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Mon, Oct

Monumental Plans to Fix the Planet

CLIMATE WATCH - When Congress directs the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) to coordinate with other relevant federal agencies to research a five-year scientific assessment of solar and other rapid climate interventions. 

It’s only too apparent that the highest levels of government have gotten the internal memo that the climate is in trouble. Even so, they are still fashionably late to the party. 

Scientists have been warning about the consequences of excessive levels of CO2 and urging both Congress and the White House to take action for decades. 

Now that the broken climate system has been recognized as a serious threat, as a general rule, if something is broken, it can be fixed. There’s no other plausible outcome. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible to build it in the first instance, or looked at another way, if it can be built, it can be fixed. 

But, is it possible to fix a broken climate system?  Meaning the system that we all depend upon for life support. But, we didn’t build it. Yet, we broke it. So, it does not conform to the axiom: “If it can be built, it can be fixed.” Ergo, it may be a challenge that’s bigger than the current scramble to find solutions to build-out quickly enough to turn down the heat. 

Along those lines, there’s a multitude of facts readily available to prove that the climate system is truly broken (a lengthy list is available upon request). Most concerning is the breakdown in various, but not all ecosystems happening so much earlier at such a lower global average temperature change +1.2°C above pre-industrial than anybody thought possible. At only +1.2°C life support by the planet, which is our only life support, is at some indeterminate level of risk, and nobody knows how soon the major breakdown will occur, guesstimates run the gamut from (a) within this decade to (b) beyond this century. All of which brings forth the troublesome consideration that scientists’ models have been off target by a country mile over the past decades. They’re almost always too conservative and outpaced by actual climate change. They’re late to parties. 

Nevertheless, there are plenty of climate scientists, engineers, physicists that say: “Yes, it can be fixed via engineering the climate system.” In point of fact, they are currently sending recommendations to the White House Office of Science and Technology. It’s that seriously urgent. 

Whereas interestingly, in point of fact, human influence has already engineered or geo-engineered the climate system by changing the composition or the chemistry of the atmosphere with massive emissions of greenhouse gases, CO2 as an example. 

Engineering, or is it geo-engineering, the climate system is a yes/no issue amongst experts and non-experts, no maybes allowed, and it’s loaded with controversy enough to inspire loud screaming and physical threats. It’s wild out there in the provocative world of “pro or anti” geo-engineering. 

Depending upon whom y0u happen to bump into at the airport bar and grill and strike up a conversation about geo-engineering, it’s either feared or ridiculed or praised or a fist to the face, no mushy in-between opinions. There are web sites dedicated to studying geo-engineering. There are conspiracy theories galore. And, there are serious-minded research programs ongoing at major universities of the world like MIT and Harvard and Stanford and Cambridge. 

“Relevant scientific research on direct climate cooling methods and technologies currently being conducted include marine cloud brightening, stratospheric aerosol injection, sea-ice freezing, ocean thermal energy conversion, ocean and glacier microspheres, terrestrial and atmospheric mirrors, cirrus cloud thinning, iron salt aerosols, and white reflective rooftops and streets.” (Source: Suzanne Reed, Healthy Planet Action Coalition, Compilation of Comments Submitted to White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Regarding US Climate Intervention Study by HPAC and Affiliated Organizations and Individuals, September 9, 2022) 

In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 the White House Office of Science and Technology (OSTP) in coordination with other relevant federal agencies has been directed by Congress to research a five-year scientific assessment of solar and other rapid climate interventions in the context of near-term climate risks and hazards. In other words, key people at the highest levels have gotten the troubling message that climate change is deadly serious business and a threat to the stability of lifestyles. 

The Assessment will address: “(1) goals for scientific research (2) the capabilities needed to model, analyze, observe, and monitor atmospheric composition (3) climate impacts and the radiation budget for the planet (4) what’s required for coordination of federal research and investments necessary to deliver an assessment to the point of managing near-term climate risk as well as research addressing climate intervention,” Ibid. 

The Assessment, as outlined above, is the long version of saying: We’ve got a serious problem that needs immediate attention

A fixit program labeled The Climate Triad is being proposed by the Healthy Planet Action Coalition (HPAC), which is a diverse international coalition of scientists, engineers, technologists, and public policy wonks. HPAC recommends a coordinated program involving (1) Direct Climate Cooling, DCC (2) Greenhouse Emissions Reductions (3) Greenhouse Gas Removal, GHGR. All three should be treated as co-equal priorities with a goal of keeping global average temperatures below 1.5°C pre-industrial (whenever that started?). 

The tone of the fixit message is one of urgency to deploy direct climate cooling “now necessary to reduce current and near term human and other species harm and risk from current and near term future levels of global warming,” Ibid. 

As such, and with even more urgency, the coalition is requesting the White House to work towards shortening the proposed five-year research and implementation plan by accelerating it to one-to-two years. Implicit in this urgent request, the coalition members evidently believe that climate change is so dangerously proactive that mitigation efforts must start ASAP, which reinforces the HPAC request to jumpstart by compressing the timeframe to 1-2 years versus the 5-year plan as outlined by Congress. 

For a list of proposals by HPAC or to join in their efforts, go here

For example, the coalition has submitted a menu of 15 proposed climate-cooling approaches, such as:  (a) cirrus cloud thinning (b) ice shields to thicken polar ice (c) stratospheric aerosol injection. And, of utmost importance, refreezing the poles is considered a top priority in support of national and international security purposes, biodiversity protection, reducing extreme weather episodes and sea level rise. 

At the top of the HPAC list: “Arctic Amplification (with up to four times the temperature rise of the equator) and the role of Arctic sea-ice in regulating climate through the jet stream and ocean currents make the Arctic Circle the most serious planetary warming risk and cooling priority,” Ibid. 

This sense of urgency about climate change and the big push by Congress for the White House to take a leadership role in a massive attempt to fix the climate system is a positive testimonial to the influence of a Democratic-led Congress. There’s no other way to look at it. What is the GOP’s position? 

Still, there are two sides to this hurry-up hopeful keeping fingers crossed rescue plan. One side is almost 100% certain that human engineering of the climate system will be positive, and thus the only way out of a sticky problematic climate change/global warming morass. 

The other side believes an artificially (human) engineered climate system is destined to trigger negative unforeseen consequences that may spin out of control. 

And, by all appearances certain aspects of the climate system are already out of control. Just ask anybody in Pakistan about the Himalayan range, where global warming has whacked the alpine glaciers with glacial lakes bursting or ask barge companies on European rivers or the hundreds of towns living on trucked water in both France and Italy, or Lake Mead nearing “dead pool” status, and the list could go on and on. All of which is happening at unprecedented levels, never before seen, signs of a disruptive or broken climate system. Nothing’s normal any longer. 

Understandably, it’s the foreseen consequences (mentioned above) that are the big push behind the urgency and necessity for massive planetary experimentation. But, so far, almost all proposals are desktop modeling. The real world waits for testing hopefully leading to actual results that work according to plan. 

If it works, it’ll be something to behold, kinda like a miracle. 

Stay tuned! 

(Robert Hunziker, MA, economic history DePaul University, awarded membership in Pi Gamma Mu International Academic Honor Society in Social Sciences is a freelance writer and environmental journalist who has over 200 published articles appearing in over 50 journals, magazines, and sites worldwide.)