Arquivo da tag: Geoengenharia

El maldito (Brecha, UY)

Virginia Martínez

Montevideo 10 Marzo, 2017

Cultura, Destacados
Edición 1633 http://brecha.com.uy/el-maldito/; Acesado 13 Marzo 2017

Hijo intelectual y dilecto de Freud, luego disidente expulsado del círculo íntimo del maestro, Wilhelm Reich fue, para muchos, un psicoanalista maldito. Pionero de las terapias corporales, revolucionó la sexología con la teoría sobre la función del orgasmo. Desprestigiado y prohibido, murió en una cárcel de Estados Unidos a donde había llegado huyendo del nazismo para continuar sus investigaciones sobre la energía vital, que él llamaba orgón.

18-Reich-y-Neill-foto-captura-googleWilhelm Reich y Alexander S Neill / Foto: captura Google

Wilhelm Reich nació en una familia judía y acomodada que vivía en una zona rural de la actual Ucrania, por entonces parte del imperio austrohúngaro. El padre le puso el nombre en homenaje al emperador de Alemania, pero la madre prefería llamarlo Willi, quizá para protegerlo de la cólera de ese hombre celoso y autoritario que tenía por marido. Próspero criador de ovejas, León Reich trataba mal a todo el mundo, fuera familia, empleados o vecinos. El niño creció aguantando en silencio las penitencias y las bofetadas del padre. Solitario por obligación, aprendió en casa y de los padres las primeras letras hasta que León contrató a un preceptor.

Una tarde el pequeño Willi descubrió que el preceptor era también el amante de su madre. Aunque lo devoraban los celos, se cuidó de no contarle nada al señor Reich. Después de todo, la madre era el único refugio en el mundo sombrío y hostil de la casa familiar. Hasta que para vengarse de ella por una tontería, la traicionó denunciando la infidelidad. Sobrevino la catástrofe. Reproches, golpes y gritos. La mujer intentó suicidarse con veneno pero el marido la salvó sólo para seguir atormentándola. Willi terminó pupilo en una pensión de familia, y tuvieron que internarlo para tratarlo por una soriasis severa. Determinada a poner fin a una vida de reclusión y violencia, la madre logró irse para siempre en el tercer intento. Durante mucho tiempo el sentimiento de culpa atormentará al muchacho de 14 años que tres años más tarde perderá también al padre.

Socorro obrero. Luego de la Primera Guerra Mundial Reich empezó a estudiar medicina, se interesó en el psicoanálisis y se convirtió en uno de los discípulos más apreciados de Freud, quien le derivó a sus primeros pacientes. Unos años después el maestro ya se refería a él como “la mejor cabeza” de la Asociación Psicoanalítica de Viena. En 1921 llegó a la consulta una hermosa muchacha, con quien se casó al terminar el tratamiento (“Un hombre joven, de menos de 30 años, no debería tratar pacientes del sexo opuesto”, escribió en su diario). Por esa época profundizó el estudio de la sexualidad (“he llegado a la conclusión de que la sexualidad es el centro en torno al que gravita toda la vida social, tanto como la vida interior del individuo”) y siguió devoto a su mentor.

En ocasión de la fiesta de los 70 años de Freud le ofreció como regalo La función del orgasmo. Mucho más tarde de lo que esperaba recibió una respuesta lacónica del maestro. Fue el primer signo de que las cosas con él no iban bien. Diferencias teóricas (la teoría de Reich sobre el origen sexual de la neurosis) y políticas (su acercamiento a la cuestión social y al marxismo) hicieron el resto.

El 15 de julio de 1927 Reich y Annie, su mujer, presenciaron la represión de una manifestación de trabajadores que dejó cien muertos y más de mil heridos. La conciencia social de Reich había comenzado a forjarse como médico en el hospital público, pero la brutalidad de la actuación policial lo decidió a tomar partido. Se afilió al Socorro Obrero, organización del Partido Comunista austríaco, y comenzó a trabajar la idea de que marxismo y psicoanálisis eran complementarios (“Marx es a la ciencia económica lo que Freud a la psiquiatría”). Empezó a hablar en actos callejeros, repartía volantes, enfrentaba a la policía. Hizo amistad con un tornero, un muchacho más joven que él llamado Zadniker, de quien aprenderá tanto o más que en la universidad. Con Zadniker se asomó a la miseria sexual y las relaciones amorosas en la clase obrera, y conoció el efecto devastador de la desocupación en las relaciones familiares. Compró un camión y lo equipó como una policlínica ambulante, y dedicó los fines de semana a recorrer los barrios pobres de la ciudad junto a un pediatra y un ginecólogo: atendían niños, mujeres, jóvenes y daban clases de educación sexual.

Nada podía ser más ajeno a Freud que la militancia política de Reich. Le advirtió que estaba metiéndose en un avispero y que la función del psicoanalista no era cambiar el mundo. Pero él ya estaba lejos del maestro, viviendo en Berlín, preparándose para publicar el ensayo “Materialismo dialéctico y psicoanálisis” y viajar a la Urss.

Sexualidad proletaria. Aunque en Moscú no encontró un ambiente favorable a las teorías psicoanalíticas, regresó convencido de que la explotación capitalista y la represión sexual eran complementarias. En 1931 fundó la Asociación para una Política Sexual Proletaria. La “Sexpol”, como se la conoció, llegó a reunir a 40 mil miembros en torno a un programa que casi un siglo después mantiene vigencia: legalización del aborto, abolición del adulterio, de la prostitución, de la distinción entre casados y concubinos, pedagogía y libertad sexual, protección de los menores y educación para la vida. Para editar y difundir materiales de educación creó su propia editorial. Cuando tu hijo te pregunta y La lucha sexual de los jóvenes fueron dos de los folletos más exitosos en los que explicaba en lenguaje llano y sin prejuicios los tabúes de la vida sexual: orgasmo, aborto, masturbación, eyaculación precoz, homosexualidad.

El primer día de enero de 1932, a renglón seguido de un comentario sobre el agravamiento de la gastritis que padecía, Freud anotó en su diario: “Medidas contra Reich”. Entendía que su afiliación al partido bolchevique le restaba independencia científica y lo colocaba en una situación equivalente a la de un miembro de la Compañía de Jesús.

Dos días después del incendio del Reichstag, el diario oficial del Partido Nacional Socialista publicó una crítica contra La lucha sexual de los jóvenes. La prédica libertaria también le valió la reprobación de su partido, pues los comunistas temían que el interés por las cuestiones del sexo debilitara el compromiso político de sus militantes. Primero retiraron sus publicaciones y luego lo expulsaron del partido. Poco después la Gestapo lo fue a buscar a su casa.

Psicología de masas del fascismo. La primera escala del exilio que terminaría en Estados Unidos lo llevó a Copenhague, luego a Malmö, en Suecia, y más tarde a Oslo. Publicó La psicología de masas del fascismo, una obra que le dio celebridad, en la que analizaba la relación entre la familia autoritaria, la represión sexual y el nacionalsocialismo. La comunidad psicoanalítica lo excluyó, y empezó a circular el rumor de que estaba loco. A propósito escribió: “Los dictadores directamente expulsan o matan. Los dictadores democráticos asesinan furtivamente con menos coraje y sin asumir la responsabilidad de sus actos”.

En ese período se dedicó a estudiar la naturaleza bioeléctrica de la angustia y del placer. Volvió al laboratorio y al microscopio. A fines de mayo de 1935 escribió en una entrada de su diario: “Éxito total de la experimentación. La naturaleza eléctrica de la sexualidad está probada”. A principios del año siguiente fundó el Instituto Internacional de Economía Sexual para las Investigaciones sobre la Vida, donde reunió a un equipo multidisciplinario de médicos, psicólogos, pedagogos, artistas, sociólogos y laboratoristas. Ese año también conoció al pedagogo inglés Alexander S Neill, fundador de la escuela de Summerhill, con quien forjó una larga amistad personal e intelectual. Reich se interesaba en su pedagogía y él en los estudios sobre la psicología de masas del fascismo. En esa época publicó el artículo “¿Qué es el caos sexual?”, que los estudiantes de Nanterre retomarán como programa político en mayo de 1968, divulgándolo en volantes.

Las investigaciones y el proselitismo en materia de libertad sexual complicaron su situación en Oslo. En 1938, a través del psiquiatra estadounidense Theodor P Wolfe, consiguió un contrato como profesor en la Nueva Escuela de Investigación Social, de la Universidad de Nueva York, que recibía universitarios europeos perseguidos. En agosto del año siguiente desembarcó en la ciudad donde ya vivían su ex mujer y las dos hijas.

19-Wilhelm-Reich-museum-foto-captura-googleMuseo Wilhelm Reich / Foto: captura Google

Acumuladores de orgón. Abandonó el psicoanálisis y se concentró en investigar la relación de la psiquis con el sistema nervioso y el cuerpo. Empezó a trabajar los conceptos de “coraza muscular” (agarrotamiento, tensión) que se correspondían con los de “coraza caracterial” (producto de la represión de los sentimientos). Introdujo prácticas de terapia corporal en la consulta (masajes, abrazos, respiración, estiramiento) para ayudar al paciente a liberarse. Decía que el cuerpo necesitaba contraerse y expandirse en movimientos equivalentes a los de una medusa, y que las corazas y bloqueos impedían el movimiento, originando enfermedades.

Postuló la existencia de una energía vital, el orgón, que determinaba el funcionamiento del cuerpo humano y también estaba presente en la atmósfera. Creó dos instrumentos: el orgonoscopio, dispositivo para medir la energía, y el acumulador de orgón, especie de caja de madera revestida interiormente por capas de metal y material orgánico para atraer y concentrar el orgón. Primero fueron pequeños acumuladores donde colocó ratones con cáncer. En 1940 creó el primer acumulador de tamaño humano, una caja con aspecto de armario en la que uno podía sentarse. Sostenía que en una sesión dentro del acumulador el paciente absorbía orgón del aire que respiraba dentro de él y que esto tenía un efecto beneficioso para el sistema nervioso, los tejidos y la sangre.

Sin apoyo de la comunidad científica, sus investigaciones empezaron a ser tildadas de delirios y él de charlatán. Buscó el respaldo de Einstein, a quien le presentó su trabajo y le ofreció un acumulador, que instaló en su casa. El científico desechó el resultado de sus experiencias y la relación terminó en disputa. Mientras tanto había comenzado a tratar de forma experimental a enfermos de cáncer con la convicción de que el acumulador podía mejorar su capacidad para combatir la enfermedad. Otros enfermos se sumaron voluntariamente al tratamiento. Reich constató notables mejoras en el estado general y un descenso en los dolores de los pacientes. En 1946 compró un terreno al borde del lago Mooselookmeguntic, un edén al norte del país, en el estado de Maine, en la frontera con Canadá. Un sitio de bosques y montañas donde el contacto con la naturaleza era intenso. Allí instaló su vivienda y el laboratorio, un conjunto de edificaciones que pronto los vecinos llamaron “La casa de Frankenstein”. En 1945 se casó con una colaboradora, Ilse Ollendorf, con quien vivía desde tiempo atrás. Un año antes había nacido su hijo Peter, y un año después obtuvo la ciudadanía estadounidense.

En la mira del FBI. Inventando amigos comunes y con el pretexto de que tenía un mensaje para darle, la periodista Mildred Edie Brady logró franquear los filtros que Ilse ponía para salvaguardar a Reich. La recibió, recorrieron juntos el laboratorio y le mostró sus acumuladores de orgón. En abril de 1947 Brady publicó un artículo en Harper’s Magazine titulado “El nuevo culto del sexo y la anarquía”, por el que se haría famosa. Un mes después retomó el tema en The New Republic con “El extraño caso de Wilhelm Reich”. Brady afirmó que la ciencia desaprobaba sus actividades y conclusiones, que tenía más pacientes de los que podía atender y una influencia “mística” y perjudicial en los jóvenes. Fue el inicio de una campaña de desprestigio a la que se sumaron otras publicaciones. La prensa convirtió a los acumuladores en “cajas de sexo” y a la terapia corporal en sesiones de masturbación a los pacientes. En agosto recibió la primera inspección de la Administración de Alimentos y Medicamentos (Fda).

En los años siguientes Reich continuó publicando (Escucha, pequeño hombrecito, 1948, El análisis del carácter, 1949) e investigando, en particular los efectos de las radiaciones nucleares y las posibilidades de neutralizarlas. Para ello colocó una muestra mínima de radio en un acumulador, pero el efecto provocado fue el contrario del que buscaba. El acumulador amplificó la radiactividad, con consecuencias negativas para él y sus colaboradores. Su hija Eva, médica e investigadora, sufrió una bradicardia severa. El resto del equipo volvió a mostrar los síntomas de enfermedades que habían padecido antes. Todos, incluido Reich, presentaron alteraciones emocionales. Poco después, Ilse decidió dejar la casa con el pequeño Peter.

Para limpiar el lugar de la energía tóxica, que llamó Dor (por deathorgone), creó el “Rompe nubes”, una máquina de seis tubos en línea apuntados al cielo. A partir de ella hizo, con éxito, experimentos para provocar lluvia en la región donde vivía, afectada por una larga sequía. Inagotable, pensó en probarla en el desierto y en adaptarla, reduciendo el tamaño, para extraer el Dor de un cuerpo humano enfermo.

Paranoico con delirios de grandeza. A pedido de la Fda, la justicia del Estado de Maine inició una acción contra Reich y su fundación. Le prohibieron trasladar acumuladores a otros estados y calificaron las investigaciones de expedientes publicitarios. Lo acusaron de charlatán y de obtener beneficio económico de la credulidad de los enfermos. El 19 de marzo de 1955 un juez ordenó retirar de circulación y destruir los acumuladores, quemar las publicaciones que hicieran referencia al orgón y, aunque sin relación con lo anterior, también prohibió las ediciones de La psicología de masas del fascismo y El análisis del carácter.

En octubre Reich viajó a Tucson, en Arizona, para, como informó a la justicia, estudiar la energía de orgon en la atmósfera en zonas desérticas. Luego de semanas de intenso trabajo en el desierto lograron hacer llover. Se proponía repetir el experimento en California, cuando el 1 de mayo de 1956 lo detuvieron.

El psiquiatra que lo examinó en la prisión dictaminó que no podía ser objeto de juicio pues se trataba de un enfermo mental: “Manifiesta paranoia con delirio de grandeza y de persecución e ideas de influencia”. La justicia, sin embargo, entendió que estaba en condiciones de ser juzgado. Lo condenaron a dos años de prisión y a pagar una multa de 10 mil dólares.

Dicen los testimonios que fue un preso ejemplar, que se adaptó bien a la disciplina de Lewisburg y que el único privilegio que reclamaba era bañarse con frecuencia para aliviar la soriasis que no lo abandonaba desde los tristes días de la infancia.

El 3 de noviembre de 1957 lo encontraron muerto en su celda. Dos días después iba a asistir a la audiencia donde el juez debía decidir sobre su pedido de libertad condicional. Reich dormía vestido, sin zapatos, sobre la cama tendida. Lo velaron en el observatorio de Orgonon, en Rangley, donde hoy está el museo que lleva su nombre.


Freud sí, Reich no

“Acá todos estamos dispuestos a asumir riesgos por el psicoanálisis, pero no ciertamente por las ideas de Reich, que nadie suscribe. Con relación a eso, he aquí lo que piensa mi padre: si el psicoanálisis debe ser prohibido, que lo sea por lo que es no por la mescolanza de política y psicoanálisis que hace Reich. Por otro lado, mi padre no se opondría a sacárselo de encima como miembro de la asociación.”

Carta de Anna Freud a Ernest Jones, presidente de la Asociación Internacional de Psicoanálisis y biógrafo de Freud. 27 de abril de 1933.

Deseo sexual versus autoritarismo

“La familia autoritaria no está fundada sólo en la dependencia económica de la mujer y los hijos con respecto al padre y marido, respectivamente. Para que unos seres en tal grado de servidumbre sufran esta dependencia es preciso no olvidar nada a fin de reprimir en ellos la conciencia de seres sexuales. De este modo, la mujer no debe aparecer como un ser sexual, sino solamente como un ser generador. La idealización de la maternidad, su culto exaltado, que configura las antípodas del tratamiento grosero que se inflige a las madres de las clases trabajadoras, está destinada, en lo esencial, a asfixiar en la mujer la conciencia sexual, a someterla a la represión sexual artificial, a mantenerla a sabiendas en un estado de angustia y culpabilidad sexual. Reconocer oficial y públicamente a la mujer su derecho a la sexualidad conduciría al hundimiento de todo el edificio de la ideología autoritaria.”

De La psicología de masas del fascismo.

¿Qué es el caos sexual?

Es apelar en el lecho conyugal a los deberes conyugales.

Es comprometerse en una relación sexual de por vida sin antes haber conocido sexualmente a la pareja.

Es acostarse con una muchacha obrera porque “ella no merece más”, y al mismo tiempo no exigirle “una cosa así” a una chica “respetable”.

Es hacer culminar el poderío viril en la desfloración.

Es castigar a los jóvenes por el delito de autosatisfacción y hacerles creer que la eyaculación les debilita la médula espinal.

Es tolerar la industria pornográfica.

Es soñar a los 14 años con la imagen de una mujer desnuda y a los 20 entrar en las listas de los que pregonan la pureza y el honor de la mujer.

¿Qué no es el caos sexual?

Es liberar a los niños y a los adolescentes del sentimiento de culpa sexual y permitirles vivir acorde a las aspiraciones de su edad.

Es no traer hijos al mundo sin haberlos deseado ni poderlos criar.

