is all to the best.
We are building information structures in the cities at all levels. We are building smart material so that we know when they are going to fail, we are trying to build smart buildings, we are trying to put sensors in, so we can keep track of things like water systems; we are trying to create information structures that override the electric systems. We are building information in every way that we can think of.
Now some of this is problematic. The idea of putting new information kiosks along roads that pick up the transmission from your car so that we know where cars are at all times… you know… it depends on how much you trust the government if you like that one. But it’s getting built in.
Now that would be difficult enough.
What’s really interesting is that at the same time we are changing what ICT systems do, so that information communication technology systems, ICT systems, are now floating virtually on a series of different kinds of infrastructures.
The result is, we can make these floating systems that are called autonomic. That is, they can detect problems, they can design themselves in real-time, they can re-design in real-time, they can heal themselves in real-time and we are building learning processes into them.
Because the consciousness of both organizations and individuals is the most limited aspect of most of these systems, so we need to build in the ability for these systems to manipulate themselves to get them to work in these complex structures. It’s called augmented cognition, augcog.
Now, the result is that we are building a profoundly different information infrastructure at the same time that information infrastructure is getting built in the cities at virtually every scale of the build environment.
Do we have any idea what that is going to do?
Remember black Monday.
This is turbulent example what happen, pretty easy to tell.
People started to put in computer trading into their systems. The computer trading programs were design to begin selling at a certain point. When you started losing enough money you told the system, just start selling, get me out the market and I’ll go back in tomorrow.
 So what happens, well, the market starts to drop, some of these computerized trading systems kick in; the negative feedback is obvious right? Boom! Bottom falls out of the market. Um.. Positive feedback falls out of the market.
What that did, in the absence of any mayor economic change or phenomena it crashed the market. Now notice that was a place where: 
A, people where paying a lot of attention, because it’s money, right? So they cared;
and b, it’s pretty simple. If you have a bunch of sell programs and they all click in they are going to be in deep yogurt! And it happened!
Now if we couldn’t get that right, what on Earth makes us think we understand what we are doing with our cities as we pile all this information in?
Another case study


·        Given economic, national security, cultural competitiveness, psychological and other drivers, it is highly unlikely redesign of human and nature will be stopped
·        “Meaning” will become clearly contingent, deliberately construed phenomenon (by the elite? By democratic choice?). Think Fox News.
·        “Truth” will be replaced by contingency and constructed behaviors and networks at perceivable timescale: “All that is solid melts into air” (Marx).

The human as design space
Leon Kass starts out saying:
“Victory over mortality is the unstated but implicit goal of modern medical science.”
Whether you like that or not depends on whether you think is going to happen in your life time.
 He is probably wrong, that is probably the unstated goal of most technological evolution in the west since about 1200, but leave that be.
The important thing is, that these kinds of, for example, life extensions are beginning to involve very different communities in very different  ways of thinking about these systems that heavily depend on information; so the IEEE Spectrum is writing articles in how to engineer the human to live to a hundred and twenty. The  IEEE Spectrum… C’mon, they build chips!
But what they are doing is, they are extending that engineering to a different domain. Those kinds of jumps could be very productive, but they are very, very dangerous in terms of ethics and social responsibility because no one is keeping track of them.


·        Given economic, national security, cultural competitiveness, psychological and other drivers, it is highly unlikely redesign of human and nature will be stopped
·        “Meaning” will become clearly contingent, deliberately constructed phenomenon (by the elite? By democratic choice?) Think Fox News.
·        “Truth” will be replaced by contingency and constructed behaviors and networks at perceivable timescales: “All is that is solid melts into air” (Marx).
The important thing on this slide is that there is a lot of talk about slowing down technology and trying to regain social control over these technologies; I think this is very unlikely for two reasons. The first is the military and the second is Scostsdale

The military is obviously very interested in these programs which mean we are very unlikely to see these technologies before they are already being rolled out. Augmented cognition is already a mayor, as some people here I’m sure probably know but won’t talk about, is already a mayor investment area for the US military. And what it reflects is the fact that now we have the ability to feed more into a soldier, than what that person can possibly integrate in real time in a combat situation, so we are building information structures that enable him or her to do that.
We are not going to find out about those kinds of technologies until they are already in place and that makes it hard to control.
The second one is Scottsdale, there is an argument that the “aug” factor is going to control these technologies and that people won’t want to change what is human. I would say that Scottsdale core competency is plastic surgery. If you give those folks an opportunity that is biologically based to enhance their capabilities… its over! Look at professional sports.


