April 9th, 2009 in Breaking News, Weather Control

What is really behind Obama’s look at climate engineering?

Obama to Look at Climate Engineering - WSJ.com.

WASHINGTON — The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.

John Holdren told the Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Mr. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort.

“It’s got to be looked at,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of taking any approach off the table.”

Mr. Holdren outlined several “tipping points” involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of “really intolerable consequences,” he said.

Twice in a half-hour interview, Mr. Holdren compared global warming to being “in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog.”

At first, Mr. Holdren characterized the potential need to technologically tinker with the climate as just his personal view. However, he went on to say he has raised it in administration discussions.

Mr. Holdren, a 65-year-old physicist, is far from alone in taking geoengineering more seriously. The National Academy of Science is making climate tinkering the subject of its first workshop in its new multidiscipline climate challenges program. The British parliament has also discussed the idea.

The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement on geoengineering that says “it is prudent to consider geoengineering’s potential, to understand its limits and to avoid rash deployment.”

Last week, Princeton scientist Robert Socolow told the National Academy that geoengineering should be an available option in case climate worsens dramatically.

But Mr. Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said.

Still, “we might get desperate enough to want to use it,” he added.

Another Geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so-called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide — the chief human-caused greenhouse gas — out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said.

Obama to Look at Climate Engineering - WSJ.com


Related Article:

Obama Should Support Climate Hacking Research
By Brandon Keim April 09, 2009 | 2:14:48 PMCategories: Climate, Environment, Geoengineering

Presidential science adviser John Holdren's comments about planetary climate hacking were scary at first, just like any hypothetically life-changing decision that one finally starts taking seriously.
The Associated Press: Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming
Moving to a different city, changing jobs, starting a family — they make for great daydreams and bar talk. But when it's time to make actual plans, your stomach clenches and you wonder if it's necessary after all. Geoengineering feels the same way, except scaled up by a factor of 6.77 billion or so. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be evaluated.

The most unsettling of Holdren's comments, made Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press, involved planet-enveloping stratospheric mirrors. By pumping light-reflecting aerosol particles into the sky, enough sunlight could be reflected to mask the effects of global warming — but only partly and temporarily, with potentially disastrous results.

Stratospheric aerosols could deplete the ozone layer. They wouldn't do anything about carbon dioxide, which would continue to build up. If humanity stopped pumping them, all that offset heat would kick in with a vengeance, turning atmospheric aerosol pumps into Doomsday Device-in-waiting. And oceans would still turn acidic.

So when Holdren said, "It's got to be looked at," and that "We don't have the luxury ... of ruling any approach off the table," my reaction fit with that of the science watchdog ETC Group. "If this is somebody’s trial balloon to test Obama’s acceptance of geoengineering, the White House should shoot it down immediately," said executive director Pat Mooney in a press release.
Obama and Geo-engineering? Don’t do it! Prism Webcast News
But once my shock subsided, Holdren's statements made a lot more sense. He didn't call for an active geoengineering program, but the study of every option. "We have to look at the possibilities and understand them because if we get desperate enough it will be considered," explained Holdren in an email sent last night to some scientists and journalists.
Science Adviser Lays Out Climate and Energy Plans - Dot Earth Blog - NYTimes.com
Holdren's right. If Earth's climate starts hitting proposed tipping points, and expected famines and droughts and dislocations appear imminent, people — nations, scientists, entrepreneurs, even tycoons — will consider stratospheric aerosols. They've already started considering many other types of geoengineering, from artificial trees to oceanic plankton. And knowledge about their effects is desperately needed — not only to see what might work, but what might not work.

Rather than asking Obama to ignore Holdren, we should demand that he pay attention. Making the Research and Experimentation Tax Credit permanent would be a nice start, but what's really needed is a massive investment in geoengineering simulations and responsible real-world testing, like the Energy Department's carbon burial project. The National Science Foundation barely funds such research, and Obama's economic stimulus package contained no direct funding for it. The Obama administration needs to decide whether America is prepared to play climate cowboy — and, if not, make sure that nobody else can.

In the Associated Press interview, Holdren described Earth's global warming situation as being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog." The same can be said of geoengineering, and only better science will lift that fog.


Science Adviser Lays Out Climate and Energy Plans - Dot Earth Blog - NYTimes.com
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