Tuesday, September 15, 2015

climate politics for space people

On Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 6:57 PM, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson@gmail.com> wrote:

That's the nice thing about a really big space presence.  You can cool
it with sunshades if you want.  Google Dyson dots and Robert Kennedy.

On the other hand, if we did have a global thermostat would it be like
kids fighting over where to set the home thermostat?  :-)  Note,
fodder for a SF tale.


Hi, Keith!

A lot of our problem with climate politics is exactly what you say. Like kids so busy fighting each other over the thermostat
that they don't notice that they left the front door open and strange intruders are  coming in from another direction.

Actually, Caldeira, whose email you have, is a leader of the ocean acidification group,
as well as geoengineering; they have build coalitions with the usual climate folks
(a 900 pound gorilla which can't be dissed in some hoods) and with more serious ocean people, like Marty HOffert, who once tried to build a coalition between environmentalists and SSP people. So they are into coalition building more than most.
Caldeira was under patronage of Lowell Wood, as I recall, who was an understudy to Teller -- not exactly a softie!
The fist publication by Caldeira on climate which got him attention and respect in that community, as best I recall, was a paper with Wood (under Teller) talking about a simple technological fix to lower temperatures.

A few years ago (starting about 2009) I urged everyone to pay attention to a book by Peter Ward, Under A Green Sky.
They did, but politics being politics, they paid more attention to finding excerpts which made them feel good about their causes
(global warming and ocean acidification), without digging into the questions and the science. For the "advanced circle"
of climate people most worried about ocean acidification, it is now doctrine that Ward was exactly right in his first speculation, that the
mass deaths we have experienced on earth were mainly due to a COMBINATION of low oxygen in the deep oceans
("ocean stratification") and ocean acidification, due to the RATE of increase of CO2. But Ward admits he is a paleontologist, not a physicist or a chemist.  After tracking down his footnotes and other sources, and paying attention to the "research needed" section of his book,
I have learned that the story really needs to be changed. Low oxygen is half of why H2S and radiation reached levels high enough to kill every human on earth (fortunately before humans existed), but the other half is NUTRIENT levels, not acid rain, He cites a paper by Kump, which I also cite in the IEEE paper, which explains a little more, and there is a LOT to back that up. A kid could do it in an aquarium! (And some kids have...
reported on the web as "disastrous dumb kids" instead of "great experiment.") 

The sticky reality is that we already HAVE "stratified ocean" around the Antarctic, which is the main source of the currents which bring oxygen
to the earth. It is not a future possible danger. It is here and now. Fresh water runoff from melting has shut down the currents. The 
data available from NOAA suggest we have only 40 years before they hit zero on the Pacific side, and the Pacific would be a great aquarium for those H2S-producing creatures, enough to create as massive an extinction as earth has ever seen. We do not have an atlas of concentration levels by nutrient for the ocean (though NASA does have collaborations with NOAA and ESA which could be expanded to get the data); however, we know enough about the planet-spanning agriculture and fertilizers of earth to have good reason to suspect the worst.
(The book "Alchemy of Air," highly recommended by the first director of ARPA-E as a story of success in engineering R&D, gives us a feel for how big the fertilizer industry is, and how massively it has changed everything.)

In fact, it is true, as climate deniers often note, that there have been cycles of melting and freezing at the poles in that past.
It seems likely that human activities got us to this cycle of melting in the south early, but it was coming anyway, with or without human activity.
And I am certainly not about suggesting that we cut off the food to more than half the earth by reversing the great leap forward depicted in "The Alchemy of Air"! But then, suddenly, we have a huge problem. Regardless of whose fault it is, how do we avoid mass death? 

Many would say: "Easy, Just go back to bed. Or party 'til it's 1999. Or pray a lot." I have to say that the sight of the gallows inspires such reactions to me too. But it also inspires: shouldn't we be thinking hard of SOME kind of way to cope with this overwhelming risk to our very lives?
(As well as a few others of comparable importance, involving misuse of technology we already have, like nuclear bombs.) 

We should have a thoughtful, serious strategic effort to understand and minimize the risk, not just my gut reactions, only a little better than Ward's gut reactions to "why did H2S proliferate?" Still... if we start from gut reactions...  the two obvious things would be (1) to somehow reverse the melting which is pouring fresh water from the Antarctic to the Ocean; and (2) new types of geoengineering (perhaps even using mirrors in space to achieve (1)), or at least to prevent ozone depletion in the stratosphere ion the early stages of H2S release.

Will we still be able to develop low cost launch when the whole world suddenly sees we really need it? Or will it be to late for humans?

Best of luck,


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