Some summary points:
- Total amount of methane in the current atmosphere: ~5 gigatons
- Amount of carbon preserved as methane in the arctic shelf: estimated at 100s-1000s of gigatons
- Only 1% release would double the atmospheric burden of methane
- Not much effort is needed to destabilize this 1%
- The volume currently being released is estimated at 50 gigatons (it could be far more)
- 50 gigatons is 10x the methane content of the current atmosphere
- We are already at 2.5x pre-industrial level, there is a methane veil spreading southward from the arctic.
- Methane is 150x as powerful a greenhouse gas as CO2 when it is first released.
Here is a longer video for those who have the time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPdc75epOEw
Regardless of what the half-life is, what you say is true about the concentration of methane. It is so much better at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, though, that even over a 100 year time frame, it will warm the earth 34 times more than carbon dioxide would. (https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/understanding-global-warmin...)
So if you use 34x that 1,000ppb is only 39,000 vs 124,000 meaning it's significantly less important overall contribution. It would need to reach ~4,347ppb to cause as much impact as CO2 has which is in nobody's projections that I have seen.
PS: "Methane has a large effect (24 times as strong as carbon dioxide per unit mole) for a brief period (having an estimated lifetime of 8.9±0.6 years in the atmosphere)" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane So, if it's lifetime is ~8.3-9.5 years it's half life is around 1/2 that. However, I have also seen a lot of other numbers tossed around and most people want to make it seem much more important even if it's been rising very slowly.
The 34x potential I gave is for methane over a hundred years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming_potential
It's incredibly potent stuff, so much that despite the relatively quick breakdown, an initial mass of methane will have a warming effect that is 20-35x that of an equivalent mass of carbon dioxide over a century. GWP numbers take the brief half-life of methane into account when calculated. You're making the mistake of looking at the absolute quantity of methane and short half-life, and thinking that it couldn't possibly have much of an effect. Well, people have already run the numbers, and it can have a huge effect.
Current rates of methane leaks from mining natural gas could very well offset the benefits of moving away from coal: http://blog.nature.org/science/2016/06/24/natural-gas-coal-l...
Methane's very bad news, even in small quantities.
Anyway, your first link says " In the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane has a lifetime of 12.4 years" (If that's X ln(2) for half life it's 8.6 years)
"This means that a methane emission will have 28 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmospheric_methane
PS: As to small quantities, we are talking about billions of tons of a gas.
Methane should be easier to take out of the atmosphere than CO2. Spraying something at the Stratosphere could be incredibly helpful even if the substance is short lived. (But I have no idea what to spray there, would water make any difference?)
They're all in play, each with the potential to end us.
At least for our class of life: organic. Organic life naturally evolved & so all intelligent organic life lives on top of a pile of stored chemical energy (oil / coal / methane gas)
Organic life evolves through competition and so when chemical energy is discovered it is rapidly used, most often faster than such intelligent life can figure out what a truly bad idea that is.
Once they realize, it's too late. Runaway climate change is occurring. And this ends the intelligent life.
The Fermi paradox requires it to be extremely unlikely to survive, but you could imagine scenarios on other worlds where the right kind of political situation was around to stop it.
Edit: and we affect our environment more, which is always a battle with our level of understanding to manage that. Right now it's the climate. One day it could be the sun.
Ironically one of the more likely ways an individual could end humanity (in the future) is via the haphazard or malicious creation of said robots.
If all it takes is someone to execute a bootstrapping process on a large amount of computers, we're in trouble. There's no 100% reliable way to prevent that short of what you said: handing over the keys. It would require the creation of an entity so omnipotent and powerful that it may as well be considered a god.
Another way to look at it is the creation of an operating system kernel for humanity itself, with each individual human being akin to a user-land process.
I can't imagine that. The only evidence I have to date (from a sample size of 1 planet) is that there is next to zero real political will, even if the politicians of the world create additional heat saying they have in fact found the political will.
I agree, it's unlikely a massive change can happen through a political shift (which happen only generally in revolutions and civil wars). A cultural change, however, is completely feasible.
If Facebook for instance turned into a zero-carbon marketing machine I'm pretty sure they could convince the planet to shift gears in consumption. Is the any plausible scenario where they would do this? I suppose if the global catastrophe could be computed as certainly as a trajectory of a asteroid that was about to hit earth - maybe.
And we ourselves are not that far from being able to deal reasonably with problems like this. If nothing else were different about us, except that average IQ were, say, 120 on the current scale, I think we'd be able to respond sensibly to non-immediate threats.
Some rules are universal, because they're thermodynamic. That's not to say that your species of intelligent individuals is impossible, but it is unlikely. When you really take the time to think through these scenarios, you often find that there is no justification to assume that exceptional intelligence would evolve.
If you're arguing against that suggestion, it seems you would have to be arguing that human intelligence exists at a level that is nestled directly up against some kind of hard thermodynamic limit, even though a non-trivial portion of our species already exists on the other side of that line. I don't see how that argument could plausibly be made.
But, like you say, we don't know we're screwed, so it's a lot of supposition.
If you don't think 20 IQ points make a significant difference, consider some questions: do you believe that the average IQ 100 person is more or less likely than the average IQ 120 person to be concerned about global climate change? What about IQ 100 vs. IQ 80? If IQ numbers have no tangible meaning to you, do you expect the average Walmart shopper to be more or less concerned about climate change than the average graduate student (in any field at all, your choice: agricultural engineering just as much as climatology or gender studies).
Case in point - Silicon Valley has probably an average IQ around 120-130. How many truly planet-saving innovations have been created there? I mean, you fail to eradicate powerty in SF, your backyard. Because why bother if creating ever new and exciting ways to share cat pictures is infinitely more personally rewarding in the short run and who gives a f about anything else?
So, my point is, higher IQ is not a solution in and of itself, since human nature - instinct to care about oneself first and foremost, will still be present. This instinct can be only tamed by education, culture and political and social structures that promote common good. The chances that a society will evolve these kinds of structures is a toss-up. It is a lot more likely that the outcome will be exactly the same as what we see now - much like adding a 1.2 multiplier to all stats for both mobs and pcs in a computer game - numbers are different, but it is still the same game.
The key is culture, and education, and conscious work towards better social, economic and political structures. But I am quite sure that we will all kill ourselves a long time before any of that will happen.
I agree with you that the mechanisms through which greater awareness and active concern for seemingly abstract problems will trickle into the global zeitgeist are things like education, culture, and social/political structures. But where do those come from, and what allows people to perceive their value and meaning? You can't teach people things that you don't understand, and they can't learn things that they can't understand. Better cultural and social structures are a result of better understanding; better understanding is more common with brains that are better able to perceive patterns and project consequences.
But we choose not to. There are loads of VERY smart people in the top positions of gigantic multinationals. They do not lack for IQ, or for information that without a shadow of doubt informs them about the long-term consequences of their actions. They choose, daily, to apply their IQ and information not to create solutions that would benefit humanity as a whole, but to maximize the short-term gains for themselves and (hopefully) their shareholders. The reasons for this behaviour are multitudinous and complex, but I would argue that lack of IQ is not a major contributing factor, quite the opposite.
And all that could still fall in the category of "fine, whatever", if in their greed they would not actively destroy the education system already in place, because people who lack basic knowledge and tools for critical thinking are that much easier to manipulate. Again, it is not the lack of IQ that is the issue, it is the knowledge and exercise it has been exposed to. I myself have an IQ well above average (Mensa member), but before I found out about heuristics, biases and critical thinking, and learned to apply them, I was an easy prey for "mediums", "spiritual guides" and other "new age" crap.
TL;DR people are easy to manipulate regardless of their IQ, if they haven't had an opportunity to learn to use it.
My 11 year old nephew sprained his ankle a few weeks ago playing basketball, badly enough that he started walking in an odd way to compensate for the discomfort. He kept playing sports, including soccer on a rough grass field, every day at school recess, despite us having talks several times about how he needs to stay off it and let it recover or else he risks causing lasting damage. He nods and says, "I know" when I tell him that, but he keeps doing it. I think we are collectively much the same: we 'know', but we don't really believe that the abstract, distant bad thing will ever really happen to us.That is not understanding. That is lip service.
My argument isn't that IQ makes every individual behave better - it is the statistical argument that if the population average went up 20 points (and that number is one I just threw out, but I do think it's close), then we might cross a tipping point where there would then be enough people who take abstract, distant bad things seriously enough to take meaningful action, to form a significantly politically effective bloc.
you mean the thing that allows any of those other things you listed matter at all?
and with all those abilities, it may make no difference, so there's no evidence that the difference in intelligence between yeast and humans is sufficient to save us. then why would 20 more points do it? and if yeast survive but people don't, what then? the point is in both the case of the yeast in the bottle and the human case our drive for survival kills us when we move into sudden abundance. greater average intelligence would just bring that abundance on faster.
since we can't seem to steer this ship, we're at the mercy of the currents. despite all our metaphors and plans and concern about global climate change we don't seem able to do anything. is there much of a difference in carbon footprint between your average walmart shopper and your average graduate student, concern notwithstanding?
20 points on average might push enough people from "unable to genuinely perceive long-term threats as threats" to "able to genuinely perceive long-term threats as threats", that it would move us past the political tipping point of collectively caring enough about doing something meaningful to both figure out what to do (devote money and resources to research) and to do it.
Individual carbon footprints are not meaningful - it doesn't matter how well an individual paddles their canoe when that canoe is in a swimming pool on a cruise liner. What matters is how the liner is piloted. If all people suddenly disappeared off the earth, except for those people who happened to be standing in Walmarts at the time, do you think that society would be better or worse at recognizing and handling abstract, long-term threats like global warming than the society composed only of graduate students would be?
* Polio eradication
* The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer/Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
Both are examples of multi-state cooperation that dealt with serious world-spanning issues, the Polio eradication has had the most immediate impact, but Ozone Layer depletion has been checked and the numbers will trend down to 1980s levels over the next 20 years.
