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Hans Verbeek

We might as well start using frozen methane hydrate in the arctic as a heating fuel.


Martin Gisser

I've almost given up on advocating biochar... Meanwhile a growing number of freak gardeners and extreme organic farmers are getting interested - but the common engineer remains insulted. (What, you want wood gas cars (and trucks and locomotives) like in WWII? What, you want us to look into 19th century city gas? And ugh yuck, you want us to marinate char coal in liquid manure? No! We want artificial photosynthesis and glitzy space age geoengineering, perhaps Dyson's diamond trees etc. - but don't bother us with your outdated technology...).

Consider the following simple math: What about turning around current agriculture from a CO2 releasing soil destroying classic economic suicide business? Agri"culture" today is contributing significantly to the rise of CO2. Stop that and reverse the flow. E.g., dear 'Merricans and Canadians, use the masses of dead trees killed by bark beetle and drought to produce energy and char coal - instead of just letting them rot or burn. Char coal fixes their photosynthetic carbon takeup (it does not rot) PLUS you get energy by producing the char (pyrolysis). That's a win-win deal, dear economist. Actually it's a triple-win deal, as char coal can enhance soil (if treated the right way) and can make it more resilient against drought and nutrient leaching. Such terra preta soils had been produced by pre-Columbian civilizations in the Amazon and are still extremely fertile.

Are triple-win deals impossible? Alas the Late Homo S "Sapiens" prefers win-win deals (tertium non datur) which according to Murphy's law can easily deteriorate into mutual suicidality (plus (if progressing exponentially) ecocide). We can't afford that anymore.

Jim Hunt

I have to agree that the "economic growth is the only answer" mantra has outlived its usefulness by a few decades. For more on that side of things here's a presentation Richard Heinberg gave in "Transition Town" Totnes, just down the road from me, on the topic of "The End of Growth":


I studied control engineering many moons ago. I'm obviously biased, but it seems to me that economics students should be brainwashed with stuff like z-transforms and the difficulties involved in controlling systems involving significant time delays. I guess much the same applies to geo-engineers?

All that obviously means you need to chuck Anglo Saxon capitalism in the bin. After you've done that (which may take a while!), what do you replace it with?

Jim Hunt

Hi Martin,

Sorry, I missed your post as I was typing in mine (and listening to Heinberg a bit!). Here's the BBC Horizon programme on the topic of terra preta:


The secret of El Dorado.


Hi Hans,

If we could combine an initiative to capture/extract as much of the Arctic methane as possible, and use it as fuel, combined with a total worldwide ban on natural gas extraction below the Arctic Circle, then yours would be a quite sane suggestion.




I know Hans is just trolling, but to follow up, if methane from melting methane clathrates could be could be economically captured, it would be even better to disproportionate it, use the carbon-rich products as a chemical feedstock and only burn the hydrogen. Alas, I'm sure the methane from clathrates is far too dispersed to be a practical source.

Andrei Saviankou

'Are the climate deniers right? Are some scientists colluding with government to hide the truth about climate change? "Yes", according to top British scientist Kevin Anderson - but not the scandal you've heard about. Top scientists and government reports won't tell you we are heading toward catastrophic climate change. Emissions are skidding out of control, leading us to a world six degrees Centigrade hotter on average, much faster than anyone thought possible. Why doesn't the public know?

Why are world conferences still talking about staying below 2 degrees, as though that is possible?

In a devastating speech at Bristol University Tuesday November 6th, 2012, Dr. Kevin Anderson accused too many climate scientists of keeping quiet about the unrealistic assessments put out by governments, and our awful odds of reaching global warming far above the proposed 2 degree safe point.

In fact, says Anderson, we are almost guaranteed to reach 4 degrees of warming, as early as 2050, and may soar far beyond that - beyond the point which agriculture, the ecosystem, and industrial civilization can survive.'


and thank you Neven for the wonderful effort on this blog.

TERRA PRETA is an inspiring revelation, thank you guys. Will try it in my sisters garden the coming spring!


Thanks Neven, alarming.

Considering the degrees of change already becoming apparent, the multiple positve non linear feedbacks (sea ice, methane, ^H2O with temperature), the recent study showing how it takes a higher climate sensitivity to produce the changes being seen and it does seem that we are in for a significant amount fo warming in the next 100years.

Wonder where the runaway feedback tipping point is and is the tipping potential dependent just on scale alone (temperature rise) or on rate and scale?

It seems to me that from the video that there this a runaway tipping point of no return, which produces a new temperature target that we must stay below, or it truly is a scorched earth.

Lets hope that at least can avoided, they are talking about a lot of methane, however the massive release of methane didn't seem to happen during the last deglciation, although as Hansen has postulated the Arctic is probaly already as hot now as then, just the melt hasn't been completed, which is sort of suggestive we might be going a fair amount hotter.

It does seem as though the release of methane from continental self methane has been induced and it has just recently it has been shown that CO2 from the first few metres of permafrost is already going to be released whatever we do.

Hansen says the things may get beyond adaptation due to sea level and weather events, yet it is already clear that the sea level and the potential scale of storm surges at New York aren't going to fall anytime soon, 1m sea level is the lower end of conservative chance by 2100 and therefore doesn't that mean New York really does have to be relocated sometime this century?

We are going get least 20% more rainfall overall, but also concentrated into deluge events, meaning lots more flooding as is all already being seen.

Therefore there must be another temperature taget that is beyond adaptation?

???1.8C is basically inevitable whatever we do now and considering what is already happening (especially America droughts) with 0.8C, that alone is going to take some major transformational changes to the way we do things to maintain a large vibrant civilization.

The last time the world has a CO2 of 325-400ppm (most likely 350ppm) and a continental arrangement as today (but with a slightly dimmer sun), was the early Pliocene and the earth by most estimates then was 2-5C warmer, more likely 3-5C and that has to include all feedbacks playing out their parts over millenia.

However 60-80% of the warming occurs, so even 350ppm means 1.8C to 3C and a sea level rise ovrall of 20-25M eventually, so all the major cities are going to have to be moved in the next few millenia.

It strikes me therefore there needs to a clear target for CO2 aspirations.

For me 400ppm max, target 350ppm asap.

That is a tight carbon budget, but considering the alternative??

Interesting the Arctic's siesmic activity is incerasing?

Hans Verbeek

@Tim: I wish you would take me a little more serious.

The bottomline for the use of methane-hydrate will be the EROEI, the Energy Return on Energy Invested.
If the EROEI is 5 or lower (comparable to tarsand-oil and shale-oil), then methane-hydrate has no place in our current society.
Maybe it can be used locally so the Alaskans don't have to chop up so many trees.

Jim Hunt

I'm happy to hear you're feeling inspired Andrei! Here's James Lovelock versus George Monbiot on the vexed question of biochar:


"We have to grow food, so why not help Gaia do the job of CO2 removal for us?"

Martin Gisser

Jim, thanks for the link to Lovelock's excellent reply to Monbiot's rejection (*) of biochar. Lovelock explains it in just a few paragraphs. And he explains the homework for real engineers: Construct a simple wood gas based combined heating and power generator for use at organic farms. (Some farmers are eager to make the leap into 21st century agriculture: Not carbon negative, not organic.)

(*) Monbiot got that from Biofuelwatch, who managed to derail discussion of biochar at the Copenhagen Climate Summit.

An excellent book is: Albert K. Bates, The Biochar Solution: Carbon Farming and Climate Change (2010)

Jim Hunt

My take on recent events in New York and Washington:


The President says "We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago". The Governor says "extreme weather is the new normal". The Mayor says "It's global warming, stupid!"

