There’s a lot we don’t understand about the global climate system if we were to engineer this cooling of the planet. Certainly we can cool it. But it’s not going to be uniform around the world and its going to have a lot of other knock-on consequences. There’ll be changes in precipitation patterns. And how do you say to a country that’s experiencing a big drought *** whether it was the geoengineering that did it or whether it was going to happen naturally.
— Jennifer Francis, climate scientists, Rutgers University
The term “solar radiation management” is positively Orwellian. It’s a way to increase comfort levels with this crazy idea.
— Raymond Pierrehumbert, geophysicist, University of Chicago co-author Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth
By David Tulis
Scientists and proponents of mass climate intervention by jet gathered this weekend at the University of Cambridge (March 12 to 14, 2015) to explore how nation-states could use jets and other technologies to manufacture a more sun-reflective atmosphere. Their goal: Save the planet from industry, smokestacks, highway exhaust and the planet’s meager human population.
The conference had technical sessions on atmospheric chemistry, climate modelling, engineering systems and impacts, implications and consequences. Scientists and panelists discussed the moral, legal and political hazards implied in weather intervention, where one nation’s dimmed sunlight is another’s drought and yet another’s roof-collapsing snowstorm.
The scientists on Friday heard about how plume-stretching intervention could be disruptive of the weather. Piers Forster’s talk was “Potentially damaging precipitation side effects from solar radiation management” and Ben Kravitz spoke on “SRM Impacts on the Hydrological Cycle.”
Government intervention always has hazards and unexpected costs. Peter Davidson gave a talk on “The impact, implications and consequences of the use of manufactured particles to improve the feasibility and reduce risk for a Stratospheric Solar Radiation Management (SRM) Insurance.”
The conference’s last talk was by Peter Irvine, “Detection, Attribution and Climate Control — the Limits to Solar Radiation Management.”
At least one session late Friday gave notice to the health implications of official pollutants in sky striping on human health. Sebastian Eastham lectured on “Sensitivities of Human Health to Aerosol Climate Engineering.” But a commenter and sky striping critic says Mr. Eastham “paints a pretty picture regarding projected human mortality,” advocates a mass spraying of sulfur, ignores “the existing program” of spraying heavy metals in the skies daily, and takes no questions.
Local ‘contrail’ treatment in Chattanooga
A day after the conference in Great Britain ended, Chattanooga, Tenn., a heartland city along a bend in the Tennessee River, was heavily treated by jet aircraft. At 4 p.m. a great cloud bank hung along the atmosphere south and east of the city. Chattanooga received visible treatments of sky tattooing March 2, 4, 8, 12 and 15. Sky striping generally turns the sky milky white, thinning out sunlight and turning it to a brilliant orb in the sky many times bigger to the human eye.
Other days in Chattanooga were overcast. It is impossible to tell if jets are laying aerosol particulate eight miles up in the stratosphere with intervening fogbank weather four miles up blocking visual observation.
“Climate engineering is rapidly becoming a contentious issue within political, scientific, and cultural discussions of climate change, in part due to a perceived lack of progress on crucial emission reductions,” according to conference notes. The conferees debate jet-lain sky stripes in light of the weak prospect of reduction of undesirable forms of pollution. Apparently the earth can bear no more than 1,000 gigatons of manmade pollution, “510 of which were already emitted by 2011, with currently about 10 more gigatons being added each year.” The conferees agree a crisis is building and nearing a breaking point.
It is estimated that, already, governments are putting millions of tons of aerosols into the atmosphere in a program outside civilian control. Chattanooga is regularly subject to a rain of aluminum, strontium and barium, according to the Chattanooga/Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau.
“Are climate engineering approaches fatally prone to error and misuse,” say the conference notes, “and worth excluding from the climate conversation on both practical and moral grounds? Are they an emergency measure which could have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences if deployed? Could they be a relatively straightforward remedy for some of the consequences of climate change? And how should research aimed at these questions be regulated? These questions, and many others raised by the prospect of climate engineering, involve diverse ethical, social, political and technical issues which are extraordinarily complex and incredibly interlinked.”
Small-scale tests proposed
For all the weather intervention already taking place, it is interesting to consider reports of scientists thinking small.
Weather intervention researchers in academia are proposing small-scale tests to see if, somehow, injecting aerosol microparticles into the air might allow weather to be made less sunny, with the sun’s heat deflected by a bright atmospheric shield constantly renewed by jet overflights.
Scientists meeting in San Jose in mid-February called for tests to see if a jet-borne cloud-creating program might work to “change the climate by blocking the sun’s rays.” Computer modeling isn’t enough, Lynn Russell says. She is a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of California, San Diego. “Current research is not sufficient to allow us to decide if it could be useful,” she says. “We just don’t have enough information to make this decision at this point.”
Since 2013 Harvard professor David Keith has proposed small scale chemtrailing. Here’s how an MIT Technology Review story about it describes the test to increase the earth’s albedo, or reflectivity:
Customize several Gulfstream business jets with military engines and with equipment to produce and disperse fine droplets of sulfuric acid. Fly the jets up around 20 kilometers — significantly higher than the cruising altitude for a commercial jetliner but still well within their range. *** The planes spray the sulfuric acid, carefully controlling the rate of its release. The sulfur combines with water vapor to form sulfate aerosols, fine particles less than a micrometer in diameter. *** Once spread across the stratosphere, the aerosols will reflect about 1 percent of the sunlight hitting Earth back into space.
EPA says no ‘chemical, biological’ chemtrails
On Friday the federal environmental protection agency made a statement on its website debunking claims that geoengineering by jet overflight is already in progress.
“Contrails are line-shaped clouds or ‘condensation trails’ composed of ice particles that are visible behind jet aircraft engines under certain atmospheric conditions and at times can persist. EPA is not aware of any deliberate actions to release chemical or biological agents into the atmosphere.”
Whether aluminum would be considered a “chemical agent” is unclear. The statement links to a fact sheet posted at EPA’s website that has been largely unchanged 15 years. It describes sky striping as innocuous interactions between damp, cold air with hot jet engines.
Contrails are line-shaped clouds sometimes produced by aircraft engine exhaust, typically at aircraft cruise altitudes several miles above the Earth’s surface. The combination of water vapor in aircraft engine exhaust and the low ambient temperatures that often exists at these high altitudes allows the formation of contrails. Contrails are composed primarily of water (in the form of ice crystals) and do not pose health risks to humans. They do affect the cloudiness of the Earth’s atmosphere, however, and therefore might affect atmospheric temperature and climate.
The paper admits that contrails — the mere exhaust from jets — alter the weather with fresh cloud cover it says as exactly like that produced in nature.
“Persistent contrails are of interest to scientists because they increase the cloudiness of the atmosphere. The increase happens in two ways. First, persistent contrails are line-shaped clouds that would not have formed in the atmosphere without the passage of an aircraft. Secondly, persistent contrails often evolve and spread into extensive cirrus cloud cover that is indistinguishable from naturally occurring cloudiness.” (Italics added)
In a report March 14, the Christian Science Monitor goes out of its way to bring up the EPA fact sheet as a new contribution to the rising conflict
over weather intervention, seeking to discredit critics of sky striping because they also opposed a purported new world order, gun confiscation, the prospect of martial law and other “subsidiary conspiracy theories.”
The federal government’s National Academy of Sciences in February published a 245-page report discussing stratospheric aerosol geoengineering as a solution to global warming if national governments prove incapable of slamming down energy consumption and manmade pollution. The F$55 book is available prepublication as a free PDF. It confirms my coverage of solar radiation management in the Chattanooga area but ignores the health dangers of deliberately injected “negative emissions” to people here and in other places around the globe.
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This video introducing the Cambridge geoengineering conference suggests the geopolitical danger of national governments’ playing weather gods and even lets one interviewee discuss the “chemtrail conspiracy.” 3 minutes.
“Aircraft contrails factsheet,” Sept. 2000, revised September 2012, http://www.epa.gov/otaq/regs/nonroad/aviation/430f00005.pdf
Lisa M. Krieger, “Scientists call for ‘geoengineering’ tests to find ways to cool the planet,” Alaska Dispatch News, Feb. 15, 2015. http://www.adn.com/article/20150215/scientists-call-geoengineering-tests-find-ways-cool-planet
David Rotman, “A Cheap and Easy Plan to Stop Global Warming Intentionally engineering Earth’s atmosphere to offset rising temperatures could be far more doable than you imagine, says David Keith. But is it a good idea?” MIT Technology Review, Feb. 8, 2013. http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/511016/a-cheap-and-easy-plan-to-stop-global-warming/
Timothy Cama, “EPA confronts ‘chemtrails’ conspiracy talk,” TheHill.com, March 13, 2015. http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/235632-epa-confronts-sunchemtrails-conspiracy-theory