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Earth Science

Can Geoengineering Drones Fight Global Warming? (technologyreview.com) 280

MIT Technology Review reports: David Mitchell, a lanky, soft-spoken atmospheric physicist, believes frigid clouds in the upper troposphere may offer one of our best fallback plans for combating climate change... Fleets of large drones would crisscross the upper latitudes of the globe during winter months, sprinkling the skies with tons of extremely fine dust-like materials every year. If Mitchell is right, this would produce larger ice crystals than normal, creating thinner cirrus clouds that dissipate faster. "That would allow more radiation into space, cooling the earth," Mitchell says...

Increasingly grim climate projections have convinced a growing number of scientists it's time to start conducting experiments to find out what might work. In addition, an impressive list of institutions including Harvard University, the Carnegie Council, and the University of California, Los Angeles, have recently established research initiatives... By this time next year, Harvard professors David Keith and Frank Keutsch hope to launch a high-altitude balloon from a site in Tucson, Arizona. This will mark the beginning of a research project to explore the feasibility and risks of an approach known as solar radiation management. The basic idea is that spraying materials into the stratosphere could help reflect more heat back into space, mimicking a natural cooling phenomenon that occurs after volcanoes blast tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide into the sky.

"I don't really know what the answer is," says a former associate director at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "But I do believe we need to keep saying what the truth is, and the truth is, we might need it."
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Can Geoengineering Drones Fight Global Warming?

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  • I recall a movie about this. It had a train in it.

  • DRONE ON (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 22, 2017 @07:59PM (#54284695)

    The March for Science seems focused on earth's bleak environmental future. Fortunately, science has some sure fire answers:

    1. Nuclear energy

    2. Geo-engineering

    3. Carbon dioxide extraction

    4. Albedo modification

    5. Solar radiation management

    You get the idea.

    However, you probably won't hear much during the March about the world's population as the root cause of climate change. Nobody wants to face the obvious fact that we are having too many babies. If you suggest that population growth is the fundamental problem behind climate change, the science loving marchers will reply with their timeless response [youtube.com].

    Despite a flood of scientific data illustrating human overpopulation, people refuse to accept it. Where is the March for Birth Control? Boys and girls, if you want to stop climate change, get your tubes clipped/tied.

    So, can a March for Science change anything? Oh sure! Because it is backed by the democratic process, and Americans can always send a message at the ballot box. (ROTFL)

    Politics is a pay-to-play game, and Citizens United has etched that rule in granite around the Capital Rotunda. Which means the environmental crisis will not be addressed until Big Money finds it more profitable than the status quo.

    In the meantime, there is really nothing to worry about. Even the long term crisis caused by population growth will soon be a thing of the past.

    Science teaches us that if we don't solve our problems, mother nature will [darwinawards.com]
    do it for us.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 22, 2017 @08:28PM (#54284797)

      To be fair, it isn't North American, European, Australian or Japanese scientists who are contributing to overpopulation. Limiting their reproduction won't actually have much of an impact.

      We've already seen birth rates drop so low in nearly all civilized nations that populations will soon start shrinking quickly once those born during the post-WWII baby boom start to rapidly die off. It's already been seen first in Japan and Russia, which experienced a much smaller post-WWII baby boom than most other nations.

      Let's be realistic about the source of overpopulation today: it's Africa, and to a lesser extent India and the Middle East.

      China was once included, but they really managed to get their population growth under control a while ago. Those other places, however, have not.

      I know that a lot of those on the left want to turn this into a matter of race, but it really has nothing to do with race. It doesn't matter what skin color somebody born in Africa or India or the Middle East has, the problem is that such a person is one more mouth to feed in an area that already cannot sustain itself.

      Flooding these third-worlders into Europe or North America surely won't help. It will just ruin the only societies that are currently propping-up Africa, the Middle East, and even India. If these people can't manage to sustain themselves in any meaningful way in their home lands, they won't be able to in Western nations, either.

      Aside from Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, we're already seeing much of Europe slip into chaos thanks to huge numbers of third-worlders flooding into places like Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, and even the UK. North America is facing a similar problem due to third-worlders from Mexico, Central America, and South America.

      Long-term climate change will soon be the least of our concerns. Within a few decades we'll likely see the collapse of Europe. Third-world populations just won't be able to sustain the first-world conditions Europe has come to know over the past 70 years. Things will get very bad in Africa and the Middle East, with one of their main sources of food and medicine (aka Europe) being gone.

      North America and Australia just won't be able to support and even more overpopulated Africa and Middle East, combined with an overpopulated Europe filled with third-worlders. We'll likely see them shut their borders and do their best to isolate themselves from the rest of the world destroying itself through overpopulation.

      There really are bleak days ahead, but it isn't due to climate change. It's due to third-world overpopulation destroying not only Africa, India and the Middle East, but also Europe. Western nations are unintentionally doing their part to help prevent this disaster, through their naturally-falling birth rates. But we just aren't seeing the same thing happen in Africa, the Middle East and India. Those places are getting worse every day, and there's little to suggest that will change.

    • Re:DRONE ON (Score:5, Informative)

      by MightyMartian ( 840721 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @09:38PM (#54284979) Journal

      And once again the bulk of CO2 emissions still come from the industrialized world, where, with few exceptions, populations are either static or falling.

      • Re:DRONE ON (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Oligonicella ( 659917 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @10:17PM (#54285083)

        Hush. There's a narrative to uphold.

    • The event was already being criticized for "politicizing" science. "You're risking turning it from a non-partisan thing into a liberal vs conservative thing!" they say. "Conservatives will decide science is evil!"

      While I think that's naive and stupid, thinking about how the message will be heard IS worthwhile.

      "Science says you're having too many babies and that's contributing to climate change so stop!" Yeah, good fucking luck with that one. While you're at it, maybe sell republicans on the fact that
      • On top of that, it's a stupid fucking argument to be making. Carbon emissions are not evenly distributed. A handful of the worlds rich assholes (read: us) are doing the vast majority of the climate change (See figure 1).

        India and China are trying as hard as they can to come up to our levels of carbon release. This is a problem that has to be solved at a deeper level. It has to simply be cheaper not to pollute. Therefore this is where the bulk of the research should be going.

        • by mikael ( 484 )

          UK already has exceeded 25% power generation from renewables
          https://www.ft.com/content/30e... [ft.com]

          China is moving to 25% renewable energy.
          https://www.nytimes.com/2017/0... [nytimes.com]

          So the argument of the era of cheap energy is over doesn't really hold up.

          The next issue will be clean air and unpolluted water and land.

          • Yes, China is able to let science drive its policy rather than politics, and so it is moving to drastically expand nuclear as well as renewable options. They understand the nuclear is an absolutely necessary part of the equation. But politics and scientific ignorance of actual risk keep much of the world from doing what science tells us we should do.
  • by RightwingNutjob ( 1302813 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @08:03PM (#54284715)
    I will eat a leather shoe if you can convince me that climate models have even half the predictive power necessary to justify blowing several hundred billion dollars on this nonsense.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Bodhammer ( 559311 )
      What? Are you some kind of Right Wing Nut Job Climate Denier? Shame! Let me guess, you pray to something other than Gaia? Savage...
    • They have. However, geoengineering is in its early stages. We should not let them try things before they can describe the outcome.

    • This calculate captures your opinion fairly well [tumblr.com]. Not all aspects of science are equally solid.
    • I'll take the bet: I'll eat my shoe if the models produced by climate change deniers produce more accurate results over 10 years than the models produced by consensus science. If it's the other way, you can eat your shoe.

      Do we have a wager?

