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2013 SkS Weekly News Roundup #52

Posted on 28 December 2013 by John Hartz

  • 2013 Australia's hottest year on record
  • 2014 climate outlook and communications challenges to be highlighted 
  • Climate change 2013: Where we are now - not what you think
  • Former leaders of Norway and Ghana named UN climate change envoys
  • Increasing risks + declining trust = more risk?
  • In the Philippines, a vortex of climate change and debt
  • Reducing sunlight ‘will not cool Earth’
  • Some lose, some win in warming world
  • Still uncertain: climate change’s role in drought
  • The climate champions of 2013

2013 Australia's hottest year on record 

2013 is the year Australia marked its hottest day, month, season, 12-month period and, by December 31, hottest calendar year.

"We're smashing the records," said Andy Pitman, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of NSW. "We're not tinkering away at them, they're being absolutely blitzed."

Global interest in Australia's weather flared early. In January, when models predicted heat that was literally off the charts, the Bureau of Meteorology added colours to maps - a deep purple and pink - to indicate maximum temperatures of 50-54 degrees.

2013 Australia's hottest year on record by Peter Hannam, Sydney Morning Herald, Dec 21, 2013

2014 climate outlook and communications challenges to be highlighted 

Some call it a “Google Hangout.” Others just call it a webinar. The Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media calls it “30onClimate,”* a new regular feature debuting this month.

Long-time Forum regular contributor and veteran science writer Bruce Lieberman, of San Diego, hosts and moderates the new Yale Forum regular feature.

Lieberman will regularly host an online discussion of between 20 and 30 minutes. The first in the series (available now) features three other Forum regular contributors — Lisa Palmer of Maryland, John Wihbey of Massachusetts, and Zeke Hausfather of California. The debut webinar, recorded on December 20, focuses on the writers’ outlook for major upcoming climate issues throughout the 2014 new year.

2014 Climate Outlook and Communications Challenges to be Highlighted in New Webinar Series, Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, Dec 23, 2013 

Climate change 2013: Where we are now - not what you think

We are in the midst of an era of frightening contradictions, when it comes to public understandings of climate change. While climate changes are occurring more quickly than scientists have ever predicted, most people’s knowledge of these realities remains hazy and clouded by political overtones. Because of both the counter-intuitive nature of climate change and the massive misinformation campaigns created by the fossil fuel industry, the general population is 20 years behind most climate scientists when it comes to the straightforward fact of "believing in" climate change. This is an ominous statistic: Now that scientists are predicting that even worse impacts than previously understood will happen significantly sooner, a rapid global response will be necessary for any attempt to stave them off. We are likely closer to irreversible dangerous climate change - if it has not begun already - and to take action, there must be a basic public consensus. There is, however, some hopeful news on the technological front if action is taken soon.

Climate Change 2013: Where We Are Now - Not What You Think, News Analysis by Bruce Melton, Truthout, Dec 26. 2012

Former leaders of Norway and Ghana named UN climate change envoys

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday appointed former Ghana President John Kufuor and former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg as special envoys on climate change to drum up support for a planned global conference in September.

Ban has invited world leaders, chief executives and civil society groups to a Climate Summit in New York on Sept. 23 to push for robust action on climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building climate resilient communities.

"As part of their work, the special envoys will assist the Secretary-General in his consultations with leaders to raise the level of ambition to address climate change and to accelerate action," Ban's office said in a statement.

Former leaders of Norway and Ghana named UN climate change envoys, Reuters, Dec 23, 2013

Increasing risks + declining trust = more risk?

As thousands were meeting at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco (see complete list of Forum coverage here), some 800 researchers, practitioners, and policymakers from more than 30 countries met in Baltimore to discuss “Risk Analysis for Better Policies.”

Risk communication and climate change were among the main subthemes at the 33rd annual meeting of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA). The challenge of communicating climate change, in particular, was considered from different perspectives, and levels of analysis ranging from specific case studies to big-picture overviews. That approach echoes SRA’s objective of seeking to work across disciplines and at multiple levels.

Increasing Risks + Declining Trust = More Risk? by Michael Svoboda, Yale Forum on Climate Change & The Media, Dec 23, 2013

In the Philippines, a vortex of climate change and debt

Since Typhoon Yolanda made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 8, the country has sent holders of its debt close to one billion dollars, surpassing, in less than two months, the 800 million dollars the U.N. has asked of international donors to help rebuild the ravaged central region of the archipelago.

Even as the Philippines goes hat in hand to wealthier countries seeking disaster relief, it continues to diligently pay creditors in those same countries millions of dollars every day – much of it interest on debt that can be traced back to the corrupt regime of Ferdinand Marcos (1965-1986) , Cold War ally to the West.