Es no matar a la pareja por celos.

Es no tener relaciones con prostitutas sino con amigas de tu entorno.

Es no verse obligado a hacer el amor a escondidas, en los corredores, como los adolescentes en nuestra sociedad hoy, cuando lo que uno quiere es hacerlo en una habitación limpia y sin que lo molesten.

Wilhelm Reich

Anúncios

‘Relatório sobre 1,5ºC trará dilema moral’ (Observatório do Clima)

Vice-presidente do IPCC afirma que próximo documento do grupo, em 2018, pode apresentar a escolha entre salvar países-ilhas e usar tecnologias incipientes de modificação climática

O próximo relatório do IPCC, o Painel Intergovernamental sobre Mudanças Climáticas, encomendado para 2018, pode apresentar à humanidade um dilema moral: devemos lançar mão em larga escala de tecnologias ainda não testadas e potencialmente perigosas de modificação do clima para evitar que o aquecimento global ultrapasse 1,5oC? Ou devemos ser prudentes e evitar essas tecnologias, colocando em risco a existência de pequenas nações insulares ameaçadas pelo aumento do nível do mar?

Quem expõe a dúvida é Thelma Krug, 65, diretora de Políticas de Combate ao Desmatamento do Ministério do Meio Ambiente e vice-presidente do painel do clima da ONU. Ela coordenou o comitê científico que definiu o escopo do relatório e produziu, no último dia 20, a estrutura de seus capítulos. A brasileira deverá ter papel-chave também na redação do relatório, cujos autores serão escolhidos a partir de novembro.

O documento em preparação é um dos relatórios mais aguardados da história do IPCC. É também único pelo fato de ser feito sob encomenda: a Convenção do Clima, na decisão do Acordo de Paris, em 2015, convidou o painel a produzir um relatório sobre impactos e trajetórias de emissão para limitar o aquecimento a 1,5oC, como forma de embasar cientificamente o objetivo mais ambicioso do acordo. A data de entrega do produto, 2018, coincidirá com a primeira reunião global para avaliar a ambição coletiva das medidas tomadas contra o aquecimento global após a assinatura do tratado.

Segundo Krug, uma das principais mensagens do relatório deverá ser a necessidade da adoção das chamadas emissões negativas, tecnologias que retirem gases-estufa da atmosfera, como o sequestro de carbono em usinas de bioenergia. O problema é que a maior parte dessas tecnologias ou não existe ainda ou nunca foi testada em grande escala. Algumas delas podem envolver modificação climática, a chamada geoengenharia, cujos efeitos colaterais – ainda especulativos, como as próprias tecnologias – podem ser quase tão ruins quanto o mal que elas se propõem a curar.

Outro risco, apontado pelo climatólogo britânico Kevin Anderson em comentário recente na revista Science, é essas tecnologias virarem uma espécie de desculpa para a humanidade não fazer o que realmente precisa para mitigar a mudança climática: parar de usar combustíveis fósseis e desmatar florestas.

“Ficamos numa situação muito desconfortável com várias tecnologias e metodologias que estão sendo propostas para emissões negativas”, disse Krug. “Agora, numa situação em que você não tem uma solução a não ser esta, aí vai ser uma decisão moral. Porque aí você vai ter dilema com as pequenas ilhas, você vai ter um problema de sobrevivência de alguns países.”

Ela disse esperar, por outro lado, que o relatório mostre que existem tecnologias maduras o suficiente para serem adotadas sem a necessidade de recorrer a esquemas mirabolantes.

“Acho que há espaço para começarmos a pensar em alternativas”, afirmou, lembrando que, quanto mais carbono cortarmos rápido, menos teremos necessidade dessas novas tecnologias.

Em entrevista ao OC, concedida dois dias depois de voltar do encontro do IPCC na Tailândia e minutos antes de embarcar para outra reunião, na Noruega, Thelma Krug falou sobre suas expectativas para o relatório e sobre os bastidores da negociação para fechar seu escopo – que opôs, para surpresa de ninguém, as nações insulares e a petroleira Arábia Saudita.

A sra. coordenou o comitê científico que definiu o índice temas que serão tratados no relatório do IPCC sobre os impactos de um aquecimento de 1,5oC. A entrega dessa coordenação a uma cientista de um País em desenvolvimento foi deliberada?

O IPCC decidiu fazer três relatórios especiais neste ciclo: um sobre 1,5oC, um sobre oceanos e um sobre terra. O presidente do IPCC [o coreano Hoesung Lee] achou por bem que se formasse um comitê científico e cada um dos vice-presidentes seria responsável por um relatório especial. Então ele me designou para o de 1,5oC, designou a Ko Barrett [EUA] para o de oceanos e o Youba [Sokona, Mali] para o de terra. O comitê foi formado para planejar o escopo: número de páginas, título, sugestões para cada capítulo. E morreu ali. Por causa da natureza do relatório, que será feito no contexto do desenvolvimento sustentável e da erradicação da pobreza, houve também a participação de duas pessoas da área de ciências sociais, de fora do IPCC. Agora, no começo de novembro, sai uma chamada para nomeações. Serão escolhidos autores principais, coordenadores de capítulos e revisores.

Quantas pessoas deverão produzir o relatório?

No máximo cem. Considerando que vai ter gente do birô também. Todo o birô do IPCC acaba envolvido, são 30 e poucas pessoas, que acabam aumentando o rol de participantes.

A sra. vai participar?

Participarei, e participarei bastante. Os EUA fizeram um pedido para que o presidente do comitê científico tivesse um papel de liderança no relatório. Isso porque, para esse relatório, eu sinto algo que eu não sentia tanto para os outros: se não fosse eu acho que seria difícil. Porque teve muita conversa política.

Quando um país levanta uma preocupação, eu tenho de entender mais a fundo onde a gente vai ter que ter flexibilidade para construir uma solução. Eu acho que foi muito positivo o fato de o pessoal me conhecer há muitos anos e de eu ter a liberdade de conversar com uma Arábia Saudita com muita tranquilidade, de chegar para as pequenas ilhas e conversar com muita tranquilidade e tentar resolver as preocupações.

Por exemplo, quando as pequenas ilhas entraram com a palavra loss and damage [perdas e danos], para os EUA isso tem uma conotação muito política, e inaceitável para eles no contexto científico. No fórum científico, tivemos de encontrar uma forma que deixasse as pequenas ilhas confortáveis sem mencionar a expressão loss and damage, mas captando com bastante propriedade aquilo que eles queriam dizer com isso. Acabou sendo uma negociação com os autores, com os cientistas e com o pessoal do birô do painel para chegar numa acomodação que deixasse a todos satisfeitos.

E qual era a preocupação dos sauditas?

Na reunião anterior, que definiu o escopo do trabalho, a gente saiu com seis capítulos bem equilibrados entre a parte de ciências naturais e a parte de ciência social. Por exemplo, essa parte de desenvolvimento sustentável, de erradicação da pobreza, o fortalecimento do esforço global para tratar mudança do clima. E os árabes não queriam perder esse equilíbrio. E as pequenas ilhas diziam que o convite da Convenção foi para fazer um relatório sobre impactos e trajetórias de emissões.

Mas as ilhas estavam certas, né?

De certa maneira, sim. O que não foi certo foi as ilhas terem aceitado na reunião de escopo que o convite fosse aceito pelo IPCC “no contexto de fortalecer o esforço global contra a ameaça da mudança climática, do desenvolvimento sustentável e da erradicação da pobreza”.

Eles abriram o escopo.

A culpa não foi de ninguém, eles abriram. A partir do instante em que eles abriram você não segura mais. Mas isso requereu também um jogo de cintura para tirar um pouco do peso do desenvolvimento sustentável e fortalecer o peso relativo dos capítulos de impactos e trajetórias de emissões.

Essa abertura do escopo enfraquece o relatório?

Não. Porque esse relatório vai ter 200 e poucas páginas, e cem delas são de impactos e trajetórias. Alguns países achavam que já havia muito desenvolvimento sustentável permeando os capítulos anteriores, então por que você ia ter um capítulo só para falar de desenvolvimento sustentável? Esse capítulo saiu de 40 páginas para 20 para justamente fortalecer a contribuição relativa de impactos e trajetórias do relatório. E foi uma briga, porque as pequenas ilhas queriam mais um capítulo de impactos e trajetórias. Esse relatório é mais para eles. Acima de qualquer coisa, os mais interessados nesse relatório são as pequenas ilhas.

Um dos desafios do IPCC com esse relatório é justamente encontrar literatura sobre 1,5oC, porque ela é pouca. Em parte porque 1,5oC era algo que as pessoas não imaginavam que seria possível atingir, certo?

Exato.

Porque o sistema climático tem uma inércia grande e as emissões do passado praticamente nos condenam a 1,5oC. Então qual é o ponto de um relatório sobre 1,5oC?

O ponto são as emissões negativas. O capítulo 4 do relatório dirá o que e como fazer. Faremos um levantamento das tecnologias existentes e emergentes e a agilidade com que essas tecnologias são desenvolvidas para estarem compatíveis em segurar o aumento da temperatura em 1.5oC. Vamos fazer uma revisão na literatura, mas eu não consigo te antecipar qualquer coisa com relação à forma como vamos conseguir ou não chegar a essas emissões negativas. Mas é necessário: sem elas eu acho que não dá mesmo.

A sra. acha, então, que as emissões negativas podem ser uma das grandes mensagens desse novo relatório…

Isso já ocorreu no AR5 [Quinto Relatório de Avaliação do IPCC, publicado em 2013 e 2014]. Porque não tinha jeito, porque você vai ter uma emissão residual. Só que no AR5 não tínhamos muita literatura disponível.

Quando se vai falar também da velocidade com a qual você consegue implementar essas coisas… o relatório também toca isso aí no contexto atual. Mas, no sufoco, essas coisas passam a ter outra velocidade, concorda? Se você demonstrar que a coisa está ficando feia, e está, eu acho que isso sinaliza para o mundo a necessidade de ter uma agilização maior no desenvolvimento e na implementação em larga escala de tecnologias que vão realmente levar a emissões negativas no final deste século.

Nós temos esse tempo todo?

Para 1,5oC é bem complicado. Em curto prazo, curtíssimo prazo, você precisa segurar as emissões, e aí internalizar o que você vai ter de emissões comprometidas. De tal forma que essas emissões comprometidas estariam sendo compensadas pelas tecnologias de emissões negativas. Esse é muito o meu pensamento. Vamos ver como isso acabará sendo refletido no relatório em si.

Haverá cenários específicos para 1,5oC rodados pelos modelos climáticos?

Tem alguma coisa nova, mas não tem muita coisa. Eles devem usar muita coisa que foi da base do AR5, até porque tem de ter comparação com 2oC. A não ser que rodem de novo para o 2oC. Precisamos entender o que existe de modelagem nova e, se existe, se ela está num nível de amadurecimento que permita que a gente singularize esses modelos para tratar essa questão nesse novo relatório.

Há cerca de 500 cenários para 2oC no AR5, e desses 450 envolvem emissões negativas em larga escala.

Para 1,5oC isso vai aumentar. Para 1,5oC vai ter de acelerar a redução de emissões e ao mesmo tempo aumentar a introdução de emissões negativas nesses modelos.

Há alguns dias o climatologista Kevin Anderson, diretor-adjunto do Tyndall Centre, no Reino Unido, publicou um comentário na revista Science dizendo que as emissões negativas eram um “risco moral por excelência”, por envolver competição por uso da terra, tecnologias não testadas e que vão ter de ser escaladas muito rápido. A sra. concorda?

Eu acho que essa questão de geoengenharia é uma das coisas que vão compor essa parte das emissões negativas. E aí talvez ele tenha razão: o mundo fica assustado com as coisas que vêm sendo propostas. Porque são coisas loucas, sem o amadurecimento necessário e sem a maneira adequada de se comunicar com o público. Mas vejo também que haverá tempo para um maior amadurecimento disso.

Mas concordo plenamente que ficamos numa situação muito desconfortável com várias tecnologias e metodologias que estão sendo propostas para emissões negativas. Mas esse é meu ponto de vista. Agora, numa situação em que você não tem uma solução a não ser esta, aí vai ser uma decisão moral. Porque aí você vai ter dilema com as pequenas ilhas, você vai ter um problema de sobrevivência de alguns países.

Deixe-me ver se entendi o seu ponto: a sra. acha que há um risco de essas tecnologias precisarem ser adotadas e escaladas sem todos os testes que demandariam num cenário ideal?

Fica difícil eu dizer a escala disso. Sem a gente saber o esforço que vai ser possível fazer para cortar emissões em vez de ficar pensando em compensar muito fortemente o residual, fica difícil dizer. Pode ser que já haja alguma tecnologia amadurecida antes de começar a pensar no que não está amadurecido. Acho que há espaço para começarmos a pensar em alternativas.

Agora, entre você falar: “Não vou chegar a 1,5oC porque isso vai exigir implementar tecnologias complicadas e que não estão amadurecidas” e isso ter uma implicação na vida das pequenas ilhas… isso também é uma preocupação moral. É um dilema. Eu tenho muita sensibilidade com a questão de geoengenharia hoje. E não sou só eu. O IPCC tem preocupação até em tratar esse tema. Mas é a questão do dilema. O que eu espero que o relatório faça é indicar o que precisa ser feito. Na medida em que você vai fazendo maiores reduções, você vai diminuindo a necessidade de emissões negativas. É essa análise de sensibilidade que os modelos vão fazer.

Observatório do Clima

‘Chemtrails’ not real, say atmospheric science experts (Science Daily)

Date:
August 12, 2016
Source:
Carnegie Institution for Science
Summary:
Well-understood physical and chemical processes can easily explain the alleged evidence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program, commonly referred to as ‘chemtrails’ or ‘covert geoengineering.’ A survey of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists categorically rejects the existence of a secret spraying program.

This is a condensation trail, or contrail, left behind an aircraft. Credit: Courtesy of Mick West

Well-understood physical and chemical processes can easily explain the alleged evidence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying program, commonly referred to as “chemtrails” or “covert geoengineering,” concludes a new study from Carnegie Science, University of California Irvine, and the nonprofit organization Near Zero.

Some groups and individuals erroneously believe that the long-lasting condensation trails, or contrails, left behind aircraft are evidence of a secret large-scale spraying program. They call these imagined features “chemtrails.” Adherents of this conspiracy theory sometimes attribute this alleged spraying to the government and sometimes to industry.

The authors of this study, including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, conducted a survey of the world’s leading atmospheric scientists, who categorically rejected the existence of a secret spraying program. The team’s findings, published by Environmental Research Letters, are based on a survey of two groups of experts: atmospheric chemists who specialize in condensation trails and geochemists working on atmospheric deposition of dust and pollution.

The survey results show that 76 of the 77 participating scientists said they had not encountered evidence of a secret spraying program, and agree that the alleged evidence cited by the individuals who believe that atmospheric spraying is occurring could be explained through other factors, such as typical airplane contrail formation and poor data sampling.

The research team undertook their study in response to the large number of people who claim to believe in a secret spraying program. In a 2011 international survey, nearly 17 percent of respondents said they believed the existence of a secret large-scale atmospheric spraying program to be true or partly true. And in recent years a number of websites have arisen claiming to show evidence of widespread secret chemical spraying, which they say is linked to negative impacts on human health and the environment.

“We wanted to establish a scientific record on the topic of secret atmospheric spraying programs for the benefit of those in the public who haven’t made up their minds,” said Steven Davis of UC Irvine. “The experts we surveyed resoundingly rejected contrail photographs and test results as evidence of a large-scale atmospheric conspiracy.”

The research team says they do not hope to sway those already convinced that there is a secret spraying program — as these individuals usually only reject counter-evidence as further proof of their theories — but rather to establish a source of objective science that can inform public discourse.

“Despite the persistence of erroneous theories about atmospheric chemical spraying programs, until now there were no peer-reviewed academic studies showing that what some people think are ‘chemtrails’ are just ordinary contrails, which are becoming more abundant as air travel expands. Also, it is possible that climate change is causing contrails to persist for longer periods than they used to.” Caldeira said. “I felt it was important to definitively show what real experts in contrails and aerosols think. We might not convince die-hard believers that their beloved secret spraying program is just a paranoid fantasy, but hopefully their friends will accept the facts.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Christine Shearer, Mick West, Ken Caldeira, Steven J Davis. Quantifying expert consensus against the existence of a secret, large-scale atmospheric spraying programEnvironmental Research Letters, 2016; 11 (8): 084011 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/11/8/084011

Ensayan un dron que ‘siembra’ nubes para provocar lluvia (El Mundo)

El dron Savant pesa 24 kilos y tiene 3 metros de envergadura. KEVIN CLIFFORD

El vuelo experimental ha sido en Nevada (EEUU), azotada por la sequía

EUROPA PRESS

25/05/2016 19:46

Un avión no tripulado ha probado por primera vez con éxito la conocida como ‘siembra’ de nubes, con la que los científicos pretenden provocar lluvia en épocas de sequía. El vuelo experimental, de Desert Research Institute (DRI) se ha llevado a cabo en Nevada (Estados Unidos).

Este dron, conocido como Savant, alcanzó una altitud de más de 120 metros y voló durante aproximadamente 18 minutos. “Es un gran logro”, ha apuntado el científico principal del proyecto, Adam Watts, experto en aplicaciones ecológicas y de recursos naturales.

Este proyecto, primero en su tipo, está ayudando al Estado de Nevada abordar los impactos continuos de sequía y a explorar soluciones innovadoras para luchar contra la ausencia de recursos, tales como aumentar el abastecimiento de agua regionales.

