Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bad news and good news

But mostly bad news, I'm afraid.

Climate Change Could Choke Oceans for 100,000 Years

According to a simulation of planetary warming trends, failure to drastically cut greenhouse gas pollution within the next half century could choke Earth's oceans for the next 100,000 years.

With warmer temperatures reducing its ability to absorb oxygen, much of the water would become barren and lifeless. Oceanic food chains could be profoundly disrupted.

"What mankind does for the next several decades will play a large role in climate on Earth over the next tens of thousands of years," said geochemist Gary Shaffer of the University of Copenhagen.

New Science Could Help Solve Climate Crisis

A new science that seeks to fight climate change using methods like giant space mirrors might not work on its own, but when combined with cuts in greenhouse gases it may help reverse global warming, a research report said.

In the report published on Wednesday, researchers at Britain's University of East Anglia assessed the climate cooling potential of "geoengineering" schemes that also include pumping aerosol into the atmosphere and fertilizing the oceans with nutrients.

"We found that some geoengineering options could usefully complement mitigation, and together they could cool the climate, but geoengineering alone cannot solve the climate problem," said Professor Tim Lenton, the report's lead author.


Intense! said...

Giant space mirrors!

Pumping aerosol into the atmosphere!

Fertilizing the oceans with nutrients!

Hmmmm. Beware the laws of unintended consequences and unknown long-term side effects!

This way to the terminal egress! 8^}

Mac said...

I realize we potentially have much to lose, but, ultimately, do we really have a choice?

I say we press the geo-engineering button sooner rather than later, because it's already later than we think.

Anonymous said...

hmmm. IMHO, I think the Earth is way bigger than us Humans. It'll set things right when it's ready. You'll see.

Mac said...

In other words, the Earth will save the day at the last minute? Care to elaborate on that? Because it sounds suspiciously like New Age bullshit.

Intense said...


Well, you're right that we should do something. The real question is precisely what are the best choices we can make?

I can't help but think, however, that our planet and it's life-sustaining systems are of such relatively inadequately understood meta-complexity and interactive connectivity, from the quantum level to the macro, that we may end up making things far worse, much faster, if we rush some massive geo-engineering efforts into action too quickly. We have to be conscious of both the laws of unforseen consequences and confirmation bias--making a bio- or geo-engineering mistake on this level may be terminal.

The only overall realistic action we may have is a "Manhattan Project"-scale international effort to combine and implement the effects of conservation, green tech, alternative and nuclear energy, and somehow change the paradigm of our consumer society and the illusion of progress based on increasing resource depletion, prior to efforts to geo-engineer remediation of Earth's atmosphere and/or oceans, but as the average temperature continues rising, droughts expand, and population keeps exponentially increasing, the inherently limited timeframe we have to work within in order to not just limit but reverse CO2 pollution (and other delimiting ecological factors of our metastasizing carbon footprint) troubles me deeply. It's like trying to redesign and reconstruct a failing rocket while in flight, using the "Spaceship Earth" analogy.

I'd also like to see much greater emphasis and funding for domestic R&D of fusion power, with international governmental support, as that would greatly reduce or eliminate nuclear waste by-products of standard nuclear fission reactors if practical fusion generation technology could be made to work. The $13 billion effort by primarily the European community, at the experimental fusion test reactor in France, with meager support from the U.S., is not likely to develop practical fusion power generation soon enough--a more comprehensive, concentrated effort is required.

I do agree it is later than most think--and I fear the consequences when most belatedly do begin to realize the fix we're already in--and not enough has been done. You know, the usual historical precedents; panic, war, death. Hi ho.

As for anon's comment; "I think the Earth is way bigger than us Humans. It'll set things right when it's ready," if you take the Gaia concept of James Lovelock, I don't think anon probably meant "the Earth will save the day at the last minute"--I suspect anon is implying Earth will abide at our expense; didn't Darwin have some thoughts about "survival of the fittest"? When a species, like lemmings, consumes more than a sustainable share of it's ecological support system, it simply dies back, or out, due to lack of adaptation to the existant environment. Lovelock estimates that only 10% or so of Earth's current population level of 6.7+ billion people will be around by the end of the century, given all the ecological factors in play.

Given historical precedent in the last century alone, of genocidal world war and the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons, I'd suggest that's really rather optimistic.

So, yes, the paradigm must shift. The time for business as usual is over. We must change, and humanity must unify our efforts to better establish a sustainable, renewable ecology, or die. That is the choice we may still have, if we're both lucky and focused on that fact, in order to do what is required.

Anonymous said...

LOL. I didn't mean it will fix things magically over night. It will, and we will pay for it. Most of us will be well gone by the time it happens.

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