When Philippine President Benigno Aquino III announced last week the staggering cost of rebuilding from the storm, the price tag – 8.17 billion dollars – and a pair of emergency loans to help meet that goal distressed debt reduction campaigners in the country who have for many years called for a cancellation of illegal debts.

In the Philippines, a Vortex of Climate Change and Debt by Samuel Oakford, Inter Press Service (IPS), Dec 23, 2013

Reducing sunlight ‘will not cool Earth’

Two German scientists have just confirmed that you can’t balance the Earth’s rising temperatures by simply toning down the sunlight. It may do something disconcerting to the patterns of global rainfall.

Earlier this year a US-led group of scientists ran sophisticated climate models of a geo-engineered world and proposed the same thing. Now Axel Kleidon and Maik Renner of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, have used a different theoretical approach to confirm the conclusion, and explain why it would be a bad idea.

The argument for geo-engineering goes like this: the world is getting inexorably warmer, governments show no sign of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions, so why not control the planetary thermostat by finding a way to filter, block, absorb or reflect some of the sunlight hitting the Earth? 

Reducing sunlight "will not cool Earth" by Tim Radford and Climate News Network, Climate Central, Dec 27, 2013

Some lose, some win in warming world

And now for the good news: climate change could actually make life better for some creatures. The ibex in the Swiss Alps may find an extra spring in its step. The roly-poly pika of the American northwest might find it has gained an edge over its predators because it is adapted to a high fibre diet.

The news is not uniformly good: climate change is already taking its toll of Arctic peregrine falcons and chinstrap penguins on the Antarctic peninsula. But change is not always for the worse.

A team of scientists led by the Swiss Federal Institute of Forest, Snow and Landscape Research reports in Ecology Letters that they used dendrochronological techniques (the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree rings) to monitor the response of the mammal Capra ibex to patterns of climate change.

Some lose, some win in warming world by Tim Radford, Climate News Network, Dec 25, 2013

Still uncertain: climate change’s role in drought

It’s common for direct connections to be drawn between climate change and the effects of the devastating droughts that have been afflicting the U.S. and other parts of the world over the last decade. A new analysis led by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research says there are still many uncertainties about how climate change is affecting drought globally, though.

The analysis, authored primarily by NCAR senior scientist Kevin Trenberth, concludes that more global precipitation data need to be made available and natural variability needs to be better accounted for to fully determine how climate change is affecting drought worldwide.

“We aIn a year that saw carbon pollution levels hit the milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere and brought record-breaking drought, fires, typhoons, and air pollution, it can be easy to forget there are climate champions out there, pushing back on those climate grinches. Here are a few of the climate heroes that made progress, inspired, or otherwise made an impact in 2013:re really addressing the question of, how is drought changing with global warming and expected to change in the future?” Trenberth said Friday. “To address that question, how is drought changing with global warming, you have to address the question, is drought changing?”

Still uncertain: climate change’s role in drought by Bobby Magill, Climate Central, Dec 20, 2013

The climate champions of 2013

In a year that saw carbon pollution levels hit the milestone of 400 parts per million in the atmosphere and brought record-breaking drought, fires, typhoons, and air pollution, it can be easy to forget there are climate champions out there, pushing back on those climate grinches. Here are a few of the climate heroes that made progress, inspired, or otherwise made an impact in 2013:

The Climate Champions Of 2013 by Joanna M Foster, Climate Progress, Dec 23, 2013

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Comments 1 to 25:

  1. The title "Reducing sunlight ‘will not cool Earth’" is wrong and misleading. Simple energy preservation law implies the opposite: less energy in - the planetary temperature must drop to restore the energy balance.

    Even worse than that, the author implies: "two German scientists have just confirmed that you can’t balance the Earth’s rising temperatures by simply toning down the sunlight". In fact, the researchers said nothing alike. They said, as quoted at the end:

    ...traffic of water vapour around the planet, plays a powerful role in the making of climate. To change the pattern and degree of evaporation would inevitably disturb weather systems and disrupt agriculture, with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences

    and that's quite different.

    I understand and share the author's dislike of geo-engineering, reinforced by the results of the quoted study. However in reporting it, one must take care to cite the correct news only. Bloating the headlines into bogus/irrational claims is unacceptable and only gives the "sceptics" an argument that "warmists exaggerate the reality".

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  2. chriskoz, you didn't quote the last part of the article:

    'The authors say: “An immediate consequence of this notion is that climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming.”'

    We can't simply cool the Earth that way, because it would cause a catastrope. In this case, the sense of "can't" is "we can't do it because it is a stupid idea", not "we can't do it because it's impossible". So, I would say the heading is valid, although it could have been phrased differently..