Case Study 3: Ambient Air Capture of CO2
Technology for ambient air capture of CO2 being commercialized (approx. $200 -$150 per ton    CO2)
Global climate change is not inevitable, but a price point issue.
Focus on fossil fuels use is obsolete as is existing regulatory/treaty process (strong institutional and individual opposition as a result)
Undermines use of global climate change as lever for social engineering
Relevant question becomes much more fundamental: What kind of world do you want – 280 ppm equivalent? 360? 550? – and who gets to choose?  Distributional effects are potentially significant.

I want to point out something else in the details that  we were talking about , I want to point out that last fact, there is a huge difference between the Kyoto approach that basically says; let’s just draw back, let’s just not impact, let’s cut back 90% whatever it takes. Which arguably… this may be a little controversial…  it’s arguably un-ethical because it presupposes that we are going to be able to control India and China emissions, it pre-supposes that, that approach actually has a chance of working. It might.
But I would argue the chance that it won’t, which means that the fact that we don’t have a good back up for Kyoto becomes a mayor gap in our ability to manage climate over the longer term.
But the second question is…
There are profound differences between saying… let’s just draw back and not impact the world and the kinds of technologies that are coming down the pipe, assume this is a scenario for now, there is a firm in Tucson that is commercializing this… yeah... I can’t talk about any of it! Because I am under an NDA and I don’t know if it’s going to work, so let’s assume this is a hypothetical  still, think what would happen if we are able to capture carbon… who gets to decide what atmosphere we get? Dow we go back to 280, 360?
Do we give Canada and Russia more growing time?
Who gets to decide?
The assumption here would be any rational person would decide to put it back; but that’s because we all tend to think along the same lines. It’s not clear to me if you open that up to a real global dialog that is the answer you would get. I don’t know what answer you would get. I do know that it’s a profoundly different question than simply saying let’s stop impacting.

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Some principles that help us understand these systems
The first is: Only intervene when necessary and only to the extent required.
The second is: Model and dialogue with them before we jump into them… why are we doing the hydrogen economy before we have some kind of road map that tells us where maybe problems with our hydrogen economy
The third is:
 We need to be much more sensitive to the boundaries of our analysis in term of where their validity lies and doesn’t lie, a scientific analysis is absolutely great but it does not resolve values questions.
We try to do that all the time, particularly in the climate change and environmental communities, and it is dangerous because if we get caught doing it, then we are not only liable to lose the argument about values but we are liable to undercut the validity of our science, because people are going to think that that also is nothing but our effort to get across our own values.
The actors and designers are also part of the system they are purporting to re-design.
Think this isn’t a problem? If the IPCCC is right they are wrong.
Let’s say the IPCCC is right and all this bad things are going to happen and everybody reacts and we stop them from happening then everybody goes back to the IPCCC and ask where the hell did you get those ideas from?
It’s a major problem! If you get your model right you are going to disprove your model what are you going to do about that, how are you going to explain that to the public?
Implicit social engineering agendas
One of the interesting things about the climate change debate is that it always phrased in terms of scientific values. Very few people are willing to say… and by the way we got to get those Americans to change their consumption patterns.
Where this comes out is if you work with one of these technologies, like the ambient air capture technology and you go to different environmental groups, the environmental groups that are interested in a particular species, the preservationists, they tend to like the technology because it will stop climate change if its rolled out at scale.
The activist environmental groups hate it because it doesn’t force people to change.
So there is a question you need to answer… are you in this to force people to change or are you in this to try to change the system itself or if you think it has to be both are you really willing to try to take the chance, again, that you’d get caught doing it.
*Transparent governance, yes, how do you make that happen? That is the question.
*We must learn to engineer and manage complex systems not just artifacts
This a very critical thing that none of us do well. We don’t know what this systems are going to do, what we net to do is to get much better at dialoguing with them and much less concern about specific short term actions
*Insure continues learning, great we should try that.
*whenever possible engineer changes should be incremental and reversible
Look at the geoengineering approaches across the board and apply this single metric and it will kick some of them out.
You do not want to do something mayor that you can’t reverse.
I don’t like putting sulfur in the air primarily because it doesn’t solve the problem of acidifying oceans it’s a partial fix and not a very good fix at that.
On the other hand do I like it better than trying to put something in space that I can’t get at? Yes, because sulfur runs out eventually, so it has a limited time frame, it’s reversible. [2]
So I think we know how to do some things we don’t give ourselves enough credit about it, we just have to get more explicit about it.
*we need to work on resiliency not just redundancy. And the difference is
With resiliency you look at the entire system including the social and the human dimensions.
New Orleans failed and still fails not because the levies broke, because a huge number of things, some of which are very subtle, like the absence of the MPs that could have restored order had not all been sent to Iraq. That created a huge vulnerability which was completely unrecognized until after the fact… when it was too late.
If we focus on resiliency of these systems and in developing option spaces which enhance our ability to create resiliency then I think we are beginning to get at the kinds of behaviors that are going to be critical as we begin to move into a world that is essentially uncharted.
Thank You.


One of my questions is:
[1] How do we know it wasn’t by design? 

The fossil fuel industry aided by the transportation, maritime shipping and air, has denied the effects of fossil fuel emissions on climate, even now. While cheerfully preparing for the “Coming Arctic Boom”
After all the melting of the Arctic has been proposed before:

P.M. Borisov's Proposed Method of Melting the Arctic Ice Cap
“This material presents the plan of Petr Mikhailovich Borisov for melting the Arctic ice cap. If the Arctic ice is once melted much less of the sun's radiation will be reflected out into space and therefore the arctic ice cap will not re-form. An ice-free Arctic Ocean would be a great boon to oceanic shipping, especially between Europe and East Asia. Much land in northern Canada and Siberia would be freed of permafrost and made suitable for agriculture. Borisov believed that an ice-free Arctic Ocean would lead to increased evaporation of water and hence increased rainfall worldwide, including the region of Sahara Desert leading to grass growing there. Borisov considers all of the impacts of the melting of the Arctic ice cap to be beneficial. He asserts that the melting of the Greenland ice cap would raise sea levels at a rate of only 1.5 to 2 mm per year.”

“The idea of melting the Arctic ice cap goes back at to 1877 when Harvard geologist Nathaniel Shaler proposed channeling more of the warm Kuroshio Current through the Bering Strait. Carroll Livingston Riker in 1912 proposed using a 200 mile jetty off Newfoundland to divert more of the Gulf Stream to the Arctic Basin. Julian Huxley while he was head of UNESCO proposed, in 1946, to use nuclear weapons to break up the Arctic ice cap. Borisov in his article lists the more recently suggested methods for melting the Arctic ice cap.

The Soviet Scientist Who Dreamed of Melting the Arctic with a 55 Mile Dam  
By Derek Mead
“As much as we worry about climate change today, a warm, melted Arctic was actually a dream of geoengineers since at least the 19th century. But at the height of the Cold War, a Soviet scientist named Petr Mikhailovich Borisov proposed what may be the most ambitious Arctic melting project ever conceived: a dam spanning the 55 mile Bering Strait that would be big enough to redirect the currents of the world's oceans and force warming water to melt the Arctic Ocean forever.”

As the warm Gulf Stream turns into the North Atlantic Current on its path towards the Arctic Circle, it gradually loses heat as it's bombarded by cold flows heading south from the ice. Eventually, it cools down completely, and powered by cold Pacific streams heading through the Bering Strait, turns back around, as shown in the offset figure below.”
Source: P.M. Borisov, "Can we Control the Arctic Climate?", Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March, 1969, pp. 43-48.

