Australia

Dec 21, 2012

From giant sunshades to ‘sodium trees’: this is a climate crisis

Current efforts to restrain emissions are nowhere near the scale required to address climate change. Scientist Andrew Glikson calls for a planetary defence effort -- on the scale spent on the military.

Short-term solar radiation shields such as sulphur aerosols. Space sunshade technology. Dissemination of ocean iron filings aimed at increasing fertilisation by plankton and algal blooms. Temperature exchange through vertical ocean pipe systems. “Sodium trees.”

47 comments

Leave a comment

47 thoughts on “From giant sunshades to ‘sodium trees’: this is a climate crisis

  1. khtagh

    You forgot the most effective measure of all, KILL Rupert Murdoch & limited news.

  2. Roger Clifton

    It is nonsense to dream of extracting waste carbon out of the atmosphere, when our clear responsibility is not to have emitted it in the first place.

  3. Hugh (Charlie) McColl

    Roger, who washes the dishes at your place?

  4. hern andog

    i can’t believe people are thinking of pumping sulphur into the atmosphere. “severe deleterious consequences” – um yeah, ya think? that’s how acid rain is born.

    and these sun shades reminds me of mr burns trying to block out the sun over springfield. at least that one’s comical.

    hey here’s an idea, how ’bout stopping burning fossil fuels and pumping co2 into the atmosphere? oh apparently that’s in the too hard basket, so lets just pump the atmosphere full of sulphur dioxide instead. yeah sounds smart.

  5. Roger Clifton

    Hugh McColl, are you saying that we must dirty our dishes in order to eat and thus must clean up after ourselves?

    One difference to your metaphor is that we don’t need to emit carbon to get energy. To be sure, we need a emergency-type effort to create massive energy storage technology. Already, we should be mass producing (N-word) power stations, for the entire world.

    The other difference is that the means to clean away our waste gases are hopelessly inadequate. Consider that every year, 40 gigatons, that’s twenty thousand cubic kilometres, of CO2 should be permanently buried in some place where carbon would not otherwise appear. It can’t be done. Toying with these silly schemes offers us an illusion of innocence, but will not fool any jury of survivors.

  6. Andybob

    Bacterial formation of carbonates is interesting.

  7. michael r james

    One might quibble with some of the statements here. For example “sodium trees” seem a highly unlikely solution for at least two reasons which are the same as for Carbon Capture and Sequestration for coal-fired power stations (essential identical technology): 1. energy cost and 2. sequestration of CO2. The iron-seeding of oceans is, IMO, much more promising than almost any other technology, as Crikey readers should know from my article:

    [(crikey.com.au/2010/06/11/geoengineering-does-not-remove-the-need-to-decarbonise/)
    Friday, 11 June 2010 /
    Geoengineering does not remove the need to decarbonise
    by Michael R James

    Bio-sequestration has enormous potential in the form of iron seeding of oceans and charcoal in soils. But again a lot of research is required as no one really understands the processes or long-term effects. There is some optimism for ocean seeding because it is potentially easy, cheap and scalable — and innocuous. There are vast segments of the Pacific ocean that are dead zones with very little life — because they are a long way from coasts and do not have currents to bring nutrients, one of which, iron is limiting to the growth of blue-green algae and phytoplankton, the very bottom of the whole ocean food chain.
    .
    This is kind of equivalent to carbon capture and storage (CCS) except it is done naturally by organisms and the carbon is sequestered as stable calcium carbonate skeletons that fall to the ocean floor at the end of the animals’ life. In fact it is a kind of solar power as the energy that drives the process is free from the sun coupled to a billion years of biological evolution. It is why it is economically feasible and clean coal is not. This process is the origin of the massive limestone deposits throughout the world, such as those exposed in the White Cliffs of Dover. Staggering amounts of carbon are embedded in these deposits and in principle, creating some more in some unoccupied part of the Pacific may well be ecologically innocuous and very affordable.]

    But one cannot quibble with the need for serious research on any or all of these potential methods. Some may play a short-term role, eg. increasing the upper atmosphere’s albedo via various methods including sulphur, reflective microparticles (that stay aloft a lot longer) and water vapour. Others such as ocean seeding may be a longer term method of permanently sequestering carbon; any pessimism needs to acknowledge that it has happened–those white cliffs of Dover and all limestone and marble deposits etc. The research needs to be done to find optimal conditions, and yes, if the sequestration can be made permanent (the acidification of oceans is what can cause calcium carbonate to re-dissolve but deep ocean–especially in the precise areas of the Pacific likely to be used for any ocean seeding–is surely the last to be acidified (it requiring exchange with surface water which by definition is what doesn’t happen in these areas).

    Even Clive Hamilton has changed his mind on the importance of this research as he revealed on a recent ABC Lateline; see my earlier article which was in part a response to Hamilton’s antipathy to any kind of geo-engineering at that time.

  8. michael r james

    Roger Clifton at 4:01 pm

    I too have always thought using sulphur injection into the upper atmosphere to be an odd approach, however the amount needed is presumably a lot less than the amounts our old dirty coal-burning put into the air that caused acid-rain.

    In any case as a biochemist, naturally I prefer the bio-sequestration approach discussed in my post above. As to Dr Glikson’s closing words: “By contrast to these methods, CO2 sequestration through fast track reforestation, soil carbon, biochar and possible chemical methods such as “sodium trees” may be effective, provided these are applied on a global scale.” I cannot imagine the land-based methods having the chance of a snowflake in hell as they are in such conflict with developmental aims of the parts of the planet where they would have to happen. Worse, at any time and in short time frames, all the good work could be undone by political action/inaction. if it works, ocean-seeding sequestration would not be subject to such political problems.

  9. michael r james

    Roger Clifton at 4:01 pm

    I too have always thought using sulphur injection into the upper atmosphere to be an odd approach, however the amount needed is presumably a lot less than the amounts our old dirty coal-burning put into the air that caused acid-rain.

    In any case as a biochemist, naturally I prefer the bio-sequestration approach discussed in my post above. As to Dr Glikson’s closing words:

    “By contrast to these methods, CO2 sequestration through fast track reforestation, soil carbon, biochar and possible chemical methods such as “sodium trees” may be effective, provided these are applied on a global scale.”

    I cannot imagine the land-based methods having the chance of a snowflake in h*ll as they are in such conflict with developmental aims of the parts of the planet where they would have to happen. Worse, at any time and in short time frames, all the good work could be undone by political action/inaction. if it works, ocean-seeding sequestration would not be subject to such political problems.

  10. zut alors

    Just for the record – is the Amazon still being cleared and is Indonesia persisting with major forest burn-offs to create palm oil crops?

    Instead of skipping directly to scientific solutions first we should cease behaving like vandals.

Leave a comment

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details

Sending...