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  3. We mustn't be tempted to use artificial methods to remove Carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.  While we are pumping ever increasing masses of Carbon into the atmosphere, it is obviously an insane idea but even if our output of carbon ceased tomorrow it is a not starter.  Natural processes are so much more powerful as shown by our annual 7ppm variation (8up, 6 down) in atmospheric carbon dioxide.  We must, rather restore these natual systems.

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  4. I agree with chriskoz @#1 and don't see how Doug @#2 explained his misunderstanding. Unless I'm missing something, it's a bit like I see from the Skeptic side with its non-sequitor. As scientists discover some of the detrimental side effects of messing around with the ecosystem even more than the present +CO2 they should be reported as such, not as something else.

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  5. Here's a link to an abstract for the article in Nature:

    "Spread in model climate sensitivity traced to atmospheric convective mixing" by Steven C. Sherwood,Sandrine Bony & Jean-Louis Dufresne

      And here's a link to a short video with discussion by one of the authors (Sherwood) of the article linked above:

       As I understand it, this study pretty much does away with all the models that predict global warming sensitivity at anything less than 3 degrees C for every doubling of atmospheric CO2.

       So what's left are the models that show warming of between 3 and about 5 degrees C for every doubling. And it is sure looking like we are heading to at least a doubling by century's end if not much sooner (especially with carbon feedbacks kicking in and carbon sinks about to turn into sources...).

       Basically, all those low-balling models had an unrealistic circulatory mechanism behind their models and so can be ruled out.

       This is pretty damn big new, folks, if it's right. Worthy of a main post here, perhaps??

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Links activated.

  6. I will attempt to clarify the issue of why artificially blocking sunlight is an unacceptable option for addressing the current and imminent challenge caused by increasing CO2 emissions.

    The first statement in the article that needs to be understood is:

    “If you make the atmosphere warmer, but keep the sunlight the same, evaporation increases by 2% per degree of warming. If you keep the atmosphere the same, but increase the levels of sunlight, evaporation increases by 3% per degree of warming.”

    This highlights that evaporation changes would occur from a ‘geo-engineered solution’. The following statement from later in the article highlights the risks of messing with the evaporation.

    “To change the pattern and degree of evaporation would inevitably disturb weather systems and disrupt agriculture, with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic consequences.”

    So it may be possible to change things in a way that is speculated to ‘control the surface temperature’ but there would be added risk of increased uncertainty of evaporation and resulting weather patterns.

    A related issue is the way some people only look at regional ‘longer growing seasons’ from global warming and claim a ‘benefit’ is being obtained. However, as the temperature increases the added uncertainty of predicting the likely weather, and precipitation patterns, for the upcoming growing season in any location would negate any potential benefits of an extended growing season. The added risk of damage from more likely extreme weather events further reduces the potential benefit.

    Of course another reason not to attempt to geo-engineer a ‘solution’ is the simple fact that an absolute understanding of every interaction and consequence of the human imposed alteration would need to be in place before ‘beginning to experiment’ with things. There is certainly ‘no time’ to develop the required understanding to allow such ‘ambitious and potentially damaging activities’ to be started.

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  7. One Planet Only Forever @6, eloquently stated.  It also, I believe ignores other aspects of the problem with geoengineering by reducing sunlight.  Consequently I agree with you that mitigation is the best strategy at the moment.

    Never-the-less, as world governments continue to dawdle in tackling climate change, they push up the costs of mitigation.  Therefore continued dawdling may well push us into a situation where we must choose between pure, unmitigated climate change of +4 C or more, or reduction of CO2 emissions and concentration and reduction in insolation as a bridging method to avoid the worst consequences of global warming.  That is, we may be forced to choose the least worst of two ills.

    We are in the situation of the Titanic.  If the captain does not turn and slow the ship soon, we may well be happy of the existence of life boats in the form of geoengineering, without in any way implying that life boats are a preffered method of crossing the Atlantic.

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  8. The problem with geoengineering is that it is likely to cause severe drought somewhere even if it reduces temperature.  Who will get the cooler temperature and who will get the drought?  We will have to rely on climate models to predict  who will get what.  Who trusts climate models that much?  For example, if China gets drought and the USA gets cooler temperatures should we block the sun?  What do the Chinese think about that?  What if the USA gets the drought and China gets the lower temperatures?  Climate will not necessairly be better, even if it is cooler, if major farmng regions are hit with drought.

    It seems to me that whoever gets something they don't like will be angry and want to stop the geoengineering.  Someone (everyone?) will be angry.  There is also the question of cost of geoengineering forever, where the energy to do the geoengineering comes from, and if the geoengineering is ever stopped for even a short time temperatures will jump.

