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Earth United States Science

Climate Engineering As US Policy? 355

EricTheGreen writes "The Associated Press has an article featuring Obama administration science advisor John Holdren discussing potential climate engineering responses to global warming. Among the possible approaches? His own version of Operation Dark Storm — shooting micro-particulate pollution high into the atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. I'm sure the rest of the world would have no issue with that at all, of course. Yikes ..."
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Climate Engineering As US Policy?

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  • by feepness ( 543479 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:45PM (#27513139) Homepage
    ...what the rest of the world says. Bush made it policy that the US acts unilaterally when the administration believes it is in our best interest.

    As Obama has made clear with warrantless wiretapping, he intends to hold onto Bush's powers.
    • by Jurily ( 900488 )

      ...what the rest of the world says. Bush made it policy that the US acts unilaterally when the administration believes it is in our best interest.

      And it doesn't occur to anyone that maybe humanity shouldn't be playing God is not such a good idea when every fucking decision we make is purely for profit? Just read up on genetically modified corn and all the possible health implications that are left out of the mainstream media.

  • Let's test it on Venus first.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Why? We've been trying to change the climate on Earth for the past 100 years or so to be more like Venus.
    • Venus's atmosphere has a few magnitudes more CO2 than the earth. So far the most workable modern plan for terraforming Venus would involve creating a sun shield to freeze the planet, then launch a bunch of CO2 blocks into space.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Afforess ( 1310263 )
      That's actually not a bad idea, considering that Venus is in many ways similar to earth. Venus's average temperature is 461 Celsius, so it would be ideal for testing the injection of micro-particles into the atmosphere.
  • Matrix (Score:5, Funny)

    by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:46PM (#27513145) Homepage Journal
    Nice way to conmemorate the 10th year since that movie... scorching the skies as Morpheus said, just that "the machines", this time, are just spambots.
  • by rockNme2349 ( 1414329 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:50PM (#27513183)
    What even makes them think that the U.S. has the right to tinker with the global climate. I'm an american citizen, not a U.S. hater, but we don't have the jurisdiction to make changes that will affect the global climate.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Angst Badger ( 8636 )

      Are you shooting for +5 Funny? We already have been tinkering with the global climate by dumping enormous quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for decades. The question isn't so much whether we have a right to do this, but whether we have a responsibility to do something.

      That said, this particular proposal seems like a really bad idea. If we reduce the amount of light reaching the surface, then we will have to keep producing greenhouse gases to avoid global cooling. While it might seem that we

    • That's odd. We had the jurisdiction to run the coal plants and burn the oil that helped create this climate change? In the past, we've sprayed the flourocarbons, spewed the DDT, dumped the mercury and lead and dioxin in factories we ran overseas. And somehow, we don't have the jurisdiction to try to reverse some of the damage?

      I'm not suggesting that this particular crackpot scheme is a good idea, but "jurisdiction" wouldn't seem to be the problem here.

    • What makes them think the USA is the only country which can do this unilaterally? There's plenty of countries which could do it if they saw fit.

    • Duh. We will only modify our own airspace so it won't affect everyone else in the world. Think man, think!
    • Say what?

      We have complete jurisdiction to pollute our skies.

      Just like China has complete jurisdiction to pollute our/their skies.

      You know... just like how we got into this mess by warming the climate without waiting for anyone's approval.

  • Not reversal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alexibu ( 1071218 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:52PM (#27513191)

    This is not a reversal of climate change.

    Reflecting more sun from the top of the atmosphere while increasing greenhouse gasses will place us in yet another unknown region of the earths dynamics.

    It might work in controlling temperature - for some small part of the earth - if you get it right, but this is a multi variable system, people might not like your attempts to control temperature if rainfall patterns are altered, winds and currents change, and we get less sunlight to run solar and wind power and grow crops.

    We already have one uncontrolled multi decade experiment running, lets start another. I'm quite certain there are no precedents that would indicate that rapidly constructed fixes to problems cause any more problems than the original one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )

      I think we're doing all that right now (this one, we as a species, not just the US or the West), but it's a side effect rather than the goal. It is informally called "global dimming", where particulate pollution is reflecting sunlight. There was a NOVA episode on this where they managed to find data to help them track the amount of sunlight hitting the surface over the past hundred years or so, among other lines of evidence.

    • Reflecting more sun from the top of the atmosphere while increasing greenhouse gasses will place us in yet another unknown region of the earths dynamics.

      We have only ever been in an unknown region of earth dynamics. Sitting quietly in a corner does not guarantee us earth's favor.

