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ClimateAdam: The Vlog Brothers on geoengineering

Posted on 23 August 2023 by Guest Author

This video includes conclusions of the creator climate scientist Dr. Adam Levy. It is presented to our readers as an informed perspective. Please see video description for references (if any).

On his latest video for the Vlog Brothers, Hank Green spoke about the accidental experiment that cleaning up ship fuel has carried out on the climate, in a video titled "The Biggest Science Story of the Week". Among other things, Hank argues that this could be a crucial opportunity to learn about geoengineering. Geoengineering - according to this Vlog Brother - could be a "giant step forward". So what could geoengineering actually achieve to combat climate change? And why are many climate scientists far more skeptical than Hank lets on?

Huge thanks to Miriam for her contribution. Check out her channel here: @zenturo.

Support ClimateAdam on patreon:

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Comments 1 to 7:

  1. Lets imagine a scenario where the world fails to reduce emissions enough to adequately fix the climate problem, leaving tropical countries sweltering in the heat with unendurable heatwaves.

    The world debates geoengineering, but countries like America are (rightly) concerned about side effects of geoengineering and prefer sucking CO2 out of the atmpsphere - but the costs on the global economy are considerable. Nobody can make a decision.

    Tropical zone countries become desperate and form a group and they start spaying aerosols over huge areas of the planet, risking negative side effects for everyone. All it takes are a fleet of aircraft. How would you stop them?  Shoot aircraft down? Trade embargos? Beg them to stop? Whatever you do to try and stop them,  it looks like a huge problem to me.


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  2. This is a reasonably well-done video by Adam, but there are some points that need to be made.

    As many people have learned, the IPCC has done a pretty lousy job of informing the public, and the scientific views it presents have been warped both by the scientists themselves (the dreaded "scientific reticence" effect) as well as the politicians from 195 member countries that have veto power on much of the content released to the public which can be generally characterized as very, very conservative. In other words, it's way worse than they tell us, and their "solutions" not nearly as effective as they tell us. Adam and his friend Miriam are both, from what I can tell, very much cheerleaders for the IPCC. Not surprising: they are fresh out of university and so in that sense have not spent much (any?) time in the real world of working scientists, so their current YouTube careers aside, they may not want to annoy the IPCC-dominated narrative on all things climate.

    Two big issues: 1) we need geoengineering more than they tell us, and 2) there is more to geoengineering than SAI.

    1) Like so many climate scientists under the spell of the IPCC, (for many reasons which take too long to unpack here) Adam and Miriam accept the logic that the only necessary thing to do in order to reverse GW is to reverse GHGs, in other words, get rid of them. That's a little bit like having your doctor tell you that in order to cure your tobacco-caused cancer, you just need to stop smoking. Fighting the cause isn't always guaranteed to bring about a result in a timely manner. Reducing GHGs, yes, but who is doing that? Miriam said something like international agreements like Paris have "already reduced warming by 1C" and I say huh? All the talk of international agreements sounds good but isn't our reality, as anyone looking at our world's biggest problems today knows in an instant. Our "efforts" to reduce emissions are nowhere. It's not happening. Targets and discussions aren't enough. The point that people behind geoengineering make is: emissions reduction is not and WILL NOT happen fast enough to stop our ecosystem from collapsing. Additionally, carbon removal methods, whether nature-based or mechanical, have huge scaling problems. Yes, nature has dealt with CO2 in the past, but not like what we have now. They are very slow, are not always even feasible (tree-planting a perfect example, look at the studies) and have other issues such as water constraints making them impossible at scale. And mechanical CO2 removal is even worse. When it works, it's fast, but unscalable, with DAC being the most obvious case. So after the IPCC cheerleading stops, we have to face the music. We don't have time to rely only on the method of "turn off the tap and clean up the mess." 

    2) Geoengineering (you heard Adam slip in "SRM" as well, Solar Radiation Management, a type of geoengineering) is almost always equated with just ONE currently discussed method, which is Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, or SAI. That's because it's got a lot of billionaire-potential!

    SAI is NOT more than a theory at this point, however. But you won't find that mentioned by many of its proponents. It is not the only way to go, is not loved by many (unbiased) climate scientists, has oodles of scientific problems to overcome if it would even work, and so is NOT the end of the geoengineering or SRM story. So Nigelj's characterization above, which makes it seem that SAI is ready-for-take-off, is wrong. 

    I will admit that, like the VAST majority of actual movement on climate we have seen, geoengineering efforts have a lot in common with disaster capitalism, and so should be checked out very thoroughly. Making money off of GW is the most effective thing we humans have done to date, which is a crime against humanity. Period. Governments now throwing large sums of money out for grants only on very narrowly-defined work chokes real progress. What we forget is that scientists have to get paid. Who pays them? Why? Most scientific research is arguably being funded by those who are expecting a product to patent and sell if things go well. Scientists are NOT always out there trying to find the fastest most practical fix here. The more tech that goes into it, the better. The more career-building we can get out of it, the better. That's why we see people talking about, of all things, space mirrors, as if simply putting them on the ground here to do what clouds and snow do is out of the question. There are people promoting that very idea and it has vastly more promise than any other geoengineering solution but is largely ignored (but that's changing) because it doesn't create billionaires and cannot be weaponized.

    Like many things, this discussion has so much more to it than meets the eye. We need to think, REALLY think, and be realistic, and stop listening so much to government institutions (or their cheerleaders) that have almost never served anyone other than the powerful very well.

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] Please avoid characterizations/personalizations/insinuations/allegations pertaining to motive or deception, a form of ad hominem (prohibited by this site's Comments Policy).

  3. Markp... "Adam and Miriam accept the logic that the only necessary thing to do in order to reverse GW is to reverse GHGs, in other words, get rid of them. That's a little bit like having your doctor tell you that in order to cure your tobacco-caused cancer, you just need to stop smoking."

    This is a grossly innaccurate comparison. GW isn't a cancer, being that cancer is a growth. Tobacco smoking damages cells which then become cancerous. You can't reverse that effect.

    Global warming, on the contrary, is not a growth. It is an effect due to the radiative properties of GHG's in the atmopshere. If you stop emitting CO2 you stop the warming, and it's now understood, that cessation of warming would be near immediate when we stop the increase of atmospheric concentrations.

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  4. Markp,

    I agree that the IPCC presentation of understanding regarding 'the problem and the solutions' has been harmfully compromised by 'interests that conflict with the development of sustainable improvements for humanity, regionally or globally'.

    However, IPCC is not responsible for 'promoting increased awareness and improved understanding' regarding the understanding that is compiled by the IPCC. The leaders (in political and business, globally and regionally) need to be 'held responsible' for the promotion of increased awareness and improved understanding.

    The IPCC report presentation must be consistent with the available evidence. That requirement has resulted in the progressive strengthening of IPCC statements contrary to the desires and interests of the undeserving portion of leadership competitors around the planet. And the latest IPCC statement concludes that, based on the evidence, the lack of leadership action through the past 30 years has created a situation where it is almost certain that 'reasonably limiting the harm done to the future of humanity' will 'now' require dramatic reductions and limits of harmful consumption, especially energy over-consumption (desired but 'unnecessary' consumption), as well as removal of CO2 from the atmosphere - even if those actions reduce the status of people who unjustifiably developed perceptions of higher status (permitting those developing to be like the higher status people to become more harmful while requiring the higher status people to set less harmful examples for everyone else to aspire to).

    The awareness and understanding that now undeniably needs to be promoted is that many of the current leaders (winners) are undeserving of their status. They have proven to be unworthy of their wealth and influence through their efforts to weaken the presentation of understanding by the IPCC which made it easier for them to actively promote 'doubt regarding the fundamental understanding of the required corrections and requirement to make amends for harm done' that is presented by the IPCC.

    The current situation can be understood to be the result of a history of harmful irresponsible actions by undeserving wealthy powerful people. Arguing for 'significant climate geoengineering actions', rather than promoting the fundamental 'need to end harmful human geoengineering impacts that incorrectly developed popularity and profitability' and 'reducing the harmfully over-developed GHG levels', will not address the real problem ... it will not result in sustainable solutions.

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  5. Skeptical Science asks that you review the comments policy. Thank you.

    Geoengineering has been going on for decades (aka Chem Trails).  See what they are doing at [SNIP]

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    Moderator Response:

    [BL] No, thanks. We have no interest here in conspiracy theories such as chemtrails.

  6. Low sulfur diesel fuel has been out for how long?  25 yr?  If this is reducing cloud formation, then diesel engine particulates may have been helping too by shielding the sun, and possibly creating clouds.  Now particulates are so low you can't see any smoke.  They even have particulate traps.  China and India better keep burning coal since the smoke probably reflects the sun.  Seems it is more complex than CO2 and could explain some anomalies. 

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    Moderator Response:


    "If"? "May"? "Possibly"? "Probably"? "Could"? "Seems"?

    Such uniformed speculation serves no purpose here.

    Please take the time to review the Comments Policy and ensure future comments are in full compliance with it. Thanks for your understanding and compliance in this matter.

  7. Markp @2

    The IPCC do indeed have this scientific reticence. Its like a sort of conservatism. But its not just the IPCC.  Science has operated that way for centuries and for good reasons.Some initial scientific findings prove to be false so the conservatism is a form of quality control. If the scientific community was too quick to endorse every new scientific finding then all its credibility would have been gone long ago, and everyone would have stopped listening long ago.

    We have problems with a public backlash even now, when a theory proves to be incorrect (fortunately its very uncommon) so imagine if the scientific community was less conservative that it is. So although I'm not a conservative sort of person as such, and dislike playing down of risk assessments,  I respect that its probably better that organisations like the IPCC are a little bit conservative.

    That said how conservative are they? If you read their reports there are charts showing warming could reach 5 degrees this century and 10 degrees by 2300. And charts now upgraded to show that 2 M SLR is possible this century as low probability but high impact event.This does not look excessively reticent or conservative.

    And do you think that adding a degree or two to those scary looking numbers would change the public perception much, and lead to stronger mitigation? I'm not seeing it. If the public cant work out that 5 degrees of warming this century under BAU is serious I doubt that saying its 7 degrees would make much difference. All we can do is repeat the implications for the planet of the official projections, explain them as well as we can, and point out the serious climate changes and the increased  preponderance of heatwaves and flooding  we are already seeing, and as loudly as we can.

    Fossil fuel exporting countries do indeed have a malign influence on the Summary for Policy makers. Can't find the reference now but apparently some terms on levels of risk have been weakened and references to fossil fuels minimised. This is a very real concern and does mean we need to understand things are worse than the SFPM suggests.  If you read beyond the SFPM and to the fine details, and the actual charts, things are not watered down in the same way. The trouble is who reads that?

    Regarding your complaint that billionaires profit out of climate solutions and might have other ulterior motives, and countering this with the suggested alternative of placing solar reflectors on the ground. Its a possible climate solution, but billionaires will still make money out of this one way or the other. Its hard to escape the private sector making money out of climate solutions, given the structure of our economy. I don't care as long as the job gets done, and they are not breaking laws or profiterring as such. It would be good if they reduced their personal climate footprint, and showed some meaningful  climate leadership and helped those less fortunate than themselves.

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