    Perhaps geoengineering is not a life raft but a life preserver.  Who wants to swim across the Atlantic?

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  9. Tom Curtis @ 7

    The global socioeconomic-political system is the problem. The ‘competition’ for things that everyone cannot have encourages the development of attitudes of greed and intolerance. And when the greedy and the intolerant ‘succeed at any of the many unacceptable things they will try to get away with’, significant damage is produced with many others suffering the consequences.

    Popularity of illegitimate beliefs and attitudes can easily be created. The burning fossil fuels illegitimately developing into such a large part of ‘the way people believe they can get away with obtaining personal benefit’ has created a large pool of easily impressed people.

    Money obtained from illegitimate activities can be abused to create popular support among the easily impressed for the unjustified and illegitimate activities. That ‘illegitimate popularity’ is then claimed to be a justification for all manner of illegitimate activity. Expansions of fossil fuel burning are ‘justified’ by claims that the damages created today and risks to the future are ‘worth it’. The ridiculous evaluations go like this:

    - The current people wanting to benefit from an unsustainable and damaging activity (like burning fossil fuels), evaluate what they believe ‘would not be gained by them if they were not allowed to do the unsustainable and damaging activity’

    - They also evaluate what they believe to be the ‘costs of the damage of their desired unsustainable activity’. They will even go further and claim that any future cost is less important than a current day cost. And they will exclude any ‘cost they have no method to evaluate (or no interest in evaluating)’.

    - They then justify doing the unsustainable and damaging activity by claiming their inflated personal benefits are worth the discounted and diminished costs faced by others.

    The global leaders are simply pursuing popular support, regardless of how illegitimate and unsustainable and damaging that is.

    The real problem is the socioeconomic system that ‘continues to be popular’ and the type of leaders who succeed. The more people there are who only care about what they can get for themselves, the more difficult it is for a sustainable better future for all life on this amazing planet to be developed by concerned, caring and considerate people (they cannot get the required leadership actions).

    The burning of fossil fuels is not the only unacceptable activity keeping humanity from developing a sustainable better future for all. However, it is one of the clearest examples of ‘how wrong’ the socioeconomic systems are that encourage people to ‘compete to get the most benefit for themselves as quick as possible any way they can get away with’. The popularity of greed (and its partner in political crime, intolerance), is the real problem. A sustainable better future for all will never develop as long as the greedy and intolerant can ‘succeed’.

    p.s. The link between greed and intolerance is simple. The greedy will do whatever they can get away with to get more for themselves. If they can get political power by partnering with the intolerant, they are willing to give the intolerant what they want because it ‘costs them nothing to do so’. The intolerant will partner with the greedy because they do not care how their intolerant attitudes are supported, and they will even contribute money to the promotion of a political party

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  10. Two things:


    i agree as usual with "one planet's" asessment of our human condition.  Whatever we do, THAT issue will have to become obsolete, as we individually identify our "being" with the "WELL BEING of all.

     "Think globally act locally??"  That old saw has been around for decades, but not nearly as long as

    "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you", or some such ascribed utterance from a couple thousand years ago.


    I am somewhat surprised at the revulsion for "geoengineering" as a concept, since what  we have "done" with burning fossil fuels can be regarded as IGNORANT geoengineering.  What we need to do is be "unignorant"  and emulate nature of which we are a part, and not let out "thinking minds" pretend that we are separate.


    To this end, "I" will submit THIS paper, which constitutes a rational response to the issue, and which (in my considered opinion) will work quite well.



    Please note my website skills suck, butI hope to have up the support documents shortly. 


    We are all in this together.




    PS: There are a heck of a lot of folks here that know more than I do:  any comments appreciated.  If it gets "shot down", that would be fine with me.

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  11. davidnewell @ 10

    I am an Engineer with an MBA so that does not make me an expert in climate science. However, it has given me a desire for trying to better understand what is going on. My perspective comes from reading things like Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and Paul Hawken's "The Ecology of Commerce", and writing by people like Noam Chomsky, as well as books by the WMO, and reviewing information on sites like this (and checking out what is presented on sites like WUWT).

    In the introduction of your paper you suggest that global leaders are trying to stop the unsustainable and damaging activity. The facts would appear to be that the 'leaders without power and influence' are trying to get meaningful effective changes of behaviour from the powerful parties who are striving to 'maximize their competitive advantage any way they can get away with' to maintain 'popular support' among their populations which are filled with people who are inclined to be greedy by the socioeconomic system they are immersed in.

    One thing I have noticed through the years is how many times 'unintended consequences' eventually came to be understood after significant damage had occurred from 'popular pursuits of benefit'. I have noticed this has increased, not declined, over the years. So we are not getting better at properly fully understanding what we are doing before we do it.

