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Beebo Brink

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This article debunks the idea that we can inject particles into the atmosphere to protect ourselves from global warming.


Some highlights:
…in order to halt global warming, it is necessary to bring net carbon dioxide emissions by the world economy to zero. There is no so-called “safe” level of carbon dioxide emissions. As long as we continue emitting any carbon dioxide, the world will continue to warm.

Barring technological breakthroughs allowing for the active removal of massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, the cumulative carbon we emit will determine the climate our descendants will have to cope with for at least the next 10,000 years, and probably much longer.
Albedo hacking has been touted as a sort of Plan B to make up for the world’s failure to make a responsible start on decarbonization of the economy...whatever level of albedo hacking is needed to avoid a dangerous level of warming must be continued essentially forever.
And if our offspring don’t (or simply can’t) do so at some point in the future, then they will suffer the consequences of an unimaginably huge climate shock, accumulated over vast amounts of time.
 

danielravennest

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Some highlights: ... Barring technological breakthroughs allowing for the active removal of massive amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,
We have those: trees and kelp. Trees on the land, and kelp in the oceans. Once grown, you harvest them and turn them into something that doesn't return the CO2 to the atmosphere.
 
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Beebo Brink

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We have those: trees and kelp. Trees on the land, and kelp in the oceans. Once grown, you harvest them and turn them into something that doesn't return the CO2 to the atmosphere.
Yeah, about that. The article addressed these proposals for CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal):
It should be cautioned, though, that the emerging fad for so-called natural approaches to CDR is largely wishful thinking, and can play only a minor role relative to decarbonization. For example, a recent study argues that theoretically a trillion trees could be planted, which at maturity would pull 200 billion tonnes of accumulated carbon out of the atmosphere (Bastin 2019 Bastin, J.-F. 2019. “The Global Tree Restoration Potential.” Science. July 5. The global tree restoration potential | Science [Google Scholar]) – assuming climate change didn’t kill them off and burn them up.

In the context of our trillion-tonne limit, however, even this massive hypothetical scenario represents just a small dent in the carbon budget; the estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown given in the paper also neglect the important fact that when carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere, a lot of stored anthropogenic carbon dioxide degasses from the ocean (or equivalently, the rate of ocean uptake of carbon dioxide is reduced).
 
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GoblinCampFollower

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Yeah, about that. The article addressed these proposals for CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal):

...

"In the context of our trillion-tonne limit, however, even this massive hypothetical scenario represents just a small dent in the carbon budget; the estimates of atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown given in the paper also neglect the important fact that when carbon dioxide is taken out of the atmosphere, a lot of stored anthropogenic carbon dioxide degasses from the ocean (or equivalently, the rate of ocean uptake of carbon dioxide is reduced). "
I admit this is coming more from wishful thinking than knowledge, but I would think that given that there is more carbon in the atmosphere now than what is "normal" it has got to be possible to use plants to trap a lot more than they are now. Even if some effects described in the article reduce their effectiveness.

That said, I of course agree that the TRILLION trees plan is still hardly going to be an easy escape. A trillion is a huge number and yet still probably not a get out of jail free card...
 

Beebo Brink

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I admit this is coming more from wishful thinking than knowledge, but I would think that given that there is more carbon in the atmosphere now than what is "normal" it has got to be possible to use plants to trap a lot more than they are now.
Studies are showing that increased heat significantly affects the CO2 take-up of plants, so as the planet continues warming, they become less effective as a solution. They are also a source of carbon in forest fires, flooding or any other natural catastrophe that kills them.

It's... complicated.

 

Chalice Yao

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Yeah, about that whole trees and kelp part....

...is it time to mention that the amazon rainforest is still burning, so good luck with the CO2 thing.

And this is the stance of the Brazilian government:
“The Amazon is not burning, not burning at all,” Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araújo, insisted in an interview with CNN.

Rondônia’s governor, the Bolsonaro ally Marcos Rocha, took an identical line, dismissing the “fuss” over the fires as a foreign ruse to shackle Brazil’s economy.