El equipo de investigación lleva más de 30 años de investigación y experiencia en la modificación del clima con experiencia probada en operaciones de fabricación aeroespacial y de vuelo de aviones no tripulados, según apunta el DRI en su página web.

“Hemos alcanzado otro hito importante en nuestro esfuerzo por reducir los riesgos y los costes en la industria de la siembra de nubes y ayudar a mitigar los desastres naturales causados por la sequía, el granizo y la niebla extrema“, ha señalado el CEO de la asociación de aviones no tripulados de América, Mike Richards.

“Con una envergadura de 3 metros de ancho y unos 24 kilos de peso, Savant es el vehículo perfecto para llevar a cabo este tipo de operaciones, debido a su perfil de vuelo superior, el tiempo que permanece en el aire y su resistencia al viento y a otras condiciones climáticas adversas”, ha apuntado Richards.


¿Quién está disolviendo las nubes en Andalucía?

Miguel del Pino, de Asaja Granada, muestra una foto de una de las avionetas. M. RODRÍGUEZ

La patronal agraria Asaja denuncia la ‘siembra’ de yoduro de plata

Piden que su actividad esté regulada por ley para evitar los daños

RAMÓN RAMOS, Granada

07/04/2016 19:31

No es leyenda urbana ni ciencia ficción: las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ existen y su actividad es dañina para los cultivos en las zonas en las que actúan. El último episodio tiene lugar fecha y hora. Fue detectado el pasado lunes día 4 a las 15,50 horas en la comarca granadina del Marquesado. Ese día el pronóstico del tiempo anunciaba lluvias de hasta 30 litros por metro cuadrado y las nubes negras que presidían los cielos parecían certificar el augurio. A la hora citada apareció por el norte una avioneta, sobrevoló la comarca de Este a Oeste y desapareció. Las nubes cambiaron de color, del blanco al negro, y sus efectos de lluvia se quedaron en solo seis litros por metro cuadrado, apunta Luis Ramírez, un agricultor de Huéneja afectado por la actividad de estos vuelos ‘fantasma’.

El efecto cromático en las nubes y su consecuente disminución en la descarga de unas lluvias muy esperadas en la comarca tiene una explicación para los agricultores: la ‘siembra’ entre las nubes de yoduro de plata, una sustancia química actúa cristalizando el agua condensada en las nubes.

Asaja, organización patronal agraria, ha estallado contra esta práctica, que no es exclusiva de la provincia de Granada y se enmarca en los posibles intereses de empresas de energía solar y grandes extensiones agrarias, habitualmente instaladas en las zonas donde actúan las avionetas: el Levante español y también Soria.

La organización ha iniciado una recogida de firmas que aspira a reunir las 500.000 necesarias para promover una iniciativa legislativa que prohíba por ley estas intervenciones ‘rompenubes’ que alteran los ciclos hidrológicos, agravando la sequía y dañando los cultivos.

Los pastos para animales, afectados

En esta línea se constituyó el pasado año la Plataforma para la Defensa del Medio Ambiente y la Naturaleza de la Comarca del Marquesado y del Río Nacimiento, donde la acción de las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ está afectando a los cultivos de cereales y almendros, perjudicando además al crecimiento de los pastos para alimentación del ganado.

Asaja advierte de que la posible intervención en la fase atmosférica del ciclo integral del agua está recogida en la Ley de Aguas y en el Reglamento del Dominio Público Hidráulico con la finalidad de evitar precipitaciones en forma de granizo o pedrisco que causen daños.

En los llanos del Marquesado y otras zonas limítrofes como Guadix, Gor, Los Montes Orientales y río Nacimiento, Almería, una extensión de terrenos cultivables que abarca más de 30.000 hectáreas, están acostumbradas al ruido de avionetas de baja altitud ocultas entre las nubes cuando hay aviso de tormenta, “y es un hecho que desde hace cinco años allí no cae apenas agua”, relata el presidente provincial de Asaja, Manuel del Pino.

En esa zona, el cultivo del cereal ha desaparecido porque cosecha era cero e intentan salvar la actividad agrícola transformando las hectáreas baldías en almendro, más resistente y con mejores posibilidades técnicas de producción, y la ganadería extensiva también se resiente por la ausencia de pastos. Son tierras áridas, pero con la intervención artificial en el régimen de lluvias que se está practicando en ellas, “legal o no”, se están desertizando aun más.

El vuelo de las avionetas ‘rompenubes’ fue detectado en el norte de la provincia de Granada a mediados de los años 90, en plena sequía. Su actividad se ha reanudado en los últimos cinco años. La denuncia de los agricultores ante la Guardia Civil no ha dado fruto porque no es obligatorio comunicar los vuelos a menos de 3.000 metros de altura y se trata, además, de una práctica permitida y regulada en las leyes españolas con la finalidad de evitar precipitaciones en forma de granizo o pedrisco que causen daños.

Asaja asegura que los gobiernos conocen esta práctica pero “no aclaran ciertas cuestiones, como de dónde proceden, quién está detrás y qué intereses se buscan, sean compañías de seguros que pretenden evitar indemnizaciones, grandes corporaciones que quieren proteger sus cultivos, empresas de energía solar, la industria farmacéutica o incluso temas de seguridad”.

Curtailing global warming with bioengineering? Iron fertilization won’t work in much of Pacific (Science Daily)

Earth’s own experiments during ice ages showed little effect

Date:
May 16, 2016
Source:
The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Summary:
Over the past half-million years, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has seen five spikes in the amount of iron-laden dust blown in from the continents. In theory, those bursts should have turbo-charged the growth of the ocean’s carbon-capturing algae — algae need iron to grow — but a new study shows that the excess iron had little to no effect.

With the right mix of nutrients, phytoplankton grow quickly, creating blooms visible from space. This image, created from MODIS data, shows a phytoplankton bloom off New Zealand. Credit: Robert Simmon and Jesse Allen/NASA

Over the past half-million years, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has seen five spikes in the amount of iron-laden dust blown in from the continents. In theory, those bursts should have turbo-charged the growth of the ocean’s carbon-capturing algae — algae need iron to grow — but a new study shows that the excess iron had little to no effect.

The results are important today, because as groups search for ways to combat climate change, some are exploring fertilizing the oceans with iron as a solution.

Algae absorb carbon dioxide (CO2), a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Proponents of iron fertilization argue that adding iron to the oceans would fuel the growth of algae, which would absorb more CO2 and sink it to the ocean floor. The most promising ocean regions are those high in nutrients but low in chlorophyll, a sign that algae aren’t as productive as they could be. The Southern Ocean, the North Pacific, and the equatorial Pacific all fit that description. What’s missing, proponents say, is enough iron.

The new study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, adds to growing evidence, however, that iron fertilization might not work in the equatorial Pacific as suggested.

Essentially, earth has already run its own large-scale iron fertilization experiments. During the ice ages, nearly three times more airborne iron blew into the equatorial Pacific than during non-glacial periods, but the new study shows that that increase didn’t affect biological productivity. At some points, as levels of iron-bearing dust increased, productivity actually decreased.

What matters instead in the equatorial Pacific is how iron and other nutrients are stirred up from below by upwelling fueled by ocean circulation, said lead author Gisela Winckler, a geochemist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The study found seven to 100 times more iron was supplied from the equatorial undercurrent than from airborne dust at sites spread across the equatorial Pacific. The authors write that although all of the nutrients might not be used immediately, they are used up over time, so the biological pump is already operating at full efficiency.

“Capturing carbon dioxide is what it’s all about: does iron raining in with airborne dust drive the capture of atmospheric CO2? We found that it doesn’t, at least not in the equatorial Pacific,” Winckler said.

The new findings don’t rule out iron fertilization elsewhere. Winckler and coauthor Robert Anderson of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory are involved in ongoing research that is exploring the effects of iron from dust on the Southern Ocean, where airborne dust supplies a larger share of the iron reaching the surface.

The PNAS paper follows another paper Winckler and Anderson coauthored earlier this year in Nature with Lamont graduate student Kassandra Costa looking at the biological response to iron in the equatorial Pacific during just the last glacial maximum, some 20,000 years ago. The new paper expands that study from a snapshot in time to a time series across the past 500,000 years. It confirms that Costa’s finding, that iron fertilization had no effect then, fit a pattern that extends across the past five glacial periods.

To gauge how productive the algae were, the scientists in the PNAS paper used deep- sea sediment cores from three locations in the equatorial Pacific that captured 500,000 years of ocean history. They tested along those cores for barium, a measure of how much organic matter is exported to the sea floor at each point in time, and for opal, a silicate mineral that comes from diatoms. Measures of thorium-232 reflected the amount of dust that blew in from land at each point in time.

“Neither natural variability of iron sources in the past nor purposeful addition of iron to equatorial Pacific surface water today, proposed as a mechanism for mitigating the anthropogenic increase in atmospheric CO2 inventory, would have a significant impact,” the authors concluded.

Past experiments with iron fertilization have had mixed results. The European Iron Fertilization Experiment (EIFEX) in 2004, for example, added iron in the Southern Ocean and was able to produce a burst of diatoms, which captured CO2 in their organic tissue and sank to the ocean floor. However, the German-Indian LOHAFEX project in 2009 experimented in a nearby location in the South Atlantic and found few diatoms. Instead, most of its algae were eaten up by tiny marine creatures, passing CO2 into the food chain rather than sinking it. In the LOHAFEX case, the scientists determined that another nutrient that diatoms need — silicic acid — was lacking.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) cautiously discusses iron fertilization in its latest report on climate change mitigation. It warns of potential risks, including the impact that higher productivity in one area may have on nutrients needed by marine life downstream, and the potential for expanding low-oxygen zones, increasing acidification of the deep ocean, and increasing nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas more potent than CO2.

“While it is well recognized that atmospheric dust plays a significant role in the climate system by changing planetary albedo, the study by Winckler et al. convincingly shows that dust and its associated iron content is not a key player in regulating the oceanic sequestration of CO2 in the equatorial Pacific on large spatial and temporal scales,” said Stephanie Kienast, a marine geologist and paleoceanographer at Dalhousie University who was not involved in the study. “The classic paradigm of ocean fertilization by iron during dustier glacials can thus be rejected for the equatorial Pacific, similar to the Northwest Pacific.”


Journal Reference:

  1. Gisela Winckler, Robert F. Anderson, Samuel L. Jaccard, and Franco Marcantonio. Ocean dynamics, not dust, have controlled equatorial Pacific productivity over the past 500,000 yearsPNAS, May 16, 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1600616113

Nasa aims to move Earth (The Guardian)

Scientists’ answer to global warming: nudge the planet farther from Sun

Special report: global warming

, science editor

Sunday 10 June 2001 Last modified on Friday 1 January 2016 


Scientists have found an unusual way to prevent our planet overheating: move it to a cooler spot.

All you have to do is hurtle a few comets at Earth, and its orbit will be altered. Our world will then be sent spinning into a safer, colder part of the solar system.

This startling idea of improving our interplanetary neighbourhood is the brainchild of a group of Nasa engineers and American astronomers who say their plan could add another six billion years to the useful lifetime of our planet – effectively doubling its working life.

‘The technology is not at all far-fetched,’ said Dr Greg Laughlin, of the Nasa Ames Research Center in California. ‘It involves the same techniques that people now suggest could be used to deflect asteroids or comets heading towards Earth. We don’t need raw power to move Earth, we just require delicacy of planning and manoeuvring.’

The plan put forward by Dr Laughlin, and his colleagues Don Korycansky and Fred Adams, involves carefully directing a comet or asteroid so that it sweeps close past our planet and transfers some of its gravitational energy to Earth.

‘Earth’s orbital speed would increase as a result and we would move to a higher orbit away from the Sun,’ Laughlin said.

Engineers would then direct their comet so that it passed close to Jupiter or Saturn, where the reverse process would occur. It would pick up energy from one of these giant planets. Later its orbit would bring it back to Earth, and the process would be repeated.

In the short term, the plan provides an ideal solution to global warming, although the team was actually concerned with a more drastic danger. The sun is destined to heat up in about a billion years and so ‘seriously compromise’ our biosphere – by frying us.

Hence the group’s decision to try to save Earth. ‘All you have to do is strap a chemical rocket to an asteroid or comet and fire it at just the right time,’ added Laughlin. ‘It is basic rocket science.’

The plan has one or two worrying aspects, however. For a start, space engineers would have to be very careful about how they directed their asteroid or comet towards Earth. The slightest miscalculation in orbit could fire it straight at Earth – with devastating consequences.

There is also the vexed question of the Moon. As the current issue of Scientific American points out, if Earth was pushed out of its current position it is ‘most likely the Moon would be stripped away from Earth,’ it states, radically upsetting out planet’s climate.

These criticisms are accepted by the scientists. ‘Our investigation has shown just how delicately Earth is poised within the solar system,’ Laughlin admitted. ‘Nevertheless, our work has practical implications. Our calculations show that to get Earth to a safer, distant orbit, it would have to pass through unstable zones and would need careful nurturing and nudging. Any alien astronomers observing our solar system would know that something odd had occurred, and would realise an intelligent lifeform was responsible.

‘And the same goes for us. When we look at other solar systems, and detect planets around other suns – which we are now beginning to do – we may see that planet-moving has occurred. It will give us our first evidence of the handiwork of extraterrestrial beings.’

Ouvir o cacique (O Globo)

POR JORGE BASTOS MORENO

12/03/2010 10:14

LUIZ GARCIA

É muito simples entender o que é a Fundação Cacique Cobra Coral. Trata-se de organização que se declara beneficente — e não há qualquer prova em contrário — que se atribuiu a missão de “minimizar catástrofes” avisando as autoridades com antecedência. Claro, entender é uma coisa, acreditar é outra. Mas também não falta quem acredite, e, parece, com boas razões.

A fundação foi criada por um certo Angelo Scritori, que morreu em 2002, com alegados 104 anos. Ele recebia os avisos da iminência de desastres naturais do Padre Cícero. Pouco antes de morrer, avisou à praça que seria sucedido pela filha, Adelaide, cujo contato com o outro lado passaria a ser o Cacique Cobra Coral.

Este se comunica com ela falando com sotaque de caboclo brasileiro, embora seja um índio americano Ao avisar sobre a substituição, Padre Cícero informou que o cacique também teria sido, em outras encarnações (se essa é a palavra certa, tratando-se de um espírito), Abraham Lincoln e Galileu Galilei. O leitor não deve ver esse dado com estranheza — até mesmo porque, se é cidadão de pouca fé, francamente, não tem qualquer razão para continuar lendo este artigo.

Mas parece que gente de muita fé não falta. O governo de São Paulo, por exemplo, tem contrato — sem valor financeiro — com a fundação desde 2005. Recebe aviso sobre catástrofes naturais a caminho, com tempo de tomar providências. Se as toma, não se sabe, mas isso não é problema para d. Adelaide.

Ela é bem-sucedida corretora de imóveis, moradora na região próspera dos Jardins de São Paulo. Há algum tempo, definiu com clareza o seu próprio papel como anunciadora de catástrofes: “Funcionamos como uma espécie de air bag. Reduzimos os danos, mas as autoridades têm de fazer a parte delas. O cacique não pode servir de muleta para os homens.”

Talvez como prova disso, a fundação já teve convênio com a Prefeitura de São Paulo, mas o rompeu na gestão do prefeito Gilberto Kassab, porque ele acabara com uma verba destinada a combater causas de desastres climáticos.

Seja como for, o prestígio da Cobra Coral vai além de São Paulo. Em novembro de 2008, a Comissão de Ciência e Tecnologia do Senado aprovou um convite a Adelaide para ir até lá discutir o apagão em 18 estados. Não sei se chegou a ir, não me lembro de notícia disso, mas o convite existiu.

Aqui no Rio, a fundação está discutindo com a Prefeitura a renovação de um convênio — que não envolve qualquer pagamento — pelo qual a fundação profetiza tempestades e assim ajuda a diminuir os seus efeitos. Sendo de graça, por que não ouvir o cacique?

Texto publicado no Globo de hoje.

No escaping the Blue Marble (The Conversation)

August 20, 2015 6.46pm EDT

The Earth seen from Apollo, a photo now known as the “Blue Marble”. NASA

It is often said that the first full image of the Earth, “Blue Marble”, taken by the Apollo 17 space mission in December 1972, revealed Earth to be precious, fragile and protected only by a wafer-thin atmospheric layer. It reinforced the imperative for better stewardship of our “only home”.

But there was another way of seeing the Earth revealed by those photographs. For some the image showed the Earth as a total object, a knowable system, and validated the belief that the planet is there to be used for our own ends.

In this way, the “Blue Marble” image was not a break from technological thinking but its affirmation. A few years earlier, reflecting on the spiritual consequences of space flight, the theologian Paul Tillich wrote of how the possibility of looking down at the Earth gives rise to “a kind of estrangement between man and earth” so that the Earth is seen as a totally calculable material body.

For some, by objectifying the planet this way the Apollo 17 photograph legitimised the Earth as a domain of technological manipulation, a domain from which any unknowable and unanalysable element has been banished. It prompts the idea that the Earth as a whole could be subject to regulation.

This metaphysical possibility is today a physical reality in work now being carried out on geoengineering – technologies aimed at deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system designed to counter global warming or offset some of its effects.

While some proposed schemes are modest and relatively benign, the more ambitious ones – each now with a substantial scientific-commercial constituency – would see humanity mobilising its technological power to seize control of the climate system. And because the climate system cannot be separated from the rest of the Earth System, that means regulating the planet, probably in perpetuity.