Then the API says "We can create thousands of jobs by producing America's oil and natural gas, providing affordable reliable energy to our citizens."

Sounds suspiciously like "economic growth as usual" to me I'm afraid.

Lynn Shwadchuck

I'm not as versed in ASI as most of you, but I have been watching for news from Semiletov & Shakova for years. Natasha looks so worried in this video. The 200 sites they talk about are the 200 sites they managed to visit this summer in millions of sq km. My concern is that there's no way to make this methane coming up from the oceans part of the models that predict global temperature increase. They're only this year getting the solid sense of how much methane is being released. Am I wrong?


Billions of silvered weather balloons.

Lynn Shwadchuck

Thanks, Andrei for the link to Kevin Anderson's revelations. The troubling aspect of discussing adaptation and mitigation is that what's happening is worse than BAU, it's disaster capitalism as laid out by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. All these extreme weather events aren't problems for business – they're 'opportunities'.

Kevin Anderson settles on a controlled economic contraction, putting the onus on individuals in the West to stop consuming energy-intensive crap. Sorry, but that's not going to happen.

We've just spent the price of a good used car to retrofit our 900 sq ft house so we can cleanly burn small sticks of local sugar bush thinnings and stop using the oil furnace. A/C? That would be the space blanket blinds we use in summer when the sun hits the windows.

Most people think we're hair-shirt hippies. What to do, what to do...

Lucas Durand

I tend to agree with your perspective that "... the neoclassical economic concept that drives our economies, societies and cultures needs to be replaced as soon as possible."

However, (not to sound too "doomy") with everthing that is already happening in the world today, it is hard to imagine how we could ever create the type of substantive change that would not only stop our present trajectory but reverse it to the point that we are back in "the safe zone".

In other words, knowing what we know these days about the connection between GDP growth, energy consumption and CO2 emmisions, we need to convince the planet that we need to put the global economy into a depression of unknown duration, starting tomorrow - oh, and even then we'll still be in for a very bumpy ride from climate change...

If only we could discover the universe's "pause button" so we could take our time to reset the board...


Wayne Kernochan

While I have little expertise in climate change and arctic sea ice, I do have long training and "hobbyist" interest in economics. Neoclassical has effectively shown itself so far unable to adapt to recent events such as the global recession, but neoKeynesian has proven surprisingly successful. However, new challenges have arisen (my quirky summarization): (1) It is becoming apparent that extreme income inequality per Gini has bad effects not only politically but also economically -- at the extreme and during severe recessions, underinvestment in the poorest creates a larger and larger "output gap". Present macroeconomics is only beginning to recognize this, much less figure out what to do about it. (2) Pricing fails to capture "existing infrastructure" effects that lock in sub-optimal solutions. Solar is priced far higher than it should be because it is compared to oil and natural gas that takes advantage of existing gas station, grid, etc. means of distribution tuned for fossil fuels. (3) Existing economics fails to consider an interesting new concept in business agility theory called "technical debt": the idea that things deferred that must eventually be done cost far more later. Again, this applies to continuing to build oil/gas infrastructure, not to mention homes in flood zones. (4) There are serious flaws in microeconomics and macroeconomics that subtly undermine the ability to analyze the future. It is not "dynamic", in the sense that it does not allow for changes in the very constructs that underlie the model. For example, the standard microeconomic model is an industrial firm producing widgets. Look at most firms today, and there are very few workers producing physical product. Instead, most workers work on projects, like software developers. The result is a ludicrous theory of an income effect on labor, in which we are told that we will not see a corresponding improvement in production from a worker if we increase salary, because he or she will use part of the extra cash to "purchase" leisure time. I defy you to find workers who behave like this -- instead, the result of extra cash will depend on whether the worker is irrevocably in debt (no effect), working for retirement (strong effect), or rich (no effect). These flaws resulting from failure to allow a dynamic model, in turn, result in drawing exactly the wrong policy conclusion. In the case of climate change, carbon pricing mechanisms typically do not consider the possible need to combine with higher minimum wage standards and stimulus to avoid companies' tendency to squeeze out the most productive "working for retirement" workers in response. (5) While "tragedy of the commons" and "externalities" are much better appreciated now, the "future horizon" of economics is still far too short. Net Present Value, for example, typically only considers five years -- whereas in a project-oriented analysis, it is assumed that each project chosen will lead to the next. Thus, analyses in which oil exploration projects chosen now will lead to major effects on the company's infrastructure and markets 20-40 years from now simply are not modelled.

Right now, however, the major problem is that the fundamental assumptions of economics about climate change that inform their projections are far from current. The best economic expert on the subject (is it Nordhaus of Yale? I can't remember) afaik continues to assume that warming beyond 2 degrees C is very unlikely, despite the fact that scientific experts are now seeing it as almost inevitable. I credit Paul Krugman of Princeton, now shown as about the best policy-analyzing economist out there, with turning me on to Joe Romm. However, even in his case I do not sense the understanding of the relation between the warming and the potential full effects on agriculture and hence on the economy, much less the relevance of analyses of how to handle natural disasters and the fact that if government cannot step in from outside because the whole world is under the same stress, the entire system just about collapses (see, for example, an Indian economist's finding that the government giving jobs that pay money instead of just giving supplies or money is far more effective).

I believe that this type of economics should not be replaced but rather made to face current realities and extended in response. Galbraith's and Meadows' analyses are imho negative -- they do not suggest clearly either a new model or an extension of a model that will work better (in Meadows' case, this is apparently because she finds that all systems unless drastically revamped early break down from "overstretch"). The flaws I cite above, I believe, are remediable in relatively straightforward ways, and would result in at least some economics that had a positive role to play in our response to climate change.



IMHO, if you include phrases like "we need to convince the planet that we need to put the global economy into a depression of unknown duration, starting tomorrow" you are doing exactly what your worst enemies want you to do. The climate delayers and people who want to push Rube Goldberg geoengineering schemes (say, Bjorn Lomberg) LOVE to see the alternative cast in exactly this light. With that kind of talk (and I think it is simply incorrect) you are basically handing the reins over to the BAU folks. Besides, a depression that reduces economic activity by 25-33% would only reduce GHG emissions by 25-30% by itself. We would still have to transform our energy system and without the economic dynamism needed to do the job. Reduction of economic activity by, what? 80 - 90%, would kill just as many people as droughts, floods, desertification, etc.

I think the kind of people Wayne is talking about (Joe Romm and his new associate Stephen Lacey, for example) are much closer to the only path you might convince people to move down.

Lucas Durand

You raise a good point.
Please don't mistake my earlier comments as apathy on the subject.
And I have to disagree with you that there is some kind of "correct" path to take. Predicaments don't have a "solution", they only resolve through compromise.

My own life experiences have taught me repeatedly that there are times in life, regardless of how we may feel, when a certain trajectory can no longer be altered in a way that avoids completely an unpleasant outcome. This doesn't mean we simply "roll over" - it means we change our perspective to one that will allow us to slavage the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

Energy revolution? Steady state economy? Great theories. If only we had had the foresight to begin in earnest 30 or 40 years ago. A renewable energy global economy is the work of generations under "normal" economic growth conditions - it is far from clear that such a herculean task can be accomplished in a world of constrained resources, diminishing energy returns and economic contraction (all of which are already upon us whether we want it or not).

What we really need is kind of cultural revolution that fosters resilience in every possible facet of our lives.

Well, whatever befalls, at least we live in interesting times.


