Tech solutions (mega-projects) to our little climate problem

I didn’t really want to get into another discussion of global warming, but I have a question so I’ll hijack my own (dying seemingly) thread to ask. I haven’t read the IPCC report, only seen some stuff about it. My understanding (which seems to be flawed based on your post above) was that they were recommending basically zero net CO2 emissions by 2050, and a 50% global reduction of current emissions by 2030 in order to keep the projected global temperature increases below 2 degrees C and more in the 1.5 degrees C region. Is this not correct? I know you get frustrated by these sorts of questions, but I’m just curious. I also know that if I just read the thing I’d probably be able to get the answer myself, but I just haven’t had the time to go through it personally.

I don’t think they are dismissing it as not economically feasible, just that the possible negative effects would outweigh the potential positive ones. I started this thread to get some thoughts on alternative ways we could combat global warming. Of course the optimal one would be that, collectively and world wide, but specially in the US, we would lower our CO2 emissions to below what the earth can absorb (a net negative or even a small positive that would allow CO2 levels to decline over time). That doesn’t seem to be happening very quickly, though Europe is declining slowly, and even in the US it’s declining…VERY slowly…over time. And technologies are out there to reduce it further…in time. I don’t think, based on my own understanding of the recommendations, that this decline will be quick enough to stave off a 2 degree C increase in the next century, which seems to be where things go from bad to worse, so I wanted to explore possible alternatives. I actually listed the Sulfur dioxide one (there are other gasses that could be used as well) pumped very high up as a possibility. It’s something we could actually do (I won’t say easily, but it could be done…even by a single nation, if, say, the US wanted to take this on) from a feasibility perspective. The problem, though, is that there are several known drawbacks and, of course, there are unintended consequences. Plus, you kind of have to keep doing it AND get the mix right. Block too much and that would be bad as well.

I think that, realistically, we are going to have to suck it up and just hope that our technology for reduction ramps up quickly enough and we can weather a few centuries of higher temps with all of the ecological disasters that entails, since I don’t see the reductions happening fast enough AND it seems mega-projects aren’t on the table either. Stranger et al are just telling it like they see it, and frankly most experts on this stuff mainly agree with them wrt the various ideas to reduce temperature or capture carbon in the interim.

The IPCC is a scientific advisory body that limits itself to objective non-prescriptive assessments of the science. They aren’t “recommending” anything, but they do lay out the consequences expected to result at different stages of temperature rise. This is mainly found in the WG2 assessment, the one that deals with impacts, vulnerabilities, and adaptation.

Specific goals were determined by the UNFCCC, to which the IPCC is the scientific advisory body, and agreed to at the Paris conference. It’s a bit confusing because we are talking about three different but intricately interrelated parameters: temperature rise, which is the fundamental one, climate forcing, and CO2 concentrations (more precisely, atmospheric carbon). These are in increasing order of quantitative certainty. The most important one is obviously temperature rise, because that’s what determines all the impacts, but the relationship between climate forcing and temperature rise is the least certain (within broad limits of constrained climate sensitivity values), mainly because one has to take into account a very broad range of climate feedbacks.

The statement you’re quoting almost certainly comes from media reports about the recent IPCC 1.5°C impacts report, which stated that “In model pathways with no or limited overshoot of 1.5°C, global net anthropogenic CO2 emissions decline by about 45% from 2010 levels by 2030 (40–60% interquartile range), reaching net zero around 2050 (2045–2055 interquartile range)”. Again, this is not the IPCC “recommending” anything, it’s the IPCC in their scientific capacity responding to a request from the UNFCCC about what it would actually take to achieve the goals that the politicians negotiated.

And those goals are, frankly, not terribly realistic. They were drafted in terms of temperature goals of no more than a 2°C long-term temperature rise, and preferably 1.5°C – hence the terms of reference of the latest IPCC SR15 special report. But none of the INDCs (national climate action plans) are at this time aggressive enough to support even the 2°C objective.

Ok, thanks…appreciate walking me through it. Yes, I’m getting bits and pieces second hand through various media, and yeah, I can see why it’s confusing to the layman such as myself or the media. Makes sense. Ignorance fought…again, thanks!

First, the proposal was in Super Freakonomics, not the first book. Second, the authors are an economist and a journalist, neither the go-to guys for massive geo-engineering projects.
You have a very bad source. When economists can predict recessions, I’ll believe they can predict the outcomes of this sort of project.
The first book, btw, did not give appropriate credit to the people who actually did the studies, and made it sound like Levitt did the work. I have some inside information, and Levitt was not exactly respected by the Chicago Economics faculty.