      In fact, left to its own devices earth has been dealt numerous ice ages and mass extinctions. For all we know the next great ice age is pending and warming up the planet as much as possible is the only hope human civilization has of weathering it comfortably. It could even be that in a few decades warming will neutralize itself. Heat and C02 are two factors which increase the gro

    • For a while the United States considered many methods for stopping a hurricane including detonating an atomic bomb at the eye of it. Eventually we decided not to even care about lesser methods of stopping a hurricane because if it was successful other nations would see us as a threat. If another nation had a typhoon, hurricane or tsunami, they may blame it on the United States and their weather control voodoo.

      If we drastically alter the Earth's climate not in accordance with the international community,
  • by BoRegardless ( 721219 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:53PM (#27513197)

    Jeesh, Obama doesn't work here anymore, you know that was years ago.

    What do you mean the entire northern European Continent's former residents now want reparations now that their countries are under an ice sheet?

    After all it was just a little dust, not even what a volcano produces.

    It must have been the fault of the relative lack of Solar sun spots.

    Oh, what? 100 million people are now claiming they "own" the U.S.? Ice reparations?

    You'll destroy us just like, well, the Treaty of Versailles did to Germany a century ago...

    • It must have been the fault of the relative lack of Solar sun spots.

      I'm sure that has been disproved, I mean I read it on slashdot, but the article seamed legit!

  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @10:54PM (#27513201) Homepage
    Slightly-nutty (but carefully analytical) Libertarian magazines were bandying these ideas around in 1997 [], and they'd already been around a while by then. I'm a big fan of the "paint it white" approach - increase the urban albedo by using concrete instead of asphalt, using light-colored roofs and paints... Not only does it reflect sunlight (cooling the earth) it also reduces the "heat island" effect so you don't need as much air conditioning in the summer.

    The real problem with any such approach, they argue, is

    Having sinned against Mother Nature inadvertently, many are keenly reluctant to intervene knowingly. Sherwood Rowland, a chemist at the University of California at Irvine who predicted, with Mario Molina, the depletion of the ozone layer, declared, "I am unalterably opposed to global mitigation." This added considerable weight to the abstention cause. At root, such people see mankind as the problem; only by behaving humbly, living lightly upon our Earth, can we atone.

    This religiosity in climate-change politics fascinates me - it's why I like the Michael Crichton essays/speeches on the topic even though he says "climate change is fake!" and it's pretty much Not Fake. More recently, I've seen stuff in that same Libertarian magazine [] comparing the current climate-change political scene to "denigrating HIV treatment and blocking condom distribution in order to discourage promiscuity. [It] is every bit as callous and irresponsible."

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      People who believe only what they told and not what they observe are always going to be in conflict with science. One can imagine the kind of terror the Galileo and Cupernicus and Brahe caused with their science. Man is no longer the center of the universe, giants in the bible were simply not possible, and other certain events were now put into place. Then we have Newton with his way of understanding the almighty, by active observation of all of creation rather than passive reflection and regurgitation o
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jamesh ( 87723 )

        People who believe only what they told and not what they observe are always going to be in conflict with science

        It's not quite as simple as that. This morning I watched the sun come up in the east. Right now it is more or less overhead, and i'm pretty sure it's going to go down in the west in a few more hours. It looks to me like the sun is revolving around the earth (which appears pretty flat from where i'm standing).

        I know that the earth actually revolves around the sun because i've be told it does. From

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jambarama ( 784670 )
      There are definitely some head-in-the-sand people writing for Reason, but occasionally they get things right, even about global warming. I think the interview they did with Bjorn Lomborg [], a Danish scientist, was quite good. Basically Bjorn said climate change is real and man-made, but he thinks there are other policies that have more return on the dollar, where return is some measurement of alleviation of human suffering. Of course we can do many things simultaneous, but climate change seems to be where
  • This is postponing the problem until some future generation has to fix not only the original problem, but also the problem created by this "fix".

    I'd hate to be alive for that, and I have a feeling I will be. We're suckers.

  • by ThePackager ( 562279 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @11:12PM (#27513331)
    Will you guys put away the heavy words? The wonk was talking possibilities. How much does climate change get fixed by hyper-cynicism? Perhaps the effort on real solution consideration is beyond your capabilities.
  • by scdeimos ( 632778 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @11:12PM (#27513333)

    Most of these Dire Global Warming predictions are based on computer models which are known to be flawed.

    Any measure taken to counteract perceived Global Warming must be reversible if found ineffective (or worse, a hindrance). Injecting more particulate pollution into the atmosphere to counteract Global Warming doesn't sound to me like an easily reversible thing. Far safer and easier to do, me thinks, to park a large asteroid in synchronous orbit between the Earth and Sun to occlude solar radiation. If it's "too effective" then it can be (comparatively) easily moved or removed, if it's "not enough" then more can be gathered.