Jim Hunt

Prompted by Lucas, my own recent musings on "the work of generations":


According to Vaclav Smil "It is impossible to displace [the world’s fossil-fuel-based energy system] in a decade or two — or five, for that matter."

Artful Dodger

Hi folks,

I'm gonna agree with Tim on this one. The sun provides 1,000x the power consumed by humanity. That means if we can harvest just 0.1% of that incoming energy, we can maintain our civilization. If we can increase to 0.2% then billion of humans can be raised out of poverty. Lots of jobs and opportunity here, after we knock down the roadblocks.

Lucas, it's the greedy 0.1% of humanity that are causing the problem. Find a way to curtail their greed, and there would be plenty left for the rest of us. Place blame where it belongs.

In fact, we do not simply have a fossil fuel problem. We have a carbon cycle problem. So, do you choose to sequester 35 billion tons of CO2 each year? Or sequester 17 and burn 16? Either way, we have to draw down atmospheric CO2 over the long term.

And none of this happens without a price on carbon. That's the fight.


Seems there is a lot of solution denial here, there is no time for replace any energy system!

Renewables don't save carbon there are all a carbon cost to give some future electricity and every sinlge once of the carbon will have to re-removed and What about the grid?

And what about other ecological effects of renewables when we are in a mass extinction now being stressed further and further by global warming.

350ppm is a long long long way away and we need to stop emissions now.

There needs to be a paradigm shift to something not known and not just of power supply, but of every thing to facilitate a transformation needed to actual stop using fossil fuels i.e. Political system, economic system (entirely), farming and so on.....

Write of debt?
Outlaw Interest?
De-value money every year?
Ban coal mining, oil mining, gas mining..
Use far far less power, everyone now.

Start shouting that the situation is alarming! alarming ! alarming!

And needs the sort of action that this scale of problem deserves.

E.g Just never go to an airport again because you care!

Ecology 66

Thanks Niven for the chance to comment. Firstly I would say Ranyl's little piece above is spot on, correct. He could have added that we need a revolution and to be fair a socialist revolution.
However the reason I write is that I have seen it suggested that Niven believes slashing carbon emissions may be the way to solve the weather extremes already present because of the huge loss of Arctic sea ice. AMEG insists otherwise, not that we should not halt emissions, but that we must quickly cool the Arctic to stop these extremes and the subsequent unstoppable methane releases which are expected to follow summer a sea ice free Arctic, and this means geo-engineering. Neven do you agree with AMEG on this point?


A good article on geoengineering:


Ecology 66

The Grist article is a bit of fun, but the good stuff lies in the comments, one of which explains the inevitability of geo-engineering. One could put the argument another way though, and that is with the burning of coal we are already doing detrimental g.e. , what we need is to stop burning and do beneficial engineering of the atmosphere.


Gareth Wyn Jones made a minor but significant typo is the essay.

Galbraith was Scotch-Canadian, not Scots-Canadian.


we need to convince the planet that we need to put the global economy into a depression of unknown duration,

Lucas, what's a depression? If that's measured by GDP standards, I say: GDP is a construct, it is not written in stone. We use it to measure our success at turning resources into waste. Maybe if we measured our success in a different way, there would be no depression. I mean, there is still enough to go around for everyone, it's just ill-distributed. What do we want to be successful at?

He could have added that we need a revolution and to be fair a socialist revolution.

I'm not into labels, I'm into pragmatic solutions! If Jim Inhofe and his band of merry deniers have a pragmatic solution, I'm all for it. :-)

Neven do you agree with AMEG on this point?

Not entirely, but I'm not ruling out they're right. What I'm absolutely against is geo-engineering without before agreeing to slash greenhouse gas emissions big time. If they are going to geo-engineer to prop up the status quo, I might consider becoming a terrorist. :-P

Geo-engineering and not change anything (such as the neoclassical economic concept that dominates policy and universities)? No effing way.

Change those things and then geo-engineer? Perhaps.


>"What I'm absolutely against is geo-engineering without before agreeing to slash greenhouse gas emissions big time."

Committing to ever increasing sulphate emissions seems like a bad idea. However, how do you distinguish between: We haven't got enough time to dramatically change energy infrastructure so we are going to geo-engineer to provide the time necessary.

Versus sell as above but effect in reality is to make people believe there is still sufficient time so progress isn't really made just kicked even further down the road.

Does the type of geo-engineering make any difference at all? Ever increasing sulphate emissions seems bad as there would likely be some consequences that forced us to stop with horribly rapid consequences. How does altering albedo of crops for instance compare? Obviously, we rely on crops being planted anyway and size of effect is likely to be limited to reducing possible effects once quick low-hanging gains are taken. I assume there is some potential without reducing food production or food safety. GM opponents may disagree with those assumptions.

Lower conversion to terrorism potential? ;)

Jim Hunt

@Eco66 - Why does it have to be a socialist revolution? Hasn't that been tried and found wanting?

By way of an alternative example, I live an alternative part of the world. We have an alternative currency!


Even more alternatively, why not do away with money altogether? It's only a human construct after all!

On a weirder note still, I went on a bike ride round the local back lanes earlier today. I've done this countless times before. The only people I've ever seen previously were a courting couple in a steamed up car, so I didn't stop for a chat!

On this occasion I met someone walking the other way, and I did stop for a chat. His name is on this list:


I shook his hand, gave him my card, and offered to buy him as much cider as he could drink. He didn't seem averse to the idea!

Lucas Durand

Hi Neven,
"I say: GDP is a construct, it is not written in stone. We use it to measure our success at turning resources into waste. Maybe if we measured our success in a different way, there would be no depression."

Agreed, but that doesn't really change the fact that it is still the primary metric for determining the "health" of the economic system we have today.

We're in a race against time and presently we're still digging an ever deeper hole to climb out of. I agree with Jim Hunt. If we're going to transition to something else, each of us individually needs to decide to simply put down our shovels and stop digging.

P.s. Thanks for the open thread. I really enjoy this blog and respect the focused nature of the commentary.

Agreed, but that doesn't really change the fact that it is still the primary metric for determining the "health" of the economic system we have today.

As long as this is the primary metric there is no chance anything will change for the better. In my view it is the primary cause of the predicament(s).

That it has to change, is of course easier said than done. I'm looking into it, trying to make sense of Herman Daly's Beyond Growth. I have a couple of books on the history of economics as a science, on economics itself, and on stuff like ecological and steady state economics. But between work, blogging, family and desperately wanting to build a passive house, start some serious gardening, and the neuroses and habits that slow all of that down, time is a precious commodity. :-)

Aaron Lewis

In 2006, the consensus of climate science was that Arctic sea ice could not retreat as fast as it has. In fact, sea ice stability is about the energy of hydrogen bonds in water ice as the temperature warms to 0C. Ultimately, ice sheet stability and clathrate stability is dependent on these same hydrogen bonds.

Now, climate science would like to think that ice sheets cannot warm rapidly, however, thousands of moulins on the GIS prove that ice sheets can warm from top to bottom very rapidly across geographic regions. Thus, we can expect the curve of sea level rise (ice sheets => ocean) to have the same curve shape as the loss of Arctic sea ice. And just as we had sea ice loss events in starting in 2007, we will have sea rise events as geographic regions of ice sheets reach the temperature where the hydrogen bonds start to fail and the structure can no longer support its own weight. Thus, we are likely to see rather abrupt sea level rise events.

Due to lags in the climate system, sea level rise events are likely to persist for several decades after we stop emitting CO2 or scale up geo-engineering.

Thus, any geo-engineering process must be designed survive and function over decades of never before experienced weather including very large, very sudden, sea level rise events. It must continue to function as weather events disrupt agricultural production, resulting in global changes in the political economy.

Some geo-engineering concepts include atmospheric injection of sulfates. It has the appeal that it is fast and cheap. However, atmospheric sulfate injection leads to acid rain, which damages agriculture and ecosystems. Sulfates also enhance snow and ice melt. Life-cycle costs and damages from sulfate injection is likely to be greater than benefits. It is one of those technical fixes that makes the problem worse (melts snow => lower albedo) and creates other problems (loss of agriculture due to acid rain.)

Climate models that do not include carbon feedbacks and ice dynamics are fine for academic insights and teaching. Such models are not suitable for engineering or public policy. The three legs of engineering are schedule, cost, and scope. We have put the engineering off for so long that the schedule is so short, and the scope so large, that the cost is likely impossible.

The answer is stop putting out CO2 now!, and take the economic lumps because however large those lumps are (and they are huge) they are less than the cost of more CO2 in the air.


On the economics side of things mmt seems to have answers to questions neo/classical economists [krugman et al] haven't yet understood, as good a starting place as any is Steve Keens http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2009/07/15/no-one-saw-this-coming-balderdash/ though Bill Mitchells billyblog output astonishes me http://bilbo.economicoutlook.net/blog/
oftwominds, webofdebtblog, and golemxiv are all coming up with new ideas and get my attention when i'm not occupied with keeping up here.
Given that scientific assurances are generally hollow, nuclear generated electricity being too cheap to moniter, is an old favourite, [notwithstanding that fukushima [?3?] where they had the great idea of storing spent fuel and waste on the roof which now seems to be in danger of imminent collapse] i'm very much against geoengineering, and the inevitable 'unforseen' consequences. I'm in favour of algae as a fuel, google algae biofuel for more on the subject. As i live in the uk my ideas are focussed on how we could do it. Briefly the idea would be to construct very tall vats in the estuaries formed in clusters to be bases to tap tidal flows, with wind turbines above inside would be multi stories of clear domes which would anchorred down and be filled with co2 and house floating lights specifically designed to encourage maximum algal growth, thus converting the itermittent wind and tidal power into a carbon store/fuel. All the detritus of civilisation could be pulped and used as a feedstock, or if combustable burnt for power generation and the gasses captured and piped into the vats domes. Properly engineered they could serve as ports airports flood control even coastal fisheries, the dead algae could be dried to use directly as a fuel or left to decompose and the resultant methane burnt for power and the gasses again recycled.

Lucas Durand

"But between work, blogging, family and desperately wanting to build a passive house, start some serious gardening, and the neuroses and habits that slow all of that down, time is a precious commodity."

I hear ya.

If you're interested in the Passivhaus building standard, there is much useful information and professional insight here:

I also maintain a blog which follows my efforts at building an energy efficient house:

Just in case you do find some free time ;-)


Very cool stuff, D! There goes tonight's free time! :-P

Artful Dodger

Hi Neven!

Can we have the first Winter 'Open Thread' yet? Now that the world is safe for democracy once more, I'm just busting with ideas for new topics. But none of them fit in the current threads. And you know I'm loath to go off-topic ;^)


Artful Dodger

In the mean time, does anybody know the volume (area x depth) of land area that is currently below sea level?

I mean other than the Netherlands of course, or other human protected areas.

I'm talking about places like the Dead sea between Jordan and Israel, the Salton sea in California, the Qattara Depression in N. Africa, etc.

I'll wait for your response before bringing up me idea ;^)



Lodger, hi,

I didn't do the math, but filling the depressions could offset maybe one year of steady GIS melt in 2030?
Oh, I forgot the Caspian Sea...a good one to discuss with Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan!

Artful Dodger

Good evening, Werther!

I came across this little gem, which includes a nice interactive Google map.


My idea is an offshoot of an older one called the Qattara Depression Project. But inside of generating hydroelectric power, we flood the depression for the cultivation of salt-water tolerant, carbon fixing plants. Sea weed, kelp, GMOs, what-ever mix is available at the time.

Fix and sequester carbon. Generate a local climate. Spread into the interior. Change the Sahara into a marsh/wetland. Affect the Atlantic hurricane season.

You get the idea. Slow the rise of the Oceans, and use the energy of the Sun at it's strongest to work directly to remove CO2 from the Atmosphere ;^)

In other depressions, the white salt crust left behind from a brief flood may work as albedo enhancement.

Of course, NONE of this succeeds the immediate urgent need for mitigation, best achieved through a high a rising price on Carbon!

Won't it be fun to earn $20 for each ton of biochar layed down on your land (or on public land by arrangement), all the while improving the soil?

Russell McKane

Lodger, don't forget Lake Eyre region of central AUstralia, not sure how much we are talking about but it is the largest salt lake in the world. Many schemes have been dreamed up to fill this baby from the ocean and thus create a new greener Australia, mega engineering but it would have an effect on solar radiance. Sea level rise will see it fill eventually so maybe no harm in making it happen quicker . still it is frightening to think of the short term environmental and climate changes it would bring to our nation.


Meanwhile...completely off topic...
We may soon be exclusively talking Antarctics.
Have a look. IMHO there's a growing crack on the NW side of the PIG. It's scratching it's way to the big crack...

Artful Dodger

Hi Werther, thanks for the heads-up on the Caspian sea.

Wikipee tells us the Caspian Depression is about 200,000 km² km in area and the Caspian sea is at 28 m below sea level.

Using that as a rough estimate for available volume, about 5600 km³ of sea water could be stored there (and from the massive salt domes there, it sounds like it has flooded before). That's around 18 years worth of Greenland melt, at current rates of 300 gTons per year.

Throw in some carbon sequestration benefits, some employment opportunities, and some carbon credits and this could be good deal for both Kazakhstan and Russia. Even Borat might like it ;^)

We need to buy at least 50 years I figure (it may well be more). Where else can we do this twice more? The Qattara Depression? Where else?

And let's not neglect Neven's mantra: "GeoE only with Mitigation"!

"Reduce CO2 emissions through a high and rising price on Carbon."


Russell McKane

You could fill the Eyre depression to over 30m+ sea level and not break though to ocean so volume could be enormous. But thats some big pump structure or Syphon. Eyr is 15m below but the area I think would be larger than the Caspian and is land locked.

Artful Dodger

G'day, Russel (how ya going, mate? ;^)

The surface area of Lake Eyre is about 9,500 km^2 and it sits at about 15 m below sea level. That gives about 142 km³ volume when filled, which seems to occur naturally in strong la Nina years.

So, that's less than 6 month's worth of Greenland melt at current rates, or 1 year if it can be filled to 30 M depth. Maybe more if we spill the banks.

However, at 700 km inland it would require enormous effort to fill, and continuous pumping to remain filled. So perhaps we should leave this one to the pelicans, mate? ;^)

I am reading about Gran Bajo de San Julián (the Great San Julian Depression) and Laguna del Carbón (Coal Lagoon) in Argentina:

At 105 m below sea level, Laguna del Carbón is the lowest point in both the Western and Southern Hemispheres, and the 7th lowest point on earth. The depression is also within 30 km of the Atlantic ocean, near the mouth of the Santa Cruz river.

A paved highway already exists with access to Gran Bajo de San Julián, and there are 2 cities within a day's road travel: Rio Gallegos (300 km South) and Comodoro Rivadavia (480 km North).

Now for the bad news: the area of the Gran Depression is just 2,500 km² for a volume no more than 300 km³ or about 1 year of BG melt :^(

We'd need 50 of this size, or a some combination thereof. I'm examining the top 10 candidates on this map:


Russell and Werther, care to help? Anybody else want in? You effort is appreciated :^)


OT Just finished watching PBS NOVA about Sandy. Very good coverage on what happened. On related links does go into effects of GW.
Video of whole program will be put on line but not there yet. Probably tomorrow.



Death Valley has the depth, but I'm not sure much could be induced to grow as it's extremely salty already. Might be bad if it salted up the Amargosa River, an underground waterway that runs through the area.


Artful Dodger

Indeed, Terry. Of course, we'd have to specify salt-water plants but I don't see that as a technical obstacle.

Would you like to run some numbers to estimate the volume available for flooding within that basin?

Woohoo on getting this site, though. It's been a pitched battle to simply install some isolated solar energy faciities! I suppose it comes down to how desperate we become, but for the near future I think an area needs to be isolated to be a good candidate.

Remember Neven's mantra:
'No GeoE without Mitigation'!



Well....this comment thread is alternately inspiring and depressing. Lot's of good ideas with virtually no chance of effective trials or implementation because we, as a species, are too collectively stupid to see our own approaching demise. In 150 years, we will be like the remnant native American tribes in the terre preta film, surrounded by great monuments to our foolishness.


In the mean time, does anybody know the volume (area x depth) of land area that is currently below sea level?

A possible start...

In the mean time, does anybody know the volume (area x depth) of land area that is currently below sea level?


Messed up link....



Death Valley:

1425 km2 below sea level
86 m in depth BSL
43 m median BSL
16,234,000 m3 Volume below sea level

Politically probably impossible. Death Valley is second only to the Grand Canyon as a symbol of the American West.



Would you not also run into other problems. With the weight of that water would that not push the land down even more? Is not that area near some depleting underground aquifers that could be collapsed and ruin all other adjoining aquifers? Is that near enough to Yellow Stones Super Volcano that then could add enough stress to it to make it blow? That would cool things down fast and considering what it would do to NA civilization could take out a lot of your CO2 emission problems at the same time.
That also could show you that geoegineering always has a cost. All depends on whether or not the end cost are better then the former. A variant of that is humans need to solve solutions. One example is the Asian Carp put into the Mississippi to clear out the algae. Has done such a good job it also is taking out a lot of other fish at the same time.

Russell McKane

Doger - Maaate. Still not discounting Eyre - apart from some very obvious cultural problems many Australians are open to the idea being one that was floated over a hundred years ago. Also there is a lot of engineering work done into the scheme so even if it didn't happen there is a significant body of research into the possibility of filling below sea level areas which could be cross applied .Here are some more of my thumbnail research with gogle earth today. I have pics to go with this but can't post.
Lake Eyre at 30 mtres above sea level.
Lake Eyre is only 8,900 sq Kms but the area below sea level is approx. 26,000 sq Kms
Bringing this up to approx. 30 mtres above sea level gives
430km x 130km Approx Area of main body only
Equals 55,900 sq km (thats more than half the area of England)
at an average of 20 metre deep equals 1,118 cubic kilometres
This does not include the Lake George/ Lake Frome arm and average allows some 10mtres below sea level that does not normally fill when Eyre fills.
Channel via Lake Torrens length max 417 . Of this 50 meters high achieved over 150 km. then using Lake Torrens natural flow toward Eyre with 50 km of tunnels/channels at end into the greater Eyre basin.
Previous schemes to achieve this used natural slope to go below sea level (giving only a 3cm slope per Km – far too small to get reasonable flows. Where I would suggest pumping up to height and then letting gravity more efficiently bring the water to fill. Use of Solar and wind generation to maintain pump flow. Also using a fill Lake Torrens to greater depth and then releasing through hydro into Eyre Basin to re-generate some of pump electrical needs. – as well as local infrastructure.
Although Eyre fills and the last two seasons has been full due to La Nina, it only ever achieves 2mtrs depth it never fills to sea level. It drains and evaporates faster than this.
Other Factors – The reason Eyre does not fill and remain full is water quickly drains into the great Artesian Basin – which would take many more times this storage amount before filled to point of not taking water from project. This would actually store a significant amount of Greenland melt (needs research to find out how much but it covers a vast area of Australia’s under surface land mass.
GAB contains 69,000 cubic km of ground water.
Can we refill the great artesian basin with floodwater -? http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/04/04/3470245.htm By making the Eyre region a sea again this would put a plug on the flow of the GAB toward the Eyre basin and eventually refill, even if over hundreds of years, the rest of the GAB. The problem of salt water at this end of the system would be significant but not likely to back up through system.
Once full the evaporation to rain events would begin to self feedback providing fresh rain to the east which would flow back to the inland sea. This would also capture natural water from oceans currently passing over the centre and increase precipitation – ie the earth provides the water pump for ongoing refilling. (remember that this was an inland sea and functioned like this in the past. )
Historical analysis provided here.
http://books.google.com.au/books?id=6EBM2a6R9igC&pg=PA144&lpg=PA144&dq=lake+eyre+inland+sea+proposal&source=bl&ots=sYenJir-_q&sig=IwcqqHorhDN8cxCU9JxJc5T3QVU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=t3mpUIOmGs28iAeuh4DYCA&ved=0CEsQ6AEwCTgU#v=onepage&q=lake%20eyre%20inland%20sea%20proposal&f=false But remember aim of this was for achieving a farming /cost benefit whereas we are looking at sea water storage benefit.

Artful Dodger

Hi Terry,

Thanks for the DV data. Check my math, I get about 61 km³ of volume (about 1/5 of a BG melt-year).


Note: 1 km³ is 1 billion m³
1000m x 1000m x 1000m = 10^9 m³

Agreed about the politics! Questionable value, too.

"No GeoE without Mitigation!"


Artful Dodger


Agreed about the problems. These are desperate solutions. I'm certainly not advocating for them, just running some quick'n'dirty numbers to see if it's even plausible to buy some time delaying sea level rise (insert mental image of a little Dutch buoy ;^)

A big problem, as Terry brings up, when you pump seawater into an endorheic basin is that evaporation leads to salt accumulation.

Worse, the water vapour is returned to the atmosphere from where it can rain out OUTSIDE the basin, and return to the sea. Net gain = zero.

The newly created water body has to be permanent (like the Black sea deluge). That means a permanent channel dug to the ocean after the emergency pumping.

Wow, this is bloody expensive!

"No GeoE without Mitigation!"


Artful Dodger

The salt accumulation problem occurs even when fresh water (as opposed to salt water) enters an endorheic basin.

Two examples are the Dead Sea between Israel and Jordan, and Lake Eyre in Australia. As water evaporates, salts remain and is concentrated. Eventually in amounts toxic to plant life. End of temporary carbon sequestration.

More examples from the U.S. are the Salton sea in California (S. of Death Valley) and the Great Salt Lake of Utah. None of these areas is known for it's lush carbon-fixing flora.

So there's lots of challenges making this work. How desperate are we likely to get? Some windmills sound cheap, wot? ;^)

"Little buoy near Black Sea"

"No GeoE without Mitigation!"


Artful Dodger

G'day, Russell

Great research on Lake Eyre! I enjoyed reading some history of the Port Augusta - Lake Eyre Canal Scheme. This mega-project was first discussed around 1870, reviewed in this Nov 1st, 1901 newspaper article:


Interest in the Lake Eyre project continues unabated today. There's much more discussion (and more great images) here:

It sounds like flooding Lake Eyre buys 5-10 BG melt-years, more if expanded. The project should also sequester carbon, provide employment, and bring more rain to the dry center.

So assuming the technical issues can be solved, how do we pay for it? Too big for Oz? Maybe the tech can be shared with other mega-projects. Global benefits, global finance. But that requires a stable international climate agreement. So not soon, we'll have to suffer some more first. And the clock ticks on...

"No GeoE without Mitigation!"


Artful Dodger

Russell McKane wrote:

"I have pics to go with this but can't post."

Do you have web links to the pictures? If so, you can display them here by putting this HTML code into your comment:

<img src="http://www.site.com/pic.jpg">

Just cut and paste the above HTML, then replace the sample link with the one you want. Try a test image!

Otherwise, you can always email your pics to Neven (his addy is listed in the 'Daily Graphs' page above.


Artful Dodger

Russell mate, here's another example:

Inserting this HTML code...

<img src="http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1194/532867774_b829fda06b_o.jpg">

... gives this result:

"Connect Lake Eyre to the sea - Many of you would have heard of this one or at least thought about it. The idea is to build one or two canals to Lake Eyre so that it once again becomes an inland sea. It involves flooding other large salt Lakes as part of the system. The thought here is that the evaporation of the inland seas will fall as rain in many parts of the desert, especially western QLD, NSW and Vic. Also, desal plants could be built, and we could creat a new Gold Coast by the sea! Sounds great yeah?"

Sweet as!


Climate Changes

I, like many of you I guess, been pondering on ways to solve the problem of Global Warming. Since the obvious solution (stop fossil fuel burning and move to renewables) is not going to happen (Desertec initiative seems out of the window for now) the only way to avoid serious disaster is Geoengineering. I'm not an advocate of it but after seeing the continuous goverment/s agreement failures I believe that GE is the only remedy. Some of the ideas put forward are a bit risky imo but at least we have ideas we can break apart, analize and discuss.

Looking at the overall state of the planet I feel the issue of the Arctic ice takes top priority since we know what will happen unless the melting stops. So how can we cool the Arctic? Block solar radiation is the most obvious but not sure it can be achieved in a controlled manner. Another source is warmth is the Oceans as they drive heat into the Arctic by means of currents. If we were to treat these currents as rivers, would it be possible to re-direct the main Atlantic and Pacific currents so that less heat reaches the NPole? In the Atlantic side (the biggest entrance) a series of paired rigs with Lock-gates over the current off the East coast of US or east coast of Greenland to divert the warm currents further south. The currents wouldn't need to be diverted all year around but only perhaps from the September minimum onwards and block on-off every other couple of days (a bit like a water tap mixer) to aid ice to form. Perhaps this sound a bit crazy and unatainable but in my humble opinion now is the time for crazy. We have as species built bigger projects so anything is possible (in paper anyway).

Jim Williams

Hi Dodger,

I used to have visions of using giant parabolic mirrors in the Sahara to build a huge dam, or series of dams, by melting the sand -- but for a lightly different reason. There's a very large river buried in the sand out there somewhere.

The idea is simple enough, and generally pretty low tech. Start on high ground. Dig hole to bedrock. Shine light from mirror into hole making a very hot spot. Slowly pour sand into hot spot so it melts. Turn hole into trench melting sand into solid glass wall as you move along. Things start getting a little messy once you finally have enough wall that it begins to collect water -- steam blocks the Sunlight -- but coffer dams are well known and fairly simple tech. Most of the effort could be done by inhabitants with shovels, and the benefit for them would be large and growing oases, even swamps.

Turning ice sheets into upland lakes using the standard water cycle (rain) should buy a little bit more time, and while the trade offs are complex it's probably better than what we've done to the environment so far.

Jim Hunt

Afternoon all. (GMT at least)

Despite possible appearances to the contrary I'm not actually an active member of Transition Totnes. Nevertheless I would be very interested to hear what the team thinks about the Totnes 2030 Energy Descent Action Plan:



Geoengineering may be an option, but a very expensive one. Genetic engineering of flu viruses is much cheaper than trying to geoengineer the planet. Geoengineering will not halt the dynamics of exponential human population growth. As the economy falters and cannot provide enough dopamine to substitute for sex and children, will population actually expand? Perhaps someone could threaten to let viruses ravage human populations and their monoculture crops - unless people get with the program of saving themselves. Unfortunately, the average person is more likely to support expanded consumption of everything, especially the 200,000 people added per day to the human population whose only dopamine craving is for a bowl of food and a comfortable place to sleep at night. Unfortunately, capitalism feeds the desire for the “American” way of life in which roads access every resource deposit to be converted into corpus technologicus that will someday soon be cooked, flooded and poisoned within its own petri dish wastes. While you’re watching the polar bears tread water, you may keep in mind that there are solutions other than geoengineering that could be employed by those that see no other viable option.

Artful Dodger

As usual, Google knows all ;^)

In his Jan 2012 article titled "Australia's enigmatic inland sea", Frank Urban asks:

"Would it be possible to ameliorate rising sea-levels by filling the world's great depressions with seawater? The Caspian and Dead Seas, the Qattara Depression in Egypt, the Salton Sea in California, the Assal in Djibouti & Lake Eyre all lie below sea-level."

Although Frank gets the depth of the Caspian Depression seriously wrong (he says -1,025 m whereas we know it to be -138 m), and he neglects a some other Depression, his analysis is clearly similar to the ones performed here.

So, other ideas? How about dredging the sea bottom? How energy intensive is that? How does that energy requirement compare to the same amount of energy used to fix CO2 into biochar? How shall we spend our effort?


Jim Hunt

I already posted this on Neven's "opinion piece" above, but since @Google talks of the "dynamics of human population growth":


Amongst other things a YouTube video from the Houses of Parliament in which population biologist Charles Godfray displays a picture of Thomas Malthus to the assembled throng, but also says that he is “a guarded optimist”.

That's because he "predicts" that world population will stabilise at around 10 billion. He also predicts that "BAU won't work".

David Vun Kannon

Here's a satellite based cooling idea. Launch a set of satellites that have elliptical orbits with long times over the poles, sunward of Earth. Unfurl large mirrors to shade the planet.
Mirrors on satellites are a lot faster to get in place, incremental and reversible than other solutions. Why make clouds when you can do the same thing above the atmosphere entirely?

Bow to BAU, my friends. The only long term solution is population decrease, and we are over a century away from that.


What happened to the idea (I forget whose it was) of putting reflective chaff into the L-1 position in space? That is where the gravitational influence of the Earth and Sun balance out. Doing this is considerably less expensive than resurfacing the Earth, can be calibrated fairly accurately and can mostly be removed if necessary.



Agree with your math.

DV was flooded in the past & one of the results was a huge system of shallow fresh water lakes mainly south and east of DV. Lake Ivanpah & Silver Lake dry lakes are the ones I'm most familiar with.

I'd speculate that we might have 5 times the water that fills DV trapped in these much smaller , but more numerous lake beds that have no outlets & that increased precipitation would fill them quite rapidly.

While I can't imagine DV proving viable, increased precipitation filling bowls far above sea level might be something to consider in other areas.

I wish I could come up with a geo-engineering plan that I thought would work.


Peter Ellis


Requires us to put 20 million tons of stuff into orbit, which in turn requires us to cut the cost of doing so by three orders of magnitude.

Oh, and the L1 libration point is unstable, so you can't just use chaff, you have to use spacecraft with onboard computer controls and adjustable elements so they can move themselves around by radiation pressure.

16 trillion of them.

Peter Ellis

How about dredging the sea bottom? How energy intensive is that?

I have no idea, but I can tell you it takes a lot more energy to dredge up a cubic metre of gloop from the sea floor than it does to siphon off a cubic metre of water from the sea surface.

And you still have the same problem of where to put it. Filling Death Valley with seawater or with sea-bottom mud really doesn't make a lot of difference, from that perspective.

Chris Reynolds

From Wired...

Peak oil is dead. Or, at the very least, it has been delayed for the foreseeable future, says Citigroup's research and analysis department.

Peak oil is the idea that at some point in time, the world's supply of crude oil will start to run dry, and fuel production will enter a plummeting death spiral. Oil's scarcity will cause prices to soar, putting massive economic strain on our oil-crazy civilisation....

But in a research note, Citigroup says that the worrying "peak" of oil production has now risen far into the clouds. Thanks to new technology and a dash of good old-fashioned human ingenuity, we're able to find and extract from more sources of the fuel.

Whoooo! Hoooo!

No need to worry about Peak Oil, we've got even more fossil fuel to burn. LOADS of it - Ya'll hear me! Gee! Aren't we just great, every time we hit a problem we find a way around it. What a marvellous civilisation we have. :) :) :) :) :)


Hang on...

There really is no way out from here is there?


That talks of "assembled completely before
launch, avoiding any need for construction or unfolding in space".

I would have thought launching a mission to an asteroid which is cut/molded? into thinner shapes covering more area while the asteroid is slowly moved towards that near L1 position might offer potential energy savings from cost of launching weight of materials needed. Also provide potentially useful technology development? This would obviously take a lot more fuel for a much heavier weight to be moved more substantially but perhaps some of the changes in momentum can come from cutting off some pieces of the asteroid and ejecting them at speed in safe strategic directions.

Maybe it ceases to be an 'emergency measure' as it takes too long before there is any effect?

Maybe I am way too optimistic about how much molding could be achieved, how much fuel would be needed etc.

Peter Ellis

L1 libration point is unstable, so you can't use ordinary chaff - the radiation pressure from absorbing/reflecting light would push it out of the L1 orbit. You need to use a transparent sheet that refracts light in all directions ~equally. That cuts down the direct transmission (i.e. you shade the Earth) while keeping the radiation pressure to a manageable level (i.e. the shade stays put). Even then, you still need computer-controlled guidance to keep it in orbit.

You're not going to be able to manufacture something that specific from whatever randomly happens to be the composition of the asteroid you land on.

It basically boils down to the fact that trying to get something to stay at the L1 libration point is equivalent to balancing a pencil on the pointy end.

Chris Reynolds

Total ocean area 335,258,000 sq km.

Or 335,258,000,000,000 sq m.

For 1 m SLR you'd need to find somewhere to put 335,258,000,000,000 cubic metres of water. Probably the best solution would be to find a place cold enough to hold it as ice. ;)


I'll get my coat.

Jim Hunt

In not entirely unrelated news, both to this discussion and to each other, today is World Toilet Day! What's more Shelterbox have been handing out tents in Haiti and blankets in New York:



Hmm, yes, the difference in weight between 20 million tons and 270 million tons does look large and you have to convert iron asteroid into 10 micrometer thin foil. That does sound a tall (and wide ;) ) order.

David Vun Kannon

The problems of getting to L1, the instability of staying there, etc. is why I am suggesting a group of larger satellites in orbit around the Earth itself, trying to cool just one part of it, the Arctic in summer.

Russell McKane

Okay Lodger,
Picture uploading Eyre project to 30 meter above sea level.

Russell McKane

Trying again
Eyre to 30 meters above sea level

Russell McKane

I knew I had read this somewhere – we have already put away 10,000 cubic kms from our oceans in new dams.
(Dams Deep trouble - Science, News - Independent_co_uk.mht)
Dams: Deep trouble. Are vast dams around the world masking the full extent of sea-level rises? Steve Connor reveals why soon we may all be in... Wednesday, 19 March 2008
“Predictions for sea-level rises due to global warming affect hundreds of millions of people at risk from coastal flooding. The new research suggests that, over the past 50 years, new dams and reservoirs have held back some 10,800 cubic kilometres of water, which would have been enough to raise global sea levels by about 30mm. In other words, the rises we have seen so far due to global warming might have been considerably larger if it were not for the huge numbers of dams and reservoirs built from the 1950s onwards.
Ben Chao of the National Central University in Taiwan carried out the mammoth task of investigating the holding capacity of some 29,484 reservoirs in order to estimate how much water they have prevented from flowing into the sea.”
This doesn’t include some big new dams coming on line like the Three Gorges Dam, in China
To add to this a new report from the World Bank out yesterday gives a graph showing this effect.

Page. 9 ‘Turn down the heat why a 4o C world must be avoided’ Available as a free pdf from world bank website.

Graph From Church, J. A., White, N. J., Konikow, L. F., Domingues, C.
M., Cogley, J. G., Rignot, E., Gregory, J. M., et al. (2011).
Revisiting the Earth’s sea-level and energy budgets from
1961 to 2008. Geophysical Research Letters, 38(18), L18601.

So the answer may be build more dams and let the increased rain from warmer oceans and higher temperatures capture the water as fresh water. Obviously these need to be placed in high rainfall areas in the new climate regime. They may supply some water security but as we know the cultural and environmental consequences are enormous, but then so will moving some very large cities.


Thanks for all the info on the L-1 idea.

So, putting all these ideas together, what we need to do is just push some of our excess water into the vicinity of L-1. Maybe park an asteroid there to provide a nominal gravity and use it to park and spray the water as needed. :)

Aaron Lewis

One of Hanson's ideas was to put a shallow dam around a large area in northern Canada.

One problem is that the large chunks of ice might slide into oceans resulting in a sudden sea level rise, and then it would take a few years for the water to transfer to the lake.

Then you would have had the expense of building the dams, but your cities would still spend a few years under water.


IMO the best geoE would be to get back to nature. Meaning encouraging mangrove swamps wherever we can get them to grow. stop the growing of cotton and corn and growing of non THC hemp. (seed also makes good flour and converting its cellulose to sugars oils and plastics is far easier then that of corn) The tap root on it is over 12 ft and therefore can be used to control flooding and you do not need herbicides (its a weed) pesticides (pests do not like it) and if rotated with nitrogen fixing plants fertilizer. That takes care of your CO2 worst agriculture problems. Side note: the seed is the only place you can get all your human needed amino acid variants in one package. Also there is one variety or more that can grow in just about any land conditions you can think of, and no tilling needed to grow it. (FYI spent a few months looking into it just out of intellectual curiosity.)
Another big helper would be to to go to bamboo in place of trees for any wood usage. Again great for flood control as it also has a very long tap root. fast growing. there is more then one variety for almost any part of the world. As a building material has proven itself to be better then wood to survive earthquakes, hurricanes, floods etc.
These are only 2 examples but I know there are a large number of others that are out there.
Now how to deal with the CO2 that is out there already. Convert plant material into char coal and bury it in the holes we have created to extract coal and other raw material we have extracted.
It has been proven many times if you give nature half a chance it can fix almost anything. The problem humans have is we consistently like to think we know it all and can fix things better.
The other avenue


Survey the entire planet and design a worldwide system of dams that capture river water, storing it in manmade lakes everywhere. We'll need that when the inevitable droughts occur. The system should be designed for nearly 100% capture rates while minimizing the relocation of large populations, although we'll have to sacrifice some major cities. Given its general lack of usefulness I recomend DC as a prime candidate for removal.

Jim Hunt


Incidentally, whilst monitoring the effects of Sandy on the US electricity "distribution" system I noticed DC seemed to fare much better than anywhere else in the vicinity.

PEPCO reckon it's all down to their "smart" grid. Do you suppose that is in fact the case?



Paper by G W Jones is a gem. Deep thinking and accessible, the kind of stuff that needs to be diffused widely!
I will definitely refer to it in my own research.Thanks for posting the link.

Jim Hunt

Ooooh! A message from New Scientist in my inbox. "Climate change: It's even worse than we thought"


I think their editor must have been reading my blog:


because he says "Obama should fulfil his 2008 climate promises"


D'you reckon I should sue for plagiarism? Any barristers in the house?


So why not high altitude silverized weatherr balloons.

They require almost no energy to reach a sufficient height, reflect close to 100% of light, are reversable and mostly cost effective?

I realize the ammount of balloons required but it is something that is within mankind's capability. Further, it is quick to start and incremental.

Probably screws up air travel and some satellite transmissions but who cares relatively speaking??


>"Almost no energy"

Helium is cryogenically distilled out of natural gas to produce the helium

I suspect cryogenic distilling takes energy and then there is the natural gas. Sounds interesting though. Suspect whatever gas is used, it will slowly leak. Airships going around topping them up?

Artful Dodger

Russell, good info on water capture in dams. That's like 20% a masking of SLR over the last 50 years! In fact, the amount is very similar to aerosol masking of AGW itself. Oh, and NICE GRAPHICS! ;^)

The L1 proposal doesn't solve the problems caused by excessive CO2, since it does nothing to lower ocean acidity. Lower primary productivity in the world oceans will eventually lead to a collapse of human fisheries, and a big portion of our protein source.

GeoE proposals must address reducing CO2 in the atmosphere and oceans. How does the scheme contribute to balancing the carbon cycle?

Fundamentally, we either speed up the carbon cycle or slow down fossil fuel use. Or a some combination which restores equilibrium in the carbon cycle.

The new equilibrium temperature may well be higher, but still within a livable range. I propose we set a new goal to stabilize world temp at 16.62 C

Your thoughts?

Artful Dodger

Radiation management schemes (L1 shield , silvery balloons, etc) inevitably slow down the carbon cycle: Less energy => slower cycle => Failed scheme. AND the seas are still acidic, AND it's still too hot...

The imbalance caused by GHGs is not increased incoming radiation (shortwave). It is reduced outgoing radiation (longwave). In principle, no satellite or weather balloon scheme can address the actual problem.

They CAN however waste resources and time, if pursued. These schemes are the siren song of Greek GeoE tragedy.

This is how well intentioned Geo-engineering makes things worse. This is also why smart people like Chris Randles fear GeoE more than AGW.


Further to Artful Dodger's request for an open thread, can we have a thread for pre-December 31 predictions for sea ice minimums in 2013. Fiddling while Rome burns, yes, but still fun.


Artful Dodger

The L1 proposal doesn't solve the problems caused by excessive CO2, since it does nothing to lower ocean acidity.

The oceans will need to take the occasional antacid to avoid acid reflux. Does anyone have a sense of the world's nahcolite deposits? Is there even enough sodium bicarbonate to deal with ocean heartburn?


A whole new industry measuring and treating ocean ph imbalances may be in the offing.


This whole discussion has just created an insight. The world is sick. It might be terminal. Given the western world's medical model for treating symptoms instead of the illness, geo-engineering will likely be our approach.

While a wholistic approach would be preferable, you get the medical treatment that you pay for.


Should we consider fertilizing the oceans to encourage the growth of algae and phytoplankton to boost CO2 take up and oxygen production levels? Phytoplankton are also the lowest level of ocean foodchains and levels have dropped 40% since 1950. Large areas of the ocean are virtual algae deserts.


Eli Rabett

One of the interesting things about clathrates is that a) the collapse does not have to be over a short time and b) a fair proportion of the methane will be solvated into the sea water and then oxidized. There is at least some work on that, although the estimates of the immediately threatened clatherates on the coastal shelf may be low balled

Artful Dodger

DJ, antacids are another dead-end in the carbon cycle. You'd first need to show you have 200 years worth of tums at 34 billion tons per year, then you'd need to show they can be deployed without raising CO2 emissions to do it. Finally, you'd need to show that their is still a positive EROI after moving all that material.

Chris Reynolds


I'm still of the opinion that the release of methane from ocean and land permafrost will be slow compared to what some seem to expect. That doesn't lessen its seriousness, that we may escape catastrophic warming only to see those in the next century experience it, should be no reason for a sense of relief.

Jim Hunt,

Thanks for linking to that New Scientist piece - It's paywalled (mostly) but I already know the details having read a lot of the papers concerned, and it mirrors what I'm thinking now. IPCC AR5 will be conservative again. But I think we're seeing:

1) Too fast and early a loss of ice.
2) Too much warming of the marine and land permafrost - See Lawrence et al - they find warming over the permafrost areas during rapid ice loss events, what we're going through now (or at least seem to be). Key figure. The paper itself is here.

3) Too much weird weather in the last few years.
4) Too many 3 sigma extreme warm events (Hansen's Climate Dice work).
I could go on...

I'm still not convinced of strong GW linkage to Katrina or Sandy, but what they do respectively show is that when we're not prepared we get smashed (Katrina) and when we are prepared we get smashed (Sandy).

In short, things do seem to be happening very fast. By the end of this decade we'll know if that suspicion is correct.

What concerns me most right now is that we seem to be rooting out all sorts of unconventional fossil fuels from around the globe. The longer the peak of CO2 emissions is delayed the worse the resultant climate change will be. Especially if a significant element of the Arctic emissions do turn out to be CH4 rather than CO2 (logarithmic sensitivity). Furthermore, the more the respective peaks of fossil fuels are delayed the more likely that the economic impacts will hit us as AGW is seriously hitting us. If we are seeing the early signs of weather impacts around the globe - how bad is what will come?


CMIP5 ensemble of models fails miserably on Arctic land snow cover extent, just like it did on Arctic sea ice collapse.

Rather than the 2008 Lawrence paper, I would recommend reading the 12 Oct 2012 paper by Derksen and Brown, "Spring snow cover extent reductions in the 2008–2012 period exceeding climate model projections" Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L19504, doi:10.1029/2012GL053387

"A striking feature of the May and June series is the acceleration in snow cover loss evident since the early 2000's. Record low June SCE across Eurasia has occurred for the past 5 consecutive years, with a new record for North America set in 3 of the past 5 years. June 2012 marked record low SCE in both sectors of the Arctic. Record low May SCE also occurred over both continents in 2010, with a new record low May SCE established over Eurasia in 2012. The rate of snow cover loss over Northern Hemisphere land areas in June between 1979 and 2011 is −17.8% decade−1. This is almost double the rate of September sea ice loss (from the combined datasets described in Section 2) over the same time period (−10.8% decade−1) (Figure 2). When 2012 is included, the rate of June SCE loss is −21.5% decade"

"Early snow melt and subsequent warm temperatures in spring and summer also have a strong influence on ground temperatures, and can induce a thicker active layer The observed decreases in June SCE were found to diverge markedly from the rate of snow cover loss projected by CMIP5 climate model simulations since 2008 (historical + rcp8.5 simulations) even when the model uncertainty was adjusted upward to match the interannual variability in the observations. This conclusion is consistent with similar analysis applied to CMIP5 simulations of summer sea ice extent [Stroeve et al., 2012]."

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