Climate realism tells us that keeping the present rate of warming would require a 60 to 80 percent cut in emissions worldwide; and it would still take decades for the atmospheric concentration of CO2 to stabilize. In other words, not even a radical, genocidal, neo-malthusian plan is going to halt warming, let alone cool the earth. I remember watching Animal Planet as a kid, and one message that played between programs insisted that global warming will still occur, even if humans shut down all industry and transportation. The Paris Climate Deal commits governments to halt warmth growth well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change. The Paris accord strives to stay within a safer limit of 1.5 Celsius. Without using aerosols in a limited manner, at least, and kicking off desert-greening projects [among other things], I don’t see how such a temperature objective can even be contemplated, let alone reached. Even the IPCC, in its October report from last year, claimed drastic cuts in CO2 may not be enough to stop potentially dangerous temperature rises.
The ISO draft, however, brings good news and bad news to individuals of various political and philosophical persuasions. The green ‘purist’ camp views it as a catastrophe; because geoengineering carries the risk of unintended consequences. In the case of SRM, it risks to destabilize global weather patterns and undermine food and water security – due to the change in difference between solar radiation and [growing] CO2 levels. By far, the biggest threat is that once started, it may be dangerous to stop [abruptly]. Use of this technology may turn into a vicious addiction. Some research shows that if the [global aerosol] sun shield worked, and the scheme was then brought to a halt, global warming would resume at up to 10 times the speed [assuming greenhouse gas emissions spike or remain unchanged in the meantime]. Drastic warming would have swift and devastating effects on economies and the environment.
But let’s look at the half full glass… Studies have shown that SRM could be extremely effective and financially affordable in stemming rising temperatures. SRM tech would cost a minimum of one order of magnitude less than emissions cuts. It’s estimated that one kilogram of well placed sulfur in the stratosphere could roughly offset the warming effect of several hundred thousand kilograms of CO2. It’s also estimated that [aerosols used in this manner] could provide a “grace period” of up to 20 years before major cutbacks in greenhouse gas emissions would be required. The fossil fuel industry and the Deep State/s, of course, will want to squeeze every well of every drop, in their pursuit of profits, market share, and geopolitical chess. Much needs to happen in that “grace period” in order to replace antiquated tech and infrastructure with better ones: things like solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, 3rd generation atomic reactors, massive scale desalination, storage capacity – and, hopefully, fusion will become commercially viable sooner than later. I have high hopes for the small, spherical Tokamak design over the much larger ones. A company in the UK is developing such a reactor. Last year, during the first round of testing, their ST40 was able to achieve plasma temperatures hotter than the sun’s core. These capital-intensive projects need to be affordable, if smaller countries are to deploy them. Computer modelling of the effect of injecting tons of sulfate particles into the stratosphere indicate that as few as 200 planeloads of aerosol a year could halt global warming. SRM gives Mankind some options: what degree of warming relative to pre-industrial levels to entertain, or perhaps going below pre-industrial levels?…
One of the biggest fears is that the ISO guidelines will determine firms to prioritize geoengineering schemes over de-investing from fossil fuels and shifting to green power. Big oil has been sponsoring pro-SRM orgs for several years now, including the American Enterprise Institute. The latter organization, in a policy paper from 2013, judged that the case for SRM is stronger than emissions control. While the UN Convention on Climate Change measures each country’s contribution towards ‘fighting’ global warming in terms of emissions cuts, the ISO suggests this new yardstick of containing radiative forcing. Doubtless, the corporate lobby machine will have its away – and weaker state governments are bound to acquiesce based on bribes and or orders [blackmail], rather than greenlight SRM out of their own volition. I expect to see trans-national firms engaging in this practice in the coming years; and I don’t expect to see countries abide by UN directives on this issue, should these directives be prohibitive of SRM tech.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.