    • yes, it is. (Score:3, Informative)

      by tjstork ( 137384 )

      It rains. That gets the dirt out of the air. So the problem with mitigation will be, what will happen when all of these things we launch into the air come back and hit the ground.

      We had a ton of pollution that essentially accomplished this effect and to some degree masked global warming. Once we got smart and lowered the size of and then got rid of particulate emissions of many kinds, that's when temperatures started moving up.

    • by novakyu ( 636495 )

      Far safer and easier to do, me thinks, to park a large asteroid in synchronous orbit between the Earth and Sun to occlude solar radiation.

      Horribly unrealistic. Consider the moon:

      For an "asteroid", it's a fairly large asteroid—it's large enough that its own gravity keeps it roughly spherical (many asteroids are not large enough to do that).

      It's also very close to the Earth. It's probably not very realistic to get anything that's nearly the size of the moon much closer to Earth.

      Now, imagine what happens in a solar eclipse: a tiny patch of land on Earth gets the shadow of the moon—even during a full solar eclipse most of the hemisphe

      • Earth's radius is 6,371km presenting an effective (disc) area of 127,567,443km2 to the sun.

        If you want to block out a huge 10% of the incoming solar radiation you need to occlude an effective area of 12,756,744km2 and with something of radius 2,015km. That's slightly bigger than the moon. A difficult task.

        If you only want to block out a small 1% of the incoming solar radiation, on the other hand, (which is probably all that's needed) you need to occlude an effective area of 1,275,674km2 and with something o

    • by nido ( 102070 )

      I'm a climate engineer!

      Do you pilot one of those planes whose contrail doesn't disperse like it should? Maybe they don't use pilots anymore - drone planes would work just as well. Maybe you plan where the drones are going to fly on a given day.

      (Anyone who believes that the climate isn't already being engineered just isn't watching the skies [].)

  • I am a Troll (Score:2, Interesting)

    Preventing a cancer before it starts is far more effective than attempting to treat it after years of abuse. But yeah in these types of topics I generally get modded Troll for telling people they need to give up their cars and ride bicycles if they want to stop (or slow down) climate change. Yes there are certainly a very great deal of reasons why, for example, people can't ride bikes: weather is too hot, weather is too cold, work is too far away, biking causes sweat, etc. Yep, just mark me Troll.

    • But yeah in these types of topics I generally get modded Troll for telling people they need to give up their cars and ride bicycles

      That's dumb. If you really wanted to be a troll, you could recommend that the nuclear nations go and nuke the third world, cutting the population of the earth down to a more sustainable 2 billion.

      Really, with nuclear proliferation, this is probably inevitable anyway. Some American cities will survive because of a limited missile defense system, but the rest of the world will

  • Everybody wants America (as well as most of the west) to do major cutbacks. The simple fact is, that ALL countries need to cut back. Obama appears certain to join the cap-trade idiots. So far, all the countries that are participating in it, are cheating their ass off. Now, ppl are talking wild ideas. Totally insane.

    The best approach is to instead have the west put in a VAT on ALL GOODS based on amount of Pollution created in its production. It should be PHASED in, rather than just hit the economy. By taki
    • Or a better idea is use the last of the homestead act and go live in the Alaskan tundra. Soon as global warming kicks in it'll be a lush rainforest. Shouldn't Canada be all for global warming? Russia two. There are lots of good things that global warming will do too.

  • The global temperature hasn't risen in about 8 years (in fact, it has slightly gone down). So what's to fix?

    But either way, this is kind of stuff is confusing. Supposedly pollutants in the air increased the global temperature but now we want to inject more of them into the air to decrease global temperature? How does that make sense?

    I guess it's the same as fixing the the huge credit problem in the U.S. by telling banks to issue more credit to more at risk lenders?

    Or by cutting the country's deficit by increasing spending?

    Or by decreasing unemployment by giving illegal immigrants legal status so they can compete for the already limited number of available jobs?

    Or by fixing solving the global nuclear threat by reducing our nuclear arsenal while Iran and North Korea continue to push theirs.

    Is his Administration pulling these ideas out of their asses or what?

    (I know I'll be rated a troll by all the kool-aid drinkers, that's okay)

    • by ElectricTurtle ( 1171201 ) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @12:22AM (#27513793)
      Yeah, well, in the new green religion, when the facts don't [] fit [] the theory, you fire the scientists []. Welcome to politicized science.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      I'll assume you're not trolling, and answer your questions as best I can.

      The global temperature hasn't risen in about 8 years (in fact, it has slightly gone down). So what's to fix?