What you just did in this post is “whataboutism”.

It’s a “bad source”
It’s the “wrong book”
The idea came from someone but Levitt.

I don’t care. Nobody cares. The point is, if a damn hose supported by lighter than air blimps or something is cheap - and I see no reason to think it wouldn’t be, like I said, 100 billion instead of 10 billion - and sulfur dioxide works, and the cost to manufacture it by the thousands of tons and inject it is also cheap.

What argument do you have left? We don’t have any other choice. The total economic value of the fossil fuel industry
is at least 3 trillion dollars a year. And we’re in debt on that - to reverse climate change we would have to be removing multiple years worth of CO2 each year.

This is a rough estimate - I know that CO2 capture, you don’t generate the original hydrocarbons. You generate something else that is thermodynamically easier, like limestone. But you also are extracting the CO2 from very low concentrations in the atmosphere. And nuclear energy is extremely expensive. Hence a reasonable estimate that it costs about as much money to unburn a barrel of oil as an oil company was paid to supply it in the first place.

So you, Stranger, etc : stop making frankly dumb and irrelevant arguments. The only argument you need to address are :

a. Would aerosol injection work (regardless of side effects)
b. Would CO2 capture cost about as much as the cost of fossil fuels or more? (remember you need to construct a nuclear reactor to power each capture facility)
c. Do you have a reason to think you couldn’t develop the technology and deploy it for a mere 10 times the estimate cost?
d. Do you actually have a reason to think that the cure would be worse than disease? Sure, there would be side effects from 1% less light hitting the earth…which are? What credible basis do you have for thinking a 1% difference would cause a catastrophe?

A. We know it would work since it’s what happens when a certainly type of volcanic eruption happens. I think Pinatubo is usually the example pointed to, where global temperatures dropped by .5 degrees C for over a year. We could do something similar, and probably even better by engineering a gas mix designed for more reflection as well as focused deployment directly into the Mesosphere.

B. Depends on the type of carbon capture, but my understanding is that on the scale you’d need to do this (if it was the sole measure being used) it would cost a lot more than the fossil fuel it’s meant to defray.

C. For $30 trillion? I think at that sort of price point even the L1 space shade is feasible. The sulfur dioxide one is going to be many orders of magnitude cheaper…I’ve heard you could do it for a price point in the 10’s of billions. Even if that’s off and it’s 100’s of billions it’s still do-able wrt cost alone.

D. Well, there is the issue with the ozone layer being harmed. I’m not sure if injection of sulfur dioxide in the Mesosphere still has the acid rain issue, but if so that would be a potential issue. I don’t know what unknown (or just ones I haven’t thought of) issues might crop up.

What you don’t care about is the facts.

You asked a question about artificial solar radiation management by injecting aerosols. That question and your followup questions were addressed in multiple posts, and most specifically with regard to sulphate or other aerosols in post #19. It explains the many reasons why serious discussions of mitigation policy options don’t consider the injection of aerosols to be anywhere near a realistic option, and consider it in fact to be not only unrealistic but, in terms of known and potential risks, verging on totally insane. Moreover, it’s the second time that same set of facts has been explained to you in response to exactly the same argument you tried to make more than a year ago.

Raising reasonable and informed counterarguments is useful to productive discussion but ignoring arguments you don’t like or don’t understand and fixating on some pie-in-the-sky fantasy based on something you read, and doing so persistently and repeatedly while ignoring the facts that have been presented, isn’t conducive to any kind of discussion.

You’ve been called out many times before for your tendency to persistently raise simplistic and totally fantastical sci-fi types of solutions to complex problems and blatantly ignoring the consensus of those who know a great deal more about the subject matter than you do – like the authors of the approximately 2500 peer-reviewed papers that the WG3 assessment is based on – and here you are doing it once again. It just makes discussion futile.

You have presented absolutely no evidence whatsoever to back up your assertion. Nothing you have presented says anywhere

A. That you HAVE to use acid rain causing sulfates
B. That aerosols won’t be cheaper than carbon capture by 30 to 300 times, the latter of which is the estimated cost.
C. That the UN scientists made any credible effort whatsoever on this proposal
D. That reducing light to the Earth’s surface by a couple percent, assuming the aerosols are not toxic in themselves, can even POTENTIALLY cause worse side effects than the warming.

So no, you are the one with nothing to argue. And you have stuck to - and been shot down hard by every other poster - your assertion that the human brain does tasks that are incomputable by your bullshit understanding of science. Repeatedly in multiple threads.

