Monday, January 6, 2014

Geoengineering And Intentionality, Does Biodiversity Care?

See Jan. 12, 2015 update.

Inherent to the geoengineering debate is the issue of intentionality. 

(Note: I use the term 'intentionality' in reference to intention 1/7/13)

While many, like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CDB), are correct in their concerns for the “IMPACTS OF CLIMATE-RELATED GEOENGINEERING ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY,” [1] grasping tightly at the concept of intentionality may have caused them to drop the ball by failing to investigate aviation and maritime shipping emissions. *Which could be considered analogs to geoengineering, as is the case with marine shiptracks [1a]

These two activities have some characteristic that closely resemble both desired and undesired effects of SRM geoengineering with aerosols, e.g., cooling, hydrological, biological, ozone, etc.

Here it is important to note that SRM with sulphur encompasses a wide variety of techniques.

Recently ‘Stratospheric injection’ has been the most talked about form of SRM, but civil aviation (Largely flying in the troposphere **in the ecuatorial zone and the lower stratophere in the northern hemisphere, also depending on the time of year**) [2] has been also mentioned as a very plausible means to geoengineer the planet: [3]

“To offset the rise in temperature expected by the middle of the century if things carry on as they are the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface would have to be cut by just 1.1%. That is still a lot of energy in absolute terms, but the sums suggest it is within reach. It would require the addition of about 10m tonnes of finely divided sulphate particles to the stratosphere each year. These could be sprayed out of special aircraft-borne injectors, or produced by burning high-sulphur aviation fuel.

If aviation fuel were used in this way, and was 5% sulphur (between ten and 100 times today's levels), it would require 1m flights a year to the middle of the stratosphere (between 15km and 25km up), assuming an average flight was four hours. Those flights alone would use up half as much fuel as civil aviation now consumes. However, you could achieve part of the effect by making civil aviation use dirty, high-sulphur fuel. It would not be a perfect solution. Civilian jets cruise at an altitude of 10km, the bottom of the stratosphere, and any sulphate they released would thus fall to earth faster. But it would be a lot cheaper than flying 1m special missions.”

Also it is important to note that ‘geoengineering’ may not necessarily mean cooling, as demonstrated by the ‘thermostat’ allegory.

Given these similarities and the possibility that “H2SO4 (SULFURIC ACID) FROM AVIATION MAY BE HIGHER TODAY THAN WHAT WOULD BE REQUIRED FOR A GEOENGINEERING REGIME IN 2020,” [4][5][6] and the dissimilarities, particularly, the faster deposition rates for aviation aerosols, the CBD and others should be looking extremely close at these issues, ranging from the socioeconomic to the environmental impacts, which are parts of their stated goals as is the case of the CBD. Not doing so may leave then derelict on their duties: [7]

“The Convention establishes three main goals: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources.”

For the newcomer into the geoengineering debate, it may be natural to react with shock and aversion at anything related to the concept of geoengineering, and may take a while to ‘navigate’ trough the GE and the climate change debate at large.

But the CBD, ETC group and the like are not newcomers! They should be first in line pressuring for academic research to ascertain how aviation emissions is or isn’t like geoengineering. Good or bad… good and bad. If they are not doing this, then what are they protecting?

 So, it is a sad turn of events when those who present themselves as champions of the farmers, the indigenous peoples and the underprivileged are found wanting. And those who so doggedly purport to have an interest in protecting biodiversity and the ecosystem services from the impacts of geoengineering, refuse to investigate or call for the thorough investigation of the effects of aviation emissions, which may turn out to be equally, if not more, damaging than SRM geoengineering per se.

To use the semantic crutch of ‘intentionality’ to aid their refusal is, in my view, highly unethical; and may be grounds for the highest level of distrust. At this point, the largest source of danger is this ignorance, which leads down the road to the perception of only having a choice between  the lesser of two evils. 

Update Jan 12, 2015:

Andrew Lockley who runs geoengineeringinfo on twitter and is the moderator of the 'geoengineering discussion google group' tells me that regarding "sulphur in jet fuel" it "has already been considered and discarded by Antii - Ilari Partanen".

I looked it up, and found various interesting studies, here are two of them:

Stratospheric passanger flights are likely an inefficient geoengineering strategy
Antii - Ilari Partanen et al.
(Full free pdf)

An another regarding ship sulphur content:

Climate and air quality trade-offs in altering ship fuel sulfur content
Antii - Ilari Partanen et al.
(Full free pdf)

I think that taken together, this two studies actually reinforce my view that 'we' already have been, and are geoengineering the climate.  Even if in an 'unintentional', and given the accelerated rates of Arctic sea ice melt and ocean acidification [8], I would say; ineffective and perhaps even counter productive way.  And that this, unintended geoengineering, has had and continues to have consequences beyond the 'wanted cooling effects' and the more immediate and well known unwanted pollution related deaths. With the negative consequences arguably been more heavily borne by the least responsible and least able to cope.

