Monday, February 05, 2007

Don't like the plan? Give alternatives or STFU II

**Note: Updates and additions below**

Lately it seems we hear nothing but verbal barbs from the parties on the environment."Kyoto!" one bellows. "Not Kyoto!" screams the other.

It seems there is a competition for who is worse on the environmental file, those that failed to do anything substantial while they were in office, or those that have done the same thing for the last year (not to mention while they were in opposition).

Ok then, if its Kyoto, how do we do it? What's the plan?

Not Kyoto? Ok, what's the alternative to Kyoto you were working on all those years you were opposing Kyoto?

While I agree with Olaf that in principle "anti-Kyoto doesn't mean anti-environment", I need more than just a good word and a promise from a party that until mere weeks ago opposed it because they didn't think there was even a problem to solve. And I need the same thing from the party that had the chance and blew it, besides a feel-good "Support Kyoto" motion.

I want concrete plans and actions. Ideas of what to do, rather than the constant recriminations of what the other guy didn't do.

Here are some examples:

My example on acting locally to reduce dependence on cars.
Steve V.'s ideas about changing the auto industry over at Far and Wide.
Robert has an ongoing series about his plan to meet Kyoto in 2 years by tackling power generation, the biggest GHG producer besides the Tar Sands.
Zorph has some practical ideas each of us can do, with or without the Government.

So what are some other ideas and plans?
  • Carbon Tax
  • Carbon credit trading within Canada
  • Highly decentralized grids of alternative power - wind, solar, tidal, geothermal
  • Bio-fuels from sources other than feed grains or corn
  • Others....

I don't care if they help meet Kyoto or not, so long as they do something to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions. Create a post, drop a line, leave a comment. Tell me how this will help the environment, create a carbon neutral foot print, reduce GHG, create jobs, create a new economy, conserve fuel and power or any combination of these. Do that and I'll post the links and the ideas.

Put our money where our mouths are. Or STFU.

(PS. No sci-fi suggestions like magic cooling dust or space umbrellas - realistic plans we can do now).


Olaf gets the ball rolling with 3 of his previous posts: Using nuclear to reduce emission from power generation, an interesting piece on Carbon Trading, and how Carbon Taxes would be good for Alberta. Thanks buddy.

John at Dymaxion World weighs in with a good post about the silliness of being "Anti-Kyoto" and what it really means.

Robert jumps in with more, how unplugging appliances can save. Every little bit helps.

For the "intensity-based targets" fans that are posting: they are a no-go. Why? They don't work.

"The government intends to set targets based on the intensity of emissions of greenhouse gases per unit of economic activity. Unfortunately, intensity-based targets can be used to take credit for improvements largely due to better energy efficiency and not as a result of climate policies. According to this measure, Canada’s greenhouse gas intensity decreased by 14 per cent between 1990 and 2004 while in absolute terms, greenhouse gas emission have increased 27 per cent.7

Emissions intensity targets were used by the Alberta government in its 2002 position on climate change, underlining the fact that intensity-based targets are simply a way of deflecting attention from the real absolute increases in emission levels. So while Alberta’s intensity targets are a reduction of 16 per cent bt 2010 and 28 per cent by 2020, these targets would actually allow absolute increases of 34 per cent in 2010 and 38 per cent in 2020.8"

I appreciate the thought. Keep the ideas coming.

My buddy Ian Scott, while remaining skeptical, still thinks respecting nature is a good idea and offers his small advice to get plastics and other unnatural chemicals out of the kitchen.

Alison at Creekside and Declan at Crawl Across the Ocean provide some interesting facts about India and China's CO2 emissions, compared to ours.

And Dazzlin' Dino at the Blogging Party of Canada bursts forth with frustration and demands some action. Of course, he might just be having a mid-life crisis... ;-)

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At 12:03 AM, Blogger Olaf said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:43 AM, Blogger Olaf said...


Couple of thoughts. First, I don't know if you saw them, but in response to your challenge at my place I linked back to a few articles I wrote late last year which include "solutions", or what I consider to be solutions, which could be two markedly different things.

Secondly, regarding the "come up with a better idea or STFU" line of argument, I have a general rebuttal aimed at left wingers in particular, which I used against Pal the other day. Brace yourself, here it is:

"Just because someone doesn't have a better solution, doesn't mean they have to buy into which ever solution someone else proposes.

I hate to do this to you, but this line of reasoning is positively Republicanish. Hurts, don't it? It's like Bush saying "criticisms of the Iraq war are invalid since the critics don't have a better idea on how to bring peace to Iraq." Shame on you,and your Bush like tactics."

Beat that! Nothing stings a left winger like comparing them to Bush.

ps slight but important modification from the original comment I left.

At 8:11 AM, Blogger Mike said...


"Just because someone doesn't have a better solution, doesn't mean they have to buy into which ever solution someone else proposes."

True enough, but I'm tired, as you can probably tell, of the two parties at the bottom arguing who really is the bottom. I am challenging people to do more than complain about the other guy, but to think and actually come up with solutions or ideas. I'm not trying to get people to take the other guy's position by default, I'm challenging you to come up better ideas. The incessant whining isn't really solving much, wouldn't you agree?

"It's like Bush saying "criticisms of the Iraq war are invalid since the critics don't have a better idea on how to bring peace to Iraq." Shame on you,and your Bush like tactics."

HA! Your juju does not work here. Well except that those critics do now have an alternative, even if I allow you to discount (as you clearly do) the obvious one that has been there all along - don't go in to Iraq in the first place and get out of Iraq now. So, not quite the same thing. Again, complaining about the Libs and Tories about this (which I have done myself) is not really moving us forward. We've pretty much heard all the arguments and seen all the political maneuvering around it. I'm challenging people to come up with alternatives. I'm trying to get the debate out of the rut and moving beyond who did or did not do what 3 years ago.

I'll pop back over to your place and see the rebuttal. Or you could post the links and ideas here.


A fine idea. Good for the environment AND reduces corporate welfare. One would think real conservatives would be for that.

Keep them coming.

At 10:42 AM, Blogger bigcitylib said...


Don't just cut it off. Cut it off and offer it back as an incentive to develop green tech.

At 11:14 AM, Blogger Jay said...

140 countries signing onto Kyoto kind of adds some legitimacy in my mind. There seems to be a majority concensus. It was only ratified in 2003(contrary to 13 years of doing nothing) and since then Harper has been blocking it any which way he could, so Liberal inaction is not the whole truth if a large portion of the MP's are deniers of climate change and accusing it of being a socialist scheme. Are there even 140 socialist countries?

Kyoto will work it just has to be allowed to. Tory fear mongering is not helpful.

There is no solution unless it is a concerted effort by all countries which is what kyoto is for. The last time I checked our atmosphere is shared amongst other countries. Our pollution goes over other countries and theirs over ours.

Maybe tories think we live under some sort of protective blister and we only have to clean up "our atmosphere".

Everything we would do under kyoto would only strengthen us. Those not signed on would follow suit once their dirty products couldn't be sold in kyoto counties and our products sold in theirs would already meet it.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger Aaron Ginsberg said...

This doesn't fix Kyoto. It still leaves it as a white man's club (and Japan). However, it makes the current scenario a little rosier. It also does provide a glimmer of hope for the rest of the world to sign on.

At 1:03 PM, Blogger The Mound of Sound said...

The most common complaint I've heard from the anti-Kyoto crowd is that it does nothing about China and India.

Chirac has an idea that may solve the problem, a Carbon Tax levied on all imports from countries that don't meet international GHG or global warming standards.

How can the Chinese or Indian economic miracle happen without access to Western markets? It can't. Why not make environmental responsibility a price of access to our markets? Set the tariff high enough that it makes cleaning up worthwhile to China and India.

That would also alleviate the unfair advantage dirty industries hold over our own when we force them to clean up.

At 2:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Set intensity-based targets (so much C02 permitted for the mass of steel in a car, so much C02 permitted for a rubber duck, etc), require absolute compliance by domestic enterprises, and levy import tariffs on all imports from nations with non-compliant enterprises.

Tax fuel consumption to internalize costs of pollution. The more alternatives are used, the less the demand for oil; the less the demand for oil, the more its price will fall. When the price falls far enough, people will tend not to reduce consumption further. (there will be a tendency for oil consumption to stabilize at successive price levels). To keep consumption trending downward it will be necessary to keep the price of alternatives competitive.

Start massive hydroelectric and nuclear projects immediately. Inexpensive and abundant electricity must be available as an alternative.

At 2:21 PM, Blogger Mike said...


Good ideas except for intensity-based targets. Intensity based target can actually result in more pollution and GHG - per unit reductions mean nothing when you increase the number of units.

In the US even industry leaders are calling for hard caps to level the playing field.

At 2:49 PM, Blogger Jay said...

Are you serious? Intensity based targets? What a joke. Those are useless.

With the tar sands doubling in size and possibly increasing 5 fold, Intensity based targets are useless.

With the status quo they are producing 35 megatonnes a year of GHG. Doubling to 70 megatonnes. If a five fold increase occurs we have 175 megatonnes. Intensity based targets mean per unit output the emissions will be reduced.

Just to keep the staus quo with a 5 fold expansion in oil sands we would have to set an intensity target of 80% reduction per unit. Not possible. With it doubling you would need 50% reduction per unit. That also not possible currently.

The goal is to go below what we currently produce.

As you can see it needs to be controlled not given a free permit to keep increasing until we get the technology in place.

Whats the rush? Employments been higher than it ever has, and Alberta's coffers are over flowing? Why the increase? It is already straining the workforce and communities. Who is this expansion supposed to benefit? Big oil is the only one I can see and one company just posted a profit that is the biggest in history. The people won't benefit from inflation and unaffordable housing and a toxic environment.

At 3:16 PM, Blogger Olaf said...


Again, complaining about the Libs and Tories about this (which I have done myself) is not really moving us forward. We've pretty much heard all the arguments and seen all the political maneuvering around it. I'm challenging people to come up with alternatives. I'm trying to get the debate out of the rut and moving beyond who did or did not do what 3 years ago.

I can give you an amen to that. It's a good idea, and if I come across any practical plans I'll send them your way.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Thanks Olaf, all help is much appreciated.

At 3:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, intensity-based targets can still allow net growth. I'm puzzled by the inability of people to concede that we might start with something other than absolute caps. If the only path you leave open is one down which some people will refuse to go, the likelihood of nothing useful being done increases. Intensity-based targets will at least slow the rate of growth and allow us to do something rational without crippling our own economy, while simultaneously applying economic pressure to other GHG producers. Showpiece concensus treaties are wonderful but difficult to enforce; real economic pressure is hard to ignore.

>Intensity based targets? What a joke. Those are useless.

Useless can only mean "no use at all". Clearly intensity-based targets achieve something: less growth than there would be if there were no intensity-based targets. Can we ditch the childish rhetoric and discuss this like adults?

At 3:40 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Intensity-based targets will at least slow the rate of growth and allow us to do something rational without crippling our own economy,"

No they will actually increase. Intensity-based targets are a non-starter. Period.

You might note that industry in the US is demanding caps and regulations, because they know that anything else will simply not be followed. They want the playing field leveled so they know everyone has to follow the same rules.

At 5:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>No they will actually increase. Intensity-based targets are a non-starter. Period.

Do you understand the difference between slowing a rate of growth and reducing a set point? Maybe not.

You've asked for alternatives, but it's clear there isn't any real room to work the problem here. Any colour we want, as long as it is black. Status quo it is, then.

At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>You might note that industry in the US is demanding caps and regulations, because they know that anything else will simply not be followed. They want the playing field leveled so they know everyone has to follow the same rules.

I note that those who sense a competitive advantage in a zero sum situation favour absolute caps (same mentality as the guy who already pays higher than minimum wages and is happy to see the costs increased for his competition while posing as being a "good guy"). Those too stupid to understand, carry on following the Pied Piper.

At 5:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing that seems to be ignored in this entire debate is one simple fact.

Canada's population, based on StatsCan's numbers, has shown a 29% increase from 1986 numbers. Canada's population was 25,309,331 in 1986 and 32,623,500 in 2006.

That's 7.3 million more people that require heating, shelter, transportation, food, etc. in order to survive Canada's climate.

I can't even imagine what the population growth would be for developing nations. For any plan to have a chance, severe population growth restrictions would be required.

As Canada is a climate that requires more fuel for heating and transportation, then most other nations, that would mean none or very little immigration into Canada and zero population growth for existing Canadians as a minimum.

At 5:49 PM, Blogger Mike said...

"Do you understand the difference between slowing a rate of growth and reducing a set point? Maybe not."

Yes. Do you understand that I asked for alternatives that would reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, not "slow the rate of growth". As my new addition to the post shows, measuring our intensity, Canada is a resounding success - we've reduced our intensity by 14%! Never mind that actual emissions have gone up. It doesn't work.

"You've asked for alternatives, but it's clear there isn't any real room to work the problem here. Any colour we want, as long as it is black. Status quo it is, then."

No I asked for real alternatives. Intensity based target do not reduce pollution of GHG emissions so the belong in the class of space umbrellas and magic cooling dust. Only you seem to arguing for the status quo, considering our vast intensity based success.

I'll also remind you that I thought your other ideas were quite good.


Interesting. Can you quantify that better? Remember correlation does not mean causation. What about the clear economic stagnation in not having a growing workforce.

Are you recommending Canada adopt a Zero Population growth policy? How effective do you think such a policy would be in reducing GHG and pollution?

At 6:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look at it this way, we already know that just in Ontario alone, our power grid is maxed out.

We can replace all power plants with one that don't produce GHG's, but we've only dealth with current electrical use.

A good percentage of homes, use some sort of GHG producing method of heating, ie fuel oil, natural gas, etc. For homes to reduce GHG emissions would require a conversion to electrical heating.

The same would go for industry that burn GHG's as part of production would have to convert to electric power, the oil sands are a case in point.

These two things alone would require a massive increase in power generation to meet the increased need because we wouldn't be able to do it based on current power generation.

I'm not even going to look at transportation because of the sheer size of it.

I can't even imagine the cost of building that many power generation plants, but it would have to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

The only way to help do this would be to reduce or at least stop the growth of Canada'a population. Less people, less power requirements.

At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>Yes. Do you understand that I asked for alternatives that would reduce pollution and greenhouse gases, not "slow the rate of growth".

What you wrote in the opener was "so long as they do something to reduce air pollution and GHG emissions" and, more specifically, "reduce GHG".

The only way to reduce pollutants and GHG already in existence is to add nothing (magic!) while taking away, or at least not add more than the global climate system can reach an equilibrium with (in terms of natural sequestering). I assume you're interested in the latter.

Reducing net outputs is simply a matter of reducing outputs per unit. If I reduce the allowable C02 emitted to produce one automobile ("unit"), I've reduced emissions using an intensity target. Some people seem to be wrapped around the idea that we also have to compensate for positive population growth. That's a very ambitious objective. But the net output is just the sum of all per unit outputs. Initially all that's needed is to reduce per unit outputs commensurate with the current population, and then to push downward approximately in balance with population growth (or, more accurately, the economic demand for "units"). What's short-circuiting people's minds are the unnecessary assumptions that "unit" production must monotonically increase, or must be permitted to monotonically increase. Slowing rates of growth (the sum) initially is just near one end of a continuum which can lead to negative rates of growth (ie. absolute reduction) at the other end.

Obviously, reducing population growth (or reversing it) is also a strategy.

At 9:48 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Well, I suspect resorting to stopping or reducing human population would be a last resort. Conservation and retro fitting to make existing homes and systems more efficient is probably more feasible. As my link to Interface shows it is possible to have a carbon neutral footprint that is also economically sustainable. It takes some creativity yes, but it is possible.

I actually think when given the a real choice, people will choose the more environmentally friendly option. So how about we do what Steve suggests - higher taxes on regular cars with little or no taxes on hybrids (or fully electric). How about the FULL cost of my monthly bus pass is tax deductible. How about the simple idea that anything you purchase can be taken apart and repaired, instead of thrown out if it is broken.


"Global Warming will cause a lot of problems for a lot of people but it may very well not prove a big problem for Canada."

Well no, that's not true. It might be good for the people of Churchill, since the will have a year-round open water port, but places like Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, BC and even Nunavut will be seriously affected - many of their coastal towns and cities will be under water when the ice pack melts. The influx of fresh water into the oceans will change weather patterns further, change sea life and devastate what little we have left of our fisheries. Further, the lack of snow and water will likely result in droughts in the prairies, possibly turning it into a desert. We won't be debating the future of the CWB then. It might solve the population issue anon and KC are talking about, just not in the way they anticipated.

Some people wouldn't be affected in Canada, but I'd bet most would. So we can make it minimal or we can make it catastrophic. Ours to decide.

At 1:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can get a copy of the report at "Climate Science by Climate Scientists" The site and the forum discussions are very informative.
There are six scenarios mentioned in the report.

The Emission Scenarios of the IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES)18
A1. The A1 storyline and scenario family describes a future world of very rapid economic growth, global population
that peaks in mid-century and declines thereafter, and the rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies.
Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building and increased cultural and social
interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family
develops into three groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system. The
three A1 groups are distinguished by their technological emphasis: fossil intensive (A1FI), non-fossil energy sources
(A1T), or a balance across all sources (A1B) (where balanced is defined as not relying too heavily on one particular
energy source, on the assumption that similar improvement rates apply to all energy supply and end use
A2. The A2 storyline and scenario family describes a very heterogeneous world. The underlying theme is self
reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in
continuously increasing population. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic
growth and technological change more fragmented and slower than other storylines.
B1. The B1 storyline and scenario family describes a convergent world with the same global population, that peaks
in mid-century and declines thereafter, as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid change in economic structures toward a
service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource
efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability,
including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.
B2. The B2 storyline and scenario family describes a world in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic,
social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with continuously increasing global population, at a rate lower
than A2, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in
the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it
focuses on local and regional levels.
An illustrative scenario was chosen for each of the six scenario groups A1B, A1FI, A1T, A2, B1 and B2. All should
be considered equally sound.

Note this interesting remark at the end.

The SRES scenarios do not include additional climate initiatives, which means that no scenarios are included that
explicitly assume implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change or the emissions
targets of the Kyoto Protocol.
To be a fly on the wall during the discussions leading up to consensus on that part of the report would have been very interesting.

My impression of the report after the first read is.

We need to reduce emissions right away. Trading carbon credits will not achieve the immediate reductions that are required.
Alternate energy sources and energy efficiency measures are required to sustain the effort and further reduce emissions.
The climate will continue to warm creating changes in regional weather patterns with varying ecological consequences even if we are successful in the first two efforts. We must also act to reduce the impact of these changes.
More research is required.
The effect on climate change made by aerosols seems to be one area.

"Anthropogenic contributions to aerosols (primarily sulphate, organic carbon, black carbon, nitrate and dust)
together produce a cooling effect, with a total direct radiative forcing of -0.5 [-0.9 to -0.1] W m-2 and an
indirect cloud albedo forcing of -0.7 [-1.8 to -0.3] W m-2. These forcings are now better understood than at
the time of the TAR due to improved in situ, satellite and ground-based measurements and more
comprehensive modelling, but remain the dominant uncertainty in radiative forcing. Aerosols also influence
cloud lifetime and precipitation. {2.4, 2.9, 7.5}"

A cooling effect!
Seems like we might have made a mistake in our efforts to improve our air quality.

All and all pretty depressing.

My only suggestion at the moment

More sites like realclimate for other areas of expertise.
We will need all of our intellectual resources applied to solutions

At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Truthfully, I'm a skeptic of the "doom and gloom" scenarios. Heard tons of that sort of thing over my 44 year old life, including "not that long ago," warnings of an impending ice age, and ozone holes that were going to let the earth's warmth escape while allowing in sun's rays that were going to cause human and animal skin cancers destroying us all.

But whatever.

Here's a "small step" that folks, who are truly concerned about fossil fuels and plastics being dumped can do:

Start in the kitchen. I don't do this out of concern for the environment - I do this because it costs me less money, and there is a quality to it that to me, is valued above using plastic shit.

At 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link, Mike.

And may I say, that it is my opinion, that any person who continues to use toxic cookwear which requires plastic utensils to both cook and clean that toxic cookware, is an outright hypocrite if they continue to do so. "Convenience" is no excuse, right?

Teflon cookware ought to be incinerated, burning up the very molecules that are in teflon. After that, petroleum based plastics are not required any longer for cooking or cleaning cookware.

Hope you clicked through the links on the post and purchased your new cookware :) I get a commission, you know! :P

At 8:53 PM, Blogger Alison said...

Just because someone doesn't have a better solution, doesn't mean they have to buy into which ever solution someone else proposes.

I hate to do this to you, but this line of reasoning is positively Republicanish

Nah, it's just plain reason, Olaf.
I use it all the time on you Tories.;-)

Just wanted to put in a plug here for the importance of acting locally, leaning on your local politicians. They will be far more sensitive to pressure than the provs or feds and often have more freedom to respond.

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graphs from 2003 are not an indication of future trends regarding India and China.

Again, this is simply a one sided factoid.

This may be far more interesting to some, then a graph based on 2003 data:

"Last month the International Energy Agency announced that China would probably surpass the United States as the world's largest contributor of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide by 2009, more than a full decade earlier than anticipated."

At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, that link above was truncated. Here it is - Washington Post.

At 10:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to present this article. Key points to note? My magic space dust (which isn't magic. It's called technology and might be one of the things to actually save the frickin' planet), giant orbital mirrors, vast amounts of nuclear power. You know, solutions that might actually save us. Not half-way measures that will just delay the inevitable.,1518,463367,00.html

Pull quotes:

James Lovelock is attracting attention again with his provocative ideas. The former hero of the environmental movement has called for an end to "green romanticism." The only way to delay climate catastrophe, says the environmental guru, is through the massive expansion of nuclear energy.

Lovelock has nothing but ridicule for environmentalists' favorite issues, such as "sustainable development" and "renewable energy," calling them "well-meaning nonsense." He is convinced that wind and solar energy will never be even remotely capable of meeting worldwide energy needs. In China alone, for example, a new large coal power plant is put into operation every five days, imposing additional burdens on the atmosphere. The only solution, according to Lovelock, is the massive expansion of nuclear energy worldwide.

Lovelock does give his readers at least some reason for optimism. Humankind, he writes, could use the tools of technology to ease its suffering. For example, engineers should develop jet engines that can tolerate traces of sulfur in kerosene. This, according to Lovelock, would be the easiest way to eject sulfur aerosols into the stratosphere, where they would reflect sunlight back into space, thereby helping cool the earth. Giant mirrors positioned in space would be another option.

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Coyote said...

Consider yourself linked as well.

Freedom of

At 12:00 PM, Blogger DazzlinDino said...

he might just be having a mid-life crisis... ;-)

HEY !!??!! OK, your right.....:P

I'm with you, they should just get off their collective asses and start doing something for a change...

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

More on saving the planet through technological means.

Benford has a proposal that possesses the advantages of being both one of the simplest planet-cooling technologies so far suggested and being initially testable in a local context. He suggests suspension of tiny, harmless particles (sized at one-third of a micron) at about 80,000 feet up in the stratosphere. These particles could be composed of diatomaceous earth. "That's silicon dioxide, which is chemically inert, cheap as earth, and readily crushable to the size we want," Benford says. This could initially be tested, he says, over the Arctic, where warming is already considerable and where few human beings live. Arctic atmospheric circulation patterns would mostly confine the deployed particles around the North Pole. An initial experiment could occur north of 70 degrees latitude, over the Arctic Sea and outside national boundaries. "The fact that such an experiment is reversible is just as important as the fact that it's regional," says Benford.

Is Benford's proposal realistic? According to Ken Caldeira, a leading climate scientist at Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology, "It appears as if any small particle would do the trick in the necessary quantities. I've done a number of computer simulations of what the climate response would be of reflecting sunlight, and all of them indicate that it would work quite well." He adds, "I wouldn't look to these geoengineering schemes as part of normal policy response, but if bad things start to happen quickly, then people will demand something be done quickly."

At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops, and this part:

Given that our social systems would crash without the economic growth that depends on the existing energy infrastructure that we have, Benford personally believes that governments can't be counted on to develop and deploy alternatives: "Anybody who thinks governments are suddenly going to leap into action is dreaming." Benford says that one of the advantages of his scheme is that it could be implemented unilaterally by private parties. "Applying these technologies in the Arctic zone or even over the whole planet would be so cheap that many private parties could do it on their own. That's really a dangerous idea because it suggests the primary actor in this drama will not be the nation-state anymore. You could do this for a hundred million bucks a year. You could do the whole planet for a couple of billion. That's amazingly cheap."


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