There are still polio cases today but pretty much only in areas ruled by death cults who don't care whether their people live or die. So game theory isn't a factor there.
In fact, it could be at the point of single cell --> multi-cellular organisms or at the point of sexual dimorphism or developing general intelligence and ability to use tools, etc.
I guess it's also possible there are multiple Great Filters...
Famine and drought would be localized so we can use international trade to smooth them over, just like we currently do. For long term failures, there will always be other arable places to grow crops, they just might be fewer or more inconvenient than they currently are, and they'll change at an easy human scale speed. China has a 300,000,000 migrant worker population. That's all of the US population migrating every year!
We currently produce far more food than we need, so even losing a big part of production capacity will still leave us with enough to eat, but perhaps with less meat or seafood for poor people.
Also saying that poor people can just not eat meat or seafood seems a bit distasteful; not that you might be wrong.
WW2 was quite dangerous in the sense, it put a very serious problem in front. Say you nuke a nation, the nation refuses to surrender. The issue is you need to keep nuking till you finish them off. That will not just finish off your enemies but a lot of planet along the way.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
The key in the above statement is : "Should we continue to fight".
Notice how 'continuing to fight' is an option there. This sort of stuff is scary as it is.
You can't exactly defeat enemies by weapons if they refuse to give up. The only option then is continue, you then cause larger damage to the planet and biological species.
Things like deaths of mesoamerican civs due to destroying their environment http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/03/0313_030313_.... Or all of america after 2nd european invasion. Ever hear of the mississippi mound builders? I'd expect not since there civ was totally wiped out.
And civ bending doesn't mean everyone's dead. Just large enough population drop to break the institutions and social order supported by that population.
After you've read them, do check out https://www.reddit.com/r/SF_Book_Club/comments/2hzpmt/echopr... .
If 50x current methane levels are released over 100 years, then at steady state you have added 0.5x/year * 7 years, or 3.5x current methane levels, bringing the total to 4.5x.
Exponential decay implies that the rate at which methane disappears is equal to the total amount divided by the average lifetime, so with an additional 0.5 / year, you reach a steady state when (total amount / average lifetime) = (0.5 / year), hence when the total amount is 3.5. Assuming we already were in a steady state initially there should be an additional 1/7 / year from natural sources bringing the total to 4.5.
You mean the Republicans get voted out of office completely and the other party isn't completely incompetent? On that day.
The Dems are already cleaning up their act, and if the system works, and Trump is impeached for treason, the GOP will need to clean house too.
We might just end up with an actual, honest to goodness, functioning democracy in the U.S. as politicians seek to regain trust.
This is not unrelated. This is directly related.
If the US was some little country in the Pacific where they could do whatever they wanted with little consequence it wouldn't matter, but they're not. They're one of the largest polluters in the world and the largest economy, so it's absolutely important that they steer in the right direction to avoid disaster.
Currently the fossil fuels industries and other "old school" extraction industries tend to align with the Republican party in the United States.
The issue is less "Republican party" and more those certain industries that stubbornly resist the notion a concept that could damage their businesses. I get the impression, for instance, that the much-maligned Koch family privately is aware of climate change. However, being in an industry that would be impacted by any regulatory push, they put up all psychological blinders to not only deny it -- but actively pursue an agenda against it. And they are not the only extraction industry leaders that do this.
That Upton Sinclair quote comes to mind: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it".
I do not know if there is a similar situation in other countries; it's going to take more than just United States industry direction to slow down climate change, after all.
And the politicians actively choose to maintain, and reinforce, the policies and actions which contribute to that difference.
They couldn't be more wrong.
Not once has there been an "oh, it wasn't as bad as we thought" moment. It's always worse.
It's going to be bad. A little panic is not a bad thing. If we panic for nothing that's better than brushing it off and having the worst possible outcome unfold because of inaction.
It's always lose/lose for the skeptics:
Scenario A: skeptics were wrong - "burn them at the stake, they screwed us all over!"
Scenario B: skeptics were right - "well, they got lucky. It wasn't as apocalyptic as experts were claiming. They were still wrong to have rejected the evidence at hand and I was still right to have believed the evidence at hand"
If preventing climate change didn't cost anything, then nobody would be against it. But it will be pretty expensive and somebody will have to suffer to pay for that. That somebody probably doesn't want us to prevent it because they may well lose out, even in the long term.
Do you use any power generated by coal? Do you use a car or bus? Do you eat meat? If you do any of those things, it means preventing climate change is too expensive for you.
It doesn't. It just means shifting employment from one class of jobs to another class of jobs. Either you have people mining coal, or you have people making renewable power. Either you have people digging for oil, or you have people building batteries for elecric cars. You can steer the private sector with subsidies and incentives just as the have for the last hundred years.
Reducing emissions does not mean reducing employment. It means shifting. If you have two possible jobs that pay equally, one with high emissions and one with lower, incentivize the lower one. A carbon tax mechanism is one way to price the cost of emissions into the job and that naturally makes the lower emission one more rewarding.
> Do you use any power generated by coal?
