Relax and Enjoy the Warmth
Newcastle — I do not, as anyone who reads me knows, agree with the popular sentiment that we can do something about global warming. However, I have given up raging against the cockamamie remedies rendered and prefer to keep my spittle in my mouth where it belongs. Better to be amused by all the nonsense, accepting that the end of the human experiment is, by our own hand, rapidly approaching.
I recommend the New Yorker article, The Climate Fixers in the May 14 edition. It presents a goodly list of doomsday prognoses. For example, warming of the ocean surface will reduce overturning which will in turn deplete oxygen at depth. All the aerobic fish species will die. No problem, there aren’t any; we’ve fished them all to extinction. Besides, the anaerobic fish will survive. We can learn to eat them; we may end up glowing in the dark, but so be it.
As a solution to the overturning problem, according to the New Yorker article, “the scientific entrepreneur Nathan Myhrvold, whose company Intellectual Ventures has invested in several geoengineering ideas, said that we could cool the earth by stirring the seas. He has proposed deploying a million plastic tubes, each about a hundred metres long, to roil the water.” This would, incidentally, not only save the fish but also allow cooler surface waters to trap more CO2. It’s a win-win!
Another oceanic solution was suggested by President Johnson‘s Science Advisory Committee way back in 1965. They recommended raising the earth’s Albedo by spreading small reflective particles over large parts of the ocean. Never mind that ocean currents don’t allow anything on the surface to be “spread out” for long. Ever notice those mats of seaweed? Science Advisory Committee-humbug.
Messing with the atmosphere has always been more popular than messing with the sea. The navy tried for years to lessen the power of hurricanes by dropping silver iodide in the upper, anticyclone region of the storm. That practice stopped when a benign, headed-out-to-sea hurricane was “seeded” and suddenly reversed direction to pound the east coast. Was there cause and effect here? Almost certainly not, but happily an idiotic program was aborted.
Mother Nature has shown us, from Krakatau to Pinatubo, that hurling stuff into the stratosphere can significantly, if temporarily, alter the planet’s temperature. Why not try it? Never mind that a massive volcanic eruption is slightly more efficient than a few rockets full of sulfur dioxide.
“The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering project, or SPICE, is a British academic consortium that seeks to mimic the actions of volcanoes like Pinatubo by pumping particles of sulfur dioxide, or similar reflective chemicals, into the stratosphere through a twelve-mile-long pipe held aloft by a balloon at one end and tethered, at the other, to a boat anchored at sea.” You’re kidding, right? Nope. Note that as a special bonus, when rain cleanses the particulate from the atmosphere, as it assuredly will, the acidification of the oceans will increase. Say goodbye to life-supporting coral, or what little of it is left. Also, sulfuric acid produced in the atmosphere will kill the ozone layer-again, and we’ll all die of cancer. Super solution!
As every schoolboy knows, or at least has been brain-washed to believe, the real villain in the global warming scenario is carbon dioxide. Because of our gluttonous appetite for energy and mobility we are pumping this noxious (don’t ask the trees) gas into the atmosphere in ever increasing quantities. Ongoing ineffective conventions of hand-wringing policy makers have done nothing to ameliorate the CO2 creation. Alternative means of energy generation?
“Today, it takes three cubic miles’ worth of fossil fuels to power the world for a year. That’s a trillion gallons of gas. To replace just one of those cubic miles with a source of energy that will not add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere—nuclear power, for instance—would require the construction of a new atomic plant every week for fifty years; to switch to wind power would mean erecting thousands of windmills each month.” This isn’t going to happen! To make things worse, the people are getting richer and they want more energy, maybe nine cubic miles of oil.
True, as a recent Economist article discussed, a number of companies are proposing carbon capture and storage (CCS), which is to say pump it underground somewhere. However, these devices are hideously expensive and they are obviously restricted to a meaningless demonstration phase.
Not to worry; CO2 is not the problem anyway. When the tundra melts as the polar latitudes heat there will be a huge effluence of methane. Methane is ever so much more effective at trapping heat; maybe thirty times as efficient as CO2. (The methane danger has long been recognized; perhaps you remember the concern a few years ago over cow farts.) Yet even methane pales into insignificance when you consider water vapor. Airplane contrails have more of an effect on climate than coal plants do.
In reality there is no problem. The planet will adjust as it always has. Last time the dinosaurs took a hit, and maybe now it’s our turn. The sad thing is the belief that we, old homo sapiensless, can control the situation. We can’t.