By Bru Pearce
|Bru Pearce, AMEG member|
who works at Envisionation Ltd
In a previous post ‘Geo engineering after the auto pilot has been turned off ‘ I concluded with the statement, “The time is coming to embrace geo-engineering, (after all we already have 4 billion years of experience in it behind us!).”
I was making the point that primeval life began changing our planets climate almost from its very first existence and that man as a recent incarnation in evolution has been significantly effecting the climate since we first hunted species to extinction and started cutting down huge swaths of forest to convert to agricultural lands.
Of course none of mans early efforts at geoengineering compare to the colossal scale of our latest experiment: that of practically doubling atmospheric CO2 in the last 200 years. 75% of which has been emitted in the last 50 years, in line with our spectacular population growth.
I spent the weekend of 3rd November at the Arctic Methane Emergency Group’s workshop on ‘how to cool the Arctic’ with the objective of retaining the sea ice in order to prevent massive methane release and in the hope of re-stabilising the jet stream. (It is the Jet Stream that in the last few years has become increasingly convoluted and led to the extremes of weather now being experienced in the Northern Hemisphere).
The premise of this meeting was that we do not have the time or the capability to implement a switch to an all renewable energy paradigm and that even if we did cut out our CO2 emissions entirely, at 400 ppm we have already set the planet up for 3 to 4 C° of warming.
Methane hydrates from the defrosting Arctic sea beds are already beginning to enter the atmosphere which will trigger numerous other feedback loops and lead to runaway global warming. Therefore we are going to have to take emergency measures and actively cool the Arctic in order to buy time in which to stabilise and decarbonise the atmosphere.
A truly dire situation, but the encouraging part about the meeting was that it would appear that the necessary technologies to manage our climate are within our grasp.
Many people shudder at the thought of engineering our climate, but given that we have, initially unwittingly but now knowingly, engineered our way deeper into the situation, we should not be surprised at the need to engineer a correction.
So I got to thinking about what climate management could do for us?
Here’s my list:
- Massively improve the efficiency of our renewable engineering capabilities by:
- Ensuring consistent winds
– leading to greatly improved wind farm efficiency- Ensuring clear skies and massively upping the efficiency of photovoltaic’s as well as allowing radiated heat to escape into space at night
- Produce predictable rainfall, not just the amount, but when and where. This can open up many more hydroelectric power opportunities
- Increase agricultural output, for food and for biofuels
- Deliver water to all populations
- Provide perfect weather for tourism resorts, sunny days and snow in ski resorts
- Greening deserts opening up new agricultural land, (much better than cutting down forests for agriculture)
- Protect and preserve forests from drought
- All of the above collectively leading to the eradication of poverty
Ok it sounds utopian, but it is the future we want, the alternative is an unimaginable horror story. We are capable to of achieving great things; why on Earth would we not?
So how do we get there?
We are going to have to establish some very clear international rules:
- A target to reduce and maintain CO2 at 280ppm as per the last 12,000 of the Holocene, (with further small corrective increases as necessary over time to prevent the decline into the next ice age)
- Sea level to be maintained at current levels
- Ice and snow extent to stay within the norms of the 20th century averages
- Systems will have to be put in place to manage microclimate change with planning proposals and applications over any changes in river water volume. And special applications will have to be made for desert recovery. With detailed studies into knock on impacts on other areas.
- Key features of natural cycles will have to be retained, but this does not mean that hurricanes, forest fires, floods and drought cannot be managed.
It should be possible to ensure that most rain falls in the morning and evenings, while still maintaining the continuity of seasonal changes.
Being able to control the weather means knowing the weather in advance and being able to rely on it. Trade winds blowing consistently will make it possible to power ships by sail and for windmills to turn constantly.
It will be even more important for countries that are maintaining rain forests and other large areas of the climate management biosphere, to be compensated by the industrialised and agriculturalised parts of the world for the services they provide. Those services will need to be measured and brought into the dynamics of the new global economy.
In order to take control of our climate we first need to fully understand it. This means that our current efforts to monitor the biosphere need to be massively upgraded. Monitoring systems across the ocean surfaces and depths, on land and in the atmosphere, need to be installed to fully cover the planet. So that every small change can be recorded and its impacts identified.
An appropriate scale might be something like a one for every 100km2. With the data made available to a number of separate super computers that can give us a full evaluation of how the earth systems work. Of necessity this will require integrating the operation of the world economy, crop production, population and all other human dynamics. A huge undertaking that needs to be mans greatest and most urgent endeavour. (For more on this take a look at the International Centre for Earth Simulation foundation web site http://www.icesfoundation.org)
Total management of Earth’s climate will take time. It is something to work towards, although we may have to take emergency measures to cool the Arctic very soon. Small scale tests and research should begin immediately and be given all the funding necessary, so that we can meet the emergency and quickly deliver a fully renewable energy economy.
Learning to engineer our climate holds great promises for all life on earth and can make the dream of an all-clean energy future come true. I believe we can and have to do this.