    With each ‘better understanding’ that challenges the legitimacy of a pursuit of benefit there is a very strong PR pushback from the people who want to continue to benefit. We now understand things like how unsustainable it is to use antibiotics to address the health problems of cattle that are fed grain to get them to grow quicker. Those grain fed cattle are also the source of the now common poison meat if the digestive juices of such a cow touch any of the meat. Have you seen the cattle industry accept this? I have seen misleading messages from cattle producer associations in Canada trying to illegitimately justify their unsustainable and damaging practices. And they can get lots of support by saying ‘beef from grass fed cows would be more expensive’.

    The real important lesson is that the best solution would be for humans to strive to minimize the impacts of their lifestyles while striving to most fully understanding the complexities of the environment we should be able to enjoy living in for billions of years. That means less chemicals, less consumption of non-renewable resources (full recycling is not consumption), less consumption of renewable resources. It basically requires ‘less’ to be ‘more’. And it definitely requires the greedy inconsiderate ones among us to never be able to succeed.

    Truly sustainable ways of living need to be developed sooner rather than later. That will only happen if it is not possible for any humans to benefit from unsustainable, damaging or dangerous activities. This will require the wealthy and powerful to ‘willingly give up their opportunity for more’. If that does not happen there will not be a 'truly sustainable better future for all'. And I suspect that your suggested actions could be implemented before a full understanding of the implications can be developed (frankly, it could take decades, maybe centuries, to develop the required understanding), promoted by people who want to get more benefit for themselves any way they can get away with. Unfortunately, any ‘geo-engineered solution’ to the climate problem would likely be another unsustainable and ultimately damaging action. An additional consideration is that burning fossil fuels creates far more damage than the production of CO2 and its consequences. The activity simply needs to be ‘wound down’, the sooner the better (except for those who want to maximize their enjoyment through unsustainable damaging ways of living).


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  12. One Planet Only Forever @ 11, you said:

    "the best solution would be for humans to strive to minimize the impacts of their lifestyles"

    The problem is our species' dependence upon energies greater than can be generated by muscle power, wind, sunlight and burning renewable organics. The only solution to that is for us all - globally - to reduce our expectations/desires/demands of life and that is what is impossible, for all practical purposes. We have had it too easy for too long and our profligacy is now coming home to roost.

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  13. davidnewell @10, without going into detail, sea water already has a large DIC content so that spraying it in the open is likely to absorb little, if any, extra CO2.  Further, any water that evaporates in droplet form will tend to release its CO2 so that the volume of water transported and evaporated does not contribute to carbon sequestration.  What would contribute to carbon sequestration using play soils is the difference in DIC content between sea water and that formed in the ponds resulting from spraying.  As far as I can tell, given that the water is sprayed onto carbonate, the DIC will increase, potentially releasing CO2 by reducing the pH in of the soils.  Chemistry is not my strong suite, so I can be persuaded otherwise - especially by a chemist who specializes in this area (such as David Archer) indicating my error.

    My essential point, however, is that the factors you cite (total CO2 content of airflow through spayed area) as indicating the carbon sequestration potential of your scheme are in fact irrelevant to that potential.  Further, your stated secondary benefits are at the expense of greatly reduced effectiveness in your scheme.  If I am wrong about the chemistry, your scheme may work as a method of carbon sequestration, but you have not shown that it will, nor given any reasonable means of calculating its potential benefit.

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  14. Oneplanetforever @9, the per capita Australian dietary intake is 13,350 kilojoules per day, which I am informed represents 4.28 times the global per capita sustainable food intake.  Presumably, therefore, we must reduce our food intake to 23.4% of its current value, or 3,120 kilojoules per day.  As it happens, that is 46.9% of the per capita daily dietary intake of Eritrea, the nation with the lowest per capita food intake in the world (first link).  It is also only 35.9% of the recommended daily dietary intake.  Put another way, if we are to live "sustainably" with regard to food intake, we must either all live in a permanent state of malnutrition, or we must reduce the Earth's population to less than 2.5 billion people.  The later, unfortunately, is not an option in the near term in that population growth is governed by generational factors, so that continuing growth - bar an apocalypse - is locked in over the next twenty odd years at least.

    I take dietary food requirements as it is fundamental, and stark.  It places our dilemma up front.  The dilemma is this:

    1)  We can accept the ecological constraints as an upper bound on our capability and aspiration that can never be exceeded; or

    2)  We can recognize the ecological constraints but find technological means to break through them.

