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Ocean Fertilization, Geoengineering, and the Politics of Science
David Brin   Jul 15, 2013   Ethical Technology  

My last posting about Climate Change remediation got a lot of attention, positive and negative,  so let me emphasize: I do not consider any form of "geoengineering" to be a substitute for responsibly investing in energy efficiency and finding ways to maintain a great civilization without ruining our planet.

Even if a few such methods are found that work well, without crackpot flaws and/or gruesome side effects, that won't let us off the hook from our shared and individual responsibilities, which include seeking alternate, sustainable forms of energy to replace the irresponsible spewing of greenhouse pollutants into our atmosphere. Those who have been lured into participating in a War on Science must be introduced to its value. But the cynical men who are financing this cult are enemies of humankind.

PushPullOceanPumpsOnly now… some additional insights. A variant on ocean fertilization has been proposed by my friend William Calvin, one of the smartest guys I know. Bill agrees with me that the best approach for geoengineering and partial remediation of carbon driven climate change would be to emulate and enhance the method that Nature herself already uses, to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere.  That means doing it via natural processes at-sea, forming carbon rich solids and letting these settle as sediments to the ocean bottom.  (While, as a side-benefit, stimulating new fisheries.)  See Calvin's Proposal: Emergency 20-year Drawdown of Excess CO2 via Push-Pull  Ocean Pumps.
 
Earlier we discussed the drawbacks of the bludgeon-like initial attempts at ocean fertilization, that have created crude plankton blooms by dumping iron powder into currents.  We also saw that care must be taken to make sure that (as when arid land is irrigated) the new zones of fecundity must be "well-drained" like the Grand Banks and Chile, and unlike the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, where "fecundity" can translate into  a poisoned morass of algae and jellyfish.  My conclusion: if you want to emulate the main life-process that removes CO2 from the air, do it by lifting submerged nutrients to higher, sun-lit realms, exactly as Nature does it.  Several methods have been proposed and I showed a couple of them way back in in EARTH (1989).
 
Let me pause to add that there are non-living process that do the same thing, in parallel.  Even more effective at drawing down atmospheric CO2 is the weathering of continental rocks by the rain cycle, washing silicates to sea via river estuaries, reacting and combining with dissolved carbon and sealing them away in sediments without intervention by biology. (Indeed, this is the principal driver of the "Gala Balance" that makes a natural ocean world self-regulating.)  I have never seen any proposals to expand continental, river-carried weathering… though I imagine a lot of dust will go to sea if we continue to spread deserts… or if desertification results in nuclear war.
 
CarbonSoupBudgetBut let's get back to Bill Calvin's concept.  He starts with what I've been pushing… systems that emulate natural upwellings by bringing up nutrients from below, using either windmills or wave powered systems.  (Have a look: some are very clever: especially using 3000 abandoned oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.)
 
He then deals with a serious problem, that most of the CO2 sequestered by a plankton bloom does not either sink or feed fish, but simply returns to the air after the plankton dies.  Calvin solves this by having another windmill-powered tube situated down-current from the upwelling one.  This second one pumps the carbon rich surface water back down again.  I'll let him explain:
 
Calvin's push-pull pumps:  "An easy-to-visualize method to do push-pull pumps uses floating windmills. Long pipes hang 15 to 30 stories down into the slowly moving depths. One windmill operates traditionally, pulling deep water up to the surface.  The nutrients in this cold water create a sustained bloom of algae (and algae thrive in cooler water). The other windmill pump pushes the enriched surface water down to where it cannot resurface for millennia. Pumping down stores the carbon in the brand-new algae as well as canceling out whatever carbon dioxide was first pulled up from below the thermocline. That’s the first big payoff from going with push-pull pumps."
 
"Even more importantly, it sinks the 240x larger amounts of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) from the feces and cell debris. (Algaculture throws out the dissolved part of their organic crop.) DOC ordinarily becomes carbon dioxide within a week or two and then escapes into the air as winds stir the surface layer. Stashing it as well is the second big step up in efficiency achieved by push-pull pumps."
 
These things merit discussion.  Do have a closer look.  Because reducing CO2 at the source will no longer suffice.  We have to push for that!  But it will take more.
 
See my article: Defining Climate "Deniers" and "Skeptics." Without any doubt it is possible to be a skeptic who helps science by critiquing the flaws in any standard model. Such skepticism, propelled by curiosity and the natural competitiveness of science (indeed, science is the most ferociously competitive of all human endeavors) is natural and wholesome.  Alas, 95% of those calling themselves "climate skeptics" do not fit this description.  Their stance is driven by political loyalties and participation in an ever-deepening War on Science and everything that it stands for. And the worst example of all is...
 
== Politics and Science ==
 
The Science Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives -- continuing its almost blemish-free record of jibbering inanity, with members from the majority party almost universally unqualified and propelled by fanatical dogmas.  Take Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, who chairs the Space Subcommittee. His revision of the Administration's NASA budget request would slash the requested Earth science budget by a third (from about $1.8 billion to $1.2 billion) next year.  This from the party that proclaims "we need more research!" in order to determine whether human activity is promoting climate change and global warming.
 
researchfunds(This year's Fox-declared dogma is to backpedal and admit (at last) that major global warming is obviously taking place, but continuing to declare human causes to be "unproved." And further proclaiming that lemming-herd-like scientists are all cowardly-timid yelpers after teensy grants. Even though half of all climate researchers are doing great, earning nearly all of their funds from perfectly safe research into weather prediction, having accomplished the spectacular feat of transforming the old, two hour weather report into a ten day miracle. Geniuses, chivvied by their opposites.)
 
Keeping true to form, the targeted slashing of science continues. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which supports the development and commercialization of new energy technologies, would receive $50 million, $215 million — or 81 percent — less than what was enacted in fiscal 2013.
 
stormsofmygrandchildrenThis is not the science-loving GOP of 1980, but some aberration that has sabotaged Earth science for twenty consistent years. Indeed, they several times tried to remove Earth observation and ocean/climate studies from the mission statements of both NASA and NOAA.  Can any modern person rationalize this?  Or convince himself/herself that this has anything to do with "conservatism" anymore?
 
Read also how the Space Subcommittee Republicans demand that funds be shifted away from asteroidal research, which offers the possibility of accessing vast wealth and resources, -- a new Gold-Platinum Rush in space -- while providing a useful intermediate mission for astronauts to develop deep space skills.  Instead they prefer an utterly pointless return to the sterile-useless-heavy Moon, and then armwave talk of a Mars Mission that this generation is nowhere near ready to even design.
 
Who - on Earth or anywhere - would try so hard to ALWAYS be wrong?
David Brin Ph.D. is a scientist and best-selling author whose future-oriented novels include Earth, The Postman, and Hugo Award winners Startide Rising and The Uplift War. David's newest novel - Existence - is now available, published by Tor Books."



COMMENTS

Pump and clean water to dry land there-by help the starving and the climate. Use nuclear, wind and solar.  Get off all your all little pet dream projects.

There is a simple and very very cheap easily reversible way to cool down the Earth immediately: just add a little (more) sun dimming pollution to the air.  Our short-lived sun dimming pollution already cools down the Earth about 1C.  If you don’t like it, just stop adding more for a couple of months, and it will wash out of the air.

“The alternative (to geoengineering) is the acceptance of a massive natural cull of humanity and a return to an Earth that freely regulates itself but in the hot state.”—Dr James Lovelock, August 2008

BTW, a new clean energy technology is emerging onto the market this year that will (according to Forbes.com) make energy “too cheap to meter.”  It uses nickel and hydrogen, with no nuclear materials going in or out.  Everyone will switch fast, not because the government orders us to, but because it saves so much money.  Here is a primer:

Check out this third-party verification of a LENR reactor that will soon hit the market: http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.3913
“Given the deliberately conservative choices made in performing the measurement, we can reasonabley state that the E-Cat HT is a non-conventional source of energy which lies between conventional chemical sources of energy and nuclear ones.” (i.e. about five orders of magnitude more energy dense than gasoline, and a COP of almost 6).

This phenomenon (LENR) has been confirmed in hundreds of published scientific papers: http://lenr-canr.org/acrobat/RothwellJtallyofcol.pdf

“Over 2 decades with over 100 experiments worldwide indicate LENR is real, much greater than chemical…”—Dennis M. Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA Langley Research Center

“Total replacement of fossil fuels for everything but synthetic organic chemistry.”—Dr. Joseph M. Zawodny, NASA

By the way, here is a survey of some of the companies that are bringing LENR to commercialization: http://www.cleantechblog.com/2011/08/the-new-breed-of-energy-catalyzers-ready-for-commercialization.html

For those who still aren’t convinced, here is a paper I wrote that contains some pretty convincing evidence: http://coldfusionnow.org/the-evidence-for-lenr/

There are no guarantees that cloud seeding and precipitation can be adequately controlled?

Chinese scientists create second artificial snowstorm in Beijing
From correspondents in Beijing AFP
November 11, 2009 4:32PM

“CHINESE scientists have artificially induced the second major snowstorm to wreak havoc in Beijing this season, state media said today, reigniting debate over the practice of tinkering with Mother Nature.”

mobile.news.com.au/technology/chinese-scientists-create-second-artificial-snowstorm-in-beijing/story-e6frfro0-1225796559341


Bill Gates’ cloud-whitening trials ‘a dangerous experiment’

guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/may/14/bill-gates-cloud-whitening-dangerous


ps If you haven’t watched this already - stick with it, the debate warms up in the second half..

Reinvent Climate Management Full
Roundtable

ieet.org/index.php/IEET/more/geo20130625


We should be open minded in investigating and in building feasibility studies for all possible solutions to mitigate Climate change?

Carbon CO2 sequestation will no doubt still be necessary regardless of use of renewable energy?

Yet I agree that reflecting the Sun’s heat may be an effective measure to mitigate Global temperature. “Mirrors in Space!” may be a pipe dream, yet perhaps not using semi-autonomous “swarming robots” as reflectors? Many would be needed, and yet may be effectively and strategically placed using redundant ICBMs?

Robot swarms are already in place for use in space explorations, using the Sun as power source.

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