  • by Bodhammer ( 559311 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @08:04PM (#54284723)
    If we can build light sails to get to Alpha Centauri or Serius why can we just put up a giant sunshade?

    http://www.airspacemag.com/dai... [airspacemag.com]
    We would only have to use it during the day as well so it could be half as big.
    • by jandrese ( 485 )
      Who says we can build light sails? Certainly nobody has tried to do it on anything close to the scale necessary yet.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        Apparently we can build warp drives and travel faster than light too. I saw it mentioned in many books and movies.
  • by DMJC ( 682799 )
    Thanks to VR, AI and now this. It's looking more and more like the Matrix scenario is a potential candidate for the future Earth.
  • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @08:14PM (#54284757)

    I mean the human race cannot even control its carbon emission, despite having known about the problem for more than 30 years now and despite alternatives being known. Get that sorted and then maybe we can talk about large-scale geo-engineering. As a technological civilization, this one is still in its infancy and geo-engineering that matters is well beyond reach.

    • That some say it is a problem does not make it a problem. Those saying have an agenda.
    • by haruchai ( 17472 )

      "More than 30 years" .
      More than 60 years, as it was mentioned towards the end of Bell Telephone's Science Hour "The Unchained Goddess" episode on weather in 1958
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • which could be said about a lot of things we "might" need.
  • Geoengineering is a good idea. Unfortunately, we do not really understand how to do it. The only geoengineering program that works is climate change with CO2, methane and nitrogen oxides. And that us a by product of our lifestyle. The geoengineerers remind me of Mao Zedong. He once killed some kind of birds because he knew that they eat some of the rice seedlings. Unfortunately, he did not know that the same birds eat rice harming insects. So he geoengieered the birds away resulting in starving Chinese.

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @09:29PM (#54284943)
    Just what we need: a plan that makes the chemtrail loons even more sure they're right.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by buss_error ( 142273 )

      Just what we need: a plan that makes the chemtrail loons even more sure they're right.

      I'm depressed today, sorry. But as I see things, the most common choices I see others take are:

      1. Ignore it - global warming is just somebody's religion
      2, Ignore it - global warming is just China's way to get a trade advantage.
      3. Ignore it - because our great grandfathers didn't have this problem!
      4. Ignore it - because there's that one whack job over there that says hundreds of thousands of other scientists, trained in the

  • by TheOuterLinux ( 4778741 ) on Saturday April 22, 2017 @09:33PM (#54284955)
    by describing a physicist as lanky and soft spoken. If the guy is skinny, what the hell does that have to do with anything? His brain is what's important. I can do it too: "Paralyzed old guy that talks with a computer is ironically good at physics." Sound familiar? -_- Almost sounds like a weird attempt to open up conservative readers by making fun with stereotyping and still talk about climate change.
    • Everything related to the Mann-caused climate catastrophe narrative is designed for drama and storytelling.
  • Instead of having trillions of ice crystals, all we have to do is use one big one [youtube.com].

  • Science is advancing so rapidly, none of this matters. You should not ameliorate the global warming because if you overdo it, you will induce an ice age, which can start in as little as a year or two (all you need is a summer where the snow doesn't quite melt) and then you will kill billions in less than a year.

    We can less predict the tech in 100 years than the people in 1900 could predict today's. We are the people in 1900 trying to fix the problem using their info and their tech. Decimating their own i

  • There are hellacious unknowns here. Some of them probably can only figured out by running an experiment on the only planet we currently have.

    Evidence from volcanic eruptions indicates that producing cooling effects this way depends dramatically on where you distribute the dust (high latitudes don't seem to work as well, and seeding the area from Indonesia to the Philippines seems to produce more cooling than similar latitudes in South America). There is also probably a pretty strong upper limit on how muc

  • But using the word drone, means you will get lots of publicity.
  • Fucking around with the atmosphere like this would make astronomy no longer a thing. Not that idiots that come up with ideas like this have ever bothered looking up in their light polluted cities.

  • Most of the greenhouse effect warming takes place in the summer, for the simple reason that's when the most solar radiation is received and trapped. This doesn't eliminate that effect, it offsets the increase in the *average* by adding an unnaturally cold winters -- which by the way would increase fossil fuel use dramatically.

    Now this would -- if it is physically and economically feasible -- blunt *some* impacts of global warming, such as glacier retreat and sea level rise. But it would accelerate *other*

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