    The later means finding new means of food production that exceed the energy constraints of the biosphere without imparing the biosphere.  One potential such method (already tried by the Russians) is growing food underground using energy from artificial sources.  Another would be the staple of sci-fi, yeast (or algae) vats, again with energy from artificial sources.  A third is increasing biological productivity be fertilizers.  A fourth might be the direct production of the chemicals of food on an industrial basis.  These all require the use of artifical energy.  That may include solar energy from solar plants, as plants are very inefficient at producing food energy from solar energy.  Alternatively, it may mean nuclear power.  Because all these means require the large scale production of energy, all make more accute the issue of finding sustainable energy sources.

    However, the former means permanently locking humans in an economic state no more advanced than feudalism.  It requires switching to wide scale farming for a small population using limited energy sources.  That will tie a far greater proportion of the Earth's population directly into food production, and make inefficient wide spread trade.  High technological science (particularly in electronics and medicine) cannot survive in that sort of context.  Nor can the existence of a substantial scientific class.  That rout means, in fact, the end of the great experiment that began with the enlightenment.

    Faced with that dilemma I do not hesitate to choose the second option.  In one respect it is more risky, but from another perspecitive, the first option avoids risk by accepting complete defeat as a solution.  By giving up our aspiration to be more than another disease ridden animal subject to the whims of nature and distinguished from other animals primarilly only by the fact that we are smart enough to bind ourselves in superstition; we have given up that which makes us human, and that which makes being human something special.

    Granted, if we take the second option, we may fail.  Our economy may become sustainable again by force majeure of nature, dropping us through catastrophe back to the situation to which you aspire, or even to extinction.  But that failure matters not one wit to the planet, which will still have life, and still rebuild within a few millions of years (a trivial time period geologically) ecosystems as complex as any that exist now.  It only matters to us now.  So our choice is simple.  Do we strive to be more - or settle for failure for fear that our striving will not succeed.

    You have chosen failure.  It is a choice I cannot accept.

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  15. Tom Curtis @ 14, you correctly state "continuing growth - bar an apocalypse - is locked in". I have to admit, I am expecting some kind of 'apocalypse' to reduce our population, whether it be resource wars, drug-resistant epidemics, or starvation triggered by economic collapse (perhaps due to the loss of economic growth following that other elephant in the room, peak oil).

    What I do not expect is BAU to continue long enough for humaity to have time to burn all available fossil carbon: if I am wrong about that, we are doomed to even worse causes of negative population growth.

    Sadly, I have no science to link to in support of my pessimism, just my reading of human nature and (dim?) awareness of some of our looming problems. Please show me I am wrong!

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  16. Doug @15, I cannot show you that you are wrong.  Nor can I show you that you are right.  The BAU trajectory depends on too many imponderables, such as the relative rate of improvement in the technology of fossil fuel extraction vs the rate of improvement of power output from renewable sources.  Our civilization can probably struggle along long enough to exhaust all conventional sources of oil and gas.  If technological development makes harnassing unconventional sources economic, then BAU will take us to a CO2 warming induced hell faster than projected by IPCC BAU models, which assume declining carbon intensity whereas a widespread conversion to non-conventional fossil fuel sources will see a significant increase in carbon intensity.  Alternatively, renewable energy may become much cheaper faster than costs of extraction of non-renewable fossil fuels and of coal, in which case fossil fuel use will be driven to only a small part of the economy by economics alone.  It is possible that neither will happen, in which case we are indeed heading for a peak-oil like catastrophe.

    What I am confident of is that we need to load the dice in favour of renewable energy (including "renewable nuclear power", where that is defined as nuclear power in which disposed waste is rendered no more dangerous than the original ores) to have a chance of steering though to a winning solution.  That is, we need a carbon price.  But even an effective carbon price does not gaurantee we will avoid all of the other potential ecological catastrophes (for humans) we are facing. 

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  17. one planet @ 10

    There appears onely one  slight possibility that the mindset of mankind might change away from the self-involved and self-destructive illusion of separation from the environment which underlies the misdeeds you refer to.

    When even "the rich" see that everything is going away:  that their future is "in common" with the peasants and oppressed:

    perhaps then there will be movement towards the common weal.  

    I cannot say what motivates me in my comittment towards this environmental movement.  This body will be long dead before things get serious.  Yet the comittment is without precedent, in my experience of "me".

    Maybe whatever "I" am part of is  changing.  If I have changed, maybe everything will change.

    A weak and spurious argument for hope.. 

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  18. Tom Curtis @ 13

    Thank you for your critique.

    The schema I propose at does not specify which of three possibilities of spraying might be the most successful among the following:

    1. Direct spraying of ocean water above the playas, through variable-flow nozzles

    2. Induction of alkaline surface waters through aspirators into the spray


    3. Using the thousand foot or greater head of the imported ocean water to generate electricity to spray the ponded bypass water on the playas into the air.