      Yes, you can cherry-pick two points on a noisy signal and pretend it's meaningful, but that doesn't make it so. The meaningful indicator is the overall trend, not the year-by-year variations: []

      Supposedly pollutants in the air increased the glo

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Monsuco ( 998964 )

        Yes, you can cherry-pick two points on a noisy signal and pretend it's meaningful, but that doesn't make it so. The meaningful indicator is the overall trend, not the year-by-year variations.

        Our climate has been both warmer and colder in the past and so called global warming has reversed itself since the 90's. That's good. I miss the "Man Made Global Cooling" of the 70's.

        You're assuming that all pollutants have the same effect. Is it so far fetched to think that some materials might have different effects than others?

        CO2 isn't that effective of an insulator. As the number of CO2 molecules increases, the insulating effect of each molecule starts to decline. Eventually increases stop mattering. Methane is like 80 times more insulating and Nitrous Oxides can be well over 200 times more insulating than CO2. Both are produced increasingly by fa

  • China is way ahead of us at protecting the planet with particulates.
  • by drgould ( 24404 ) on Wednesday April 08, 2009 @11:56PM (#27513615)

    ... build more nuclear power plants.

    Yeah, I know, -1 Flamebait.

    • by Cimexus ( 1355033 ) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @12:45AM (#27513969)

      Not flamebait at all.

      I'm a huge proponent of using nuclear power. It's the only proven technology we have NOW that is zero-emissions and can produce on the type of scale we need. Wind and solar are great too but cannot yet cope with the demand alone.

      You still have a large amount of CO2 emissions coming from the transport and agriculture sectors. But the energy sector still forms a big part of total CO2 emissions and nuclear power is, for the medium term at least, the answer IMHO.

  • What about a giant space shield to reflect the suns rays? Could make it ultra thin from carbon fiber, probably wouldn't even need to be out there very long...

  • Barack Obama convenes the Planetary Council!

    Agenda: Launch solar shade

    Sorry, I know that makes two SMAC references in one week, but it couldn't be helped.

    If the plan worries any of you, don't think too much about it, Sister Miriam will probably veto it anyway.

  • But does this plan have as much plausibility as the environmentalists' plan to reduce anthropogenic carbon emissions by 200%? (Logically impossible, but this is what would be needed to reverse global warming, where it's unlikely that we'll even see a slow-down in the growth of carbon emissions without enormous sacrifices to our standard of living.)
  • What's this "rest of the world" thing people like to mention every now and then? I've never heard of it.
  • What?!

    You mean a democrat believes that the Government should meddle in EVERYTHING and that there nothing that it does not have any limit to what it should do?!

    Shock and Horror.
  • Highlander II []:

    It's the year 2024 and all the ozone above Earth has gone. To protect people from dying, MacLeod helped in the construction of a giant "shield", several years ago. But, since there isn't left anyone Immortal after MacLeod's victory in the previous film, he has stopped being an Immortal himself. Now he is just an old man, until one day some other Immortals arrive on our planet. You see, the Immortals come from another planet... Planet Ziest.

    Oh God! We've become a bad movie. There can be only one.


  • A more ambitious solution exists that does not hold such unpredictable consequences. We currently are investing billions in solar cell technology. The next step is to put mass produced panels in space and transmit power to the surface. It would kill three birds with one very large stone. And maybe some more birds would die from the microwave transmissions for power transfer, but I want to emphasize the benefits. It could provide us with a relatively clean energy source that would reduce greenhouse gas
  • Paraphrased :

    - We have got a lizard problem now, they will eat all the bird, not only the pigeon
    - No problem we will breed and release chinese poisonous snake
    - and what if the poisonous snake become a problem ?
    - Then we will breed gorilla to hunt the snake
    - Gorilla ?
    - And winter will then take care of killing them
  • Here's and idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wolf12886 ( 1206182 ) on Thursday April 09, 2009 @01:02AM (#27514077)

    Here's a simple solution I haven't heard anyone propose. Extensive renewable thinning of the forests.

    Forests only absorb co2 as they grow, once they reach maximum density they become carbon neutral. When a forest reaches maximum density all carbon absorbed by new trees is offset by the trees that died and provided the room. But by continually thinning out our forests and allowing them to regrow we'd gain a infinitely renewable supply of zero net carbon fuel in the form of the harvested wood.

    The wood produced could be used to generate electricity, or could be even chemically converted directly to combustible fuel. In addition, the wood could be used for cheap carbon negative building material.

    The infrastructure for this would be cheap, the technologies available, and most importantly, it would be immediately profitable. I'm not surprised this hasn't been seriously considered though, both sides in this controversy seam more interested in using it for political leverage than approaching the problem with any sense of logic.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer