Showing posts with label geo-engineering. Show all posts
Showing posts with label geo-engineering. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Greatest War Ever

Introduction - Highest Urgency and Priority for Australia

Aaron Franklin
By Aaron Franklin

Hello everyone,

I hope this report is helpful in understanding the current very serious situation. Its an attempt to present it in a way that's accessible to all.

There should be no other priorities until this is dealt with.

Every one should acquaint themselves with the Arctic Methane Emergency Group (AMEG) and its Strategic plan, at:

Lots of good up to date information can be found at , most of the reports there should be compulsory reading for all.

For Australia, as no other world governments appear to be taking notice or action yet, we should lead by example.

The first and most urgent actions we can do are:
  • Get all appropriate Naval vessels en route to the north Pacific and our military engineers preparing seawater mist spraying equipment to be flown to meet them when they get there to meet the dawning Arctic spring. This is for whats called "cloud brightening" and has been trialed and proven already. This produces bright white clouds that reflect sunlight back into space, rather than heating seawater.

    Cooling the waters in the Bering strait region before they invade the arctic basin, and melt the East Siberian Ice Shelf Icepack, is probably achievable with our resources.

    With likely a similar amount of methane, from all winter seafloor hydrates fizzing, trapped under the ESAS sea-ice as is in the Earth's atmosphere right now, this would be a major victory.

    AMEG can advise on the logistics and the best nozzle design and spraying systems currently available.

  • Start fitting out our Airforce high altitude capable airliners with bladdertanks that the Airforce already has for Helicopter range extension, and mist spraying gear for Stratospheric SO2 enhancement. This creates high altitude cloud condensation and also reflects sunlight back into space.

    It is a natural process via volcanoes - e.g./ the Pinatubo eruption put enough SO2 into the global stratosphere to stall global warming for 2 years in 1980, and via Di-methyl-sulphide released by oceanic phytoplankton.

    The loss of over half the oceanic phytoplankton in the southern ocean over the last 100yrs is definately a factor in the runaway melt, and highest local warming on the planet that West Antarctica has been experiencing in recent decades.

    Also burning dirty coal and ship bunker fuel, that releases SO2 has been worldwide shielding us from half the effect of Anthropogenic Greenhouse Agents to date.

    While the Arctic needs a SO2 veil most urgently, we will need to do this worldwide as we drop dirty coal, and the Antarctic summer could really use some help too. So allocation of the Airforce jets to this for the next few decades anyway is very appropriate. 

The IPCC has seriously dropped the ball on climate change and no further attention should be paid to any of their predictions for the following reasons:
  • The Arctic sea-ice models used for the predictions they are still making and planning to present in the IPCC5 report due out 2014 but wikileaked a month ago, are based on linear extrapolations (same loss of area each year) of seaice AREA trends 1980-2001. Since 2001 even sea ice area has been in an exponential summer crash. Whats far more important than sea ice area is sea ice volume. Up till 2003 the only ice thickness measurements available were from nuclear submarines taking Arctic Scientists like Peter Wadhams on several trips a year to sonar scan the thickness of the icepack from below. Since 2003 there has been high resolution radar satellite imaging of the entire arctic ice-cap giving a full dataset.

  • The 1971-2003 sonar data was not a complete imaging of the whole icecap so modeling the total was required. This is being seized on by the the IPCC as a fantasy to protect their cherished belief that their old ice-area models are valid.

  • The IPCC5 report is going to say(if they don't wake up and change it), things like: "minimum summer sea-ice area is predicted to be down by 35% on 1980-2001 levels by 2035". That would require quite a large recovery of the arctic sea ice from where it is now, since its already some 50% down in minimum summer area from 1980-2001 levels.

  • IPCC models on warming global temperatures are still not including any of the many feedbacks (eg/ accelerating release in the arctic of methane, CO2, and NO2) that have been for some years now accelerating the rate of warming. Actual data in recent years has warming rates far above the curves of IPCC models.

  • IPCC reports are edited before release by "special interest groups" like big oil.

Please excuse the war metaphors used in the following. Its very valid to call for an international war effort as AMEG are, and this report is going out to multiple recipients, including web forums for mobilisation of public opinion to assist Government and enviro group action and trying to rev everyone up appropriately.

The Greatest War Ever!

Hopefully the greatest war there will ever need to be.

A call to arms, lessons from the history of mankind and all life on earth, and some much needed moral boosting.

The Arctic Methane Emergency Group are very right to name this War. This group, founded by the head of Arctic studies at Cambridge University Peter Wadhams, contains some of the most informed and reputable, scientists in the world climate science community. Their guts in speaking out loud and clear needs to be respected with our attention and actions.

Its the greatest war ever in every sense of the word great. Great as in huge, great as in fabulous. It must unite all peoples, creeds and indeed life on this planet behind the common cause of saving life on earth from now almost inevitable, and unimaginably huge suffering mayhem and death.

The only question is how soon we all acknowledge this war and how soon we all consider ourselves drafted to our clear duty in it. If this does not happen fast then this war will become unwinnable.

In this war our weapons are not guns and bombs, not nukes and tanks. We must fight it tooth and claw, but in this war our teeth are our knowledge and our claws are our technology.

Its a war that humankind and the planets bio-geosphere have already been fighting for several thousand years without us humans even realising it.

The Chinese say that every problem is a mix of danger and opportunity. Lets appreciate, both the danger and the opportunity.

A Reconnaissance of the Battlefield.

Even before the industrial revolution a battle in this war raged for 2000 years. On one side of this battle, the side against the survival of complex life on this planet was the invention of monocultural large scale agriculture and its associated deforestation. This weapon of mass destruction was massively deployed by the Roman Empire, then spread worldwide by western European culture. It resulted in the dumping of a slow burning 500 Gigaton C-bomb on the planetry oceans and atmosphere by the reduction of organic carbon content of the worlds soils from 2000 gigatons Carbon to 1500 gigatons Carbon.

(In the language of eco-climatology tons C or tons carbon means the total mass of the carbon atoms in the CO2, methane or other organic carbon molecules being described)

This C bomb, released slowly as it was, went down the Arctic plug-hole, and has been hiding in the deep oceans for a millennia.  Now studies in the southern ocean showing CO2 being net released not absorbed have revealed its coming back up.

Until the 16th century AD not all humans were on the side of evil in this battle. Its now known that the peoples of Amazonia were fighting for the planet. The first European explorers at that time to sail up the Amazon reported that the banks of the great river and its tributaries were lined with urban communities of up to 50 thousand people. These great geo-engineers transformed the Amazon basin with great canal systems connecting the river valleys 2000 km from Venezuela to Paraguay. They dug artificial rectangular basins up to 20 km long for floating hydroponic gardens of corn, potatoes and tomatoes.

Their greatest geo-engineering feat though was to transform 10 percent of the land area of the Amazon basin from rain leached infertile soil to Terra Preta (spanish for "black earth") by layering biochar in the ground from pyrolysis of their domestic wastes and other biomass. This miracle soil maintains fertillity for thousands of years, sequesters moisture, beneficial bacteria and fresh organic carbon from jungle humus far better than any other soil on the planet. The carbon they were sequestering was offsetting that being released from soils across the Atlantic.

Their heritage from conserving and nurturing their ecologies is, though threatened and diminished by us now, the richest and most diverse ecosystem on the planet.

Then in the unintended by mortals, yet biggest act of bio-warfare ever, the diseases introduced by those 16th century European explorers demolished that civilisation and many others throughout the Americas, and in a century their sustainable wood based infrastructure rotted away almost without trace.

NOW we get to honour their memory and their legacy of permacultural wizardry by transforming the stripped soils of the world to Terra Preta as they did.

We must at this point have no doubt whatsoever about the seriousness of the consequences in the contract with our Earth that we have stupidly signed all life on the planet up for.

It seems we have initiated the Earths emergency carbon burial response. This means a rapid transition to what is called in paleoclimatology a super-greenhouse earth and an anoxic ocean event.
  • This means ocean temperatures rising to over 40C in the tropics and over 27C at the poles.

  • Super-cyclones so powerful we cannot even imagine rage all year round from the equator to the poles.

  • The deep Oceans lose all oxygen and become stagnant and dominated by anerobic bacteria, producing hydrogen sulphide that poisons animal and plant life on the land and in the oceans.

  • The surfaces of the oceans become colonised by photosynthesising green and purple sulphur chemistry bacteria that slowly over a period of hundreds of thousands to millions of years bury the overburden of carbon dioxide as ocean floor sediments.

These emergency buried sediments are the origin of all the worlds oil and gas shale layers.

We have been grossly disrespecting the suffering and sacrifice of complex life that happened in these periods by digging that carbon back up and putting it back in the oceans and atmosphere.

The best known and most serious so far of these super-greenhouse events is the end-permian mass extinction of 252 million years ago. This event resulted in the extinction of 96% of marine species and 75% of land ones. It was the only known mass extinction of insects and ocean acidification wiped out all corals (todays corals took many tens of millions of years to evolve from sea-anemonies after that) and nearly all creatures with skeletons and shells from the oceans.

The "tipping point" that initiated the end permian and some twenty other more minor super-greenhouse/anoxic ocean events, that have been well studied is thought to be CO2 levels reaching around 1000ppm. This may sound like a lot compared to current levels approaching 400ppm but its not. There are two reasons for this:
  1. Firstly, the CO2 thermal absorption frequency band (the range of thermal electromagnetic frequencies that are absorbed by CO2) is already nearly saturated, and an extra 600ppm has a smaller extra effect than it appears to uninformed scrutiny.
  2. Secondly, the extra effect of far more powerful greenhouse agents such as methane, nitrous oxide, black carbon smog, tropospheric ozone, halocarbons (each with their own seperate thermal absorption bands) that we have put in the atmosphere, likely has us past that 1000ppm CO2 equivalent threshold already.
Furthermore, the Arctic Sea ice volume is in a very clear exponential collapse, as is clearly illustrated by the PIOMASS study. Strongly predicted to be completely gone in September within the next three years and completely gone for six months of the summer/autumn by 2020.

Image from ArctischePinguin
Image from ArctischePinguin

-This will, through sunlight being absorbed by the arctic ocean rather than reflected back into space by sea-ice, double the warming effect currently being experienced from greenhouse agents alone.

- On top of this the latent heat of thawing being absorbed by polar ice melt has been offsetting by 25% the worldwide warming effect of greenhouse agents and when its gone this additional effect will accelerate arctic warming.

- The warm gulf stream will also colonise the entire Arctic ocean further accelerating Arctic warming.

The Arctic defrosting cannot be allowed to happen.

Arctic land and shallow submarine permafrosts are storing about 5000 billion tons C of organic carbon, mostly as methane. Compared to the 234 billion tons C of CO2 added by us over the last 200 years, and less than 5 billion tons C of methane currently in the atmosphere, this is a colossal amount.

About 2.5 billion tons C of methane per year was estimated as being released from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (ESAS) alone by Shakova's study from 2005-2008, caused by warming to date. It has increased since then there and throughout the Arctic.

The imminent defrosting of the arctic will cause rapidly accelerating release of a large part of the 5000 billion ton C total and the rapid warming of the entire planet by a global average of 5 to 10 degrees celsius within a few decades.
The chart below shows the current situation, and the situation should another 4.5 GtonC methane be released over the present 4.5 GtonC methane in the atmosphere, totalling the effects of greenhouse and aerosol agents.

As can be seen the earth is likely in Super-Greenhouse Anoxic Ocean mode already.

Adapted by Aaron Franklin from image at Wikipedia - radiative forcing

There are reasons why this situation could be more serious than the end permian mass extinction:
  • The geography of the time had all the earths continents pressed together into the supercontinent Pangaea, with only one small icecap perched on the end of it. This means it is implausible that there could have been as much organic carbon stored in polar permafrost as today.

  • There were shallow inland seas that were not as vunerable to anoxia as the world ocean and may have allowed some marine life refuges.

  • The vast interior of Pangaea would have allowed land animals and plants some refuge from the fierce cyclones and colossal rainfalls near the coast. Today the dispersed and more coastally exposed landmasses would not allow this.

  • The injection of CO2 from the Siberian traps flood basalt eruption and the initial warming of about 5C happened over up to 5000 years allowing some geographic migration of land animals and plants to cooler latitudes. Today the damaged ecologies we have and the far more rapid onset of the event would make this far less possible.

  • Onset of the anoxic ocean event in the end permian probably happened after the initial 5000 year period and was most probably caused by methane from dissociating deep ocean methane hydrates as the deep ocean warmed. This also causing an additional 5C global warming. Methane hydrate deposits in the deep ocean today are most likely more extensive, estimates ranging from 5 000-78 000 billion tons C, and the secondary carbon pulse from them could start 300-1000 years from now. Today we have a serious prospect of a double anoxic initiation, the first from shallow and land organic carbon stores and the second from the deep ocean hydrates.

  • The Sun is some 20% hotter than it was then.

  • The transition from a world where substantial ice-caps reflect a lot of sunlight back into space to one without them will likely result in a more extreme temperature jump than at the end of the Permian age.

There is a serious risk that if we let it happen, the coming event will remove all multicelled life from planet Earth.

What must be done.

Its now brutally clear that no safe atmospheric CO2 ppm above the 280ppm maximums of the last few million years exists for Earth today. It's way too late for us to simply wind down our fossil fuel use or even to abrubtly cease it. We have to with the most immediate urgency deploy all the measures AMEG are suggesting and any more that we can think up to delay the Arctic crisis. We can be sure that until CO2 is back to near 280ppm and other powerful greenhouse agents are vastly reduced, delaying the Arctic C-bomb is all that we are doing.

Until we are back to a 280ppm of CO2 and global warming potential equivalent of other agents, not only must we drop all fossil fuels like the red hot coal that they are, it must be all hands to the carbon pumps.

For one thing this means bio-charing and reforesting with diverse ecologies across the globe. The grazing animals don't all have to go, they will be far happier grazing clearings and under trees with summer shade and not wading in bogs all winter.

The most promising carbon pump down scheme is Ocean fertilisation. To some extent this can be viewed as Ocean ecosystem restoration. Its now known that the photosynthesising, base of the foodchain productivity of the Oceans has dropped about 40% in the last century. Due to this and our brutalising of the biodiversity and total mass of fish stocks the Oceans ecosystems badly need to be nursed back to health.

Since we've let things get so far without acting, we now have the necessity and in fact opportunity and privilege of creating fertile new ecology in the around 80% of the deep Ocean areas that are called "desolate zones" because there is currently almost no life in them whatsoever. In some parts of these desolate zones the only thing that is stopping productivity is trace amounts of iron, but now we must fertilise also the larger desolate areas with other nutrients also.

Our teeth and claws for doing all this are fortunately well developed at this point and becoming more developed every day. Some of the carbon pumped down by ocean fertilisation will go to the deep ocean and sea-floor.

Some of it we need to harvest, mostly as krill, for biofuel for our existing cars and carbon-negative powerplant conversions with the byproduct of this being bio-char for our soil replenishment/land carbon sequestration. And as food to replace displaced agriculture.

The long game.