Dreams of escape

Geoengineering is often referred to as Plan B, one we should be ready to deploy because Plan A, cutting global greenhouse gas emissions, seems unlikely to be implemented in time. Others are now working on what might be called Plan C. It was announced last year in The Times:

British scientists and architects are working on plans for a “living spaceship” like an interstellar Noah’s Ark that will launch in 100 years’ time to carry humans away from a dying Earth.

This version of Plan C is known as Project Persephone, which is curious as Persephone in Greek mythology was the queen of the dead. The project’s goal is to build “prototype exovivaria – closed ecosystems inside satellites, to be maintained from Earth telebotically, and democratically governed by a global community.”

NASA and DARPA, the US Defense Department’s advanced technologies agency, are also developing a “worldship” designed to take a multi-generational community of humans beyond the solar system.

Paul Tillich noticed the intoxicating appeal that space travel holds for certain kinds of people. Those first space flights became symbols of a new ideal of human existence, “the image of the man who looks down at the earth, not from heaven, but from a cosmic sphere above the earth”. A more common reaction to Project Persephone is summed up by a reader of the Daily Mail: “Only the ‘elite’ will go. The rest of us will be left to die.”

Perhaps being left to die on the home planet would be a more welcome fate. Imagine being trapped on this “exovivarium”, a self-contained world in which exported nature becomes a tool for human survival; a world where there is no night and day; no seasons; no mountains, streams, oceans or bald eagles; no ice, storms or winds; no sky; no sunrise; a closed world whose occupants would work to keep alive by simulation the archetypal habits of life on Earth.

Into the endless void

What kind of person imagines himself or herself living in such a world? What kind of being, after some decades, would such a post-terrestrial realm create? What kind of children would be bred there?

According to Project Persephone’s sociologist, Steve Fuller: “If the Earth ends up a no-go zone for human beings [sic] due to climate change or nuclear or biological warfare, we have to preserve human civilisation.”

Why would we have to preserve human civilisation? What is the value of a civilisation if not to raise human beings to a higher level of intellectual sophistication and moral responsibility? What is a civilisation worth if it cannot protect the natural conditions that gave birth to it?

Those who blast off leaving behind a ruined Earth would carry into space a fallen civilisation. As the Earth receded into the all-consuming blackness those who looked back on it would be the beings who had shirked their most primordial responsibility, beings corroded by nostalgia and survivor guilt.

He’s now mostly forgotten, but in the 1950s and 1960s the Swedish poet Harry Martinson was famous for his haunting epic poem Aniara, which told the story of a spaceship carrying a community of several thousand humans out into space escaping an Earth devastated by nuclear conflagration. At the end of the epic the spaceship’s controller laments the failure to create a new Eden:

“I had meant to make them an Edenic place,

but since we left the one we had destroyed

our only home became the night of space

where no god heard us in the endless void.”

So from the cruel fantasy of Plan C we are obliged to return to Plan A, and do all we can to slow the geological clock that has ticked over into the Anthropocene. If, on this Earthen beast provoked, a return to the halcyon days of an undisturbed climate is no longer possible, at least we can resolve to calm the agitations of “the wakened giant” and so make this new and unwanted epoch one in which humans can survive.

Stop burning fossil fuels now: there is no CO2 ‘technofix’, scientists warn (The Guardian)

Researchers have demonstrated that even if a geoengineering solution to CO2 emissions could be found, it wouldn’t be enough to save the oceans

“The chemical echo of this century’s CO2 pollutiuon will reverberate for thousands of years,” said the report’s co-author, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber

“The chemical echo of this century’s CO2 pollutiuon will reverberate for thousands of years,” said the report’s co-author, Hans Joachim Schellnhuber Photograph: Doug Perrine/Design Pics/Corbis

German researchers have demonstrated once again that the best way to limit climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels now.

In a “thought experiment” they tried another option: the future dramatic removal of huge volumes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This would, they concluded, return the atmosphere to the greenhouse gas concentrations that existed for most of human history – but it wouldn’t save the oceans.

That is, the oceans would stay warmer, and more acidic, for thousands of years, and the consequences for marine life could be catastrophic.

The research, published in Nature Climate Change today delivers yet another demonstration that there is so far no feasible “technofix” that would allow humans to go on mining and drilling for coal, oil and gas (known as the “business as usual” scenario), and then geoengineer a solution when climate change becomes calamitous.

Sabine Mathesius (of the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) and colleagues decided to model what could be done with an as-yet-unproven technology called carbon dioxide removal. One example would be to grow huge numbers of trees, burn them, trap the carbon dioxide, compress it and bury it somewhere. Nobody knows if this can be done, but Dr Mathesius and her fellow scientists didn’t worry about that.

They calculated that it might plausibly be possible to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere at the rate of 90 billion tons a year. This is twice what is spilled into the air from factory chimneys and motor exhausts right now.

The scientists hypothesised a world that went on burning fossil fuels at an accelerating rate – and then adopted an as-yet-unproven high technology carbon dioxide removal technique.

“Interestingly, it turns out that after ‘business as usual’ until 2150, even taking such enormous amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere wouldn’t help the deep ocean that much – after the acidified water has been transported by large-scale ocean circulation to great depths, it is out of reach for many centuries, no matter how much CO2 is removed from the atmosphere,” said a co-author, Ken Caldeira, who is normally based at the Carnegie Institution in the US.

The oceans cover 70% of the globe. By 2500, ocean surface temperatures would have increased by 5C (41F) and the chemistry of the ocean waters would have shifted towards levels of acidity that would make it difficult for fish and shellfish to flourish. Warmer waters hold less dissolved oxygen. Ocean currents, too, would probably change.

But while change happens in the atmosphere over tens of years, change in the ocean surface takes centuries, and in the deep oceans, millennia. So even if atmospheric temperatures were restored to pre-Industrial Revolution levels, the oceans would continue to experience climatic catastrophe.

“In the deep ocean, the chemical echo of this century’s CO2 pollution will reverberate for thousands of years,” said co-author Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, who directs the Potsdam Institute. “If we do not implement emissions reductions measures in line with the 2C (35.6F) target in time, we will not be able to preserve ocean life as we know it.”

Geoengineering proposal may backfire: Ocean pipes ‘not cool,’ would end up warming climate (Science Daily)

Date: March 19, 2015

Source: Carnegie Institution

Summary: There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits. One idea involves using ocean pipes to facilitate direct physical cooling of the surface ocean by replacing warm surface ocean waters with colder, deeper waters. New research shows that these pipes could actually increase global warming quite drastically.


To combat global climate change caused by greenhouse gases, alternative energy sources and other types of environmental recourse actions are needed. There are a variety of proposals that involve using vertical ocean pipes to move seawater to the surface from the depths in order to reap different potential climate benefits.A new study from a group of Carnegie scientists determines that these types of pipes could actually increase global warming quite drastically. It is published in Environmental Research Letters.

One proposed strategy–called Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion, or OTEC–involves using the temperature difference between deeper and shallower water to power a heat engine and produce clean electricity. A second proposal is to move carbon from the upper ocean down into the deep, where it wouldn’t interact with the atmosphere. Another idea, and the focus of this particular study, proposes that ocean pipes could facilitate direct physical cooling of the surface ocean by replacing warm surface ocean waters with colder, deeper waters.

“Our prediction going into the study was that vertical ocean pipes would effectively cool the Earth and remain effective for many centuries,” said Ken Caldeira, one of the three co-authors.

The team, which also included lead author Lester Kwiatkowski as well as Katharine Ricke, configured a model to test this idea and what they found surprised them. The model mimicked the ocean-water movement of ocean pipes if they were applied globally reaching to a depth of about a kilometer (just over half a mile). The model simulated the motion created by an idealized version of ocean pipes, not specific pipes. As such the model does not include real spacing of pipes, nor does it calculate how much energy they would require.

Their simulations showed that while global temperatures could be cooled by ocean pipe systems in the short term, warming would actually start to increase just 50 years after the pipes go into use. Their model showed that vertical movement of ocean water resulted in a decrease of clouds over the ocean and a loss of sea-ice.

Colder air is denser than warm air. Because of this, the air over the ocean surface that has been cooled by water from the depths has a higher atmospheric pressure than the air over land. The cool air over the ocean sinks downward reducing cloud formation over the ocean. Since more of the planet is covered with water than land, this would result in less cloud cover overall, which means that more of the Sun’s rays are absorbed by Earth, rather than being reflected back into space by clouds.

Water mixing caused by ocean pipes would also bring sea ice into contact with warmer waters, resulting in melting. What’s more, this would further decrease the reflection of the Sun’s radiation, which bounces off ice as well as clouds.

After 60 years, the pipes would cause an increase in global temperature of up to 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2degrees Fahrenheit). Over several centuries, the pipes put the Earth on a warming trend towards a temperature increase of 8.5 degrees Celsius (15.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

“I cannot envisage any scenario in which a large scale global implementation of ocean pipes would be advisable,” Kwiatkowski said. “In fact, our study shows it could exacerbate long-term warming and is therefore highly inadvisable at global scales.”

The authors do say, however, that ocean pipes might be useful on a small scale to help aerate ocean dead zones.


Journal Reference:

  1. Lester Kwiatkowski, Katharine L Ricke and Ken Caldeira. Atmospheric consequences of disruption of the ocean thermoclineEnvironmental Research Letters, 2015 DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/10/3/034016

Panel Urges Research on Geoengineering as a Tool Against Climate Change (New York Times)

Piles at a CCI Energy Solutions coal handling plant in Shelbiana, Ky. Geoengineering proposals might counteract the effects of climate change that are the result of burning fossils fuels, such as coal. Credit: Luke Sharrett/Getty Images 

With the planet facing potentially severe impacts from global warming in coming decades, a government-sponsored scientific panel on Tuesday called for more research on geoengineering — technologies to deliberately intervene in nature to counter climate change.

The panel said the research could include small-scale outdoor experiments, which many scientists say are necessary to better understand whether and how geoengineering would work.

Some environmental groups and others say that such projects could have unintended damaging effects, and could set society on an unstoppable path to full-scale deployment of the technologies.

But the National Academy of Sciences panel said that with proper governance, which it said needed to be developed, and other safeguards, such experiments should pose no significant risk.

In two widely anticipated reports, the panel — which was supported by NASA and other federal agencies, including what the reports described as the “U.S. intelligence community” — noted that drastically reducing emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases was by far the best way to mitigate the effects of a warming planet.

A device being developed by a company called Global Thermostat, is made to capture carbon dioxide from the air. This may be one solution to counteract climate change.CreditHenry Fountain/The New York Times 

But the panel, in making the case for more research into geoengineering, said, “It may be prudent to examine additional options for limiting the risks from climate change.”

“The committee felt that the need for information at this point outweighs the need for shoving this topic under the rug,” Marcia K. McNutt, chairwoman of the panel and the editor in chief of the journal Science, said at a news conference in Washington.

Geoengineering options generally fall into two categories: capturing and storing some of the carbon dioxide that has already been emitted so that the atmosphere traps less heat, or reflecting more sunlight away from the earth so there is less heat to start with. The panel issued separate reports on each.

The panel said that while the first option, called carbon dioxide removal, was relatively low risk, it was expensive, and that even if it was pursued on a planetwide scale, it would take many decades to have a significant impact on the climate. But the group said research was needed to develop efficient and effective methods to both remove the gas and store it so it remains out of the atmosphere indefinitely.

The second option, called solar radiation management, is far more controversial. Most discussions of the concept focus on the idea of dispersing sulfates or other chemicals high in the atmosphere, where they would reflect sunlight, in some ways mimicking the effect of a large volcanic eruption.

The process would be relatively inexpensive and should quickly lower temperatures, but it would have to be repeated indefinitely and would do nothing about another carbon dioxide-related problem: the acidification of oceans.

This approach might also have unintended effects on weather patterns around the world — bringing drought to once-fertile regions, for example. Or it might be used unilaterally as a weapon by governments or even extremely wealthy individuals.

Opponents of geoengineering have long argued that even conducting research on the subject presents a moral hazard that could distract society from the necessary task of reducing the emissions that are causing warming in the first place.

“A geoengineering ‘technofix’ would take us in the wrong direction,” Lisa Archer, food and technology program director of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said in a statement. “Real climate justice requires dealing with root causes of climate change, not launching risky, unproven and unjust schemes.”

But the panel said that society had “reached a point where the severity of the potential risks from climate change appears to outweigh the potential risks from the moral hazard” of conducting research.

Ken Caldeira, a geoengineering researcher at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a member of the committee, said that while the panel felt that it was premature to deploy any sunlight-reflecting technologies today, “it’s worth knowing more about them,” including any problems that might make them unworkable.

“If there’s a real showstopper, we should know about it now,” Dr. Caldeira said, rather than discovering it later when society might be facing a climate emergency and desperate for a solution.

Dr. Caldeira is part of a small community of scientists who have researched solar radiation management concepts. Almost all of the research has been done on computers, simulating the effects of the technique on the climate. One attempt in Britain in 2011 to conduct an outdoor test of some of the engineering concepts provoked a public outcry. The experiment was eventually canceled.

David Keith, a researcher at Harvard University who reviewed the reports before they were released, said in an interview, “I think it’s terrific that they made a stronger call than I expected for research, including field research.” Along with other researchers, Dr. Keith has proposed a field experiment to test the effect of sulfate chemicals on atmospheric ozone.

Unlike some European countries, the United States has never had a separate geoengineering research program. Dr. Caldeira said establishing a separate program was unlikely, especially given the dysfunction in Congress. But he said that because many geoengineering research proposals might also help in general understanding of the climate, agencies that fund climate research might start to look favorably upon them.

Dr. Keith agreed, adding that he hoped the new reports would “break the logjam” and “give program managers the confidence they need to begin funding.”

At the news conference, Waleed Abdalati, a member of the panel and a professor at the University of Colorado, said that geoengineering research would have to be subject to governance that took into account not just the science, “but the human ramifications, as well.”

Dr. Abdalati said that, in general, the governance needed to precede the research. “A framework that addresses what kinds of activities would require governance is a necessary first step,” he said.

Raymond Pierrehumbert, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago and a member of the panel, said in an interview that while he thought that a research program that allowed outdoor experiments was potentially dangerous, “the report allows for enough flexibility in the process to follow that it could be decided that we shouldn’t have a program that goes beyond modeling.”

Above all, he said, “it’s really necessary to have some kind of discussion among broader stakeholders, including the public, to set guidelines for an allowable zone for experimentation.”

The Risks of Climate Engineering (New York Times)

Credit: Sarah Jacoby 

THE Republican Party has long resisted action on climate change, but now that much of the electorate wants something done, it needs to find a way out of the hole it has dug for itself. A committee appointed by the National Research Council may just have handed the party a ladder.

In a two-volume report, the council is recommending that the federal government fund a research program into geoengineering as a response to a warming globe. The study could be a watershed moment because reports from the council, an arm of the National Academies that provides advice on science and technology, are often an impetus for new scientific research programs.

Sometimes known as “Plan B,” geoengineering covers a variety of technologies aimed at deliberate, large-scale intervention in the climate system to counter global warming.

Despairing at global foot-dragging, some climate scientists now believe that a turn to Plan B is inevitable. They see it as inscribed in the logic of the situation. The council’s study begins with the assertion that the “likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts” to address climate destabilization grows every year.

The report is balanced in its assessment of the science. Yet by bringing geoengineering from the fringes of the climate debate into the mainstream, it legitimizes a dangerous approach.

Beneath the identifiable risks is not only a gut reaction to the hubris of it all — the idea that humans could set out to regulate the Earth system, perhaps in perpetuity — but also to what it says about where we are today. As the committee’s chairwoman, Marcia McNutt, told The Associated Press: The public should read this report “and say, ‘This is downright scary.’ And they should say, ‘If this is our Hail Mary, what a scary, scary place we are in.’ ”

Even scarier is the fact that, while most geoengineering boosters see these technologies as a means of buying time for the world to get its act together, others promote them as a substitute for cutting emissions. In 2008, Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, later Republican presidential candidate and an early backer of geoengineering, said: “Instead of penalizing ordinary Americans, we would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific invention,” adding: “Bring on the American ingenuity.”

The report, considerably more cautious, describes geoengineering as one element of a “portfolio of responses” to climate change and examines the prospects of two approaches — removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and enveloping the planet in a layer of sulfate particles to reduce the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface.

At the same time, the council makes clear that there is “no substitute for dramatic reductions in the emissions” of greenhouse gases to slow global warming and acidifying oceans.

The lowest-risk strategies for removing carbon dioxide are “currently limited by cost and at present cannot achieve the desired result of removing climatically important amounts,” the report said. On the second approach, the council said that at present it was “opposed to climate-altering deployment” of technologies to reflect radiation back into space.

Still, the council called for research programs to fill the gaps in our knowledge on both approaches, evoking a belief that we can understand enough about how the Earth system operates in order to take control of it.

Expressing interest in geoengineering has been taboo for politicians worried about climate change for fear they would be accused of shirking their responsibility to cut carbon emissions. Yet in some congressional offices, interest in geoengineering is strong. And Congress isn’t the only place where there is interest. Russia in 2013 unsuccessfully sought to insert a pro-geoengineering statement into the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Early work on geoengineering has given rise to one of the strangest paradoxes in American politics: enthusiasm for geoengineering from some who have attacked the idea of human-caused global warming. The Heartland Institute, infamous for its billboard comparing those who support climate science to the Unabomber, Theodore J. Kaczynski, featured an article in one of its newsletters from 2007 describing geoengineering as a “practical, cost-effective global warming strategy.”