    This latter (#3) technique addresses your valid point, I believe.

    The structure, then, would be spraying water with a pH of greater than 8.5 into the air, and there would be little or no dissolved CO2 in it. It will become increasingly saline over time, but the pH will remain high.
    (The ocean water would be dumped into a surface impoundment with a pH that would not allow carbonic acid formation; and a host of cations to effect carbonation.)



    Of course the total CO2 through the example spray fan is “out of reach” as regards what could be sequestered, but it gives an idea of what % effectiveness would be needed to make the venture worthwhile.



    The secondary benefit of downwind cloud and precipitation enhancement will arise no matter what size the droplets are which are expressed through the spray nozzles. With an evaporation rate of over 50 inches of water per year, and with an essentially flat playa surface on which containment ponds can be bermed, the variables are totally controllable.



    You are correct, I have not demonstrated that the technique will work. There is included in the document the lab and field tests that are needed, and I am seeking an independent third party to provide a quote on their accomplishment.



    Please advise if this does not address your point.



    PS:  If you can raise "David Archer",  I'd love to have his input, as well.


    i mean, it's only a great idea if it works..   ":<)

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Fixed link

  19. David,

    In your docment you appear to calculate CO2 absorbtion by assuming all the water pumped will saturate with CO2.  You then calculate rain generated by assuming all the water will evaporate.  This seems to me to be in direct contradiction.  How will it work?

    You sugggest pumping 150,000 m^3 per hour up 6,000 feet.  How will this energy be generated without CO2?  Where will the  excess salt go?  How many kilotons of salt will there be?  How thick will it be after one year of continuous spraying?

    Ocean currents are generally saturated with CO2 as they downwell near Greenland and Antarctia.  The flow of these currents is defined in Wikipedia as: "Ocean currents are measured in sverdrup (sv), where 1 sv is equivalent to a volume flow rate of 1,000,000 m3 (35,000,000 cu ft) per second."  It is common for currents to have a flow of 10-50 sv.  It would take 100 hours for your hose to pump one seconds worth of a moderate15 sv current.  That is about 360,000 times less volume.  It seems to me that your plan is less than a drop in a bucket compared to a moderate ocean current and would not have a measurable effect on CO2 sequestration.

    The currents that flow in the ocean are almost infinitely bigger than anything man can build.  You need to show that you are dealing with the correct order of magnitude.  It seems to me that you are about 1,000,000 times too small.  If you pump 1,000,000 times faster you will use up all your alkaline soil too fast.

    Most geoengineering schemes fall over when the unbelievably immense scale of the operation is accurately calculated.

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  20. TO: Michael Sweet (above #19) 

    I did not intend to project the assumption that the water droplets will totally saturate with CO2 in their arc up and down: but I do know that they will absorb some CO2, and that it is a matter significantly dependent on surface area, which is why the scheme includes variable geometry outlet nozzles, to influence droplet size.

    Fortunately CO2 is very soluble in water. Other gasses will also be absorbed, and the collection pond for the droplets will become saturated and outgas them. The CO2, however, will be sequestered as bicarbonates and carbonates.

    The adsorption of CO2 by a droplet in a spray fan rising and falling is truly a complex multi variate issue best decided by results obtained in the Current “next steps” and “needs analysis”” section of the paper.

    It may be noted that the presumed droplets sprayed will be highly alkaline and moderately basic, as well as saline.

    The patent section of the paper is not yet appended, but it includes proof that (tap) water droplets falling through an 8' fall adsorb CO2, and affect the pH of the collected water: whereas if the collection is accomplished over alkaline playa soils, the pH remains >8.5.

    You sugggest pumping 150,000 m^3 per hour up 6,000 feet. How will this energy be generated without CO2? Where will the excess salt go? How many kilotons of salt will there be? How thick will it be after one year of continuous spraying?

    The excess salt produced by the evaporation of 3% NaCl ocean water may either be blended into the already-saline soils of the sample playa (Black Rock Desert), or the spray apparatus may be relocated, allowing the first impoundment to dry up, and the accumulated salt scraped up as a commercial product.

    I think that probably it would just be redistributed into the overall huge mass of the playa, (with a depth of several thousand feet of alkaline soil,) which would be effected by “water drills” used to access underlying soils when the pH of the surface impoundment approaches approximately 8.2 or so.

    Think of a water jet nozzle directed downwards into extremely deep mud.

    As regards the energy source, the document uses as comparison the energy used to pump fresh water over the Tehachapis from NorCal to SoCal. As far as I’m concerned, the energy could be diverted from that task to the proposal: but that is not likely to be the case.