When we are back to a (relatively) safe 280ppm CO2 and have also dealt with other greenhouse agents we will have time to draw breath and make an important decision. Whether to stop there or keep going, coaxing the planet back into another Glacial age over the next 1 or a few thousand years. The pattern of the last million years or so has been revealed, of glacial ages about 80-90 thousand years alternating with interglacials like the last 10 thousand years, usually lasting 10-20 thousand years. It was once thought that the earth was about ready to return naturally to another glacial period. Its now believed that orbital forcing -cycles of the earths axis tilting relative to the sun, maximum/minimum distance from the sun in annual orbit etc will be weak for the next 50000 years, making it unlikely that the earth will return to the happier and much safer times of a glacial period naturally for that long.

Its a widespread but false belief that "Ice ages" or glacial periods as is the correct term, are a tough time for humans on earth. Its true that northern areas of Europe and North America, the south of South America, and New Zealand are covered by Ice sheets and dry and windswept tundras. But even now most humans live in more equatorial regions, now uncomfortably hot, wet and stormy near the equator, and vast subtropical deserts like in the Sahara, middle east, Chille/Bolivia and Australia. In interglacials these are comfortable temperate areas with mild consistant rainfall and rich life on the land. Vast fertile continental shelves rise out of the sea, in the Caribean, connecting from Asia to Tasmania, between the middle east and India, extending massively the subcontinental plateaus of the nth island of New Zealand of New Caledonia and Easter Island . The coral atolls of the Pacific, Carribean, and Indian ocean become huge fertile plains with narrow entrances to deep inland harbours through 300ft high coral barrier walls that surround them. The Oceans have far higher and more widely distributed productivity than today, fertillised by 50x more windblown dust than now, glacial loess from the tundras circling the globe in subglacial lattitudes. Theres much evidence come to light in recent decades that the last glacial epoch was a time of great human civilisations that spanned the whole globe. Megalithic roads and ruins have been discovered under the sea in the Mediterranian, near India, between Yonaguni and Okinawa, inside Australias great barrier reef, throughout the pacific islands and in the Carribean. A ring of Moai circles Easter island beneath the waves. Mitochondrial DNA groups that track the female lineage show the fingerprint of a civilisation spanning equatorial lattitudes from the east coast of India, through southeast Asia, right across the Pacific as far south as New Zealand and on the west coast of nth, central, and sth America. Conversely the male y-chromosome DNA groups show almost only the traces of central Asian invaders conquering those areas in several waves over the last 12 thousand years or so. The global distributions of Coconuts and Bananas, both of which don't survive more than a few days in the sea, and their distant relationship from natural ancestral forms suggests humans were global traders in ancient glacial times.

We would be well advised to keep pumping down CO2 to the 90-180ppm of a glacial epoch and bunker the Arctic C-bomb in a deep freeze.

Provided we can maintain our technology till thats done, we might consider the east Siberian Arctic shelf as possibly the most dangerous geologic feature there has ever been for life on this planet, and suffer its existence no longer.

With the luxury of being able to see gradual injections of carbon into the bio-geosphere as something to expand biodiversity and biomass on the planet at that time, we might think its wise to blast the ESAS off bit by bit into the depths of the arctic basin over a period of centuries.

We cannot know if we might still have the knowledge and technology to recognise and deal with another Arctic crisis like the present one at some time in the near or distant future. Not disposing of the ESAS could threaten earths life again some day.

The longer game.

In my opinion there could be no higher calling for an intelligent species like ourselves than to spread the miracle of diverse life to other planets. This job for the future is one, assuming we're still around, we'll one day have to face.

The claws of our telescopes and spectrometers, some time ago taught us of the life cycles of suns. Ours is destined to slowly get hotter and one day within the next few billion years our Earth will suffer a stupendous runaway greenhouse effect. As once happened on Venus, how long ago we don't know, our oceans will boil. The greenhouse effect of that water vapour will feed back on itself until surface pressures are about 1000 times current from an atmosphere 1000km thick. The land beneath will glow a dull red, scorched by temperatures of 600C. There is suggestions that Venus may once have nurtured a biosphere. Our laser inteferometry has detected particles the size and shape of those green and purple sulphur chemistry photosynthesising bacteria that proliferated in super-greenhouse Earth Oceans, in the sulphuric acid cloud tops 1000km above Venus's surface. In those cloudtops temperature and pressure are simular to Earths surface today. Some suggest that these extremophile bacteria blew frozen on the solar wind to Earth, and got life started here.

Our next potential home is probably Mars. Mars needs lots of work to be a lasting stable paradise for a diverse bio-sphere, so we should probably get started fairly soon. Its good that we are learning whats needed for managing a planetry eco-geosphere now.

There's hints on Mars of how it can be done.

There appears to be no question that Mars had a thick atmosphere and lots of liquid water on its surface within a few tens of thousands of years ago. Also a working magnetic engine at its core as recently as 50 thousand years ago, providing a magnetic field to protect it from the radiation of cosmic rays and the solar wind. All that may have come about as the result of two giant comets striking squarely the north and south poles of Mars a few million years ago. They left the two biggest impact craters in the solar system, 2000 and 2500km across, likely adding water and melting Mar's core to kickstart its magnetic engine. The volcanism that was stimulated would have given mars its atmosphere.

Most likely mars is too small to keep an earthlike atmosphere and oceans for a useful period so we'll have to harvest the asteroid belt, and pepper its surface to build mass, with large asteroids of rock, iron/nickel, hydrogen/carbon/nitrogen/oxygen, and ice composition. The asteroid belt is a perfect resource for this. Something like this happened to Earth in the "late great bombardment" something like half a billion years after the collision of two planets that formed the Earth-Luna system, not long after the Suns nuclear furnace first sparked into life. The late great bombardment was responsible for most of the moons craters, and most of earths water. We'd be best to build a moon much like Earths for Mars too. From the asteroid belt. Or steal one from Jupiter. Lunar tides in oceans are great for stirring up life, and tides in planetry mantles knead them to help keep them molten and magnetic engines running.

Once Mars has settled down from that bashing, those purple and green, sulphur chemistry, photosynthesising extremophiles can be seeded there. To convert the CO2 and sulphuric acid atmosphere to breathable oxygen.

From there its all easy.

The longest game.

The Sun will continue growing bigger and hotter, destined eventually to swell its surface past the current orbits of Venus, Earth and Mars. Even mighty Jupiter will eventually fall in and be consumed by the red giant Sol. As that happens we'll have to migrate outwards, spreading life to the moons of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. These giants all have many great moons for us to help life take root on some almost as big as earth. Some already look like earth did several times in lifes history here. Covered entirely with crusts of ice, salty oceans beneath heated by tidal forces and rocky cores containing radioactive potassium and uranium. Some think that life may already have got started there, as ecologies fueled by sulphur chemistry rather than photosynthesis. This type of life exists on earth in the deep ocean trench volcanic zones.

When the Sun has finished growing it will suffer a violent transformation. It will collapse rapidly to become a tiny red dwarf. This fierce little mother will be, like our nearest neighbor Proxima Centauri, an ancient solar system whose lifecycle has ended, whats known as a flare star. Her energy output will oscilate wildly and colossal flares and coronal mass ejections would scorch with radiation any planet we put near enough her to be warmed.

But we could help her give birth.

Orcas, Pluto, Haumea, Quaoar, Makemake, 2007 OR10, Eris, Sedna are known variously as ice dwarf planets, plutoids or trans-neptunian planetoids.

Balls of frozen water, methane and ammonia with rocky cores, diameters of up to 2350km, its currently estimated that thousands of these exist. It would be easy to nudge these bodies into trajectories that use a gravitational slingshot from neptune. This can easily shoot them out of the solar system at escape velocities that would get them to nearby stars with potential for life to be spawned. We could be doing this as early as when we first start renovating Mars. Artificial intelligence systems could fertilise virgin planets so that they are ready for complex ecologies long before the Sol system dies. Sedna is already near escape velocity, only visiting near Neptune every 10,000 years, she spends most of her time in the Oort cloud which extends nearly a lightyear from earth, a quarter of the way to the 3 star Centauri system.

The outer Oort cloud is believed to contain several trillion individual objects larger than 1 km and many billions with diameters above 20 km. The inner Oort cloud is modelled as having 10-100 times as many as the outer.

Plenty of cosmic eggs for the spawning.

In the end the proponents of fecund universe theory might be right.

Maybe once its got started, life becomes more and more complex, gathering knowledge and technology until before the universe its housed in winds down and dies, life has aquired the means of spawning new universes. With laws of physics tuned for even more interesting life to develop. Maybe its already happened. I hope one day we'll be around to know.

Related Posts by Aaron Franklin:
- An integrated systems plan for 10 year carbon pumpdown to 280ppm
- Supersonic and high velocity Subsonic Saltwater and Freshwater Cloud Making Cannons

Friday, January 11, 2013

President Obama, here's a climate plan!

President Obama, now is the time to act on climate change! Climate change won't wait. There are encouraging signs indicating that a summit is being organized, to be hosted at the White House, to launch a comprehensive climate action plan with broad-based and bipartisan support.

What plan? Well, here's a climate plan!

The first line of action of most climate plans is to cut emissions. Two types of feebates, working separately, yet complimentary, can cut emissions most effectively and can be implemented locally in a budget-neutral way, without requiring complicated international agreements:
  1. energy feebates (pictured above) in sectors such as electricity, heating and transport, and 
  2. feebates in sectors such as agriculture, land use, waste management and construction (pictured below).
Pictured on the left are feebates that impose fees on sales of Portland cement, nitrogen fertilizers and livestock products. This will make further cuts in emissions.

The revenues are then used to fund rebates on clean construction and on soil supplements containing biochar and olive sand, which will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in buildings, soil, river banks, roads and pavement.

Working seperately, yet complimentary, energy feebates and feebates in agriculture and other sectors can dramatically bring down carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and oceans; as a result, atmospheric carbon dioxide could be brought back to pre-industral levels of around 280ppm by the end of the century.

For further discussion, also see Towards a Sustainable Economy
Thus, these two feebates will be effective on two lines of action, i.e. on cutting emissions and on reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and oceans.

Even with these measures, temperatures will keep rising for some time, as excess ocean heat will get transferred to the atmosphere over the years and as aerosols (particularly sulfur) fall away that are currently emitted when fuel is burned and thus mask the full wrath of global warming.

Continued warming comes with numerous feedbacks. Combined, these feedbacks threaten to trigger runaway global warming, i.e. warming that will cause mass death, destruction and extinction.

How to avoid mass-scale death, destruction and extinction
This means that, in addition to the first two lines of action, further lines of action will be necessary, i.e. Solar radiation management, and Methane management and further action. Further action includes regulatory measures such as ending commercial flights over the Arctic and support for pyrolysis to avoid burning of biomass. The image below pictures several methods of Arctic methane management that should get high priority, given the threat of hydrate destabilization in the Arctic.
Arctic Methane Management

Fees imposed on commercial flights could fund solar radiation management, while the feebates described above will also be most effective in further lines of action, i.e. in Arctic methane management and further action.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Anthropogenic Arctic Volcano can calm climate

by Paul Beckwith
Paul Beckwith, B.Eng, M.Sc. (Physics),
Ph.D. student (Climatology) and
Part-time Professor, University of Ottawa

Rational decision making requires realistic risk assessments of alternatives. Humanity is now choosing default door A, which is no change in behavior with fossil fuel energy sourcing and a continuance of rapidly rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Abrupt collapse of Arctic albedo due to collapsing terrestrial snow cover (area dropping 17.6% per decade for past three decades) and collapse of sea ice cover (area dropping 49% below 1979 to 2000 long term average) is occurring (NOAA 2012 Arctic Report Card from last week).

The destination is an ice free condition within a few years (by 2015 with PIOMAS volume projections); well before the 30 to 60 year timeframe of the most sophisticated climate change models which are a big FAIL on sea ice. The risk (= probability of occurrence x significance of occurrence) is enormous through door A. Probability of occurrence is 50% within 3 years and significance to human farming, water availability, temperatures and weather extremes is clearly massive.

A recent widely-respected DARA report states that Today climate change is directly/indirectly reducing global GDP by 1.6% and attributing to 400,000 human deaths globally (to increase to 2.6% and 500,000 in about 20 years). A recent UN report is warning of global food shortages in 2013. There is no end in sight to the U.S. drought (climate models predict such droughts can last 20 or 30 years, hopefully they are wrong as they are with sea ice).

I prefer door B - create an Anthropogenic Arctic volcano to calm the climate. Give me two large airplanes with pilots, some sulfur in solution, and a few large nozzles from your local ski hill; they are not needed anyway since the ski industry has estimated losses of $1 Billion over the last decade (about 8% of total revenues); adaptation to zip lining and water parks is possible. With this equipment I will fly into the stratosphere (above the weather) near the North Pole and spread sulfur dust/aerosols to reflect incoming sunlight and rapidly cool the Arctic for several years. This will restore sea ice, straighten the jet streams, and restore a “normal” climate.

Very little sulfur is needed relative to huge emissions from smokestacks into the lower atmosphere from coal burning power plants. It will work; powerful erupting volcanoes that aim upwards (like Pinatubo in 1991) and not sideways (like Mt. St. Helens in 1980) have cooled the climate by a degree or more for 2 to 3 years. They do this by injecting sulfur up into the upper atmosphere, like our aircraft will do.

Door B has two important sub-doors, B-Bad and B-Good. Door B-B is using the sulfur injections to calm climate and continuing the fossil-fuel energy sourcing with rapidly accelerating GHGs. This door will be a false reprieve since the GHGs will continue to rapidly acidify the ocean and destroy the base of the food chain; by the way, ocean phytoplankton levels have dropped 40% since 1950.

Wikipedia image: UN jet with humanitarian relief supplies
Luckily for us, Door B-G exists. Door B-G is using the sulfur injections to calm climate and rapidly slashing fossil-fuel energy sourcing by ramping up conservation, efficiency renewables as fast as is humanly possible; I am talking about retooling on the scale of the Manhattan Project or Apollo Programs. Or even having a U.S. president (or a Chinese one) getting all the CEOs of car manufacturers together in a room and telling them they will produce no cars for 3 years, only wind turbines, geothermal heat exchangers, and solar panels. Is this possible? In WWII the meeting occurred and for the next 3 years only war materials were produced. And keep in mind the industrial revolution of World War Two ushered in one of longest eras of prosperity humanity has known.

Of course there is a caveat with Door B-G. We must start the sulfur injections when the sun rises in the Arctic in the spring in early 2013. Waiting for more sea ice collapse will decrease the odds of success at obtaining Arctic snow cover and sea ice regrowth. Give me a plane, pilot, nozzle, and sulfur and I can calm the climate.

Originally posted January 10, 2013, at Sierra Club Canada; posted here with author's permission

Friday, December 7, 2012

AMEG Strategic Plan


AMEG Strategic Plan

This strategic plan was prepared by the independent policy group, AMEG (the Arctic Methane Emergency Group), comprising a multidisciplinary team of leading scientific experts, system engineers, communicators and concerned citizens.


The purpose of this document is firstly to warn the world of the extreme and imminent danger of global famine and ensuing strife created by rapid Arctic warming and precipitous sea ice retreat, and secondly to provide a strategic plan for handling this situation.

The international community is totally unprepared for the speed of change in the Arctic, the dramatic effects on global climate and the dire repercussions on food production.

The tendency among scientists and the media has been to ignore or understate the seriousness of the situation in the Arctic.  AMEG is using best available evidence and best available explanations for the processes at work.  These processes include a number of vicious cycles which are growing in power exponentially, involving ocean, atmosphere, sea ice, snow, permafrost and methane.  If these cycles are allowed to continue, the end result will be runaway global warming.

The situation is so urgent that, unless appropriate action is taken within a few months, the window of opportunity will be lost.  Adaptation to the consequences will be impossible, as famine spreads inexorably to all countries.

The situation is of unprecedented danger in the history of civilisation.  Humans are not psychologically prepared to deal with such mortal danger except by suppressing thoughts of it.  But we, as a human society, have to “get a grip” if we are to survive.

The good news is that AMEG believes that the emergency situation can be handled, but only if faced squarely and treated with focus, determination and urgency.  The international community must not only tackle the effects of a growing number and severity of weather extremes, tantamount to abrupt climate change, but must also tackle the underlying cause: a vicious cycle of Arctic warming and sea ice retreat.

Peoples of the world must be told the truth about the extreme danger that we all face.  Then there is a unique opportunity for all nations to pull together to fight the common “enemy”, which is the vicious cycle of Arctic warming and sea ice retreat.

Governments of the world must not pretend that there is no immediate crisis.  They must understand the chain reaction of cause and effect, and collaborate to protect all citizens.


Abrupt climate change is upon us.  Extreme weather events are on the increase. Farmers are in despair.  Food prices are rising.  The UN climate change policy simply based on emissions reduction cannot deal with the immediate danger.  The UN and member governments should have acted years ago to avert the crisis now unfolding.  What has been happening in the Arctic has been completely overlooked, and now only drastic action to cool the Arctic has any chance of rescuing humanity.

A key factor is the Arctic sea ice, whose reflection of sunshine keeps the planet cool.  Remove the sea ice, and not only does the planet start to overheat, but the whole climate is suddenly changed.  The global weather systems, on whose predictability farmers rely, are dependent for their stability on there being a temperature gradient between tropics and the poles.  Remove the snow and ice at one pole, and the weather systems go awry and we have “global weirding”.  Furthermore, the weather systems get stuck in one place, and we get weather extremes: long spells of hot/dry weather with drought, or long spells of cold/wet weather with floods.

This global weirding has started with a vengeance.  The sea ice is rapidly disappearing.  The behaviour of the polar jet stream is disrupted.  Extreme weather events occur more often and with greater ferocity.  And the food price index climbs and climbs.

There is an obvious relationship between strife and food – if you starve a nation they will fight to get food.  This relationship has been pinned down by an organisation called the Complex Systems Institute, CSI.  They show that the food riots break out when the food price index rises above a certain critical level.  An example was the Arab Spring.

Figure 1 ~ A trend line analysis of CSI data

Figure 1 adds trend lines to the CSI data, the Rabobank Report forecast for UN FAO Food Price Index for June 2013 and the potential repeat of 2008 and 2011 at the elevated levels resulting from the overall underlying trend of line 1.

The current index is above the critical level.  Because of extreme weather events this year, the index is expected to rise again in 2013.  The UN’s food watchdog, the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), forecast that the index will rise even further in 2014.  

Meanwhile the insurance industry is worried by the trend towards greater number and strength of extreme weather events, including hurricanes.  Note that Sandy’s cost was greatly amplified by the diversion westward at it approached the coast off New York.  Sandy had hit a jet stream blocking pattern.  The loss of Arctic sea ice is leading to this kind of unusual event become more frequent.  The insurers are worried, but governments should be even more worried, because extreme weather events will drive the food price index even higher.

The critical situation

Figure 2 ~ Connecting the dots and breaking the chain

As the sea ice retreats, exposed water absorbs more sunshine, heating the water and causing further melt of the sea ice in a vicious cycle.  This appears to be the dominant positive feedback loop in the Arctic, although snow retreat may contribute nearly as much to the warming of the Arctic generally in a second feedback loop.

A further feedback loop is ominous: as the Arctic warms, the thawing of land and subsea permafrost allows the discharge of growing quantities of the potent greenhouse gas, methane, which in turn causes further warming in a vicious cycle.  This cycle is not yet noticeable.  However there is over a trillion tons of carbon stored in permafrost in the form of organic material, which is liable to decompose anaerobically to form methane.  And the permafrost forms the cap on an even larger carbon store already in the form of methane.  Most scientists now accept that Northern Hemisphere land permafrost will thaw entirely this century.  There is the potential for the release of enough methane into the atmosphere to cause runaway global warming, with temperatures rising well over ten degrees C.

The most immediate negative impact of these cycles and the resultant rapid warming of the Arctic atmosphere is a disruption of polar jet stream from its normal behaviour, such that there are more frequent and more severe weather extremes experienced in the Northern Hemisphere.  This impact has grown so conspicuously over the past few years that we can honestly say that we are now experiencing abrupt climate change.  The result of this climate change is widespread crop failure and an ever deepening food crisis.

A measure of the worsening situation is the food price index.  This has spikes when the price of oil rises, but the underlying value has been rising steadily since 2006.  Today, the index is slightly more than the critical price level above which food riots are liable to break out – an example having been the Arab Spring.  Largely as a result of the crop failures this year, the FAO forecast that the index will rise higher in 2013 and higher again in 2014.  If the trend in weather extremes continues, then these figures could prove optimistic.  With a billion people on the edge of starvation today, we could see 2 billion by this time next year.  It will be a humanitarian disaster.  Furthermore, social unrest will rise, and economic growth and stability compromised in the developed and developing countries.

However there are longer term impacts and threats of Arctic warming, in particular (i) Greenland Ice Sheet destabilisation, (ii) accelerated methane discharge, (iii) loss of biodiversity and habitat, and (iv) heat absorption making it more difficult to keep to global warming targets.

As the snow and sea ice retreat from their levels in the 70s, more solar energy is absorbed.  Taking the 70s as the baseline (zero forcing), this year's retreat produced as much as 0.4 petawatts of climate forcing averaged over the year.  Much of this heat energy is retained in the Arctic, causing ice to melt and sea and land temperatures to rise.  As temperatures rise, there will be slightly more thermal radiation into space, dissipating some of this energy.  However most of this heat energy will slowly dissipate across the planet - and 0.4 petawatts is equivalent to half the forcing producing by anthropogenic CO2 emissions (1.6 watts per square metre).  Peter Wadhams has estimated that the sea ice retreat by itself is equivalent to the forcing from 20 years of CO2 emissions, thus making it much more difficult for the global temperature to be kept below the so-called safe limit of 2 degrees warming.

However these long term effects are somewhat academic, if the immediate impact is to raise food prices far above a safe level.

It is much easier to think about and quantify the longer term impacts of Arctic warming than the more immediate impacts.  This is a trap for the unwary.  Therefore AMEG is trying to bring the world's attention to the immediate impacts, as they turn out to be colossal even this year, and are likely to be worse in 2013 and even worse than that in 2014.

It is clear that abrupt climate change has started, but not in the way we had been told to expect.  Yes, there would be more climate extremes as the planet heated, but we were expecting a linear or near linear behaviour of the climate system, with gradual temperature change over the century.  Instead we have striking non-linearity, with exponential growth in frequency and severity of climate extremes.  This non-linearity is almost certain to have arisen from the exponential decline in sea ice, as shown in the PIOMAS sea ice volume trend.  The trend is for September ice to fall to zero by 2015.  Thus we can expect one month without sea ice in 2015, with the possibility for this event in 2014 or even in 2013.

Apart from volcanic eruptions and earthquakes with their step changes of state, the behaviour of the sea ice is possibly the most non-linear part of the Earth System because the melting is a threshold process.  Until recently it was not well understood how the retreat of sea ice could cause a commensurate increase in weather extremes.  But now it has become clear.

The retreat of sea ice is causing a non-linear rise in Arctic temperature, so that it is now rising at about 1 degree per decade, which is about 6x faster than global warming, reckoned to be rising at between 0.16 and 0.17 degree per decade.  The temperature gradient between the tropics and the Arctic has reduced significantly over the past decade, as a result of this so-called ‘Arctic amplification of global warming’.

It now appears that the polar jet stream behaviour is critically dependent on this gradient.  As the gradient diminishes, the jet stream meanders more, with greater amplitude of the Rossby waves and therefore with peaks further north and troughs further south.  This effect alone produces weather extremes - hot weather further north than normal and cold weather further south than normal.

But as well as meandering more, the jet stream is also tending to get stuck in so-called 'blocking patterns', where, instead of moving gradually eastwards, the jet stream wave peak or wave trough stays in much the same place for months.  This blocking may be due to stationary highs over land mass and lows over ocean, with the jet stream weaving round them.  Here we may be a witnessing of a dynamic interaction between the effects of Arctic amplification and global warming.

Note that there was a similar dynamic interaction in the case of Sandy.  Ocean surface warmed by global warming lent strength to the hurricane and provided a northerly storm track up the coast; and then a sharp left turn over New York was prompted by meeting a jet stream blocking pattern.

As a climate scientist, one might have expected a reduced gradient between tropics and pole to have some effect on weather systems, because there is less energy to drive them.  The normal pattern comprises 3 bands of weather systems around the planet for each hemisphere, with each band having 'cells' of circulating air.  The air rises at the tropics, falls at the next boundary, rises at the next, and falls at the pole.  There has to be an odd number of bands, so that there is air rising at the equator and falling at the poles.  The jet streams are at the boundary between the bands.

As the temperature gradient between tropics and pole reduces, one would expect the weather systems to spread in a chaotic manner, meandering more wildly.  This is exactly what has been observed.

The sticking of the jet stream must be associated with non-uniformities of surface topology and heat distribution.  Thus highs and/or lows are getting stuck over some feature or other, while the jet stream meanders around them.

Thus there is a reasonable explanation for how we are getting weather extremes, simply as a result of a reduced temperature gradient between Arctic and tropics.   Another argument that has been given, most notably by Professor Hansen, is that the extreme weather events are simply a result of global warming - i.e. a general rise in temperature over the whole surface of the planet.  Global warming can indeed explain a gradual increase in the average intensity of storms (whose energy is derived from sea surface warming) and in the peaks of temperature for heat waves.  But global warming does not explain the observed meandering of the jet stream and associated weather extremes, both hot/dry and cold/wet, whereas the warming of the Arctic can explain these observations.  Furthermore the non-linear warming of the Arctic can explain the non-linear increase of extreme events.

Since this hypothesis seems reasonable, it is fitting that the precautionary principle should be applied when it comes to trends.  The forecasting of extreme events must take into account the trend towards more extreme events as the Arctic warms.  And the Arctic is liable to be warm about twice as fast in 2015 as it in 2012, because of sea ice retreat.

This all adds up to a picture of abrupt climate change in the Arctic, now spreading to the Northern Hemisphere and soon to afflict the whole planet.  These changes must be halted and then reversed.  Meanwhile the effect on food security must be handled before the whole situation gets much worse.

Handling the food crisis

What should a country do, when faced by such a grave food crisis?  The immediate response may be to become introspective and try and insulate the country from what is happening in the rest of the world.  For a country like the UK, this is difficult, because of importing 40% of food and much of its energy requirements, such as natural gas from Kuwait.  For the US, self-sufficiency has been a goal for energy, but there is a food problem from weather extremes, which particularly seem to affect the country.

For countries which have been net exporters of basic foodstuffs, the response may be to halt exports, as Russia did for wheat recently to protect its citizens but pushing up the food price index in the process.  If this type of response is widespread, then a vicious cycle of food price increase and protectionism could develop, with a stifling of world trade and an increase in strife between countries.

But what people must not do is to ignore the non-linear trends and blame the weather extremes either on random fluctuations or on essentially linear effects such as global warming.  The danger is that governments will do nothing at all to address the underlying cause of the linearity, which lies in the vicious cycle of Arctic warming and sea ice retreat.

We believe that a sensible strategy is two-fold: to deal with the symptoms of the disease and the cause of the disease.

The most conspicuous symptoms are floods, droughts, food price increase, security of food supply and food shortages.  Less conspicuous are the effects of food price increase on global unrest and the spread of disease among humans, animals and plants.  Water shortages may also be a growing issue in many countries. The changing frequency, severity, path and predictability of tropical storms (hurricanes, typhoons, monsoons, etc) will be a major issue for many countries, especially those with large coastal conurbations and those who depend on regular monsoons. Coastal regions and cities that have hitherto been immune to such storms may suffer great damage, as happened with Sandy to New York and could happen to Dubai.

Countries which rely heavily on one crop for income are liable to be heavily hit by weather changes.

By studying trends, one can estimate how quickly the situation is likely to deteriorate.  One can see an exponential rise in extreme weather events, and the food price index is liable to follow this trend because of reduced agricultural productivity.

The price of food is dependent on a number of factors besides agricultural productivity, and these are under human control.

The policy of “food for fuel” has undoubtedly driven up the price of food, so this policy needs to be changed.  Biofuel can still be part of policy, but must come from sustainable sources and without competing with food. For example biofuel from the biochar process can actually benefit food production, because the residue from heating biomass and producing the biofuel is a form of charcoal that can be used for improving soils, water retention, and crop yields.

An important factor in the price of food is the price of oil, because of use of oil in agriculture, not only for farm machinery and food transport but also for artificial fertiliser.   Unfortunately much oil comes from countries where much of the population is on the bread line, so the social unrest from food price increase can shut down access to the oil which further pushes up the cost of food in a vicious cycle.

Speculation on the price of oil can be a major factor in producing spikes in the food price index, so this needs to be discouraged in some way.  Similarly speculation on food commodities needs to be discouraged.

Perhaps the most important factor is management of food stocks, seed stocks, planting practice (use of monoculture, GM crops, etc.), timing of planting and irrigation.  The timing becomes increasingly problematic as global weirding increases and weather becomes more unpredictable.  There needs to be advice to farmers on how to cope – e.g. by judicious diversification and reduced reliance on single crop planting.

Cooling the Arctic

Dealing with the underlying cause of the climate extremes turns out to be even more important than dealing with the consequences on food security, because the underlying cause is a process which is gaining momentum and could become unstoppable in 2013.

In effect, we are approaching a point of no return, after which it will be impossible to rescue the situation.

The speed of action is required because of the speed of sea ice retreat.  All indications are that there will be a major collapse of sea ice next year, with a new record minimum.  And September 2015 is likely to be virtually sea ice free.

This is the inescapable evidence from the PIOMAS sea ice volume data.

Even if there were no danger from passing a point of no return, rapid action would be worthwhile because of the financial and human cost of the abrupt climate change.

The only chance of halting this abrupt climate change in its tracks is to cool the Arctic, and prevent Arctic amplification disrupting the jet stream more than it is at the moment.  Delay to such action would cost around a trillion dollars per year and put a billion people into starvation.

Figure 3 ~ The trend analysis of PIOMAS data

The target should be to prevent a new record low of sea ice extent next year (2013).  This involves providing sufficient cooling power into the Arctic to offset the warming which has built up as the sea ice has retreated.  This warming is due to the “albedo flip effect” and is estimated as being up to 0.4 petawatts averaged over the year.  This warming has to be countered by an equal cooling power, if the target is to be met.

This is a colossal engineering and logistics challenge.  A war effort on developing, testing and deploying geoengineering techniques would be justified to meet the target.

Cloud effects that could be exploited to cool the Arctic

Clouds have effects in opposite directions: reflecting sunshine back into space and reflecting thermal radiation back to Earth.  The former cools, the latter heats.  Geoengineering tries to enhance the former and/or diminish the latter, to alter the balance towards cooling.  The balance is critically dependent on the droplet size: there is an optimum size for reflecting sunlight, as for the particles to make white paint.  Particles much larger than this will reflect thermal radiation strongly.

When the sun is high in the sky, the balance is towards cooling by reflection of sunlight; but when the sun is low in the sky, the balance is towards heating by reflection of thermal radiation.  Thus techniques for cloud brightening tend not to work well in winter at high latitudes.  

Clouds also can produce snow which will generally increase albedo to around 0.85 where it falls; whereas rain will generally reduce albedo by melting any snow and by forming puddles or pools on land or ice surfaces.  However, rain or snow falling through a dusty atmosphere can darken the surface on which it falls.  Hence the black carbon from tundra fires may have some sunshine reflecting effect while in the atmosphere, but then reduce albedo when it’s washed out.

There are a number of different things to do with clouds: create them (typically as a haze), brighten them, extend their life, reduce them by precipitation (rain or snow), or reduce them by evaporation.  

Perhaps the simplest form of geoengineering is to create a haze.  Particles or fine droplets of haze in the troposphere tend to get washed out of the air within days or weeks, whereas if they are in the stratosphere they can last for months or even a few years, depending on their initial altitude and latitude.  The stratosphere Brewer-Dobson meridional circulation has air slowly moving in an arc from lower latitudes to higher latitudes, see

By judicial choice of quantity, altitude and latitude for injection of aerosols, one can obtain a much longer cooling effect in the stratosphere than in the troposphere. Thus one needs much less aerosol in the stratosphere to produce the equivalent effect in the troposphere.  Note that the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 produced a global cooling of 0.5 degrees C over a period of two years.

Providing cloud condensation nuclei (CNN) of the right size can brighten clouds without significantly affecting their lifetime. Sulphate aerosol in the troposphere produce both a reflective haze and CNN. These combined effects from aerosol ‘pollution’ have masked global warming by as much as 75%.  If all coal-fired power stations were shut down, there would be a significant decrease in aerosol cooling and an upward leap in the rate of global warming.

Three preferred cooling techniques

A combination of three cooling techniques is proposed, to give flexibility in deployment and maximise the chances of success:
  • stratospheric aerosols to reflect sunlight;
  • cloud brightening to reflect more sunlight;
  • cloud removal to allow thermal radiation into space.

The first technique mimics the action of large volcanoes such as Mt Pinatubo which erupted in 1991 and had a cooling effect of 0.5 degrees C over 2 years due to the sulphate aerosols it produced in the stratosphere.  However larger particles in the aerosol are liable to reflect thermal radiation from the planet surface, hence having a warming effect.  To avoid this, there is an advantage in using TiO2 particles, as used in white paint.  These can be engineered to a constant size, and coated to produce required properties, such as not sticking to one another. Large quantities could be dispersed at high latitudes in the lower stratosphere either using stratotankers or balloons, to have an effect lasting a few months during spring, summer and early autumn.  Due to circulating winds, the aerosol will spread around the latitude where it has been injected.

Cloud brightening is a technique whereby a very fine salt spray is produced from special spray nozzles mounted on a ship, and gets wafted up to clouds where it increases their reflective power.  Whereas stratospheric particles can provide blanket cooling at particular latitudes, the brightening technique can be used to cool particular locations, using sophisticated modelling to decide when and where is best to do the spraying.

The third cooling techniques involves removing certain high clouds during the months of little or no sunshine when they are having a net blanketing effect – reflecting heat back to the ground.

Additional techniques should be considered for more local cooling, especially by increasing surface albedo; for example one could increase snowfall over land or brighten water by injection of tiny bubbles. Another technique is to break up the sea ice in autumn and winter, which has the effect of thickening the ice and producing what looks like multi-year ice.  A very promising approach is to reduce currents carrying water into the Arctic Ocean, in particular the partial damming of the Bering Strait.

Note that all the above techniques are expected to enhance the Arctic ecosystem, which is in danger of sharp decline as a result of sea ice collapse.

Local measures to save the sea ice

There are a number of physical ways to reduce loss of sea ice:
  • corral the ice when it is liable to break up and float into warmer waters
  • reduce wave action at the edges
  • replace or cool warmer surface water using colder water from beneath
  • thicken the ice by shoving ice on the water onto other ice
  • thicken the ice by adding water on top to freeze
  • thicken the ice by adding snow (which may also brighten it)
  • add a layer of white granules or reflecting sheet.

The last of these can also be used for retaining snow.  It could be used on the Greenland Ice Sheet to preserve snow and ice.  (AMEG founder member, Professor Peter Wadhams, has co-authored a paper on the subject, to be presented at AGU.  He has also done work on how tabular icebergs break off at the edges.)

Pulling out all the stops, whatever

There is one thing that we do know can produce an appropriate amount of cooling power: the sulphate aerosol in the troposphere, as emitted from coal-fired power stations and from ship bunker fuel.  This aerosol has offset CO2 warming by around 75% in the past century.  There should be a temporary suspension of initiatives and regulations to suppress these emissions, while they are having a significant cooling effect in the Northern Hemisphere, unless human health is at risk.

Much attention should be given to short-lived climate forcing agents, such as methane.  There should be a moratorium on drilling in the Arctic, as proposed by the UK Environment Audit Committee in their report “Protecting the Arctic”, September 2012.

Measures to reduce black carbon should be taken.  There should be teams of fire-fighters set up to take prompt action on tundra fires, which produce black carbon, methane and carbon monoxide – all undesirable.

More direct means to deal with weather anomalies

Cloud brightening and wave pump technology can be used to cool the surface of the sea in specific areas.  This technology holds promise to reduce the power of hurricanes and other storms, but might also be used to produce precipitation where needed or dampen oscillations of the planet’s climate system, e.g. ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation).

More direct means to deal with methane emissions

AMEG realises that there is a problem of growing methane emissions from the high latitude wetlands and from permafrost which is thawing, both on land and under the sea bed.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so we have been investigating how to suppress methane and methane production.  We have some valuable ideas, based on use of diatoms in water treatment.  The water treatment means that fish can thrive where previously the water was brackish.  Thus, not only is methane suppressed, but fish farming becomes possible on a very large scale at very low cost.   Increasing food production is going to become paramount in a warming world with a growing population.

Modelling and monitoring

Essential to all geoengineering deployment is good modelling of the climate system. Unfortunately, none of the global climate models deal with the speed of events in the Arctic.  It is essential to have a good understanding of the processes at work.  Part of the war effort to meet the geoengineering target must be devoted to improving the models.

Similarly there must be adequate monitoring facilities to ascertain the effects of geoengineering, and prevent inadvertent negative impacts.  Some satellites which could supply appropriate monitoring are nearing the end of life or coming out of service, so must be replaced as quickly as possible.

Not an end to the story

Cooling the Arctic is not the only step that is required to save civilisation from fatal consequences of mankind’s interference with the Earth System, but it is prerequisite.  Assuming the sea ice is restored, global temperatures could still rise too high, oceans acidify too much or rainforests dry out and burn down.  AMEG supports efforts to deal with such matters.

But cooling the Arctic is the first emergency response strategy.


This is in two parts: firstly interventions for adjustment/restoration/repair of critical Earth System components, especially in the Arctic; and secondly the food crisis, especially the  politics of dealing with the situation such to avoid vicious cycles that could jeopardise stability of food production or lead to panic among peoples.

Something akin to a war room needs to be set up, bring experts from all the relevant fields, in order to brainstorm on the problems and possible ways forward.

Interventions in the Earth System

These interventions can be viewed as adjustments, restoration and repair of critical Earth System components.  Examples include cooling the Arctic, restoring the sea ice and returning polar jet stream behaviour to a more acceptable mode.

For each intervention there may need to be modelling to predict effects and effectiveness and to anticipate problems arising. Correspondingly there needs to be observations, monitoring and measuring of results.  The observation of process and the measurement data obtained should be fed back into the models to improve them.

As for appropriate interventions, there are a number of things to do immediately in parallel:

  1. Consider practices and regulations that are having, or risk having, a heating effect on the Arctic.  A postponement of drilling in the Arctic would be sensible, because of inevitable escape of methane but also because of the risk of blowout with or without oil spill. 
  2. Try to maintain or even enhance the current cooling effect from currently emitted sulphate aerosols in the troposphere at mid to high northern latitudes.  For example the regulation to ban bunker fuel for ships should be relaxed while encouraging continued use of bunker fuel where the resulting aerosol emissions might be beneficial.  Reduction of sulphate aerosol ‘pollution’ will be unpopular with many environment groups, but the priority to cool the Arctic has to be established.
  3. Establish the positive and negative net forcing from contrails, and encourage flight paths of commercial airplanes to reduce positive or increase negative net forcing.  The ban on polar flights, lifted recently, should be reintroduced.
  4. Reduce black carbon into Arctic.  Make for preparedness to fight tundra fires in Arctic and sub-Arctic. 
  5. Find ways to remove black carbon from coal fired power stations, while allowing or compensating for the cooling effect that their aerosol emissions would be producing without the scrubbing out of sulphur compounds.

Geoengineering actions for enhancing the reflection of sunlight back into space and for increasing the thermal energy emitted into space.

  1. Prepare the supply and logistics for spraying aerosol precursor in large quantities, preferably into the lower stratosphere, for deployment by next March or April (not sooner because the risk of ozone depletion).  Of course, possible negative impacts have to be considered before large scale deployment, but it is worth being fully prepared for such deployment on the assumption that this technique can be made to work effectively.
  2. Develop and test the deployment of suitably reflective particles, of such materials as TiO2, as alternative or supplement to sulphate aerosol.  Prepare for large scale deployment.   
  3. Finance the development of, and deployment capability for, marine cloud brightening, with a view to deployment on a large scale in spring 2013 - assuming that is the earliest conceivable time.  The main technical problem seems to be with the jets, so experts from major companies in the ink-jet technology field need to be brought in.  Boats and land installations need to be kitted out.
  4. Finance the development and deployment capability for cirrus cloud removal, since this is a promising technique.  Suitable chemicals need to be identified/confirmed, with stock-piling of these cloud seeding chemicals.  Aircraft need to be kitted out to spray these chemicals.
  5. Finance brainstorming sessions for geoengineering, with top scientists and engineers, such as to suggest further measures, improvements to above techniques and the development of other intervention ideas.
  6. Finance the research and trials of all promising techniques for helping to cool the Arctic, including the three geoengineering techniques above.  Update Earth System models to deal with the actualities of sea ice retreat, such that the effects of different techniques can be modelled and optimum joint deployment strategies established.

Measures to reduce more specific risks from Arctic warming:

  1. Finance the research and trials of promising techniques for dealing with methane, especially the reduction of methane from wetlands draining into the Arctic.  Use of diatoms to promote methanotrophs (and healthy conditions for fish) is one such technique.
  2. Finance the research and trials of promising techniques for dealing with surface melt of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and for reducing the speed of ice mass discharge.  The latter is accelerated by warm water at the sea termination of glaciers; therefore consideration should be given to techniques to cool this water.
  3. Consider techniques for reducing Arctic storms and their strength.  Techniques should be developed for reducing the frequency and severity of tropical storms, such as to minimise damage, especially to agriculture and low-lying conurbations.
  4. Consider techniques for un-sticking of blocked weather patterns.
  5. Consider techniques for improving surface albedo of sea, lakes, snow and ice by brightening water with bubbles, covering snow and ice with white granules or sheets to prolong albedo, draining pools on ice, forming ice on pools, depositing snow on ice (as fresh snow has a higher albedo) and on land, discouraging growth of plants with low albedo, etc.  

Note that a new idea for improving surface albedo has been suggested in a paper to the AGU 2012, supported by AMEG founder member, Peter Wadhams..  His research on iceberg calving has led to ideas for reducing discharge of ice from the GIS.

A word of warning about finance of research, development and field trials: it is important that the results of such activities are independent, unbiased and free from financial interest.

Food security actions

Immediate actions to be initiated:

  1. Overall there is an immediate requirement for all major governments to establish an emergency ‘watchdog’ committee for internal and world food security issues. This committee should have direct access to the leadership of individual nations and include their UN Ambassador. The associated costs, in terms of humanitarian impacts alone, should warrant this move. When the assessed cost of the potentially associated national economic factors are weighed, there should be little disagreement regarding the necessity for establishing this ‘watchdog’ committee.
  2. The US Renewable Fuels Standard (“RFS”), a provision of the US Energy Policy Act of 2005, should be evaluated for a temporary stay. Depending entirely on the US corn harvest, this could transfer between 4 to 5 billion bushels back to the food market. That would reduce upward price pressure in the cereals markets and further assist by suppressing speculation in that area of food commodities.
  3. The European Renewable Energy Directive 2009/28/EC should similarly be reviewed and measures put in place to temporarily divert all relevant crops from the fuel to the food market.
  4. In both cases outlined in points 3 & 4 the emphasis should be on ‘temporary emergency measures’ and should only be applicable to crops that can be diverted to the food chain.
  5. A general directive should be agreed between all nations at the UN to prohibit the sale of OTC derivatives, in any nation, by any ‘seller’, that have any content relative to food commodities. This action will assist in dissuading institutional investors speculating in food commodities.
  6. If the crisis deepens point 4 should be further reinforced by prohibiting futures contracts in food commodities being sold to any entity who will not take actual delivery of the contracted goods. Great care will be necessary with this proposal as it is known that hedge funds, and investment banks, have established warehousing to control certain commodity pricing. Typical examples are the attempted 2010 cornering of the world cocoa market by a UK hedge fund and the current Goldman Sachs control of the US aluminium market.
  7. An alternative international seed bank must be created to provide seeds for subsistence farmers; ones that are devoid of the ‘terminator’ gene. In periods of high crop failure the inability to harvest seeds for the coming year has a crippling impact on subsistence farmers. Note that it is estimated 160,000 Indian farmers alone have committed suicide since 1967 due in part to this situation.

Following the launch of AMEG’s ‘Strategic Plan’ the above actions will be communicated to all world leaders and relevant parties in the form of an ‘Essential Action Plan’ to match the pending circumstances of the change in the world’s weather patterns.

For further details, see the website of the Arctic Methane Emergency Group at or contact AMEG Chair John Nissen at: