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November 27, 2012

$100 Trillion Climate Change or $20 to 50 Billion Climate Control

There are many dire warnings that Climate Change will melt the ice caps, cause a rise of 4 to 6 feet or more in sea level and cause more severe weather (like the $42 billion in damage from Hurricane Sandy) over the next 60-200 years.

I am reminded of scene from the first Austin Powers movie. People are screaming stop but actually taking control of the climate is not that costly. It also seems relatively easy to take control of the climate. One important thing to remember is that all of the concern about climate change is from natural or side-effect release of emissions from human activity (coal plants, cars, industry). So humans are probably contributing to climate change so why not allow humans to control climate entirely. Why is only OK to allow carbon and soot emitters to keep doing that for hundreds of years but not OK to actually counter act or remove those emissions at low cost ? The only "acceptable" solution is to stop the emitters or shift from the emitters over the course of many decades at costs of over $100 billion per year. A $10 trillion "solution" over 100 years or allow the possible damage to occur at a cost of $100 trillion.
Scene from Austin Powers where a security guard henchmen screams stop several times, instead of getting out of the way

Caveats - there is still a lot of uncertainty about climate change. So a more cotrecy picture could be Lawrence of Arabia looking out into the desert. He could be looking at a mirage or it could be a real threat. It is so far away and the picturr is do hazy that it us tough to get a good read on it. However Austin Powers is funnier than Lawrence of Arabia. Also there are likely better ways to control climate and weather. J Storrs Hall described a system for using tiny heliostats that could easily be done with early moleculsr nanotech. There are also proposals for artificial trees to control ehat us on the atmosphere. The point is that cheap climate control would take any reallt bad case climate scenario off the table.

UPDATE - University of Southampton - Uncertainty about how much the climate is changing is not a reason to delay preparing for the harmful impacts of climate change says Professor Robert Nicholls of the University of Southampton and colleagues at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, writing today in Nature Climate Change. Professor Nicholls and his co-authors describe two ways of assessing how much adaptation to climate change is enough by balancing the risk of climate change against the cost of adaptation. First they describe cost-benefit analysis where the cost of the adaptation has to be less than the benefit of risk reduction. Alternatively, decision makers can seek the most cost-effective way of maintaining a tolerable level of risk.

We have recently reviewed two main low cost geoengineering proposals, which have had significant field tests or almost had a field test and the tests would cost less than $3 million.

1. Get a blimp or helium balloon and lift basically a lightweight but very long firehose up 20,000 meters and pump 2 million tons to 5 million tons of sulfur into the stratosphere each year. Cost $480 million to $1.2 billion to start and then $200 million to $500 million each year to operate. The 200,000 ton per year system would just protect the ice cap and northern regions. To operate for 100 years it would cost $20.5 to 51 billion.

HIGH-FLYING BLIMPS, based on existing protoypes, could support a hose no thicker than a fire hose (above) to carry sulfur dioxide as a clear liquid up to the stratosphere, where one or more nozzles (below) would atomize it into a fine mist of nanometer-scale aerosol particles.

2. Fertilize the ocean with iron dust. 200,000 tons to 4 million tons per year. 5 billion tons of CO2 per year at a cost of $27 billion/year. However, if CO2 sequestration was valued at $10 per ton of CO2, then there would be a $23 billion profit each year.


Of the carbon-rich biomass generated by plankton blooms, half (or more) is generally consumed by grazing organisms (zooplankton, krill, small fish, etc.) but 20 to 30% sinks below 200 meters (660 ft) into the colder water strata below the thermocline. Much of this fixed carbon continues falling into the abyss, but a substantial percentage is redissolved and remineralized. At this depth, however, this carbon is now suspended in deep currents and effectively isolated from the atmosphere for centuries. (The surface to benthic cycling time for the ocean is approximately 4,000 years.)

Planktos - just restoring 10% the productivity our oceans have lost since 1950, for example, would sequester more carbon than is released annually in all of Europe and Asia today.



About $200 billion could address most sources of soot in the world, while carbon dioxide mitigation are plans that are $100-200 billion per year for 100 years. Another point of perspective is that world oil subsidies are about $500-600 billion per year.



Those who are against getting good at geoengineering (instead of being accidental geoengineers) remind me of the expert recommended policy for hijacked planes before September 11, 2001.

Wikipedia on aircraft hijacking

Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, most hijackings involved the plane landing at a certain destination, followed by the hijackers making negotiable demands. Pilots and flight attendants were trained to adopt the "Common Strategy" tactic, which was approved by the FAA. It taught crew members to comply with the hijackers' demands, get the plane to land safely and then let the security forces handle the situation. Crew members advised passengers to sit quietly in order to increase their chances of survival. They were also trained not to make any 'heroic' moves that could endanger themselves or other people. The FAA realized that the longer a hijacking persisted, the more likely it would end peacefully with the hijackers reaching their goal. The September 11 attacks presented an unprecedented threat because it involved suicide hijackers who could fly an aircraft and use it to deliberately crash the airplane into buildings for the sole purpose to cause massive casualties with no warning, no demands or negotiations, and no regard for human life. The "Common Strategy" approach was not designed to handle suicide hijackings, and the hijackers were able to exploit a weakness in the civil aviation security system. Since then, the "Common Strategy" policy in the USA and the rest of the world has no longer been used.


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