Monday, March 19, 2018

Projects, a load of them, costing tens of billions of dollars each now to avoid tens of trillions of dollars of losses and suffering for future generations. See the problem?

We live in a culture of "everyday low taxes." The guy who promises bigger tax cuts tends to be the guy we put in office.

So what's this business with a bucket full of projects at ten billion a pop? Think polar. Think ice caps. Think sea ice. There's a proposal to arrest and possibly reverse the ongoing loss of all that white stuff by implementing a variety of multi-billion dollar geoengineering options.

Scientists have outlined plans to build a series of mammoth engineering projects in Greenland and Antarctica to help slow down the disintegration of the planet’s main glaciers. The controversial proposals include underwater walls, artificial islands and huge pumping stations that would channel cold water into the bases of glaciers to stop them from melting and sliding into the sea.
The researchers say the work – costing tens of billions of dollars a time – is urgently needed to prevent polar glaciers melting and raising sea levels. That would lead to major inundations of low-lying, densely populated areas, such as parts of Bangladesh, Japan and the Netherlands.
Only it's not so much to fix everything. It's more about buying time.

“We think that geoengineering of glaciers could delay much of Greenland and Antarctica’s grounded ice from reaching the sea for centuries, buying time to address global warming,” the scientists write in the current issue of Nature. “Geoengineering of glaciers has received little attention in journals. Most people assume that it is unfeasible and environmentally undesirable. We disagree.”
Ideas put forward by the group specifically target the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctic because these will contribute more to sea rise this century than any other source, they say. Their proposals include:
 Building a 100-metre high wall on the seabed across a 5km wide fjord at the end of the Jakobshavn glacier in western Greenland. This would reduce influxes of warming sea water which are eroding the glacier’s base; 
 Constructing artificial islands in front of glaciers in Antarctica in order to buttress them and limit their collapse as their ice melts due to global warming; 
 Circulating cooled brine underneath glaciers such as the Pine Island glacier in Antarctica – in order to prevent their bases from melting and sliding towards the sea.
I'm sure Donald Trump can't wait to put ten or twenty billion dollars a year into the plate, right? Maybe Justin would like to put all that pipeline money aside as Canada's chip-in.

Yeah, right.


Northern PoV said...

I saw this one earlier and was going to tag it if I thought you missed it.

It certainly brought to mind King Canute and the tide, eh?
(and I was among the misinformed re Canute:"The episode is frequently alluded to in contexts where the futility of "trying to stop the tide" of an inexorable event is pointed out, but usually misrepresenting Canute as believing he had supernatural powers, when Huntingdon's story in fact relates the opposite.")

I think the only bioengineering we should be thinking about is massive replanting of grasslands and forests and other proven, benign carbon-sinks.

But, back to KS Robinson again... he envisages "sea water relocation" using solar powered pipelines to pump water to the top of Antarctica! (We'll send Kinder Morgan down there!)

The Mound of Sound said...

I sometimes react to these geoengineering schemes by thinking about initiatives to populate other planets. Elon Musk wants to take humans to Mars. Stephen Hawking warned our survival depends on becoming a multi-planet species.

I can't argue with either of them but surely the first step isn't to launch a mittful of people to be the first to live and die on another planet but to at least secure the survival of our species on Earth, at least long enough to ensure that inter-planetary expansion is viable. Only nobody wants to foot the much greater bill for stabilizing human life on Earth and so our plans for establishing left elsewhere become a silly distraction at best.

If we're not willing to bear the cost of stabilizing life on Earth, we're not likely to come together in an unprecedented global initiative to ensure the survival of Bangledeshis, Japanese and Dutch a century from now. Perhaps it's our lack of altruism, economic altruism, that will be our undoing.

Hugh said...

Getting water on Mars involves sucking moisture out of the dry soil. I'll ponder that as I slurp back a frosty BC-made ale.

Toby said...

I think it was a Ray Bradbury sci-fi that had humans establishing a colony on Mars only to watch Earth self destruct in nuclear war.

Geoengineering is almost as scary as Global Warming. The motive is almost always wrong. In stead of just buying a little more time it the thinking is to avoid the changes we have to make. Gee, if we just refrigerate Greenland we can continue to dump crap in our oceans and spew more crap in the air.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm against geoengineering generally but I expect a big part of that arises out of the harebrained scheme initially floated that were so deeply flawed. We, or at least I, came to develop a presumption that if the first tranche was bad they must all be bad. I'm not past that yet but I am questioning whether it's not a facile blanket assumption. Perhaps it needs to be considered through a different lens depending on whether you're still safely within the safety margins, at those margins or clearly past them.

Desperate times demand desperate measures, eh?