A couple of more points to ponder on:

-The 'confounding' 'warming hole' particularly over the central, eastern U.S. and Atlantic ocean [9] [10] which are zones that seem to have heavier emissions from both aviation and shipping. [11][12]
This 'hiatus' seem to be readily cited by global warming skeptics, while downplaying the role of pollution.

- Do many of the proposed 'future' geoengineering start dates i.e 2020 and beyond have to do with scheduled (sulphur and other cooling pollution) reductions also from 2020 and beyond? [13]

Lastly, I would like to recall that famous phrase:

"Correlations does not imply causation" 
(but it certainly should require investigation. O.E.)

"Correlation does not imply causation" is a phrase used in science and statistics to emphasize that correlation between two variables does not automatically imply that one causes the other (though correlation is necessary for linear causation, and can indicate possible causes or areas for further investigation... in other words, correlation can be a hint)" [14]

On this update two articles regarding the ETC group have been added to the 'other readings' section.


* Added on Jan. 8, 2014
**Added Feb 4, 2014   - in the ecuatorial zone and the lower stratophere in the northern hemisphere, also depending on the time of year**)

[1] CBD Technical Series No. 66
Geoengineering in Relation to the Convention on Biological Diversity:
Technical and Regulatory Matters
Part I.
Impacts of Climate-Related Geoengineering on Biological Diversity
Part II.
The Regulatory Framework for Climate-Related Geoengineering Relevant to the Convention on Biological Diversity
September 2012

[1a] Studying Geoengineering with Natural and Anthropogenic Analogs

Alan Robock et al. - 10.1007/s10584-013-0777-5

Submited to Climatic Change November 2012

[2] The Troposphere – overview – NCAR/UCAR – SPARK – Science Education

‘The bottom of the troposphere is at Earth's surface. The troposphere extends upward to about 10 km (6.2 miles or about 33,000 feet) above sea level. The height of the top of the troposphere varies with latitude (it is lowest over the poles and highest at the equator) and by season (it is lower in winter and higher in summer). It can be as high as 20 km (12 miles or 65,000 feet) near the equator, and as low as 7 km (4 miles or 23,000 feet) over the poles in winter.”

[3] A changing climate of opinion?

Some scientists think climate change needs a more radical approach. As well as trying to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, they have plans to re-engineer the Earth
Sep 4th 2008 | From the print edition – The Economist


[5] Soot and Sulfuric Acid from Aircraft: Is There Enough to Cause Detrimental Environmental E-kCTSs?
Pueschel, R. F.; Strawa, A. W.; Ferry, G. V.; Howard, S. D.; Verma, S.
(NASA Ames Research Center; Moffett Field, CA, United States);        
Publication Date: Jan 01, 1998   Document ID: 20070003482

“Applying the H2SO4 emission index to the 1990 fuel use by the worlds commercial fleets of 1.3E11 kg, a conversion efficiency of 30% of 500 ppmm fuel-S would have led to an annual contribution to the atmospheric sulfur budget by aircraft of 2.E7 kg H2SO4.”

[6] Aviation emissions up 110% since 1990

Nov 19 2010 - Aviation Environment Federation.

[7] Sustaining Life on Earth
How the Convention on Biological Diversity promotes nature and human well-being

From Jan. 12 update:

[8] Shipping pollution Emissions from shipping making ocean more acidic, researchers report 

[9]“Warming Hole” Over the Eastern U.S. Due to Air Pollution

[10] Atlantic heat sink explains global warming “pause”

[11] Lab releases global aviation emissions dataset

[12] A Year of Global Shipping Routes Mapped by GPS

[13]  Impacts of emission reductions on aerosol radiative effects 

[14]"Correlation does not imply causation" (

Other readings:

*Plan to avert global warming by cooling planet artificially 'could cause climate chaos' 
By Steve Connor - Science Editor - The Independent - January 8 2014

A majority of carriers choose marine oil ahead of 2015
BY OLE ANDERSEN – Shippingwatch - 02.01.14 at 14:09

The Biodiversity Bubble: How What We Don't Know Could Get Us Killed
By Steven Kotler – 12/30/2012 – Forbes

‘The world is not dying. it’s changing’: Anthropologist and explorer Wade Davis has hope for the future
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