No. We got off of coal about a decade ago. Now it's mostly nuclear, hydro-electric, and for boost, natural gas. The power company was able to phase out coal power plants ahead of schedule becaue power consumption has been declining, everything is getting more efficient.
> Do you use a car or bus?
> Do you eat meat?
Mostly chicken, occasionally fish. Some people eat astounding amounts of red meat and they're the ones that can move the needle the most. If they cut back by 20% that's a huge shift. If I cut back by 20% it's irrelvant.
Scenario A: We spend a ton of money and resources on combating climate change. Energy and fuel become more expensive. There is economic crisis in some areas of the word. There is large scale refugee migration. Some small proxy wars break out. We manage to stem climate change and even slightly reverse it back to a natural level. We keep our modern technology. We keep most of the cultural status quo. Maybe a couple hundred million people lose their lives due to indirect consequences. The Earth still spins. Coastal cities aren't underwater. There is no global famine. Climate change skeptics will complain that combating climate change was a bad idea because they didn't see the worst of it.
Scenario B: We decide to not try and combat climate change. We don't spend any money on it. We think "everything will work out". Everything goes on just like normal for a few decades. Climate change skeptics are saying "I told you so." The economy prospers. Technology improves. We continue our dependence on fossil fuels, continuously pumping carbon into the atmosphere. We continue dumping waste into the ocean. The permafrost continues to melt more and more every year. It's all so gradual that barely anyone notices. Coastal cliff faces in California start eroding and taking beach front property with them as the sea level rises. Farms at lower latitudes start having more and more of a difficult time producing good yields. There is less snow falling in the mountains meaning that come spring time there is less melt. This causes droughts in many parts of the world. This drought starts to impact farmers. The global food supply dwindles. We are noticing massive numbers of oceanic lifeforms start to die off. Fisheries are not able to keep up with the demand. There isn't enough feed for livestock. The global food supply falls even lower. The drought is getting worse over the years due to less snow melt. Smaller countries with sub-par infrastructure start seeing a massive exodus of their population. These refugees migrate to large developed nations causing cultural strife and putting a strain on their economy and food supply. This cultural and economic strain leads to warfare. This warfare leads to even larger migrations. Soon we have world war 3 in the midst of the greatest global famine and drought the world has ever seen. Billions of people die. Human civilization as we know it is destroyed. We regress culturally and technologically.
This is just one set of possible scenarios. So, I ask you; Why not spend a little bit of money now and avoid what is essentially the apocalypse later? Let's say I'm wrong. Let's say scenario B could never happen and climate change isn't as bad as we think it is. Well, you have insurance on your house, don't you? Your car? Think of combating climate change like car insurance. Even if an accident is unlikely, it's still nice to know that you have it covered if it does happen.
And while you're at it, you might want to cancel any insurance that you have. Afterall, what's the point? That will make more money available to blow.
If you care about your offspring, try not to reproduce. With the various positive feedback loops (permafrost methane, arctic albedo, antarctic ice shelves), things are going to get ugly.
You may be a multibillionaire on earth, but being able to sell widgets to the masses isn't a skill that's going to be needed (or appreciated) on Mars for quite a while. Cut off from your wealth, you're just another mouth to feed.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_power_stations_in_New_... - sort the hydroelectric by capacity - most of the major dams are in this area.
Nature is fairly dynamic, especially at the prokaryotic level.
Maybe it's methane, maybe not.
Take ocean clathrates, for example. At a certain point, the ocean may become warm enough to destabilize them. What do we do in that case? Put up collection tents over the ocean that are millions of square kilometers large? The problem just doesn't seem tractable.
But who knows? I'm certainly not the sort of engineer that is qualified to answer these questions.
that ignores the whole CH4 being a short term problem thing though...
|Water vapor and clouds |36–72% |
|Carbon dioxide | 9–26% |
|Methane | 4–9% |
|Ozone | 3–7% |
But CH4 is short lived, so the most important question is how fast it will be emitted. (And the second may be: could we make it even shorter lived?)
After all, this spells doomsday for the upcoming generations, so shouldn't it be the news that should be shown/covered almost everyday on the front page.
The people have the right to know that their children and grandchildren will suffer because of something that is going on right now. I guess, that majority of people, all over the world, are blissfully unaware of this scenario because this doesn't get the kind of attention in the MSM that it should. All they get served is dirty politics and gossip entertainment news.
Maybe people will force the policies to change if they get to know that this will happen.
It seems that most people today think that Terrorism is the main threat to our society, when in fact, Global Warming seems to be the real deal.
Let's say it was found that fifty years from now, an Asteroid would hit Earth. Would the people of Earth react in the same way as they are doing now?
Perhaps it is because of the influence of the largest industry in the world in terms of revenue: the petroleum industry. Money talks, or rather in this case, money hushes.
Where do you think the primary source of climate change denial propaganda comes from?
Donald Trump: https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/26589529219124838...
I don't know what to think anymore.
It just gets to go extinct? Shit deal for everything else living on this planet, maybe it should go "Zoo" on us in self defense.
As the late George Carlin once said: "The planet is fine. The people are fucked!"
