Terraforming 101

Submitted by Charles Frost on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 21:58.

Diagram of some climate fixing ideas

Giving Climate Change a Kick

By Eli Kintisch
ScienceNOW Daily News
9 November 2007

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS--Top climate scientists have cautiously endorsed the need to study schemes to reverse global warming that involve directly tinkering with Earth's climate. <--!break--> Their position on geoengineering, which will likely be controversial, was staked out at an invitation-only meeting that ended here today. It's based on a growing concern about the rapid pace of global change and continued anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

"In this room, we've reached a remarkable consensus that there should be research on this," said climate modeler Chris Bretherton of the University of Washington, Seattle, during a morning session today. Phil Rasch, a modeler with the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, underscored the point. "We're not saying that there should be geoengineering, we're saying there should be research regarding geoengineering." No formal statement was released at the meeting, which was organized by Harvard University and the University of Calgary, but few of the 50 scientists objected to the idea.

The field of geoengineering has long been big on ideas but short on respect. Some of the approaches that researchers have dreamed up include launching fleets of space-based shades to dim the sunlight hitting Earth or altering the albedo of the ocean with light-colored reflectors. Perhaps the best-known idea is to pump aerosols into the stratosphere to mimic the cooling effect of volcanoes. But there's been scant support from mainstream scientists, many of whom fear that even mentioning the g-word could derail discussion of carbon-emissions cuts. Others worry that technological tinkering might backfire. "I just accepted on faith as an environmental scientist that this had to be a bad idea," said Harvard's Scot Martin, who said he was reluctantly coming around.

Harvard geochemist Daniel Schrag and physicist David Keith of the University of Calgary thought that geoengineering deserved a closer look (Science, 26 October, p. 551). In an opening presentation yesterday, Schrag explained that extensive, rapid melting of arctic sea ice (ScienceNOW, 2 May) and the fact that the world's 2005 and 2006 carbon emissions from fossil fuels were higher than predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are forcing the hands of climate scientists. Schrag also fears that when countries are faced with the prospect of even more drastic environmental change, they will turn to geoengineering regardless of whether the consequences are known. "We're going to be doing this if we're afraid of something really bad happening, like the Greenland ice sheet collapsing," he said.

The degree of scientific uncertainty was clear throughout the 2-day meeting. In a discussion of existing models, climate modeler Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, California, concluded that reducing the intensity of sunlight hitting Earth by about 2% could "markedly diminish" the massive warming effects of an atmosphere with a carbon dioxide content of 560 parts per million (ppm). (The current level is about 385 ppm.) But over lunch, researchers debated the analysis. "You know you can get some sea ice back," Caldeira said to David Battisti of the University of Washington, Seattle. "I don't know that," Battisti retorted, explaining that Caldeira's model assumed a so-called slab ocean, which does not include the heat circulation patterns that help determine the fate of polar ice.

And then there are the risks. Harvard paleoclimate scientist Peter Huybers told his colleagues during one session that understanding of the world's climate may not be sufficient to properly wield geoengineering tools. "We should be humble about how much we know about the climate system," Huybers said.

Most of the discussion focused on whether to jump-start what has been an anemic research agenda with no public financing. Some participants said that they were spurred into action by a paper that appeared in Climatic Change last year, in which Nobelist Paul Crutzen called for geoengineering research (Science, 20 October 2006, p. 401). Others were swayed more recently. Just 2 weeks ago, modeler Raymond Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago in Illinois, writing on the RealClimate blog, compared discussing geoengineering to "having a shiny new toy" and told climate scientists to "get back to the serious business of trying to figure out how to economically reduce global CO2 emissions." At the meeting, however, Pierrehumbert urged scientists to study the problem as a supplement to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, although he called for a 10-year moratorium on any geoengineering. "To the extent I've changed my mind a little bit," Pierrehumbert explained to Science, the reason is the ease with which countries could embark on geoengineering.

Harvard climate researcher James Anderson told the group that the arctic ice was "holding on by a thread" and that more carbon emissions could tip the balance. The delicacy of the system, he said "convinced me of the need for research into geoengineering," Anderson said. And 5 years ago? "I would have said it's a very inappropriate solution to the problem."

From: http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1109/1?rss=1

Photo from: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v409/n6818/images/409420aa.2.jpg

terraforming101.jpg54.38 KB

Sounds like fun, but I'll just plan on dying

I hope we all go quickly, but I suspect it will be more like today, when worse than usual weather sinks a dozen ships, dumping 10,000s of gallons of oil into our limited waters, every day, somewhere on Earth, until its over for everyone... death by 1,000,000,000,000s of cuts over very few years. But think of all the money to be made by smart capitalists like Gore in the mean time...

Disrupt IT

Wow, What A Gloomy Outlook

Sometimes the "real world" looks bad, and it just might be as bad as it looks, but you can't give up hope.

We have seen this "world" thru some hard times.

I am sure that the "Black Death" back in the 1600's looked like the "end of the world" to many people, but they just kept on...

The folks in London just "kept on living" during "The Blitz" during the WWII. Some of us wouldn't be here had that not persisted in spite of reason.

Some people who were building bomb shelters in the 60's during the Cold War were expecting to need to use them. Fortunately they didn't.

Our children, and their children will not be giving up hope, as our forefathers didn't before us, therefore we cannot.

Another Doomy & Gloomy Thought...

NASA blasted for ignoring smaller asteroids

NASA is being slammed for sacrificing public safety by resisting calls to enlarge its search for potentially dangerous asteroids which might strike the Earth.
"NASA cannot place a new NEO [near-earth object] programme above current scientific and exploration missions," maintained Scott Pace, associate administrator for program analysis and evaluation at the US space agency. He spoke at a US congressional hearing on Thursday.
The hearing of the Committee on Science and Technology opened with NASA receiving a scolding from Mark Udall, chair of the subcommittee on space and aeronautics.
NASA has failed to heed a directive Congress passed two years ago to plan and budget for a programme identifying threatening near-Earth objects as small as 140 metres, and to devise ways to avoid potential impacts, he said.
"We should not sacrifice public safety for science," rebuked former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, now head of the B612 Foundation, a group of asteroid researchers.
Congress demands
NASA says it will continue its current Spaceguard project, which expects to find nearly 90% of potentially hazardous asteroids larger than 1 kilometre by the end of 2008.
The US Congress wants the space agency to run its own programme to search for smaller asteroids which might collide catastrophically with the Earth. But the space agency is looking instead at working with other surveys.
One such survey the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) that the University of Hawaii is building with US Air Force funding.
If expanded to the four-telescope array planned in 2010, Pace said "this system alone could discover over 70% of the potentially hazardous objects bigger than 140 metres by 2020". So far, NASA has contributed less than $200,000 to Pan-STARRS.
NASA also is talking with developers of the proposed 8.4 metre Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. This would be ideal for asteroid hunting, as it could survey the entire sky every three nights, but building it is set to cost $300 million. The developers are seeking money from the National Science Foundation.
Essential search
Such a search is a big job because asteroids smaller than 1 km across are faint, and some 20,000 of them are thought to have orbits that could cross Earth's.
But the hunt for smaller asteroids needs to start, said asteroid researcher Don Yeomans of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Finding them is the first priority. We can't mitigate, and we can't characterise them if we can't find them," he told the committee.
The role of the Arecibo radio telescope – earmarked for closure if funds are not renewed – was also stressed by Yeomans and other scientists.
The 305 metre telescope is equipped with one of the world's two planetary radars. These can give far more precise data on orbits than optical techniques, said Donald Campbell, a Cornell University astronomer who previously ran Arecibo.
NASA has not yet offered to replace the $10 million operations budget which the National Science Foundation is phasing out for the running of Arecibo, despite agreeing that the telescope is important.
The space agency was also slammed at the hearing as, according to Pace, NASA "has no responsibility for planning deflection" of objects that might threaten the Earth.
With NASA not taking on the task, "no one is in charge of protecting the Earth from impacts", Schweickart warned the committee. "Until NASA or someone else is given responsibility ... that job will not be done."


Very cool telephoto of earth over craters.

Satelite views, when further expanded out of government's hands in the near future, will help stop deforestation, global warming, wars, etc... just as the graphic photo and TV images out of Viet Nam finally helped wake  us up to that disaster.