A new study claims that controversial climate engineering techniques could be employed without harming the planet—but not everyone is convinced.
The latest push by long time geoengineering advocate David Keith claims that the controversial climate engineering methods could work to reduce global warming by half without causing any major damage to the planet. The new study used computer modeling to examine the unintended consequences of geoengineering techniques—specifically solar radiation management, a type of geoengineering that involves spraying aerosols into the atmosphere in the hopes of reflecting sunlight and cooling the planet. This type of geoengineering is extremely controversial and previous studies have linked the technology to potentially dangerous outcomes for various parts of the planet.
The new study, recently published in Nature Climate Change, found that setting geoengineering operations within certain limits might prevent unintended consequences like drought and extreme storms. Peter Irvine, a climate and geoengineering researcher at Harvard University and lead author of the study, told Scientific American that his study used computer modeling to determine what might happen if scientists attempt to offset half of the warming as opposed to all of the warming predicted to occur in the coming decades.
Irvine and co-author David Keith state that the study suggests solar geoengineering would not make any water-related changes any worse than already predicted. Keith, a Harvard engineer, has been an advocate for geoengineering for more than a decade and one of the loudest voices in the debate in favor of geoengineering research.
Irvine and Keith’s study examined the effects of geoengineering by region around the world, using the same regions as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. They evaluated which regions would be made worse by geoengineering or without geoengineering. They found that in the areas of average and maximum temperatures, maximum annual precipitation, and total water availability, no region was made worse by geoengineering. The researchers also claim that hurricanes, typhoons, and other storms would not be worsened and might actually offset some of the effects of climate change on hurricanes.
However, as Scientific American notes, “the study isn’t a completely realistic depiction of potential solar geoengineering scenarios.” The study does not tell us how spraying aerosols in the air might actually affect the world around us. For example, scientists like Keith have recommended spraying strontium, aluminum, barium, and other aerosols from the back of airplanes. There have been no studies examining the effects of these particulates in the soil, air, and water, and how that will affect the environment, animals, and humans.
In a message to The Atlantic, Jane Flegal, a climate-policy researcher and an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University, writes:
“They are desperately trying to conjure demand for their research topic, but I think they’re hamstringing themselves over the long term by overclaiming. It’s important to keep in mind that this study actually tells us very little about the feasibility of the idea of geoengineering. It is reasonable to ask whether we expect the real world to behave like these models. [And] even if the real world behaved like these models, it is not clear to me that we should expect that this research will inform ‘rational’ decision making in this domain.”
Alan Robock, a climate and aerosols expert at Rutgers University who previously conducted research for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), says the study does not take into account the reality that geoengineering may have additional side effects, like warming certain parts of the atmosphere, changing atmospheric circulation, or affecting the ozone layer.
“I do not agree that ’no area will be significantly worse off under a solar geo-engineering scenario’,” Robock said in an email to Scientific American. “Worse as compared to what? If we rapidly begin mitigation now, that is rapidly reduce our CO2 emissions to zero by switching our power to wind and solar, we will be much better off than a business-as-usual future, or one with geoengineering.”
Interestingly, Robock has previously stated that he believes the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) may already be using geoengineering techniques as a weapon of war. In 2015, while speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Jose, California, Robock stated he was phoned by two men claiming to be from the CIA, asking whether or not it was possible for hostile governments to use geoengineering, or mass manipulation of the weather, against the United States.
“I got a phone call from two men who said we work as consultants for the CIA and we’d like to know if some other country was controlling our climate, would we know about it?”
“I’d learned of lots of other things the CIA had done that haven’t followed the rules and I thought that wasn’t how I wanted my tax money spent. I think this research has to be in the open and international so there isn’t any question of it being used for hostile purposes.”
Robock’s statements warrant further investigation, but to those who believe that geoengineering techniques are already being covertly carried out by the U.S. government, his words are further confirmation that mad scientists are desperate to play God. The public and scientific community must examine all of the available evidence which currently shows geoengineering might lead to potential loss of blue skies, lower crop yields, and increases in land and water temperature. The media has already hopped on the geoengineering bandwagon so it’s up to the people to raise awareness and ask questions about this increasingly important topic.
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.