Geo-engineering: fixing climate for just US$6 billion

Geo-engineering: fixing climate for just US$6 billion

Summary: What's the best way to deal with climate change?

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TOPICS: Emerging Tech
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Some engineers think that geo-engineering, or re-engineering the planet, is a far more cost-effective way of tackling climate change than market mechanisms, like emissions trading schemes or Australia's carbon tax.

One model suggests that a technique called "cloud brightening" could counter all of the 21st century's projected temperature rises, for a cost of just US$6 billion. To put that into perspective, that's around the price being paid for 24 F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters by the Royal Australian Air Force.

Whether that model is accurate or not, it's starting to become clear that market mechanisms and Kyoto-style negotiations won't be enough.

On this week's Patch Monday podcast, you'll hear from two enthusiasts for geo-engineering who spoke at the Centre for Independent Studies' recent "Consilium" conference.

"Even if we do reduce carbon emissions drastically, it's going to be a very long time before we see any of the effects of that, and it will be very costly and slow," said Dr Caspar Hewett, visiting researcher at the University of Newcastle in the UK.

"These other techniques that we're talking about are probably going to be necessary anyway, even if we do reduce carbon," he said.

The techniques include grand engineering schemes, such as artificial volcanoes that inject sulphur particles into the atmosphere to seed clouds, and even placing millions of smart mirrors into orbit around the earth, like a giant pergola.

But simple, small-scale techniques can also produce significant effects, such as planting trees and painting the rooftops of buildings white to reflect sunlight.

"If you paint a quarter of all London rooftops white, you could probably reduce heat wave temperatures by 10 degrees centigrade — so lots of impact at very low cost. Let's think about that," said Danish author and political scientist Dr Bjørn Lomberg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre in Washington.

Needless to say, these schemes are controversial. Both Hewett and Lomberg are calling for large-scale experiments to validate the mathematical models.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone Sydney +61 2 8011 3733.

Running time: 20 minutes, 44 seconds.

Stilgherrian was a guest speaker at Consilium.

Topic: Emerging Tech

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust.

He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit trap, clear a jam in an IBM model 026 card punch and mix a mean whiskey sour.

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13 comments
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  • I, for one..

    Am glad that at least a few (too few, IMO) are riding herd and posting about this. Clearly, this is what every savvy individual should be thinking about. Thank you for this post and really, keep up the work. This planet needs to witness this contraversy daily (rather unfortunately, as we all seem to keep to our own petulent desires above any 'greater good' philosophies. I would postulate that until corporations are held to these obivous world needs, they may take comfort in allowing any misdirection to work in their favor. As a consumer, I have taken it upon myself to be a bit more involved. I don't purchase many products from corporations that could give a damn as long as their bottom line is left undeterred.

    This, from an American, right? But, honestly, we are all on this Earth, and what we leave our children should not be a cesspool with a decreasing chance of recovery. We vote (at least here in the US) with our wallets. Own up to that responsibility with EVERY purchase going forward. Regardless of what the mega-corps portray, they are nothing without our income. That is our power. The power to deny them advancement, by age-old, yet proven techniques such as boycott. BTW, boycott power is powerful. Don't let mega-corps shift you into the all-too-familiar mindset of believing one person cannot change the world. Falling into that trap is the ONLY method they hold over us. Decide, as a person, as an individual, as a parent, to not allow this to happen, speak out against it, get others to realize the radical changes available to them, and this CAN be won.
    TechNickle
    • Posting this, I do realize..

      .. that I could easily fall prey to one section of the market, political agenda, what-have-you. And then, the easy remarks may gravitate to 'who are you to say this?", "what political agenda are you fighting for?" "are you Marxist, Capitalist, Socialist?".. To all of that, I answer, "I'm a Realist." If things do not change, soon, despite your 'parties line", things will get REAL, and REAL fast. Throw all of those -ists out the Window, if not for your good, then, for the good of your children. Or, simply ignore what you know to be happening around you, and build the greatest Kingdom for a moment, raising "King Nothing" as your appointed, yet foolish, leader.
      TechNickle
      • Four last remining word to contemplate...

        Kingdom, for a moment.

        Will that be the defining legacy we preach as our reasoning for such idiocy?
        TechNickle
        • Take this to bed with you, every night.