Some scholars associated with conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institution and the Hudson Institute have written optimistically about geoengineering.

Oil companies, too, have dipped their toes into the geoengineering waters with Shell, for instance, having funded research into a scheme to put lime into seawater so it absorbs more carbon dioxide.

With half of Republican voters favoring government action to tackle global warming, any Republican administration would be tempted by the technofix to beat all technofixes.

For some, instead of global warming’s being proof of human failure, engineering the climate would represent the triumph of human ingenuity. While climate change threatens to destabilize the system, geoengineering promises to protect it. If there is such a thing as a right-wing technology, geoengineering is it.

President Obama has been working assiduously to persuade the world that the United States is at last serious about Plan A — winding back its greenhouse gas emissions. The suspicions of much of the world would be reignited if the United States were the first major power to invest heavily in Plan B.

Geoengineering report: Scientists urge more research on climate intervention (Science Daily)

Date: February 10, 2015

Source: University of Michigan

Summary: Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while necessary, may not happen soon enough to stave off climate catastrophe. So, in addition, the world may need to resort to so-called geoengineering approaches that aim to deliberately control the planet’s climate.


Deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, while necessary, may not happen soon enough to stave off climate catastrophe. So, in addition, the world may need to resort to so-called geoengineering approaches that aim to deliberately control the planet’s climate.

That’s according to a National Research Council committee that today released a pair of sweeping reports on climate intervention techniques.

The University of Michigan’s Joyce Penner, who is the Ralph J. Cicerone Distinguished University Professor of Atmospheric Science, served on the committee. Penner studies how clouds affect climate.

The reports consider the two main ways humans could attempt to steer the Earth’s system: We could try to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Or we could try to reflect more sunlight back into space. The committee examined the socioeconomic and environmental impacts as well as the costs and technological readiness of approaches in each category.

The researchers said that certain CO2-removal tactics could have a place in a broader climate change response plan. But the sunlight reflecting technologies, on the other hand, are too risky at this point. They underscored how important it is for humans to limit the levels of CO2 they put into the atmosphere in the first place, and they called for more research into all climate intervention approaches.

“I, for one, am concerned with the continuing rise in CO2 concentrations without clear efforts to reduce emissions,” Penner said. “The widespread impacts from these increases are readily apparent, and the cost of climate change impacts is likely to be high.

“We may need to employ some of these climate interventions techniques to avoid a catastrophe such as the loss of the Antarctic ice sheets, or even to remain below levels of climate change that are considered dangerous in the political arena.”

Techniques to remove CO2 include restoring forests and adopting low-till farming — both of which trap carbon in plants and soils. Oceans could be seeded with iron to promote growth of CO2-consuming organisms. And carbon could be be sucked directly out of the air and injected underground.

Methods to reflect sunlight include pumping sulfuric compounds into the stratosphere to, in essence, simulate a volcanic eruption; and spraying sea water mist or other finer-than-usual particles over the ocean. Smaller particles lead to brighter clouds, Penner said.

While the committee said that some of the CO2 removal strategies including “carbon capture and sequestration” have potential to be part of a viable plan to curb climate change, it noted that only prototype sequestration systems exist today. Much development would have to occur before it could be ready for broad use.

The scientists caution against dumping iron in the oceans, as the technical and environmental risks currently outweigh the benefits. Similarly, they warned against sunlight-reflecting approaches, also known as “albedo modification.”

These efforts might be able to reduce the Earth’s temperature in just a few years, and they’re relatively cheap when compared to transitioning to a carbon-free economy. But they’d have to be kept up indefinitely and could have numerous negative secondary effects on ozone, weather and human health.

Even in its opposition to sunlight reflecting tactics, the committee still recommended more research into them, as it urged more study of all climate intervention possibilities. Penner was struck by this call to action.

“U.S. agencies may have been reluctant to fund this area because of the sense of what we call ‘moral hazard’ — that if you start down the road of doing this research you may end up relying on this or condoning this as a way of saving the planet from the cost of decreasing CO2 emissions,” Penner said. “But we’ve stated that decreasing emissions must go hand in hand with any climate intervention efforts.”

Penner says the recommendation is a sign of the climate problem’s urgency.

“We need to develop the knowledge base to allow informed decisions before these dangerous effects are upon us,” she said.

The study was sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences, U.S. intelligence community, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Department of Energy. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, independent nonprofit institution that provides science, technology and health policy advice under a congressional charter granted to NAS in 1863. The National Research Council is the principal operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

Scientists urge global ‘wake-up call’ to deal with climate change (The Guardian)

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that work must start on unproven technologies now, admits US National Academy of Science

Series of mature thunderstorms located near the Parana River in southern Brazil.

‘The likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts to address damage from climate change grows with every year of inaction on emissions control,’ says US National Academy of Science report. Photograph: ISS/NASA

Climate change has advanced so rapidly that the time has come to look at options for a planetary-scale intervention, the National Academy of Science said on Tuesday.

The scientists were categorical that geoengineering should not be deployed now, and was too risky to ever be considered an alternative to cutting the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

But it was better to start research on such unproven technologies now – to learn more about their risks – than to be stampeded into climate-shifting experiments in an emergency, the scientists said.

With that, a once-fringe topic in climate science moved towards the mainstream – despite the repeated warnings from the committee that cutting carbon pollution remained the best hope for dealing with climate change.

“That scientists are even considering technological interventions should be a wake-up call that we need to do more now to reduce emissions, which is the most effective, least risky way to combat climate change,” Marcia McNutt, the committee chair and former director of the US Geological Survey, said.

Asked whether she foresaw a time when scientists would eventually turn to some of the proposals studied by the committee, she said: “Gosh, I hope not.”

The two-volume report, produced over 18 months by a team of 16 scientists, was far more guarded than a similar British exercise five years ago which called for an immediate injection of funds to begin research on climate-altering interventions.

The scientists were so sceptical about geo-engineering that they dispensed with the term, opting for “climate intervention”. Engineering implied a measure of control the technologies do not have, the scientists said.

But the twin US reports – Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration and Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool the Earth – could boost research efforts at a limited scale.

The White House and committee leaders in Congress were briefed on the report’s findings this week.

Bill Gates, among others, argues the technology, which is still confined to computer models, has enormous potential and he has funded research at Harvard. The report said scientific research agencies should begin carrying out co-ordinated research.

But geo-engineering remains extremely risky and relying on a planetary hack – instead of cutting carbon dioxide emissions – is “irresponsible and irrational”, the report said.

The scientists looked at two broad planetary-scale technological fixes for climate change: sucking carbon dioxide emissions out of the atmosphere, or carbon dioxide removal, and increasing the amount of sunlight reflected away from the earth and back into space, or albedo modification.

Albedo modification, injecting sulphur dioxide to increase the amount of reflective particles in the atmosphere and increase the amount of sunlight reflected back into space, is seen as a far riskier proposition.

Tinkering with reflectivity would merely mask the symptoms of climate change, the report said. It would do nothing to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

The world would have to commit to continuing a course of albedo modification for centuries on end – or watch climate change come roaring back.

“It’s hard to unthrow that switch once you embark on an albedo modification approach. If you walk back from it, you stop masking the effects of climate change and you unleash the accumulated effects rather abruptly,” Waleed Abdalati, a former Nasa chief scientist who was on the panel, said.

More ominously, albedo modification could alter the climate in new and additional ways from which there would be no return. “It doesn’t go back, it goes different,” he said.

The results of such technologies are still far too unpredictable on a global scale, McNutt said. She also feared they could trigger conflicts. The results of such climate interventions will vary enormously around the globe, she said.

“Kansas may be happy with the answer, but Congo may not be happy at all because of changes in rainfall. It may be quite a bit worse for the Arctic, and it’s not going to address at all ocean acidification,” she said. “There are all sorts of reasons why one might not view albedo modified world as an improvement.”

The report also warned that offering the promise of a quick fix to climate change through planet hacking could discourage efforts to cut the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

“The message is that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is by far the preferable way of addressing the problem,” said Raymond Pierrehumbert, a University of Chicago climate scientist, who served on the committee writing the report. “Dimming the sun by increasing the earth’s reflectivity shouldn’t be viewed as a cheap substitute for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. It is a very poor and distant third, fourth, or even fifth choice. |It is way down on the list of things you want to do.”

But geoengineering has now landed on the list.

Climate change was advancing so rapidly a climate emergency – such as widespread crop failure – might propel governments into trying such large-scale interventions.

“The likelihood of eventually considering last-ditch efforts to address damage from climate change grows with every year of inaction on emissions control,” the report said.

If that was the case, it was far better to be prepared for the eventualities by carrying out research now.

The report gave a cautious go-ahead to technologies to suck carbon dioxide out of the air, finding them generally low-risk – although they were prohibitively expensive.

The report discounted the idea of seeding the ocean with iron filings to create plankton blooms that absorb carbon dioxide.

But it suggested carbon-sucking technologies could be considered as part of a portfolio of responses to fight climate change.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has come up with some ideas for what

Carbon-sucking technologies, such as these ‘artificial forests’, could in future be considered to fight climate change – but reducing carbon dioxide emissions now is by far the preferable way of addressing the problem. Photograph: Guardian

It would involve capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and pumping it underground at high pressure – similar to technology that is only now being tested at a small number of coal plants.

Sucking carbon dioxide out of the air is much more challenging than capturing it from a power plant – which is already prohibitively expensive, the report said. But it still had a place.

“I think there is a good case that eventually this might have to be part of the arsenal of weapons we use against climate change,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist at Princeton University, who was not involved with the report.

Drawing a line between the two technologies – carbon dioxide removal and albedo modification – was seen as one of the important outcomes of Tuesday’s report.

The risks and potential benefits of the two are diametrically opposed, said Ken Caldeira, an atmospheric scientist at Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology and a geoengineering pioneer, who was on the committee.

“The primary concern about carbon dioxide removal is how much does it cost,” he said. “There are no sort of novel, global existential dilemmas that are raised. The main aim of the research is to make it more affordable, and to make sure it is environmentally acceptable.”

In the case of albedo reflection, however, the issue is risk. “A lot of those ideas are relatively cheap,” he said. “The question isn’t about direct cost. The question is, What bad stuff is going to happen?”

There are fears such interventions could lead to unintended consequences that are even worse than climate change – widespread crop failure and famine, clashes between countries over who controls the skies.

But Caldeira, who was on the committee, argued that it made sense to study those consequences now. “If there are real show stoppers and it is not going to work, it would be good to know that in advance and take it off the table, so people don’t do something rash in an emergency situation,” he said.

Spraying sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere could lower temperatures – at least according to computer models and real-life experiences following major volcanic eruptions.

But the cooling would be temporary and it would do nothing to right ocean chemistry, which was thrown off kilter by absorbing those emissions.

“My view of albedo modification is that it is like taking pain killers when you need surgery for cancer,” said Pierrehumbert. “It’s ignoring the problem. The problem is still growing though and it is going to come back and get you.”

From the Concorde to Sci-Fi Climate Solutions (Truthout)

Thursday, 29 January 2015 00:00 By Almuth Ernsting, Truthout

The interior of the Concorde aircraft at the Scotland Museum of Flight. (Photo: Magnus Hagdorn)

The interior of the Concorde aircraft at the Scotland Museum of Flight. (Photo: Magnus Hagdorn)

Touting “sci-fi climate solutions” – untested technologies not really scalable to the dimensions of our climate change crisis – dangerously delays the day when we actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Last week, I took my son to Scotland’s Museum of Flight. Its proudest exhibit: a Concorde. To me, it looked stunningly futuristic. “How old,” remarked my son, looking at the confusing array of pre-digital controls in the cockpit. Watching the accompanying video – “Past Dreams of the Future” – it occurred to me that the story of the Concorde stands as a symbol for two of the biggest obstacles to addressing climate change.

The Concorde must rank among the most wasteful ways of guzzling fossil fuels ever invented. No other form of transport is as destructive to the climate as aviation – yet the Concorde burned almost five times as much fuel per person per mile as a standard aircraft. Moreover, by emitting pollutants straight into the lower stratosphere, the Concorde contributed to ozone depletion. At the time of the Concorde’s first test flight in 1969, little was known about climate change and the ozone hole had not yet been discovered. Yet by the time the Concorde was grounded – for purely economic reasons – in 2003, concerns about its impact on the ozone layer had been voiced for 32 years and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) first report had been published for 13 years.

The Concorde’s history illustrates how the elites will stop at nothing when pursuing their interests or desires. No damage to the atmosphere and no level of noise-induced misery to those living under Concorde flight paths were treated as bad enough to warrant depriving the richest of a glamorous toy.

If this first “climate change lesson” from the Concorde seems depressing, the second will be even less comfortable for many.

Back in 1969, the UK’s technology minister marveled at Concorde’s promises: “It’ll change the shape of the world; it’ll shrink the globe by half . . . It replaces in one step the entire progress made in aviation since the Wright Brothers in 1903.”

Few would have believed at that time that, from 2003, no commercial flight would reach even half the speed that had been achieved back in the 1970s.

The Concorde remained as fast – yet as inefficient and uneconomical – as it had been from its commercial inauguration in 1976 – despite vast amounts of public and industry investment. The term “Concorde fallacy” entered British dictionaries: “The idea that you should continue to spend money on a project, product, etc. in order not to waste the money or effort you have already put into it, which may lead to bad decisions.”

The lessons for those who believe in overcoming climate change through technological progress are sobering: It’s not written in the stars that every technology dreamed up can be realized, nor that, with enough time and money, every technical problem will be overcome and that, over time, every new technology will become better, more efficient and more affordable.

Yet precisely such faith in technological progress informs mainstream responses to climate change, including the response by the IPCC. At a conference last autumn, I listened to a lead author of the IPCC’s latest assessment report. His presentation began with a depressing summary of the escalating climate crisis and the massive rise in energy use and carbon emissions, clearly correlated with economic growth. His conclusion was highly optimistic: Provided we make the right choices, technological progress offers a future with zero-carbon energy for all, with ever greater prosperity and no need for economic growth to end. This, he illustrated with some drawings of what we might expect by 2050: super-grids connecting abundant nuclear and renewable energy sources across continents, new forms of mass transport (perhaps modeled on Japan’s magnetic levitation trains), new forms of aircraft (curiously reminiscent of the Concorde) and completely sustainable cars (which looked like robots on wheels). The last and most obscure drawing in his presentation was unfinished, to remind us that future technological progress is beyond our capacity to imagine; the speaker suggested it might be a printer printing itself in a new era of self-replicating machines.

These may represent the fantasies of just one of many lead authors of the IPCC’s recent report. But the IPCC’s 2014 mitigation report itself relies on a large range of techno-fixes, many of which are a long way from being technically, let alone commercially, viable. Climate justice campaigners have condemned the IPCC’s support for “false solutions” to climate change. But the term “false solutions” does not distinguish between techno-fixes that are real and scalable, albeit harmful and counterproductive on the one hand, and those that remain in the realm of science fiction, or threaten to turn into another “Concorde fallacy,” i.e. to keep guzzling public funds with no credible prospect of ever becoming truly viable. Let’s call the latter “sci-fi solutions.”

The most prominent, though by no means only, sci-fi solution espoused by the IPCC is BECCS – bioenergy with carbon capture and storage. According to their recent report, the vast majority of “pathways” or models for keeping temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius rely on “negative emissions.” Although the report included words of caution, pointing out that such technologies are “uncertain” and “associated with challenges and risks,” the conclusion is quite clear: Either carbon capture and storage, including BECCS, is introduced on a very large scale, or the chances of keeping global warming within 2 degrees Celsius are minimal. In the meantime, the IPCC’s chair, Rajendra Pachauri, and the co-chair of the panel’s Working Group on Climate Change Mitigation, Ottmar Edenhofer, publicly advocate BECCS without any notes of caution about uncertainties – referring to it as a proven way of reducing carbon dioxide levels and thus global warming. Not surprisingly therefore, BECCS has even entered the UN climate change negotiations. The recent text, agreed at the Lima climate conference in December 2014 (“Lima Call for Action”), introduces the terms “net zero emissions” and “negative emissions,” i.e. the idea that we can reliably suck large amounts of carbon (those already emitted from burning fossil fuels) out of the atmosphere. Although BECCS is not explicitly mentioned in the Lima Call for Action, the wording implies support for it because it is treated as the key “negative emissions” technology by the IPCC.

If BECCS were to be applied at a large scale in the future, then we would have every reason to be alarmed. According to a scientific review, attempting to capture 1 billion tons of carbon through BECCS (far less than many of the “pathways” considered by the IPCC presume) would require 218 to 990 million hectares of switchgrass plantations (or similar scale plantations of other feedstocks, including trees), 1.6 to 7.4 trillion cubic meters of water a year, and 75 percent more than all the nitrogen fertilizers used worldwide (which currently stands at 1 billion tons according to the “conservative” estimates in many studies). By comparison, just 30 million hectares of land worldwide have been converted to grow feedstock for liquid biofuels so far. Yet biofuels have already become the main cause of accelerated growth in demand for vegetable oils and cereals, triggering huge volatility and rises in the price of wood worldwide. And by pushing up palm oil prices, biofuels have driven faster deforestation across Southeast Asia and increasingly in Africa. As a result of the ethanol boom, more than 6 million hectares of US land has been planted with corn, causing prairies and wetlands to be plowed up. This destruction of ecosystems, coupled with the greenhouse gas intensive use of fertilizers, means that biofuels overall are almost certainly worse for the climate than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace. There are no reasons to believe that the impacts of BECCS would be any more benign. And they would be on a much larger scale.

