The nearly two years’ worth of reading and animated discussions that went into this study have convinced me more than ever that the idea of “fixing” the climate by hacking the Earth’s reflection of sunlight is wildly, utterly, howlingly barking mad.
— Raymond T. Pierrehumbert, co-author of Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth
By David Tulis
Scientists and journalists are debating the National Research Council and National Academy of Sciences report that considers whether the U.S. government should seek control of the weather through what it calls “weather intervention” rather than “climate engineering.”
Meanwhile, in Chattanooga, jets laid a sea of white cloud across the city three of the last four days, covering the stratosphere with a haze. (The dates are Feb. 27 and 28 and March 2). The intensification of aerial intervention follows a 10-period during which sky stripe flights were observed on only a single day (Feb. 23). Treatments could easily have occurred on other days, but winter weather, which came and went and lower altitudes, blocked visibility.
A prepublication copy of Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth created a sensation in environmentalist and government circles because it shows advances in climate science and a growing sense among parties involved in solar radiation management that they need to press ahead, albeit cautiously.
The 235-page CIA-funded report seeks to maintain the pretense that nothing in the way of weather management or sun-dimming has been tried, that the concept is largely theoretical, and that at the very least a tender toe needs to be dipped into the stream of possibilities of a massive chemtrail program to shade the planet from the sun. The operating assumption is that a coating of aerosol reflective material suspended in the air will cool a planet said to be overheating from industrialization and population growth. Climate Intervention is one of two volumes; the other proposes a mass deindustrialization, called pollution “mitigation,” a program that is Plan A to chemtrailing’s Plan B.
Chemtrails ‘fast, cheap, easy’
In the world of so-called geoengineers, increasingly wild and damaging weather is an argument for weather intervention, not an argument against it. Ken Caldeira is with the Carnegie Institute for Science at Stanford suggests “unprecedented megadroughts” affecting the West Coast and other anomalies may become so extreme that the world’s peoples will cry out for weather intervention.
In his narrative in a USA Today piece, he suggests pressure is becoming almost unbearable to turn to chemtrailing, which he calls “solar geoengineering.”
“With the Earth in such a fevered state, there will be intense and irresistible pressure for politicians to do something, anything, to cool things off. *** There is basically only one way known to cool the Earth rapidly. The only thing politicians can do to cause Earth’s climate to cool within their terms in office is to reflect more of the sun’s warming rays back to space.”
In his grim forecasting, the chemtrailing booster Mr. Caldeira takes a stab at humor.
A small fleet of airplanes could do what large volcanoes do — create a layer of small particles high in the atmosphere that scatters incoming sunlight back to space. Cooling the Earth this way could be fast, cheap and easy.
Mr. Caldeira touts chemtrailing as a way to save lives, using that expression three times in a few sentences. Chemtrailing “could potentially save millions of lives” in that the aerosol dome hugging the earth would be like the 1991 Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption that lowered global temperatures by dimming the sun. Chemtrailing could “make things worse. We just don’t know. We need to do the research so that if a climate catastrophe does occur, politicians will know whether turning down the heat this way can really save lives and alleviate suffering.” Research in cloud manufacturing is urgent. “The ethical path forward is to generate the knowledge now that may be needed to save lives in the future.”
A former admiral’s worry
Admiral David Titley, former head of the Navy’s oceanography command, in a talk in Washington says climate intervention should be studied because a “climate emergency” from carbon pollution may become so great the public will demand intervention. “When something bad happens the pressure to do something will be enormous.” Mr. Titley is much at ease if Americans take charge of spewing negative pollutants in the air.
“If a country or a non-country acts to intervene in the climate, the president’s going to turn around to his science advisor and his national security staff and say, ‘Should I ignore this? Should I slap them on the wrist? Or should I tell them unless you cease and desist within 48 hours the full weight of the United States is going to be on them? What is the risk to our citizens and our country?”
In other words, if another country launches a chemtrailing program, it might be an act of war because it might affect the U.S.. So the U.S. needs to lead in researching the creation of artificial cloud cover, as its work is always benign.
While Mr. Titley is diffident, other scientists dissent from a blanket the sky with artificial clouds.
“No reputable scientist I know thinks placing tiny reflecting particles in the stratosphere is a good idea, although some support studying it,” says Philip Duffy, president and executive director of the Woods Hole Research Center, an institution that focuses on climate change.
Another skeptic is Pennsylvania State University climatologist Michael Mann. “I believe that we should continue to fund studies of geoengineering approaches,” he says, “if only for one purpose: to expose just how dangerous many of these schemes might be.”
‘Spraying particles into the atmosphere’
Gannett, in a review of the report Feb. 20, 2015, describes the theory of “albedo enhancement” to add reflectivity to the planet.
Variously known as solar geoengineering, radiation management or albedo modification, Plan B involves spraying particles into the atmosphere that would reflect sunlight and cool the Earth’s surface. Particle injection would be cheaper than emissions reduction and, like a volcanic eruption such as Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991, could produce relatively rapid results. Voila! Problem solved. Um, not so fast. As a National Academy of Sciences panel reported, solar geoengineering is no substitute for efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate.
Jets that lay smoke trails like those over Chattanooga in past days are undeniably part of weather patterns below. Violent twisters that hit the area in April 2011, killing 316 people and causing F$4.2 billion in damage, are blamed in a National Geographic article on smoke drifting northward from Central America. “Everything came together to produce an outbreak the likes of which hadn’t been seen for nearly 40 years,” says Greg Carbin, a meteorologist of Noaa, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration storm prediction center in Norman, Okla.
The National Academy of Sciences book suggests emissions have effects in faraway places, raising the question of tort liability and legal or military cause of action if one country offends another, as the former admiral Titley warns.
Little of the negative media reaction to the government report focuses on the health effects of aerosol emissions. Aluminum, strontium and barium are primary materials in the injection program as apparently is conducted today. But aluminum is mentioned twice in passing. It is mentioned along with silver iodide, lead iodide, aluminum oxide, barium, soot, frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice), common salt and water sprays as cloud-seeding agents. Separately, aluminum is given as a short-circuiting material in teasing electrical storms. What would be sprayed in the scheme weighed by the book’s authors?
They say not. They mention sulfur dioxide, emitted from volcanoes, but don’t appear to insist that the chemtrail program inject sulfur. Neither does the U.S. in its report consider the particulate it contemplates to be a harmful pollution, a toxin bad for human health and longevity. The health of individuals who inhale or ingest chemtrail particles is ignored, probably so as not to distract from the effort to bring planetary health into view.
Sources: Ken Caldeira, “One known way to cool the Earth: Another view,” USAtoday.com, Feb. 15, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2015/02/15/megadrought-climate-change-ken-caldeira-editorials-debates/23465975/
Jeff McMahon, “Four Reasons To Study A Bad Idea: Geoengineering” Forbes.com, Feb. 25, 2015. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2015/02/25/four-reasons-to-study-a-bad-idea-geoengineering/
“Geoengineering schemes to combat climate change still risky, say reports,” Environmental Research Web, Feb; 25, 2015. http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/news/60303
Devin Powell, “Deadliest Tornado Outbreak in Decades Was Fueled by Smoke From Land Clearing[;] April 2011 saw the worst day of U.S. tornadoes since 1974, and a new analysis points to fires in Central America as part of the cause.” Nationalgeographic.com Feb. 9, 2015. http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2015/02/150209-tornado-smoke-aerosol-storm-wind/