          EVERYTHING we do, every word we say, every denouncement or others, or exclamation of greatness to those we place upon high... makes a difference. Every ounce of garbage we decide to instead recycle, every light we decide to turn off, every screen saver we decide to minimize the time-out, makes a difference. You, as an individual, (and despite the way you've been minimized over the years) make a difference. To this world, to the greater good, and to society. Society is BASED on individuals, not some group that you will eventually attain membership. YOU, are society. We, are society. Own up, fess up, and then, garner the privileges of such a membership. But, also, take responsibility in the same regard.
          TechNickle
  • Pass me the scalpel, said the blind man

    There is nothing more dangerous or scary, than people who know little about a situation, setting out to fix it. Scientists do not know enough about the interactions of the crucial elements which affect our climate, to set out to fix it. Scientists also ignore historical data which show CO2 levels far greater than current levels, with no predcted adverse effect on temperature - in fact, much higher levels of CO2 leads t significantly inceased plant growth, which would be beneficial to the expanding population of man.

    Besides, the manmade climate change movement is not about awareness or solving the supposed climate change probem. It is merely a power grab by some, who would love to use the above as a pretext to make lots of money, and usurp the liberties of others. These people have no interest in engineering solutions, for a made up prblem. Engineering solutions will merely be brushed aside by these people.
    P. Douglas
  • Pass me the scalpel, said the blind man

    There is nothing more dangerous or scary, than people who know little about a situation, setting out to fix it. Scientists do not know enough about the interactions of the crucial elements which affect our climate, to set out to fix it. Scientists also ignore historical data which show CO2 levels far greater than current levels, with no predcted adverse effect on temperature - in fact, much higher levels of CO2 leads t significantly inceased plant growth, which would be beneficial to the expanding population of man.

    Besides, the manmade climate change movement is not about awareness or solving the supposed climate change probem. It is merely a power grab by some, who would love to use the above as a pretext to make lots of money, and usurp the liberties of others. These people have no interest in engineering solutions, for a made up prblem. Engineering solutions will merely be brushed aside by these people.
    P. Douglas
  • What We’re Doing Is Already Geoengineering

    Our industrial activities are already causing uncontrolled changes to the Earth’s climate. Better that we should learn to direct such changes more effectively, rather than simply pretend we’re not doing it at all, or that we can somehow undo it with buzzwords like “sustainability” and “conservation”.
    ldo17
  • I love the sound of this

    "The techniques include grand engineering schemes, such as artificial volcanoes that inject sulphur particles into the atmosphere to seed clouds, and even placing millions of smart mirrors into orbit around the earth, like a giant pergola."

    sulphur? in clouds? seriously?
    Millions more objects careening around our planet?

    Wow... just ... wow....
    12312332123
    • Sumarries are not full explanations

      What continues to depress me most about producing "Patch Monday" is not that some people judge an entire concept from what they hear one person say in the conversation, but that they judge from a one sentence summary of that conversation.

      I'm assuming people are smart enough to realise that sentence isn't an endorsement of any ideas mentioned, right? But I can tell that some people are judging without listening because there was a call for doing experiments first to calibrate the existing models.
      stilgherrian
      • Spelling is hard

        Summaries are not sumarries, even at 6am local time.
        stilgherrian
  • Let's think space elevator instead

    It would make more sense to sink that 6B into developing a cheaper method of space travel. This would be the normal progression of humans. There are endless resoures just outside of our grasp and the single biggest barrier to the expansion of mankind is the amount of fuel it takes to reach escape velocity.
    zmudd
    • Good idea

      Yes, let's do that. Then we can find an uninhibited Earth-like planet on which to practice geo-engineering without risking the lives of everyone here. The thought of well-meaning smart people trying to duplicate the already robust systems that the Earth has to cope with variation scares me to no end.

      I'm not one to persecute people for their religion, so I don't care what the Climate Change preachers tell their flocks. But I do not want them meddling with something that every form of life depends on, and which they don't understand. The Earth already has a system for pulling carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. It's called "plant life." if they want to plant trees or let algae grow in their swimming pools, I'm OK with that. But leave the orbiting mirrors and the artificial volcanoes out of it.
      Robert Hahn
  • sounds like the folks concerned need to read this

    too much magic: wishful thinking
    James Howard Kunstler
    stevey_d