I'm pretty sure other species will found a very welcome relief in the disappearance of humankind.
So yes it should be covered for many reasons.
- there's a whole lot of shades of grey between a hoax and a scientifically proven phenomenon.
- we don't need to be alarmed -- we can be just interested in something new and unusual.
Insufficient research to date does not mean the phenomenon doesn't exist or does not deserve attention.
P.S. This reminds me of the famous story about two economists walking down the street. One spots a $100 bill on the pavement and wants to pick it up. The other stops him saying: "that's just an illusion. If this were to happen, somebody would have picked it up already".
Alaska might have a similar problem, though on a much smaller scale.
First, I believe we are already well on path to sustainable energy. Let's be honest, any planet-wide change will take time, especially when affected by economic means. Granted, world-level dictatorship may achieve zero carbon emissions in a few decades, but I strongly doubt that that is what you want. On the other hand, renewables are surging even with our current level of technology. Any sudden technological breakthrough (be it batteries, fusion energy or room-temperature superconductance) will accelerate it even further, but it's not necessary for the transition. Humanity will surely switch to renewables in a century.
Second, consequences of rising global temperature are harsh, but in no way there are a "doomsday". Do you really believe that loosing Californian fertile grounds will end the humanity? We will adapt and so will the ecosystem in general. It may be costly and inconvenient, but people already live both in the desert (like Northern Australia) and in tundra (like Alaska). Not the end of the world.
Third, it's possible to drop global temperatures in a few months' time if direly needed. Ranging from orbital sunshades to tropospheric aerosols, solutions can be cheap and easy to deploy.
All in all, I strongly believe that your asteroid analogy is an over-exaggeration.
1. Renewables in a century? We'd have burned through a large chunk of buried by then. With massive degrees of warming
2. I'm not sure you understand likely warming scenarios. The world doesn't just warm a bit, then stay stable at a new normal. We are triggering runaway feedback effects. At a certain point, even if emissions are zero, the earth keeps warming.
3. This may be something we'll have to do. But it wouldn't stop ocean acidification, for one. Sealife is already dying mysteriously.
Not to get into any of the massive unknowns of manually controlling the atmosphere. Or the political difficulties of doing so while countries face famines from farmland losses and droughts, leading to migration on a scale vastly exceeding what we have now.
2. "Runaway" is relative and it will stabilize at some point. The particular point is debatable, but it's surely not a Venus-like environment (not until the Earth geology stops). Earth has seen much, much warmer times (palms-on-Antarctica-level warmer) and yet there was a thriving biosphere. Moreover, even the harshest predictions are on the scale of decades thanks to the immense thermal mass of oceans and atmosphere, compared to years if not months that we need to block a large part of incoming sunlight.
3. Ocean acidification is bad and a demise of the great barrier reef will be a pity, but it will not end humanity. Look at the comments around here: people are seriously considering mass-scale human extinction in a decades. Do you really believe that ocean acidification will lead to that, especially in the developed countries?
Sure, there will be political difficulties and mass migration. But it's challenges, not a sudden-death-from-above like an asteroid that GP invoked.
1. I actually think we'll keep burning all the carbon unless technology makes it economically inefficient to do so (because the alternatives are better). I guess by my critique here I meant to say that I thought your timeline would leave to worse results than you thought it would.
And no, I don't think we'll have human extinction from climate change.
But, I think the consequences will be dire. Right now we have a very large world population, and it's still growing. We're managing to feed ourselves now, but only tbrough great technical feats in agriculture that have increased yields. And we basically require all the land to do this, and a network of global trade in foods.
What happens when some portions of land become unusable? When droughts worsen? When war erupts due to food pressures and large crop areas can't have capital intensive techniques used on them? If war disrupts global trade?
I think our system is very fragile, and premised on continuous improvement.
Do you think a lot of people will die this century if we continue on our present course, or do you think we'll manage to produce enough food regardless?
Presumably you're referring to Aboriginal Australians and Inuit/Eskimo peoples?
It might be useful to note that these groups of people are known for their utmost respect toward nature, and the fact that their communities are largely sustenance based.
> Third, it's possible to drop global temperatures in a few months' time if direly needed. Ranging from orbital sunshades to tropospheric aerosols, solutions can be cheap and easy to deploy.
If this were truly the solution to global warming, I find it difficult to believe that no one has already done it.
Saying "can be cheap and easy to deploy" would lead me to think of this were actually true, Greenpeace would already be doing it.
I believe that your explanations don't stand up to overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Climate change is accelerating, and it is a big deal for our and future generations.
> I find it difficult to believe that no one has already done it
At this point there is no need to. The population that matters most politically (so-called "first world countries") are not affected by global warming enough to require drastic active measures. There is not enough political capital to be won in leading international talks on active Earth cooling. However, if the pain become real enough, talks will be held, rockets will be launched and the Earth will be cooled.
> Greenpeace would already be doing it
First, AFAIK Greenpeace is mostly against active measures. Second, "cheap and easy" is relative: it's "cheap and easy" as in "building a dam", not as in "occupying an oil rig".
Where do you think their food comes from, for example?
Isn't that basically the "chemtrails" conspiracy theory? The irony would be pretty entertaining if we ended up actually realizing that to combat climate change.
Aerosols, usually a sulfate, are particles, which block sunlight, like the ash from volcanic eruptions. Most eruptions put the ash into the troposphere where it sinks to Earth relatively quickly. By placing sulfates into the stratosphere, they become 100x longer lived, and thus a small amount can have a strong cooling effect.
Some kind of spamming operation? I have no idea.
Or maybe just some guy harvesting imaginary internet points.
MSM doesn't mention the hundreds of thousands of underwater volcanoes either.
Metaphorically speaking, we now have to consider the planetary equivalent of high-risk, high-cost surgery after mostly ignoring the planetary "stop smoking" advice experts have been giving for more than a generation.
Also, any large scale sequestration effort is going to be much harder if emissions continue unabated. We're past the point where prevention alone can stabilize atmospheric CO2 but we're never past the point where further anthropogenic emissions can make the problem even worse.
Naturally occurring silicates of magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium are thermodynamically prone to weather to carbonates in ambient conditions, when water absorbs CO2 and passes over rocks. In the case of magnesium and calcium in particular, the weathering leads to stable solids that will not spontaneously release CO2 again. A schematic example with calcium silicate:
CO2 + CaSiO3 -> SiO2 + CaCO3
• The end state is naturally stable. You don't have to worry about the leakiness of underground containment.
• It restores the pH balance of the oceans as well as reducing radiative forcing (warming) effects.
• It deals equally well with point and distributed sources of CO2 (coal plants, automobile tailpipes).
• It can be located anywhere on Earth. It does not need to be adjacent to CO2 sources.
• It does not require concentrated CO2 streams, but works with ambient atmospheric concentrations.
Natural silicate weathering reactions dominate Earth's CO2 balance in the very long term. But they are strongly kinetically hindered in nature. After a freshly exposed rock surface has weathered to a depth of a few microns, the cation-depleted "rind" drastically slows the weathering of the remaining interior. Without human intervention, it'll take about 100,000 years for natural silicate weathering to restore the pre-industrial baseline of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. There are different ways to improve the kinetics:
• Crush bulk rock to a fine sand texture, so full interior weathering finishes much faster (still takes years-to-decades, but no longer takes geological time scales).
• Place crushed rock in near-shore ocean environments where mechanical wave erosion keeps removing rinds.
• Place crushed rock in acidic tropical agricultural soils where it weathers faster due to low pH and elevated temperature. This also improves soil quality for growing crops.
It's not explicitly included in the scholarly literature, but I say that advanced robotics are necessary because the required scale of intervention is staggering, bigger than any engineering endeavor in history.
For example, the Columbia Plateau in the United States contains basalt whose alkali and alkaline earth content could bind about 20% of its own mass in CO2, after complete weathering:
To neutralize the CO2 that humans emitted in 2015, about 36 billion tons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_carbon_di...), would require mining and pulverizing about 180 billion tons of Columbia Plateau basalt. That's about 60 cubic kilometers. We're in no danger of running out of plateau -- it contains more than 170,000 km^3.
As for energy estimates, the Bond Work Index for crushing basalt such that 80% of particles pass a 100 micron screen is in the neighborhood of 17-20 kWh per ton:
I'll add a factor of 2 for overhead to estimate the whole process energy expenditure. That would mean that using Columbia Plateau basalt, you'd expend 40 kWh per ton of basalt, about 200 kWh per ton of CO2 removed from the atmosphere. That is, energetically speaking, really good compared to schemes that try to run "combustion-in-reverse" to regenerate hydrocarbons from CO2. It's efficient enough that you could actually use coal fired power to drive the whole process and it would still be a net CO2 sink. But at 200 kWh per ton-CO2-scrubbed, it would take 7.2 billion megawatt hours to neutralize humanity's 2015 CO2 emissions. That's an annualized power of 821 gigawatts -- nearly twice the average electrical power generated in the United States.
The scale is so vast that I can only imagine advanced robotic manufacturing, mining, and energy generation being up to the task. However you want to modify my baseline scenario -- smaller projects scattered around the Earth instead of one mega-project, being pickier about processing only the best rocks -- I think that the scale is still daunting. But I think it may still be possible because I see automation advancing a lot in the 21st century if we don't precipitate a civilization-ending crisis first.
- Plant heliostat molten salt reactors in desert coastal areas 
- Use generated heat to desalinate water
- Use desalinated water to provide irrigation
- Plant (potentially GMO'ed) bootstrapping organisms to
create a soil (greening)
- Plant trees
- Rinse repeat.
However, your idea makes more sense if the only goal is CO2 scrubbing. But adding the heliostat molten salt reactors in a desert might be quite feasible, they generate tons of heat, which can be translated into energy or simply mechanical force (water pressure)…and there is no shortage of silicates in the desert.
Accelerated silicate weathering and "greening the deserts" are concepts that work well together, too. Mature fertile soil contains weathered minerals and organic matter. Crushing basalt can speed up the weathering part of producing soil, and provide micronutrients for plants plus a couple of important macros (phosphorus and potassium).
Why not just assume it's going to become unstable in close future and start building with that assumption ? Large scale isolated citiy domes. Nutrient synthesis that doesn't rely on climate/agriculture. Environment independent energy generation like micro nuclear reactors. Large scale air filtration and temperature control.
As the world becomes more interconnected and developed catastrophic outcomes like super virus/bacteria, large scale nuclear event, etc. become bigger threats to entire world. Why not start building self sufficient and well isolated megacities that can function irregardless of climate change ? It's perfectly possible on 50 year timescale if we don't waste time on shoving our heads in to the ground and hoping everything will stay great if we stop burning stuff.
I think the "preserve the environment" is a knee-jerk driven by the same kind of instincts that sell "natural organic food" and stuff - even if we could somehow magically reign in man made climate change there's really no guarantee that the climate will remain stable or that a low probability event like a volcanic eruption won't cause a huge global crisis, etc.
Instead of hoping things remain as they are we should limit our exposure to environment risks.
But to answer your question, because we can't build enough of these to sustain billions of people.
Maybe but then again scaling isn't really the immediate problem - it's building the thing in the first place, replicating should be simpler and by the time it's done who knows what the tech will be.
And while it probably won't work for everyone it will work much more reliably for those that participate in it - not just for climate change but for other catastrophe protection/isolation as well.
What good does convincing people do if the government won't even admit climate change is real?
The "huge" savings for our industry are minimal in the grand scheme of things. It's depressing to realize how we are past the prevention phase of climate change and rapidly passing through chances to more easily mitigate the impacts.
It doesn't have to be for our survivors... We could, and I believe we should, do it for the next civilization to come after ours, even if it's a few alien visitors.
If for no other reason than to leave a legacy of our short existence against the infinity of this universe.
You said it yourself: If you can't mobilize man to fight climate change, you aren't going to mobilize him to prepare for it either.
Basically, if an oil tanker is leaking oil all over the beach, we should first plug the goddamn hole before talking about (expensive) solutions to clean up the contaminated beach. Doing it the other way just doesn't make sense.
If the US government was actually focused on prevention, that would be a huge step up from "denying there's a problem."
AFAIK, anything can go wrong anywhere.
Never attribute to forethought that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
Wonder who might be involved there...
Last time I checked as a nation we are working hard to reduce emissions have some of the lowest in the world. Perhaps it would be more useful to go and bash China and India, two countries in which seeing a clear sky in a large city is a rarity.
It doesn't feel like its a problem because of two reasons:
1. Pollution and CO2 emissions are two separate issues. The US has strong pollution regulations regarding pollution near large populations, so even if it contributes to the green house gas problem for people living in cities air quality is good.
2. The US was previously the global leader in pollution by a wide margin, producing 300x what Brazil produced for instance in 1950. In recent decades, manufacturing in the US has become cleaner bit by bit, so there has been improvement. This is unfortunately dwarfed by the quality of Europe where pollution was always a lesser problem, and environmental guidelines became more stringent faster than in the US.
Many people like to compare the US to Europe, and in that respect the US usually looks terrible but the US isn't Europe and has never been in the same place socioeconomically. It is better to compare the US to China or India, because in geopolitics we are in the same place---large manufacturing nation, large population, large geography, former colony, quasi-imperial ambitions.
Consider this: People today are still dying from landmines and poisons that were using during wars a 100 years ago . They may remain around for over 300 years .
The things that will most immediately affect the civilization after ours will probably be our radioactive waste, the long-term effects of climate change, the extinctions caused by us, unexploded mines and bombs, and stockpiles of nuclear and other weapons.
At best, the next civilization may dig up some of our machines and partially reverse-engineer them, but they'll probably never be able to access their original functionality. For example using our laptops/phones as a source of light, or their batteries as explosives. What little technology of ours that still fully works by then, will probably cause wars over its ownership, even if the tech itself is benign and beneficial.
If, like me, the idea of accumulation of technology over large expanses of time, across multiple civilizations and potentially multiple species is deeply interesting to you, you may love the world of Numenera  ; Earth, a billion years from now.
Maybe the AIs will pick up where we left off. They'll be sort of human. Especially if hybrids become popular.
Things seem like they are going to get really bad. I try not to think about it too much. It doesn't seem like there's anything I can do.
Edit: Changed link to Wikipedia entry
We'll survive as a species, just not as a civilisation.
If anything this article plays it down with words like eruption and venting. This seems super dangerous for people in the area. And dangerous in the climate change sense for the rest of us.
They're full of ice, not methane. And what makes those craters is the ice melting and/or drop in groundwater pressure. The issue of entrained methane trapped in permafrost is real and the pingo ice most likely also contains trapped methane, but the implication that these are domes of pressurized methane READY TO BLOW AND HURL EARTH INTO RUNAWAY GREENHOUSE AT ANY MOMENT is absurd. The melting of permafrost generally over wide areas is the actual threat.
Not that it would be easy or desirable. Some of the worst scenarios might result in 99% (or higher) of humans dying - obviously an unspeakably immense tragedy. Yet that would still leave tens of millions of people to carry on.
It seems to me that it would be extremely difficult to extinguish human life entirely, given our cleverness, adaptability, and very strong survival drive.
I haven't seen much talk about projections that would make the entire planet completely uninhabitable for humans. That would require an increase significantly higher than 10° Celsius, I'm guessing?
Of course, this would likely delay our transformation into a space-faring civilization by a few thousand years, as well as significantly damage social progress.
However, there's a very important distinction here: The permian triassic boundary conditions did not arise coming abruptly out of an ice age. An ice age after a warm period leads to lots of methane being stored, and it's reasonable to assume that the current methane storage is much larger than at the permian triassic (oh, did I mention that that was already an extinction event, probably the worst we know about?).
All in all it's not completely out of the question that an abrupt release of enough methane could lead to a Venus syndrome, and thus the complete sterilisation of the planet.
Probably not. That amount of increase will likely disrupt every food chain on the planet, and larger lifeforms will not be able to adapt fast enough. That means extinction time for everything larger than a mouse or unable to migrate.
Even if some arable land remains around the poles, the most you will find growing there is moss and grasses. Wheats require a very rich soil, which will either not be there or be exhausted after a few crops.
In order for the south pole to be the best place to live all the ice would have to melt, which would essentially end life on earth as we know it. The sea level would rise about 100m, which would kill so much life on land that it would make the atmosphere unbreathable and kill everything else.
More fundamentally if we can't get it together enough to stop this, I find it highly unlikely we'll be able to put together a self-sustaining shelter on what will basically become an alien planet. We'd have to survive indoors for the length of our written history, minimum. It's not so much that it's outright impossible, but any tiny problem could lead to our extinction over ten thousand years. It's a lottery ticket for our species, and the only realistic expectation is that we will lose.
Plus there are tons of survival-killers that just get discounted. Will we be able to keep ourselves going technologically without a global distribution of resources? Will our genetic diversity survive isolation? Will we be able to survive antibiotic-resistant diseases?
We're struggling to stay ahead of antibiotic resistance with decades of mutation- once we no longer have the scientific effort to devote to controlling this, will we be able to do anything about centuries or millenia of bacterial evolution? A freak drift or reservoir incident (eg ebola in bats) could wipe us out in a week or two.
This could cause a global asphyxiation event.
Scientists have been warning about this for decades. And we've done nothing. Not even to slow down!
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness...
If we do nothing we'll see 5-8 degrees, which would change the climate pretty drastically.
It's not too late at all.
2 degrees, from what I understand, is drastic enough to destabilize our current geo-political situation and threaten humanity with large-scale famine, water shortages, and mass migrations. It doesn't seem like we can even avoid 2 degrees at this point. It's just going to happen even if we do stop everything today if I'm understanding this news right.
RCP4.5 which is a somewhat optimistic but still realistic plan would only have 1.1-2.6.
RCP6 which is a realistic scenario where fossil fuels are used heavily but by 2060 we start heavily switching to carbon neutral sources. That leads to 1.4-3.1 degrees by 2100.
There also isn't any scientific consensus on what level of rise would lead to collapse of civilization. But I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be 5 degrees by 2100.
Even with 5 degrees the bread baskets of the world should still be producing a ton of food. There would need to be engineering solutions. GMO modified crops to survive droughts better. Better irrigation in California and the Midwest.
The dooms day projections all assume we just sit around while food production drops and just starve to death. That's a bad assumption.
It would cause famine in parts of the world where rising food costs means they can't afford food. But food could go up 5x in America before we'd have problems affording it.
• Digitize all human knowledge and as much art/literature as you can gather (books, music, movies, shows, games, even porn and random YouTube videos and discussions on online forums :) Most of that work has already been done.
• Store it on the most resilient (and simple/repairable) storage media you can,
• Bundle it with devices that can read that data,
• Along with instructions for building/reinventing such devices, and instructions on how to interpret that data (i.e. JPEG and other file formats :)
• Also include a guide for translating the instructions. Assume that a future reader may not understand any of our current languages, or even be human at all.
• Put it all in a silo as physically strong as you can build.
• Make copies of the silo and bury one on each continent and in each ocean. Maybe even on the Moon?
• Distribute markers and maps to each silo (and instructions for opening them) all over the world.
• Let fate take its course.
All of this could be done by a few individuals and most of it won't even require a lot of money.
See http://longnow.org/ and http://rosettaproject.org
Still waiting, BTW.
edit: Here's a comment I made for released carbon due to permafrost melting (with literature):
On this topic, I've always wondered if you could make such a solar shade that hovers just on the far side of the Lagrange point between sun and earth, balancing radiation pressure and gravity. Does anyone know if that would be passively stable?
Edit to answer your question: No, it wouldn't be passively stable. But it could be actively stable with solar-powered motors to move mirrors, so it wouldn't need fuel.
We've started a chain reaction that's now out of our control. There's nothing we can do now but watch it unfold.