Anyways, the math checks out. Once the warming gets bad enough I predict humans will try aerosol injection because it’s cheap and works immediately.

In fact, I am going to repeat that key point. To reduce the excess heating by CO2 capture you would have to reverse decades of industrial and vehicle output. Even if you could instantly build the industrial plants needed to equal annual carbon emissions, making the globe net zero, you still would need to wait for centuries.

Or you release an aerosol equal to the eruption of a volcano and immediatly get as much cooling as you need right away. A couple of percent less light isn’t going to meaningfully affect agriculture and you could genetically engineer the plants to make up the difference.

This is a feasible solution to the problem. No competent engineer would even consider carbon capture by comparison.

Things are getting heated here.

Please cool it off (ha!) a bit with the personal cracks.

As mentioned solar shades came to mind, but also moving the planet’s orbit by redirecting asteroids in a way to tug on the earth ad bio-engineering some living thing to remove CO2 much more efficiently.

Ok, bioengineering : the trouble is that living things require water. Only some areas of the world have enough water for plants to grow, aka arable land. Also, any patch you pick for these living things to grow and collecting CO2 is land you can’t use for agriculture.

So that’s the first problem. The next one is that you would need to engineer them to produce something that won’t biodegrade, or the CO2 just gets released again. This is a bit of an issue, as bacteria have evolved to degrade just about any product plants have the genes to make.

What you end up doing instead when you have solar panels driving CO2 capturing devices, and robots cleaning the solar panels, and robots building and maintaining the CO2 capture plants, and robots building the robots - basically a set of sets containing itself - if you had that, you’d essentially have created a “living thing”. Fully self maintaining and replicating robots are, at the macroscale, equivalent to a living thing, just bigger. And you would put these solar panels and industrial plants in uninhabitable deserts. So they don’t compete with space for present life.

Please note that if you are merely 90% of the way there, where the robots do 90% of the work needed to maintain and construct themselves, or 99% of the way there, that is still an immense improvement. Please don’t get mentally stuck in thinking you need to solve the problem 100% or it doesn’t count, and you might need sci-fi grade technology to get that last 1%.

My comment was only to show that your cite is worthless. Cite someone who knows about this stuff, and you might have something.
Unlike Leavitt, I’ve not claimed to be able to evaluate the worth of any of these proposals. I do know enough to be suspicious about large projects - especially ones where we only get one shot.
This kind of proposal is dangerous in two ways. First, if it goes wrong we might really be screwed. Second, going for a Hail Mary pass strategy excuses everyone from doing the small things to alleviate the problem.
It might be too late, but if it is that’s a result of years of denial from the right and energy companies.

I just want to add that for those interested in a thorough and competent discussion of climate change mitigation, the IPCC Working Group 3 assessment is an excellent source. It includes both a Summary for Policymakers and a Technical Summary. Also, the SR15 special report on the impacts of a 1.5°C temperature rise is now in its final form.

It’s also worth noting that, unlike aerosol injection, carbon capture is regarded by some as a realistic potential avenue to complement emissions reduction. The term refers both to the enhancement of natural carbon sinks like forests and soils and to chemical methods of carbon capture, though most technologies are still nascent and experimental and, as noted before, that path is fraught with risk and uncertainty. There are also proposals for making synthetic fuel from captured carbon which, with a clean energy source, would be close to carbon neutral.

With regard to SamuelA’s latest comments, I would draw the attention of those interested to this outstanding Pit thread.

Please readthis article and others on the subject. The ironic thing here is that if you look at the facts, wolfpup is on the side of a science fiction solution.

What it boils down to, the reason why carbon capture is science fiction is 2 simple reasons :

a. Due to nuclear weapons, no country on earth can make any other major power do anything. Fossil fuels are a cheap and portable source of energy, and with proven reserves, there is already enough to blow past the 2 degree C limit. That is, oil companies already have enough fuel to warm the earth into a new climate regime on the map and on their books. These are some of the largest and most powerful companies in the world, and any nation that chooses to burn them instead of using the more expensive other forms of energy gets an economic advantage. (while due to tragedy of the commons, gains a bigger advantage from burning the fossil fuels than the climate damage from their marginal contribution to the problem)

b. Oil and Gas alone, omitting coal, is a 3 trillion a year industry. And like established, it is likely that you would need to spend about that each year building and maintaining thousands of nuclear reactors and atmospheric capture plants just to equal the 3 trillion in emissions.

Committees of the most esteemed scientists can make all the reports they want, and they are absolutely correct - but still wrong where it counts.