Capturing carbon takes a lot of energy, hence CCS requires around one-third more fuel to be burned to generate the same amount of energy. And sequestering captured carbon is a highly uncertain business. So far, there have been three large-scale carbon sequestration experiments. The longest-standing of these, the Sleipner field carbon sequestration trial in the North Sea, has been cited as proof that carbon dioxide can be sequestered reliably under the seabed. Yet in 2013, unexpected scars and fractures were found in the reservoir and a lead researcher concluded: “We are saying it is very likely something will come out in the end.” Another one of the supposedly “successful,” if much shorter, trials also raised “interesting questions,” according to the researchers: Carbon dioxide migrated further upward in the reservoir than predicted, most likely because injecting the carbon dioxide caused fractures in the cap rock.

There are thus good reasons to be alarmed about the prospect of large-scale bioenergy with CCS. Yet BECCS isn’t for real.

While the IPCC and world leaders conclude that we really need to use carbon capture and storage, including biomass, here’s what is actually happening: The Norwegian government, once proud of being a global pioneer of CCS, has pulled the plug on the country’s first full-scale CCS project after a scathing report from a public auditor. The Swedish state-owned energy company Vattenfall has shut down its CCS demonstration plant in Germany, the only plant worldwide testing a particular and supposedly promising carbon capture technology. The government of Alberta has dropped its previously enthusiastic support for CCS because it no longer sees it as economically viable.

True, 2014 has seen the opening of the world’s largest CCS power station, after SaskPower retrofitted one unit of their Boundary Dam coal power station in Saskatchewan to capture carbon dioxide. But Boundary Dam hardly confirms the techno-optimist’s hopes. The 100-megawatt unit costs approximately $1.4 billion to build – more than twice the cost of a much larger (non-CCS) 400-megawatt gas power station built by SaskPower in 2009. It became viable thanks only to public subsidies and to a contract with the oil company Cenovus, which agreed to buy the carbon dioxide for the next decade in order to inject it into an oil well to facilitate extraction of more hard to reach oil – a process called enhanced oil recovery (EOR). The supposed “carbon dioxide savings” predictably ignore all of the carbon dioxide emissions from burning that oil. But even with such a nearby oil field suitable for EOR, SaskPower had to make the plant far smaller than originally planned so as to avoid capturing more carbon dioxide than they could sell.

If CCS with fossil fuels is reminiscent of the Concorde fallacy, large-scale BECCS is entirely in the realm of science fiction. The supposedly most “promising technology”has never been tested in a biomass power plant and that has so far proven uneconomical with coal. Add to that the fact that biomass power plants need more feedstock and are less efficient and more expensive to run than coal power plants, and a massive-scale BECCS program becomes even more implausible. And then add to that the question of scale: Sequestering 1 billion tons of carbon a year would produce a volume of highly pressurized liquid carbon dioxide larger than the global volume of oil extracted annually. It would require governments and/or companies stumping up the money to build an infrastructure larger than that of the entire global oil industry – without any proven benefit.

This doesn’t mean that we won’t see any little BECCS projects in niche circumstances. One of these already exists: ADM is capturing carbon dioxide from ethanol fermentation in one of its refineries for use in CCS research. Capturing carbon dioxide from ethanol fermentation is relatively simple and cheap. If there happens to be some half-depleted nearby oil field suitable for enhanced oil recovery, some ethanol “CCS” projects could pop up here and there. But this has little to do with a “billion ton negative emissions” vision.

BECCS thus appears as one, albeit a particularly prominent, example of baseless techno-optimism leading to dangerous policy choices. Dangerous, that is, because hype about sci-fi solutions becomes a cover for the failure to curb fossil fuel burning and ecosystem destruction today.

Is a climate disaster inevitable? (Book Forum)

From De Ethica, Michel Bourban (Lausanne): Climate Change, Human Rights and the Problem of Motivation; Robert Heeger (Utrecht): Climate Change and Responsibility to Future Generations: Reflections on the Normative Questions; Casey Rentmeester (Finlandia): Do No Harm: A Cross-Disciplinary, Cross-Cultural Climate Ethics; and Norbert Campagna (Luxembourg): Climate Migration and the State’s Duty to Protect. Harvard’s David Keith knows how to dial down the Earth’s thermostat — is it time to try? Renzo Taddei (UNIFESP): Alter Geoengineering. Tobias Boes and Kate Marshall on writing the Anthropocene. People don’t work as hard on hot days — or on a warming planet. James West on 2014 was the year we finally started to do something about climate change. How much is climate change going to cost us? David Roberts investigates. Is a climate disaster inevitable? Adam Frank on what astrobiology can tell us about the fate of the planet. If we’re all headed for extinction anyway—AND WE ARE—won’t it be a lot more enjoyable to run out the clock with everyone looking a little more pleasant? Welcome to the latest exciting opportunity in the sights of investors: the collapse of planet Earth. You can download Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence by Christian Parenti (2011). You can download Minimal Ethics for the Anthropocene by Joanna Zylinska (2014).

[Emphasis added]

“What is ecological engineering?” (Inhabiting the Anthropocene)

“What is ecological engineering?”
by Ingo Schlupp

CITATION:
Mitsch, W.J. 2012. Ecological Engineering, Vol. 45, pp. 5-12.
ON-LINE AVAILABILITY:
doi:10.1016/j.ecoleng.2012.04.013

ABSTRACT:
Ecological engineering, defined as the design of sustainable ecosystems that integrate human society with its natural environment for the benefit of both, has developed over the last 30 years, and rapidly over the last 10 years. Its goals include the restoration of ecosystems that have been substantially disturbed by human activities and the development of new sustainable ecosystems that have both human and ecological values. It is especially needed as conventional energy sources diminish and amplification of nature’s ecosystem services is needed even more. There are now several universities developing academic pro- grams or departments called ecological engineering, ecological restoration, or similar terms, the number of manuscripts submitted to the journal Ecological Engineering continue to increase at an rapid rate, and the U.S. National Science Foundation now has a specific research focus area called ecological engineer- ing. There are many private firms now developing and even prospering that are now specializing in the restoration of streams, rivers, lakes, forests, grasslands, and wetlands, the rehabilitation of minelands and urban brownfields, and the creation of treatment wetlands and phytoremediation sites. It appears that the perfect synchronization of academy, publishing, research resources, and practice is beginning to develop. Yet the field still does not have a formal accreditation in engineering and receives guarded acceptance in the university system and workplace alike.
William Mitsch is one of the founders of the field of Ecological Engineering, which specializes on managing and restoring ecosystems. There seems to be an obvious connection between the Anthropocene idea and this relatively new field. The Mitsch paper is a good place to start to understand the effort to be more deliberate and thoughtful about ways we intervene in natural systems—something that has run amok in the Anthropocene.

But it is important to me to put Ecological Engineering into a biological context. One of the key concepts that come to the mind of a biologist when we think of the Anthropocence is how almost any organism manipulates its environment. (Zev Trachtenberg has posted on the related idea of “niche construction.”) This is sometimes an apparent byproduct of physiological functions like plants releasing oxygen into the air (thereby making the planet hospitable to most animals) or a very clear, active manipulation like the beaver dam that creates a pond. The pond directly serves the beavers, but many organisms benefit from the existence of the novel pond. Others drown, of course. This kind of large scale and far reaching effect is classified as ecosystem engineering and has become a key concept in ecology. We now recognize that ecosystem engineering has many consequences, including a large increase in species richness. (In the Further Reading section I list a recent meta-analysis by Romero et al. in the highly respected journal Biological Reviews which just made this point.)

So, animals manipulate their environment all the time, how about humans? How are our efforts different? Often we simply mimic nature: we put artificial reefs in place of natural ones. These fake reefs have some of the same functions as natural reefs built by corals, mainly providing hard substrate for other animals to grow upon. Because corals provide more that just a substrate and are living, breathing part of the reef, other functions cannot be mimicked.

Humans have taken ecosystem engineering to a new dimension, partly creating the very Anthropocene we are discussing here. Like almost every other species on the planet our own species has altered the environment from Day 1, but when did we cross the threshold and became the masters of ecosystem engineering? Was it the invention of agriculture? Or any other milestone in the evolution of humanity?

Whenever it was, for our own species ecosystem engineering is obviously now very active and has resulted in planet-wide alterations. This leads me back to Ecological Engineering: it is an applied science, pioneered by Mitsch, who has promoted it since the early 1990’s. What is intriguing about this field is that it is by definition transdisciplinary, but it suffers from a problem that all of transdisciplinary approaches have, namely limited acceptance in the “pure” fields.

It is necessary for us to realize that Ecosystem Engineering, when done by humans has a moral and political dimension to it, but an engineering approach has additional aspects to think about: Engineering might be a misleading term, as it implies that we have control over all the moving parts. The science of Ecology is far from having a complete understanding of the dynamics that govern ecosystems; can we manage something we don’t understand all that well? At the same time we may have already altered all “natural” systems to a point where we are unable to research them as if they were naturals. Maybe this is the biological version of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

FURTHER READING:
Mitsch, W.J., 1993. Ecological engineering—a cooperative role with the planetary life–support systems. Environmental Science and Technology, 27, 438–445. DOI: 10.1021/es00040a600. One of Mitsch’s early papers that helped launch the field.

Romero, G.Q. et al. 2014. Ecosystem engineering effects on species diversity across ecosystems: a meta-analysis. Biological Reviews, DOI: 10.1111/brv.12138. This paper argues that ecosystem engineering increases the number of species, but the effects depend e.g. on latitude (they are stronger in the tropics) and other factors.

Geoengineering Gone Wild: Newsweek Touts Turning Humans Into Hobbits To Save Climate (Climate Progress)

POSTED ON DECEMBER 5, 2014 AT 9:37 AM

Matamata, New Zealand - "Hobbiton," site created for filming Hollywood blockbusters The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

A Newsweek cover story touts genetically engineering humans to be smaller, with better night vision (like, say, hobbits) to save the Earth. Matamata, New Zealand, or “Hobbiton,” site created for filming Hollywood blockbusters The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Newsweek has an entire cover story devoted to raising the question, “Can Geoengineering Save the Earth?” After reading it, though, you may not realize the answer is a resounding “no.” In part that’s because Newsweek manages to avoid quoting even one of the countless general critics of geoengineering in its 2700-word (!) piece.

20141205cover600-x-800Geoengineering is not a well-defined term, but at its broadest, it is the large-scale manipulation of the Earth and its biosphere to counteract the effects of human-caused global warming. Global warming itself is geo-engineering — originally unintentional, but now, after decades of scientific warnings, not so much.

I have likened geoengineering to a dangerous, never tested, course of chemotherapy prescribed to treat a condition curable through diet and exercise — or, in this case, greenhouse gas emissions reduction. If your actual doctor were to prescribe such a treatment, you would get another doctor.

The media likes geoengineering stories because they are clickbait involving all sorts of eye-popping science fiction (non)solutions to climate change that don’t actually require anything of their readers (or humanity) except infinite credulousness. And so Newsweek informs us that adorable ants might solve the problem or maybe phytoplankton can if given Popeye-like superstrength with a diet of iron or, as we’ll see, maybe we humans can, if we allow ourselves to be turned into hobbit-like creatures. The only thing they left out was time-travel.

The author does talk to an unusually sober expert supporter of geoengineering, climatologist Ken Caldeira. Caldeira knows that of all the proposed geoengineering strategies, only one makes even the tiniest bit of sense — and he knows even that one doesn’t make much sense. That would be the idea of spewing vast amounts of tiny particulates (sulfate aerosols) into the atmosphere to block sunlight, mimicking the global temperature drops that follow volcanic eruptions. But they note the caveat: “that said, Caldeira doesn’t believe any method of geoengineering is really a good solution to fighting climate change — we can’t test them on a large scale, and implementing them blindly could be dangerous.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. As Caldeira told me in 2009, “If we keep emitting greenhouse gases with the intent of offsetting the global warming with ever increasing loadings of particles in the stratosphere, we will be heading to a planet with extremely high greenhouse gases and a thick stratospheric haze that we would need to maintain more-or-less indefinitely. This seems to be a dystopic world out of a science fiction story.”

And the scientific literature has repeatedly explained that the aerosol-cooling strategy — or indeed any large-scale effort to manipulate sunlight — is very dangerous. Just last month, the UK Guardian reported that the aerosol strategy “risks ‘terrifying’ consequences including droughts and conflicts,” according to recent studies.

“Billions of people would suffer worse floods and droughts if technology was used to block warming sunlight, the research found.”

And remember, this dystopic world where billions suffer is the best geoengineering strategy out there. And it still does nothing to stop the catastrophic acidification of the ocean.

There simply is no rational or moral substitute for aggressive greenhouse gas cuts. But Newsweek quickly dispenses with that supposedly “seismic shift in what has become a global value system” so it can move on to its absurdist “reimagining of what it means to be human”:

In a paper released in 2012, S. Matthew Liao, a philosopher and ethicist at New York University, and some colleagues proposed a series of human-engineering projects that could make our very existence less damaging to the Earth. Among the proposals were a patch you can put on your skin that would make you averse to the flavor of meat (cattle farms are a notorious producer of the greenhouse gas methane), genetic engineering in utero to make humans grow shorter (smaller people means fewer resources used), technological reengineering of our eyeballs to make us better at seeing at night (better night vision means lower energy consumption)….

Yes, let’s turn humans into hobbits (who are “about 3 feet tall” and “their night vision is excellent“). Anyone can see that could easily be done for billions of people in the timeframe needed to matter. Who could imagine any political or practical objection?

Now you may be thinking that Newsweek can’t possibly be serious devoting ink to such nonsense. But if not, how did the last two paragraphs of the article make it to print:

Geoengineering, Liao argues, doesn’t address the root cause. Remaking the planet simply attempts to counteract the damage that’s been done, but it does nothing to stop the burden humans put on the planet. “Human engineering is more of an upstream solution,” says Liao. “You get right to the source. If we’re smaller on average, then we can have a smaller footprint on the planet. You’re looking at the source of the problem.”

It might be uncomfortable for humans to imagine intentionally getting smaller over generations or changing their physiology to become averse to meat, but why should seeding the sky with aerosols be any more acceptable? In the end, these are all actions we would enact only in worst-case scenarios. And when we’re facing the possible devastation of all mankind, perhaps a little humanity-wide night vision won’t seem so dramatic.

Memo to Newsweek: We are already facing the devastation of all mankind. And science has already provided the means of our “rescue,” the means of reducing “the burden humans put on the planet” — the myriad carbon-free energy technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps LED lighting would make a slightly more practical strategy than reengineering our eyeballs, though perhaps not one dramatic enough to inspire one of your cover stories.

As Caldeira himself has said elsewhere of geoengineering, “I think that 99% of our effort to avoid climate change should be put on emissions reduction, and 1% of our effort should be looking into these options.” So perhaps Newsweek will consider 99 articles on the real solutions before returning to the magical thinking of Middle Earth.

High-tech mirror beams heat away from buildings into space (Science Daily)

Date:

November 26, 2014

Source:

Stanford School of Engineering

Summary:

Engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight, and it sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation.

141126133821-large

Stanford engineers have invented a material designed to help cool buildings. The material reflects incoming sunlight and sends heat from inside the structure directly into space as infrared radiation – represented by reddish rays. Credit: Illustration: Nicolle R. Fuller, Sayo-Art LLC

Stanford engineers have invented a revolutionary coating material that can help cool buildings, even on sunny days, by radiating heat away from the buildings and sending it directly into space.

A new ultrathin multilayered material can cool buildings without air conditioning by radiating warmth from inside the buildings into space while also reflecting sunlight to reduce incoming heat.

A team led by electrical engineering Professor Shanhui Fan and research associate Aaswath Raman reported this energy-saving breakthrough in the journal Nature.

The heart of the invention is an ultrathin, multilayered material that deals with light, both invisible and visible, in a new way.

Invisible light in the form of infrared radiation is one of the ways that all objects and living things throw off heat. When we stand in front of a closed oven without touching it, the heat we feel is infrared light. This invisible, heat-bearing light is what the Stanford invention shunts away from buildings and sends into space.

Of course, sunshine also warms buildings. The new material, in addition to dealing with infrared light, is also a stunningly efficient mirror that reflects virtually all of the incoming sunlight that strikes it.

The result is what the Stanford team calls photonic radiative cooling — a one-two punch that offloads infrared heat from within a building while also reflecting the sunlight that would otherwise warm it up. The result is cooler buildings that require less air conditioning.

“This is very novel and an extraordinarily simple idea,” said Eli Yablonovitch, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a pioneer of photonics who directs the Center for Energy Efficient Electronics Science. “As a result of professor Fan’s work, we can now [use radiative cooling], not only at night but counter-intuitively in the daytime as well.”

The researchers say they designed the material to be cost-effective for large-scale deployment on building rooftops. Though it’s still a young technology, they believe it could one day reduce demand for electricity. As much as 15 percent of the energy used in buildings in the United States is spent powering air conditioning systems.

In practice the researchers think the coating might be sprayed on a more solid material to make it suitable for withstanding the elements.

“This team has shown how to passively cool structures by simply radiating heat into the cold darkness of space,” said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter, professor emeritus at Stanford and former director of the research facility now called the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

A warming world needs cooling technologies that don’t require power, according to Raman, lead author of the Nature paper. “Across the developing world, photonic radiative cooling makes off-grid cooling a possibility in rural regions, in addition to meeting skyrocketing demand for air conditioning in urban areas,” he said.

Using a window into space

The real breakthrough is how the Stanford material radiates heat away from buildings.

As science students know, heat can be transferred in three ways: conduction, convection and radiation. Conduction transfers heat by touch. That’s why you don’t touch a hot oven pan without wearing a mitt. Convection transfers heat by movement of fluids or air. It’s the warm rush of air when the oven is opened. Radiation transfers heat in the form of infrared light that emanates outward from objects, sight unseen.

The first part of the coating’s one-two punch radiates heat-bearing infrared light directly into space. The ultrathin coating was carefully constructed to send this infrared light away from buildings at the precise frequency that allows it to pass through the atmosphere without warming the air, a key feature given the dangers of global warming.

“Think about it like having a window into space,” Fan said.

Aiming the mirror

But transmitting heat into space is not enough on its own.

This multilayered coating also acts as a highly efficient mirror, preventing 97 percent of sunlight from striking the building and heating it up.

“We’ve created something that’s a radiator that also happens to be an excellent mirror,” Raman said.

Together, the radiation and reflection make the photonic radiative cooler nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the surrounding air during the day.

The multilayered material is just 1.8 microns thick, thinner than the thinnest aluminum foil.

It is made of seven layers of silicon dioxide and hafnium oxide on top of a thin layer of silver. These layers are not a uniform thickness, but are instead engineered to create a new material. Its internal structure is tuned to radiate infrared rays at a frequency that lets them pass into space without warming the air near the building.

“This photonic approach gives us the ability to finely tune both solar reflection and infrared thermal radiation,” said Linxiao Zhu, doctoral candidate in applied physics and a co-author of the paper.

“I am personally very excited about their results,” said Marin Soljacic, a physics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This is a great example of the power of nanophotonics.”

From prototype to building panel

Making photonic radiative cooling practical requires solving at least two technical problems.

The first is how to conduct the heat inside the building to this exterior coating. Once it gets there, the coating can direct the heat into space, but engineers must first figure out how to efficiently deliver the building heat to the coating.

The second problem is production. Right now the Stanford team’s prototype is the size of a personal pizza. Cooling buildings will require large panels. The researchers say large-area fabrication facilities can make their panels at the scales needed.

The cosmic fridge

More broadly, the team sees this project as a first step toward using the cold of space as a resource. In the same way that sunlight provides a renewable source of solar energy, the cold universe supplies a nearly unlimited expanse to dump heat.

“Every object that produces heat has to dump that heat into a heat sink,” Fan said. “What we’ve done is to create a way that should allow us to use the coldness of the universe as a heat sink during the day.”

In addition to Fan, Raman and Zhu, this paper has two additional co-authors: Marc Abou Anoma, a master’s student in mechanical engineering who has graduated; and Eden Rephaeli, a doctoral student in applied physics who has graduated.

This research was supported by the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) of the U.S. Department of Energy.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Stanford School of Engineering. The original article was written by Chris Cesare. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Aaswath P. Raman, Marc Abou Anoma, Linxiao Zhu, Eden Rephaeli, Shanhui Fan. Passive radiative cooling below ambient air temperature under direct sunlight. Nature, 2014; 515 (7528): 540 DOI: 10.1038/nature13883

Small volcanic eruptions could be slowing global warming (Science Daily)

Date: November 18, 2014

Source: American Geophysical Union

Summary: Small volcanic eruptions might eject more of an atmosphere-cooling gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, potentially contributing to the recent slowdown in global warming, according to a new study.

The Sarychev Peak Volcano, on Matua Island, erupted on June 12, 2009. New research shows that eruptions of this size may contribute more to the recent lull in global temperature increases than previously thought. Credit: NASA

Small volcanic eruptions might eject more of an atmosphere-cooling gas into Earth’s upper atmosphere than previously thought, potentially contributing to the recent slowdown in global warming, according to a new study.

Scientists have long known that volcanoes can cool the atmosphere, mainly by means of sulfur dioxide gas that eruptions expel. Droplets of sulfuric acid that form when the gas combines with oxygen in the upper atmosphere can remain for many months, reflecting sunlight away from Earth and lowering temperatures. However, previous research had suggested that relatively minor eruptions — those in the lower half of a scale used to rate volcano “explosivity” — do not contribute much to this cooling phenomenon.

Now, new ground-, air- and satellite measurements show that small volcanic eruptions that occurred between 2000 and 2013 have deflected almost double the amount of solar radiation previously estimated. By knocking incoming solar energy back out into space, sulfuric acid particles from these recent eruptions could be responsible for decreasing global temperatures by 0.05 to 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.09 to 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit) since 2000, according to the new study accepted to Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

These new data could help to explain why increases in global temperatures have slowed over the past 15 years, a period dubbed the ‘global warming hiatus,’ according to the study’s authors.

The warmest year on record is 1998. After that, the steep climb in global temperatures observed over the 20th century appeared to level off. Scientists previously suggested that weak solar activity or heat uptake by the oceans could be responsible for this lull in temperature increases, but only recently have they thought minor volcanic eruptions might be a factor.

Climate projections typically don’t include the effect of volcanic eruptions, as these events are nearly impossible to predict, according to Alan Robock, a climatologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., who was not involved in the study. Only large eruptions on the scale of the cataclysmic 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines, which ejected an estimated 20 million metric tons (44 billion pounds) of sulfur, were thought to impact global climate. But according to David Ridley, an atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and lead author of the new study, classic climate models weren’t adding up.

“The prediction of global temperature from the [latest] models indicated continuing strong warming post-2000, when in reality the rate of warming has slowed,” said Ridley. That meant to him that a piece of the puzzle was missing, and he found it at the intersection of two atmospheric layers, the stratosphere and the troposphere- the lowest layer of the atmosphere, where all weather takes place. Those layers meet between 10 and 15 kilometers (six to nine miles) above the Earth.

Traditionally, scientists have used satellites to measure sulfuric acid droplets and other fine, suspended particles, or aerosols, that erupting volcanoes spew into the stratosphere. But ordinary water-vapor clouds in the troposphere can foil data collection below 15 km, Ridley said. “The satellite data does a great job of monitoring the particles above 15 km, which is fine in the tropics. However, towards the poles we are missing more and more of the particles residing in the lower stratosphere that can reach down to 10 km.”

To get around this, the new study combined observations from ground-, air- and space-based instruments to better observe aerosols in the lower portion of the stratosphere.

Four lidar systems measured laser light bouncing off aerosols to estimate the particles’ stratospheric concentrations, while a balloon-borne particle counter and satellite datasets provided cross-checks on the lidar measurements. A global network of ground-based sun-photometers, called AERONET, also detected aerosols by measuring the intensity of sunlight reaching the instruments. Together, these observing systems provided a more complete picture of the total amount of aerosols in the stratosphere, according to the study authors.

Including these new observations in a simple climate model, the researchers found that volcanic eruptions reduced the incoming solar power by -0.19 ± 0.09 watts of sunlight per square meter of the Earth’s surface during the ‘global warming hiatus’, enough to lower global surface temperatures by 0.05 to 0.12 degrees Celsius (0.09 to 0.22 degrees Fahrenheit). By contrast, other studies have shown that the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption warded off about three to five watts per square meter at its peak, but tapered off to background levels in the years following the eruption. The shading from Pinatubo corresponded to a global temperature drop of 0.5 degrees Celsius (0.9 degrees Fahrenheit).

Robock said the new research provides evidence that there may be more aerosols in the atmosphere than previously thought. “This is part of the story about what has been driving climate change for the past 15 years,” he said. “It’s the best analysis we’ve had of the effects of a lot of small volcanic eruptions on climate.”

Ridley said he hopes the new data will make their way into climate models and help explain some of the inconsistencies that climate scientists have noted between the models and what is being observed.

Robock cautioned, however, that the ground-based AERONET instruments that the researchers used were developed to measure aerosols in the troposphere, not the stratosphere. To build the best climate models, he said, a more robust monitoring system for stratospheric aerosols will need to be developed.

Journal Reference:

  1. D. A Ridley, S. Solomon, J. E. Barnes, V.D. Burlakov, T. Deshler, S.I. Dolgii, A.B. Herber, T. Nagai, R. R. Neely, A.V. Nevzorov, C. Ritter, T. Sakai, B. D. Santer, M. Sato, A. Schmidt, O. Uchino, J. P. Vernier. Total volcanic stratospheric aerosol optical depths and implications for global climate changeGeophysical Research Letters, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/2014GL061541

Manipulação do clima pode causar efeitos indesejados (N.Y.Times/FSP)

Ilvy Njiokiktjien/The New York Times
Olivine, a green-tinted mineral said to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, in the hands of retired geochemist Olaf Schuiling in Maasland, Netherlands, Oct. 9, 2014. Once considered the stuff of wild-eyed fantasies, such ideas for countering climate change — known as geoengineering solutions — are now being discussed seriously by scientists. (Ilvy Njiokiktjien/The New York Times)
Olivina, um mineral esverdeado que ajudaria remover o dióxido de carbono da atmosfera

HENRY FOUNTAIN
DO “NEW YORK TIMES”

18/11/2014 02h01

Para Olaf Schuiling, a solução para o aquecimento global está sob nossos pés.

Schuiling, geoquímico aposentado, acredita que a salvação climática está na olivina, mineral de tonalidade verde abundante no mundo inteiro. Quando exposta aos elementos, ela extrai lentamente o gás carbônico da atmosfera.

A olivina faz isso naturalmente há bilhões de anos, mas Schuiling quer acelerar o processo espalhando-a em campos e praias e usando-a em diques, trilhas e até playgrounds. Basta polvilhar a quantidade certa de rocha moída, diz ele, e ela acabará removendo gás carbônico suficiente para retardar a elevação das temperaturas globais.

“Vamos deixar a Terra nos ajudar a salvá-la”, disse Schuiling, 82, em seu gabinete na Universidade de Utrecht.
Ideias para combater as mudanças climáticas, como essas propostas de geoengenharia, já foram consideradas meramente fantasiosas.

Todavia, os efeitos das mudanças climáticas podem se tornar tão graves que talvez tais soluções passem a ser consideradas seriamente.

A ideia de Schuiling é uma das várias que visam reduzir os níveis de gás carbônico, o principal gás responsável pelo efeito estufa, de forma que a atmosfera retenha menos calor.

Outras abordagens, potencialmente mais rápidas e viáveis, porém mais arriscadas, criariam o equivalente a um guarda-sol ao redor do planeta, dispersando gotículas reflexivas na estratosfera ou borrifando água do mar para formar mais nuvens acima dos oceanos. A menor incidência de luz solar na superfície da Terra reduziria a retenção de calor, resultando em uma rápida queda das temperaturas.

Ninguém tem certeza de que alguma técnica de geoengenharia funcionaria, e muitas abordagens nesse campo parecem pouco práticas. A abordagem de Schuiling, por exemplo, levaria décadas para ter sequer um pequeno impacto, e os próprios processos de mineração, moagem e transporte dos bilhões de toneladas de olivina necessários produziriam enormes emissões de carbono.

Jasper Juinen/The New York Times
Kids play on a playground made with Olivine, a material said to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, in Arnhem, Netherlands, Oct. 9, 2014. Once considered the stuff of wild-eyed fantasies, such ideas for countering climate change — known as geoengineering solutions — are now being discussed seriously by scientists. (Jasper Juinen/The New York Times)
Crianças brincam em playground na Holanda revestido com olivina; minério esverdeado retira lentamento o gás carbônico presente na atmosfera

Muitas pessoas consideram a ideia da geoengenharia um recurso desesperado em relação à mudança climática, o qual desviaria a atenção mundial da meta de eliminar as emissões que estão na raiz do problema.

O clima é um sistema altamente complexo, portanto, manipular temperaturas também pode ter consequências, como mudanças na precipitação pluviométrica, tanto catastróficas como benéficas para uma região à custa de outra. Críticos também apontam que a geoengenharia poderia ser usada unilateralmente por um país, criando outra fonte de tensões geopolíticas.

Especialistas, porém, argumentam que a situação atual está se tornando calamitosa. “Em breve poderá nos restar apenas a opção entre geoengenharia e sofrimento”, opinou Andy Parker, do Instituto de Estudos Avançados sobre Sustentabilidade, em Potsdam, Alemanha.

Em 1991, uma erupção vulcânica nas Filipinas expeliu a maior nuvem de gás anidrido sulforoso já registrada na alta atmosfera. O gás formou gotículas de ácido sulfúrico, que refletiam os raios solares de volta para o Espaço. Durante três anos, a média das temperaturas globais teve uma queda de cerca de 0,5 grau Celsius. Uma técnica de geoengenharia imitaria essa ação borrifando gotículas de ácido sulfúrico na estratosfera.

David Keith, pesquisador na Universidade Harvard, disse que essa técnica de geoengenharia, chamada de gestão da radiação solar (SRM na sigla em inglês), só deve ser utilizada lenta e cuidadosamente, para que possa ser interrompida caso prejudique padrões climáticos ou gere outros problemas.

Certos críticos da geoengenharia duvidam que qualquer impacto possa ser equilibrado. Pessoas em países subdesenvolvidos são afetadas por mudanças climáticas em grande parte causadas pelas ações de países industrializados. Então, por que elas confiariam que espalhar gotículas no céu as ajudaria?

“Ninguém gosta de ser o rato no laboratório alheio”, disse Pablo Suarez, do Centro do Clima da Cruz Vermelha/Crescente Vermelho.

Ideias para retirar gás carbônico do ar causam menos alarme. Embora tenham questões espinhosas –a olivina, por exemplo, contém pequenas quantidades de metais que poderiam contaminar o meio ambiente–,elas funcionariam de maneira bem mais lenta e indireta, afetando o clima ao longo de décadas ao alterar a atmosfera.

Como o doutor Schuiling divulga há anos sua ideia na Holanda, o país se tornou adepto da olivina. Estando ciente disso, qualquer um pode notar a presença da rocha moída em trilhas, jardins e áreas lúdicas.

Eddy Wijnker, ex-engenheiro acústico, criou a empresa greenSand na pequena cidade de Maasland. Ela vende areia de olivina para uso doméstico ou comercial. A empresa também vende “certificados de areia verde” que financiam a colocação da areia ao longo de rodovias.

A obstinação de Schuiling também incitou pesquisas. No Instituto Real de Pesquisa Marítima da Holanda em Yerseke, o ecologista Francesc Montserrat está pesquisando a possibilidade de espalhar olivina no leito do mar. Na Bélgica, pesquisadores na Universidade de Antuérpia estudam os efeitos da olivina em culturas agrícolas como cevada e trigo.

Boa parte dos profissionais de geoengenharia aponta a necessidade de haver mais pesquisas e o fato de as simulações em computador serem limitadas.

Poucas verbas no mundo são destinadas a pesquisas de geoengenharia. No entanto, até a sugestão de realizar experimentos em campo pode causar clamor popular. “As pessoas gostam de linhas bem demarcadas, e uma bem óbvia é que não há problema em testar coisas em um computador ou em uma bancada de laboratório”, comentou Matthew Watson, da Universidade de Bristol, no Reino Unido. “Mas elas reagem mal assim que você começa a entrar no mundo real.”

Watson conhece bem essas delimitações. Ele liderou um projeto financiado pelo governo britânico, que incluía um teste relativamente inócuo de uma tecnologia. Em 2011, os pesquisadores pretendiam soltar um balão a cerca de um quilômetro de altitude e tentar bombear um pouco de água por uma mangueira até ele. A proposta desencadeou protestos no Reino Unido, foi adiada por meio ano e, finalmente, cancelada.

Hoje há poucas perspectivas de apoio governamental a qualquer tipo de teste de geoengenharia nos EUA, onde muitos políticos negam sequer que as mudanças climáticas sejam uma realidade.

“O senso comum é que a direita não quer falar sobre isso porque reconhece o problema”, disse Rafe Pomerance, que trabalhou com questões ambientais no Departamento de Estado. “E a esquerda está preocupada com o impacto das emissões.”

Portanto, seria bom discutir o assunto abertamente, afirmou Pomerance. “Isso ainda vai levar algum tempo, mas é inevitável”, acrescentou.

‘Superglue’ for the atmosphere: How sulfuric acid increases cloud formation (Science Daily)

Date: October 8, 2014

Source: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

Summary: It has been known for several years that sulfuric acid contributes to the formation of tiny aerosol particles, which play an important role in the formation of clouds. A new study shows that dimethylamine can tremendously enhance new particle formation. The formation of neutral (i.e. uncharged) nucleating clusters of sulfuric acid and dimethylamine was observed for the first time.

Clouds. Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

It has been known for several years that sulfuric acid contributes to the formation of tiny aerosol particles, which play an important role in the formation of clouds. The new study by Kürten et al. shows that dimethylamine can tremendously enhance new particle formation. The formation of neutral (i.e. uncharged) nucleating clusters of sulfuric acid and dimethylamine was observed for the first time.

Previously, it was only possible to detect neutral clusters containing up to two sulfuric acid molecules. However, in the present study molecular clusters containing up to 14 sulfuric acid and 16 dimethylamine molecules were detected and their growth by attachment of individual molecules was observed in real-time starting from just one molecule. Moreover, these measurements were made at concentrations of sulfuric acid and dimethylamine corresponding to atmospheric levels (less than 1 molecule of sulfuric acid per 1 x 1013 molecules of air).

The capability of sulfuric acid molecules together with water and ammonia to form clusters and particles has been recognized for several years. However, clusters which form in this manner can vaporize under the conditions which exist in the atmosphere. In contrast, the system of sulfuric acid and dimethylamine forms particles much more efficiently because even the smallest clusters are essentially stable against evaporation. In this respect dimethylamine can act as “superglue” because when interacting with sulfuric acid every collision between a cluster and a sulfuric acid molecule bonds them together irreversibly. Sulphuric acid as well as amines in the present day atmosphere have mainly anthropogenic sources.