    I could presume an 800 megawatt nuclear power plant, with the cooling water being part of what is pumped (thus avoiding the thermo-pollutant issues): or other source: whatever, NorCal will be needful of enhanced energy sources in the near future, and this scheme provides “pumped-storage hydroelectricity” attributes, as well.

    I will not contest your assessment of the viability of this scheme to make a significant affect on the global CO2 excess problem, as it would be based on presumptions, and therefore principally argumentative.  (Which is why the "next steps" section is projected..)

    However, it’s putative profile of action as projected in the paper

    ( Presuming, then, a 150 foot radius spray fan, and an average wind speed of 10 MPH, the volume of CO2 which will pass through the plane of the fan half-circle, per year, is ~ 200,000 metric tonnes. This is for one “spray rig”. Ultimately, thousands are envisaged. (See attachment [3] for single sprayer CO2 “flow” per year.) )

    on THIS PLAYA alone, will act on a volume of 200,000,000 tonnes / year.

    What % capture rate would make the effort worthwhile?
    There are DOZENS of playas with similar characteristics in the Great Basin.



    I have not answered your concern about “orders of magnitude”, but will investigate a rebuttal.

    I would say that as compared to any other proposal I’ve seen to effect direct air capture, this is:

    more scalable
    more in accord with how nature works
    provides several other ancillary benefits:

    I am convinced that SOME way to effect DAC must be employed, or we may be an extinct species, along with many others.

    Thank you.


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  21. Further to my comments @14 above:

    As he says at the end, John Green says at the end, "... much of this progress is unsutainable with current technology, but it is real and it is worth celebrating."

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  22. Right on!  This "worrying about the future" is not joyful!


    Happy New Year!

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  23. David Newell has returned to his theme elsewhere; this time inventing his own units and arguing from the invented units that his method must work.  Such an argument certainly obviates the need for empirical investigation, and takes his views straight into the realms of pseudo-science.  I am indirectly responding to that post here so as to keep all the rebutals of his views readilly available.  I have a dim view of people who, having been rebutted, fade into the woodwork for a month or two, only to ressurect essentially the same arguments on a new thread without a link.  Such people give the appearance of wanting to avoid prior rebutals simply by ignoring them.

    Essentially, as described above, David Newell proposes pumping large quantities of sea water to be sprayed over highly alkaline soils as a means of carbon sequestration.  He presents various arguments showing possible upper limits on the level of sequestration, most of which have no bearing on the actual sequestration process and hence are irrelevant (as discussed by me above).  On this occassion, instead of rehashing old ground, I looked at what the scientific literature says about wetting alkaline soils.  Xie et al (2008) made a comprehensive analysis of the ability of alkaline soils to absorb CO2 with increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations.  They found that alkaline soils did indeed absorb more CO2 with increased CO2 concentration, but that:

    "As water was the reaction medium for this CO2 absorption, we had expected high soil water content to enhance this process. The results proved the opposite. Increase in soil water content did not enhance the CO2 absorption of the sterilized soil, but lowered it (Fig. 6)."

    (My emphasis)

    The most important fact about David Newell's proposed geoengineering project is that the net CO2 reduction is that acheived in the equilibrium state, ie, after the excess water has evaporated, and the pumped water has pooled and been absorbed into the soil.  Therefore, his proposal stripped of bells and whistles is to reduce atmospheric CO2 content by wetting alkaline soils.  

    Unfortunately, wetting alkaline soils reduces their ability to absorb CO2.  That means, all else being equal, wetting a large amount of alkaline soil will increase the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere as the CO2 currently absorbed by the dry soil is ejected due to the wetting.  Newells' proposed project appears to be worse than useless.

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  24. We humans like to think we've got it all figured out: or that we can figure it out, if we put our minds to it.  Our mode of thinking is NOT not good at predicting future outcomes of complex systems.  And computers, so far, are pretty bad at it, also.

     It's real easy to denegrate:  more difficult to think how something might work, or could work, and use imagination to figure a way through, with constraints, of course, dictated by "Reality."

    What we have is a really really complex system, and the best thing to do is to try ever more complex simulations in the "real world", and see what happens.

    There are trillions of tonnes of reactive materials in the Great Basin:  and terawatts of solar power to utilize.  There are providential winds of 10 MPH (avg) flowing primarily southeasterly.   How nifty.  Perhaps this IS is a universe "meant for life".  Perhaps if we can SEE see a way through this "mess", we can actually "make it happen."

    "Pollyanna-ish"??  Maybe.

    Come up with a "better idea", then, and hurry up about it!

    EVERYthing depends on "you".


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    Moderator Response:

    [RH] Please refrain from using all caps, per commenting policy. 

  25. Am I the only one having an apparent page formating problem causing a lack of "post a comment box" on the "It's too hard" thread?

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Should be fixed.

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