Rocha, a retired police colonel, said: “If we look at the situation in other countries, their forests are burning much more than here in our Brazil. You go to London, or other countries, and what do you see? (< - Chalice comment: My sides, help! )

“It’s not fog – it’s smoke! Smoke from burning; from industry. So how can they demand of us what they haven’t done themselves?”
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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This article debunks the idea that we can inject particles into the atmosphere to protect ourselves from global warming.
Well albedo hacking does not necessarily require to blow up certain chemicals into the atmosphere, but fine dust. When looking at the now famous hockey curve on the scale of the 20th century, you'll see this (graph by NASA):



What we've got here is a small, colder period around from roughly 1950 to 1970 where the warming actually stopped, after that the global temperature slowly increased again. What happened during this minimum? Power generation by coal, blowing all the dust into the atmosphere, causing a decrease of roughly 0,5 degress Celsius. After filters where installed in the plants and the air got cleaner, the dust vanished and temperature is on the rise again unhindered.

The ironic thing is that though burning coal increased the CO2 the fine dust blown into the air caused a decrease in warming.

The same phenomenon has been observed when a big volcano eruption happened, like 1991 when the Pinatubo erupted. So this is something which we know does work to an uncertain degree though.

So this is one of the possible geoengineering approaches: blow millions of tons of fine dust into the atmosphere, and maintain a certain, artificial pollution level. The question though which remains is how should this fine dust get produced and how to blow it up into the atmosphere, because clearly building gazillons of new coal power plants is not an option any longer. And the costs although are left in the dark, several technological breakthroughs would have to be made also first before this could co into production as well, also in the end nobody really knows what such an intervention would case on a global scale for sure.

So while the underlying principle might work, it's an aweful lot of buts which need to be addressed first. And what the article got wrong is plainly this: none of the geoengineers wants to blow up the fine dust into the atmosphere for a period of over thousands of years. Those people are not dumb, they are scientists and do know that this is simply put impossible.

No, what they want to do is to use this method to simply buy us some time; so mitigate the effects of global warming, while the rest of the world needs to get busy on reducing the CO2 footprint at global scale. Nothing more, nothing less.

At the end of the day the chances that we might see this in action are questionable; then again we might get desperate enough to give it a try. Nobody knows.
 
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Beebo Brink

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No, what they want to do is to use this method to simply buy us some time; so mitigate the effects of global warming, while the rest of the world needs to get busy on reducing the CO2 footprint at global scale.
As the author of the article points out, this "mitigation" would only be beneficial if we're using that time to remove carbon from the atmosphere, a technology which does not exist yet. If we're just waiting for our CO2 emissions to go down, then the continuing global warming is just being masked. As soon as we drop the albedo hack -- whatever it might be -- we go into Thermal Shock because the level of CO2 will still be higher than it was before the albedo hack began.
 

Bartholomew Gallacher

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The technology to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere does exist, e.g. here: Why the world’s biggest CO2-sucking plant would be used to … err, dig up more oil?

The problem with it is

a) scaling it to global level and
b) the long term storage of the bound CO2.

But as another study recently pointed out we don't need to reinvent the wheel - we just need to plant new trees lots of it to limit the rise to 1,5 K.


So some people might come to the idea to put the mitigation in action and let the new trees do the rest.
 

Beebo Brink

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This is like whack-a-mole. No, reforestation will not save our asses. It will help, but not enough to forestall the damage and as temperatures rise, the effect of trees will lessen. They take up less CO2 at high temperatures and the carbon in trees is not sequestered long enough or deep enough. It's easily released by fires, for instance, which increase with global warming.

Take a look at Siberia, where forest fires are raging or at the Amazon. We're losing ground, not gaining it.
 
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Bartholomew Gallacher

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Of course we need a combination of many things to happen; from the hacking lovers view though mitigation + afforestation looks better than afforestation alone. t

Anyway I am quite convinced that some states are getting desperate enough in the coming decades to start geoengineering projects. If those would ever go into production is another topic, but research and development is going to be funded massively, as also the development of the technics.
 
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Clara D.

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The technology to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere does exist, e.g. here: Why the world’s biggest CO2-sucking plant would be used to … err, dig up more oil?

The problem with it is

a) scaling it to global level and
b) the long term storage of the bound CO2.