The Coming Arctic Boom As the Ice Melts, the Region Heats Up
By Scott G. Borgerson
July/August 2013
“Of course, while Arctic warming is a fait accompli, it should not be taken as a license to recklessly plunder a sensitive environment. If developed responsibly, however, the Arctic’s bounty could be of enormous benefit to the region’s inhabitants and to the economies that surround it. That’s why all the Arctic countries need to continue their cooperation and get to work establishing a shared vision of sustainable development, and why the United States in particular needs to start treating the region as an economic and foreign policy priority, as China is. Like it or not, the Arctic is open for business, and governments and investors have every reason to get in on the ground floor.”

Secret funding helped build vast network of climate denial thinktanks
Anonymous billionaires donated $120m to more than 100 anti-climate groups working to discredit climate change science

How Donors Trust distributed millions to anti-climate groups
Suzanne Goldenberg, US environment correspondent
The Guardian, Thursday 14 February 2013 

Earth Systems Engineering and Management
10/09/2007 5:00 PM 10"250 Brad Allenby, Arizona State University
MIT description:
If you take as a given that humans now live on a geoengineered planet, then what is our responsibility for the future? Before discussing how to deal with Earth systems, Brad Allenby asks that we think carefully about the complexity of human systems, especially our tendency to generate far more complexity than we realize, and to assume "that we have a reasonable handle going  forward and can therefore talk about (the future) with some degree of rationality."

In a talk that kicks off with quotes from Stewart Brand, William Gibson and Vishnu, Allenby pulls together some trends "we should care about" when discussing solutions for global issues. He notes that just as railroads changed American culture and “self" perception in unexpected ways, so will the integrated impact of technology. Nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology, information and communication technology are all changing at the same time, "so the idea that we can make projections out 100 years is laughable." Allenby also notes that, to our peril, we're integrating natural systems into human systems, handing off what had been public concerns to commercial interests, failing to develop a governing ethical structure for "complex adaptive systems," all at a time when the end of the Cold War has destabilized global power relationships.

Allenby worries that we are dabbling in systems management well over our heads, building information structures into our cities' infrastructure, for instance, and utilizing humans as "design spaces." Don't forget how the global stock market crashed, in spite of carefully designed computer trading systems, he reminds us. How can we approach earth systems engineering in a way so as to do no harm, much less leave things better off? Some principles Allenby recommends: "Only intervene when necessary and to the extent required;" model complicated systems before implementing them, and whenever possible, make incremental and reversible change; acknowledge the social engineering agendas that underlie the climate debate, and the interplay between scientific analysis and values; and bring all parties to the discussion, "not just engineers sitting with scientists, but with post" modern English critics."
About the Speaker(s): Brad Allenby spent more than 20 years working for AT&T as counsel, senior environmental counsel, research vice president for technology and environment, and environment, health and safety vice president. During that period he also served for two years as Director of Energy and Environmental Systems at Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and as the J. Herbert Holloman Fellow at the National Academy of Engineering.

He also taught as an adjunct professor at Yale University School of Forestry, Columbia University 's School of International and Public Affairs, Princeton Theological Seminary, and the University of Virginia 's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

His publications include Reconstructing Earth (2005) and with T.E. Graedel, Industrial Ecology. He is the president of the International Society for Industrial Ecology.
Host(s): School of Science, Center for Global Change Science

MIT World -- special events and lectures


Other links:
Updated July , 2013

Messing with nature? Exploring public perceptions of geoengineering in the UK
Open Access Article
Adam Cornera, c, Karen Parkhilla, c, Nick Pidgeona, c, Naomi E. Vaughanb, c

Our effect on the earth is real: how we’re geo-engineering the planet
By: Mike Sandiford Director, Melbourne Energy Institute at University of Melbourne

16 June 2011

Earth Systems Engineering: The World As Human Artifact
Author: Brad R. Allenby

Managing the Earth’s complex systems and their dynamics is the next great challenge for the engineering profession.

How are humans going to become extinct?
By Sean Coughlan BBC
24 April 2013

""the advance of technology has overtaken our capacity to control the possible consequences"

Creative Commons License
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.