Sulphuric acid is derived mainly from the oxidation of sulphur dioxide while amines stem, for example, from animal husbandry. The method used to measure the neutral clusters utilizes a combination of a mass spectrometer and a chemical ionization source, which was developed by the University of Frankfurt and the University of Helsinki. The measurements were made by an international collaboration at the CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets) chamber at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).

The results allow for very detailed insight into a chemical system which could be relevant for atmospheric particle formation. Aerosol particles influence Earth’s climate through cloud formation: Clouds can only form if so-called cloud condensation nuclei (CCN) are present, which act as seeds for condensing water molecules. Globally about half the CCN originate from a secondary process which involves the formation of small clusters and particles in the very first step followed by growth to sizes of at least 50 nanometers.

The observed process of particle formation from sulfuric acid and dimethylamine could also be relevant for the formation of CCN. A high concentration of CCN generally leads to the formation of clouds with a high concentration of small droplets; whereas fewer CCN lead to clouds with few large droplets. Earth’s radiation budget, climate as well as precipitation patterns can be influenced in this manner. The deployed method will also open a new window for future measurements of particle formation in other chemical systems.


Journal Reference:

  1. A. Kurten, T. Jokinen, M. Simon, M. Sipila, N. Sarnela, H. Junninen, A. Adamov, J. Almeida, A. Amorim, F. Bianchi, M. Breitenlechner, J. Dommen, N. M. Donahue, J. Duplissy, S. Ehrhart, R. C. Flagan, A. Franchin, J. Hakala, A. Hansel, M. Heinritzi, M. Hutterli, J. Kangasluoma, J. Kirkby, A. Laaksonen, K. Lehtipalo, M. Leiminger, V. Makhmutov, S. Mathot, A. Onnela, T. Petaja, A. P. Praplan, F. Riccobono, M. P. Rissanen, L. Rondo, S. Schobesberger, J. H. Seinfeld, G. Steiner, A. Tome, J. Trostl, P. M. Winkler, C. Williamson, D. Wimmer, P. Ye, U. Baltensperger, K. S. Carslaw, M. Kulmala, D. R. Worsnop, J. Curtius. Neutral molecular cluster formation of sulfuric acid-dimethylamine observed in real time under atmospheric conditions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1404853111

Can Carbon Capture Technology Be Part of the Climate Solution? (Environment 360)

08 SEP 2014

Some scientists and analysts are touting carbon capture and storage as a necessary tool for avoiding catastrophic climate change. But critics of the technology regard it as simply another way of perpetuating a reliance on fossil fuels.

by david biello

For more than 40 years, companies have been drilling for carbon dioxide in southwestern Colorado. Time and geology had conspired to trap an enormous bubble of CO2 that drillers tapped, and a pipeline was built to carry the greenhouse gas all the way to the oil fields of west Texas. When scoured with the CO2, these aged wells gush forth more oil, and much of the CO2 stays permanently trapped in its new home underneath Texas.

More recently, drillers have tapped the Jackson Dome, nearly three miles beneath Jackson, Mississippi, to get at a trapped pocket of CO2 for similar

Kemper County power plant near Meridian, Mississippi

Gary Tramontina/Bloomberg/Getty Images. This power plant being built in Kemper County, Mississippi, would be the first in the U.S. to capture its own carbon emissions.

use. It’s called enhanced oil recovery. And now there’s a new source of CO2 coming online in Mississippi — a power plant that burns gasified coal in Kemper County, due to be churning out electricity and captured CO2 by 2015 and sending it via a 60-mile pipeline to oil fields in the southern part of the state.

The Mississippi project uses emissions from burning a fossil fuel to help bring more fossil fuels out of the ground — a less than ideal solution to the problem of climate change. But enhanced oil recovery may prove an important step in making more widely available a technology that could be critical for combating climate change — CO2 capture and storage, or CCS.

As the use of coal continues to grow globally — coal consumption is expected to double from 2000 to 2020 largely due to demand in China and India — some scientists believe the widespread adoption of CCS technology could be key to any hope of limiting global average temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold for avoiding major climate disruption. After all, coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel.

“Fossil fuels aren’t disappearing anytime soon,” says John Thompson, director of the Fossil Fuel Transition Project for the non-profit Clean Air Task Force. “If we’re serious about preventing global warming, we’re going to have to find a way to use those fuels without the carbon going into the atmosphere. It seems inconceivable that we can do that without a significant amount of carbon capture and storage. The question is how do we deploy it in time and in a way that’s cost-effective across many nations?”

The biggest challenge is one of scale, as the potential demand from aging oil fields for CO2 produced from coal-fired power plants is enormous. Thompson estimates that enhanced oil recovery could ultimately consume 33 billion metric tons of CO2 in total, or the equivalent of all the CO2 pollution from all U.S. power plants for several decades. Thompson and other analysts view such large-scale enhanced oil recovery as an important phase in the deployment of CCS technology while replacements for fossil fuels are developed. 

“In the short term, in order to develop the technology, we probably will enable more use of hydrocarbons, which makes environmentally conscious people uncomfortable,” says Chris Jones, a chemical engineer working on CO2 capture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “But it’s a necessary thing we have to do to get the technology out there and learn how to make it more efficient.”

At the same time, CO2 capture and storage is not as simple as locking away carbon deep underground. As Jones notes, the process will perpetuate fossil fuel use and may prove a wash as far as keeping global warming pollution out of the atmosphere. Then there are the risks of human-caused earthquakes as a result of pumping high-pressure liquids underground or accidental releases as all that CO2 finds its way back to the atmosphere.

“Any solution that doesn’t take carbon from the air is, in principle, not sustainable,” says physicist Peter Eisenberger of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, who is working on methods to pull CO2 out of the sky rather than smokestacks. He notes that merely avoiding CO2 pollution is not enough and will create political powerhouses—heirs to the energy companies of today—that will entrench such unsustainable technologies “Why spend so much time and energy and ingenuity coming up with solutions that are not really solutions?” he adds.

But the expansion of enhanced oil recovery remains the main front in an intensifying effort to more broadly adopt CCS technology and reduce its price, which is currently the major impediment to its deployment. The need for CO2 storage goes beyond China and the U.S., the world’s two largest polluters. Worldwide, more than 35 billion metric tons of CO2 are being dumped into the atmosphere annually, almost all from the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas. To restrain global warming to the 2 degree C target, more than 100 CCS projects eliminating 270 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually would have to be built by 2020, according to theInternational Energy Agency. But only 60 are currently planned or proposed and just 21 of those are actually built or in operation.

Those include the Kemper facility and other coal-fired power plants, but also a CCS project under construction at an ethanol refinery in Illinois. A group led by Royal Dutch Shell is building technology to capture the CO2 pollution from tar sands operations in Alberta, Canada, and in Saskatchewan, a $1.2 billion project to retrofit a large coal-fired power plant with CCS technology is expected to open later this year. And there are 34 proposed or operating CCS projects outside of North America, the majority in Asia and Australia. But European countries like Germany have rolled back plans to adopt CCS because of public opposition, dropping the number of European projects from 14 planned in 2011 to just five as of 2014, according to the Global CCS Institute. 

That might conflict with the European Union’s avowed intention to help combat climate change. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested earlier this year that carbon capture and storage at power plants could prove a critical part of any serious effort to restrain global warming. “We depend on removing large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere in order to bring concentrations well below 450 [parts-per-million] in 2100,” said Ottmar Edenhofer, an economist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and co-chair of the IPCC’s third working group, which was tasked with figuring out ways to mitigate climate change. Ultimately, he said, keeping a global temperature rise to 2 degrees without any CCS would require phasing out fossil fuels entirely within “the next few decades.”

Yet, from 2007 to 2013, global coal consumption increased from 6.4 billion to 7.4 billion metric tons, and coal use continues to rise. Although renewable energy sources like solar and wind are growing rapidly, they are doing so from a very small base and many energy analysts argue that it will be decades before they can supplant fossil fuels. The time and expense of building nuclear power plants — and public opposition — has also hampered that low-carbon technology’s ability to replace coal burning. And biofuels or electric cars remain a long way from supplanting oil for transportation.

The Obama administration hopes to encourage the development of CO2 capture and use or storage. New rules from the Environmental Protection Agency requiring a 30 percent cut in power plant emissions by 2030 may spur development of CCS technologies. Already, NRG Energy has partnered with a Japanese firm to add CO2 capture to a coal-fired power plant near Houston and use a pipeline to send the captured pollution to nearby oilfields. Dubbed Petra Nova, the $1 billion CCS project is the latest in a series of 19 CO2 capture projects underway or proposed in the U.S. 

The bulk of such CO2 capture and storage experiments may soon shift to China, the world’s largest emitter of CO2. The Chinese and U.S. governments have a cooperative agreement to develop the technology, including partnerships between Chinese power companies like Huaneng and American corporations such as Summit Power, which is developing a CCS power plant in west Texas. In China, the long-awaited GreenGen power plant in Tianjin is still under construction and will capture CO2 for China’s own efforts at enhanced oil recovery. But going forward, the expense of CCS may make the technology even more unpalatable in a developing country like China, which also has plans to turn coal into liquid fuels — a process that, from a climate perspective, is even worse than burning the dirty rock directly.

The technology to capture CO2 is relatively simple, and has been in use since the 1930s. For example, CO2 can be captured from the smokestacks of coal plants, natural gas plants, and even factories by routing the flue gases through an amine chemical bath, which binds the CO2. The chemical is then heated to release the CO2. The CO2 is pressurized to convert it to a liquid, and the liquid is then pumped via pipeline to an appropriate storage site. Those include underground geological formations, such as sandstones or saline aquifers, but also old oil fields, where the CO2 replaces the oil in small pores in the rock left behind by conventional methods and forces it up to the surface. Six percent of U.S. oil already comes from usingenhanced oil recovery, a number that will increase, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Still, the economic and technological challenges facing CCS are daunting. Much-heralded projects like the CO2 capture and storage demonstration at the Mountaineer Power Plant in West Virginia were abandoned because no one wanted to pay for it. The hardware sits unused next to the hulking power plant’s smokestacks and cooling towers. 

The ultimate challenge is that capturing CO2 from a smokestack costs more than simply dumping it into the atmosphere. Analysts say the simplest way to encourage less pollution and more CO2 capture would be to charge for the privilege of emitting CO2 by imposing a tax on carbon emissions. A price on CO2, if high enough, might make capturing the greenhouse gas look cheap.

Even if that policy change happens, the problem of storing all that CO2 remains, including concerns that the CO2 could escape back into the atmosphere or cause earthquakes. In Algeria, a test to store nearly 4 million metric tons of injected CO2 underground was halted after the gas raised the overlying rock and fractured it. Concerns over such induced seismicity or accidental releases of CO2 have blocked CCS plans in Europe, as have concerns over how to ensure the stored CO2 stays put for millennia.

But storing CO2 underground can work, as Norway’s Sleipner project in the North Sea has demonstrated. At Sleipner, which started capturing and storing CO2 in 1996, more than 16 million metric tons of CO2 have been put in an undersea sandstone formation; the project is funded by Norway’s carbon tax. And around the world, the potential storage resource is gargantuan. The U.S. alone has an estimated 4 trillion metric tons of CO2 storage capacity in the form of porous sandstones or saltwater aquifers, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Scientists at Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and elsewhere are investigating just how vast the storage potential under the ocean could be. David Goldberg, a marine geophysicist at Lamont, proposes that liquid CO2 could be pumped offshore and injected into the ubiquitous basalt formations found off many of the world’s coastlines. When mixed with water, the CO2 leaches metals out of the basalt and forms a carbonate chalk, Goldberg explains. 

“The goal of the whole CCS exercise is to take CO2, which is volatile, and put it in solid form where it will stay locked away forever,” he adds. Goldberg has calculated that just one such ridge site that runs the north-south length of the Atlantic Ocean could theoretically store all of humanity’s excess CO2 emissions to date. “The magic of being offshore is that you are away from people and away from property.”

There is also basalt on land. In an experiment in Iceland, more than 80 percent of the injected CO2 interacted with the surrounding basalt and converted to rock in less than a year. A similar experiment in Washington State achieved similar results.

In the end, getting off fossil fuels entirely is the only way to control CO2 pollution. But until that happens, CCS could be vital to stave off catastrophic climate change. “Ultimately, we need a thermostat on this planet,” says Klaus Lackner, a Columbia University physicist who is working on pulling the greenhouse gas directly out of the air rather than capturing it from smokestacks. “And we need to control the CO2.”

Correction, September 9, 2014: Previous versions of this article misstated the amount of CO2 storage capacity in porous sandstones or saltwater aquifers in the U.S.; it is 4 trillion metric tons.

Clues to trapping carbon dioxide in rock: Calcium carbonate takes multiple, simultaneous roads to different minerals (Science Daily)

Date: September 4, 2014

Source: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Summary: Researchers used a powerful microscope that allows them to see the birth of calcium carbonate crystals in real time, giving them a peek at how different calcium carbonate crystals form.


An aragonite crystal — with its characteristic “sheaf of wheat” look — consumed a particle of amorphous calcium carbonate as it formed. Credit: Nielsen et al. 2014/Science

One of the most important molecules on earth, calcium carbonate crystallizes into chalk, shells and minerals the world over. In a study led by the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, researchers used a powerful microscope that allows them to see the birth of crystals in real time, giving them a peek at how different calcium carbonate crystals form, they report in September 5’s issue of Science.

The results might help scientists understand how to lock carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as well as how to better reconstruct ancient climates.

“Carbonates are most important for what they represent, interactions between biology and Earth,” said lead researcher James De Yoreo, a materials scientist at PNNL.. “For a decade, we’ve been studying the formation pathways of carbonates using high-powered microscopes, but we hadn’t had the tools to watch the crystals form in real time. Now we know the pathways are far more complicated than envisioned in the models established in the twentieth century.”

Earth’s Reserve

Calcium carbonate is the largest reservoir of carbon on the planet. It is found in rocks the world over, shells of both land- and water-dwelling creatures, and pearls, coral, marble and limestone. When carbon resides within calcium carbonate, it is not hanging out in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, warming the world. Understanding how calcium carbonate turns into various minerals could help scientists control its formation to keep carbon dioxide from getting into the atmosphere.

Calcium carbonate deposits also contain a record of Earth’s history. Researchers reconstructing ancient climates delve into the mineral for a record of temperature and atmospheric composition, environmental conditions and the state of the ocean at the time those minerals formed. A better understanding of its formation pathways will likely provide insights into those events.

To get a handle on mineral formation, researchers at PNNL, the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory examined the earliest step to becoming a mineral, called nucleation. In nucleation, molecules assemble into a tiny crystal that then grows with great speed. Nucleation has been difficult to study because it happens suddenly and unpredictably, so the scientists needed a microscope that could watch the process in real time.

Come to Order

In the 20th century, researchers established a theory that crystals formed in an orderly fashion. Once the ordered nucleus formed, more molecules added to the crystal, growing the mineral but not changing its structure. Recently, however, scientists have wondered if the process might be more complicated, with other things contributing to mineral formation. For example, in previous experiments they’ve seen forms of calcium carbonate that appear to be dense liquids that could be sources for minerals.

Researchers have also wondered if calcite forms from less stable varieties or directly from calcium and carbonate dissolved in the liquid. Aragonite and vaterite are calcium carbonate minerals with slightly different crystal architectures than calcite and could represent a step in calcite’s formation. The fourth form called amorphous calcium carbonate — or ACC, which could be liquid or solid, might also be a reservoir for sprouting minerals.

To find out, the team created a miniature lab under a transmission electron microscope at the Molecular Foundry, a DOE Office of Science User Facility at LBNL. In this miniature lab, they mixed sodium bicarbonate (used to make club soda) and calcium chloride (similar to table salt) in water. At high enough concentrations, crystals grew. Videos of nucleating and growing crystals recorded what happened [URLs to come].

Morphing Minerals

The videos revealed that mineral growth took many pathways. Some crystals formed through a two-step process. For example, droplet-like particles of ACC formed, then crystals of aragonite or vaterite appeared on the surface of the droplets. As the new crystals formed, they consumed the calcium carbonate within the drop on which they nucleated.

Other crystals formed directly from the solution, appearing by themselves far away from any ACC particles. Multiple forms often nucleated in a single experiment — at least one calcite crystal formed on top of an aragonite crystal while vaterite crystals grew nearby.

What the team didn’t see in and among the many options, however, was calcite forming from ACC even though researchers widely expect it to happen. Whether that means it never does, De Yoreo can’t say for certain. But after looking at hundreds of nucleation events, he said it is a very unlikely event.

“This is the first time we have directly visualized the formation process,” said De Yoreo. “We observed many pathways happening simultaneously. And they happened randomly. We were never able to predict what was going to come up next. In order to control the process, we’d need to introduce some kind of template that can direct which crystal forms and where.”

In future work, De Yoreo and colleagues plan to investigate how living organisms control the nucleation process to build their shells and pearls. Biological organisms keep a store of mineral components in their cells and have evolved ways to make nucleation happen when and where needed. The team is curious to know how they use cellular molecules to achieve this control.

This work was supported by the Department of Energy Office of Science.

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Michael H. Nielsen, Shaul Aloni, and James J. De Yoreo. In Situ TEM Imaging of CaCO3 Nucleation Reveals Coexistence of Direct and Indirect Pathways.Science, September 5, 2014 DOI: 10.1126/science.1254051