But as another study recently pointed out we don't need to reinvent the wheel - we just need to plant new trees lots of it to limit the rise to 1,5 K.


So some people might come to the idea to put the mitigation in action and let the new trees do the rest.
We're reaching point where we need sci-fi atmosphere plants o_O

On our own planet.

Maybe we can haz domed cities too!
 
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Innula Zenovka

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I'm really torn over this -- the guy's motives are praiseworthy, but his methods -- whether he realises it or not -- are potentially going to place him in a world of legal grief.

He clearly doesn't realise how precarious his position is but, obviously depending on what he's charged with, he's looking at a pretty substantial custodial sentence, and the police have several times tried to warn protesters that flying drones at airports in order to force the suspension of flights is very illegal indeed, no matter why the defendant is doing it.
 

Beebo Brink

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I'm really torn over this -- the guy's motives are praiseworthy, but his methods -- whether he realises it or not -- are potentially going to place him in a world of legal grief.
And it won't really accomplish very much, in relation to the price he pays for it. If you're willing to go to prison, then you should go for breaking eggs, not just for a symbolic gesture. A true rebellion would be blowing things up... and we know how well that goes over with the general population, not to mention the government.

Few people are going to applaud violent disruptions to our infrastructure or economy. We're not at the psychological point where people will willingly sacrifice their conveniences, much less their life, to end our carbon emissions, and there's no painless way to rollback modern life to the 18th or 19th century.
 

Innula Zenovka

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So far the police are arresting the activists for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance, which is a common law catch-all offence that covers a huge range of misconduct, ranging from the relatively trivial to the very grave (Kamel Bourgass, for example, was sentenced to 17 years for conspiracy to cause a public nuisance because of his abortive plan to release the poison rice into the air on the London Underground)..

That's probably better, and more proportionate, than using the Terrorism Act, but the defendants are still at very grave risk of facing pretty substantial prison time -- it's orders of magnitude more serious than sitting blocking major London thoroughfares and bridges, as they were some weeks ago.
 
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Beebo Brink

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A few weeks back I was musing vaguely about my potential to someday become a droplet of oil. Knowing nothing about the carbonization process (and not having bothered to read up before posting a casual comment), I was more than willing to take this response at face value:

No, it takes a little more than dead organic material - the ground of a sea, where tons of it are getting accumulated and turning into organic slime, tons of sediments layering above of it, making tons of pressure, heat and pulling out much of the oxygene. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Since most of the dead human bodies would be on land, all corpse eating organisms would just be doing their job and eating us until the bones would remain.
Today I ran across another, supplementary answer, which I post in the cause of General Information for All of Us, not as a rebuttal to Bartholomew.

Welcome to the Carboniferous era!
Carboniferous - Wikipedia

The large coal deposits of the Carboniferous may owe their existence primarily to two factors. The first of these is the appearance of wood tissue and bark-bearing trees. The evolution of the wood fiber lignin and the bark-sealing, waxy substance suberin variously opposed decay organisms so effectively that dead materials accumulated long enough to fossilise on a large scale. The second factor was the lower sea levels that occurred during the Carboniferous as compared to the preceding Devonian period. This promoted the development of extensive lowland swamps and forests in North America and Europe. Based on a genetic analysis of mushroom fungi, it was proposed that large quantities of wood were buried during this period because animals and decomposing bacteria had not yet evolved enzymes that could effectively digest the resistant phenolic lignin polymers and waxy suberin polymers. They suggest that fungi that could break those substances down effectively only became dominant towards the end of the period, making subsequent coal formation much rarer.
So, dead humans still won't become coal, but not just because we're not algae. Also because we're not bark.
 
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Beebo Brink

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Other shudder-inducing notes from the Carboniferous era:

As a result, undegraded carbon built up, resulting in the extensive burial of biologically fixed carbon, leading to an increase in oxygen levels in the atmosphere; estimates place the peak oxygen content as high as 35%, as compared to 21% today. This oxygen level may have increased wildfire activity. It also may have promoted gigantism of insects and amphibians — creatures that have been constrained in size by respiratory systems that are limited in their physiological ability to transport and distribute oxygen at the lower atmospheric concentrations that have since been available.
So if we ever do manage to sequester carbon, let's not get too carried away....