What is the difference between “Ending anthropogenic global warming”, and “Restoring a healthy climate”? The difference is restoring a healthy climate. Climate engineering is how that is done, unless you have a thousand years to wait for nature to take her course.
Climate engineering, also called geoengineering, is how we created global warming by increasing the CO2 levels 40%. It’s going to be how we get out of global warming if we do. Climate engineering includes planting, or cutting down trees, pulling CO2 out of the air, and doing things to reflect a bit more sunlight before it warms the ground and ocean.
Last weekend at the CCL regional conference in Oakland we heard from high level climate experts telling us about the predictable (to them inevitable) future. With the CO2 geoengineering we’ve done already (mainly fossil fuel usage), we’ve raised CO2 levels. The last time CO2 levels were this high, sea level stabilized 60 feet above current levels.
The most optimistic CO2 removal plans I’ve heard require several hundred years to remove the excess CO2. Of course CO2 levels are still increasing, so 60 feet is the best that could be hoped for, assuming we stop fossil fuel consumption this year. The extreme drought in California (worst in several thousand years when comparing tree ring data) is expected to be the new norm, and the winter weather on the east coast is clearly becoming the new norm. Florida will be an historical artifact in the not-too-distant future.
You probably already knew all that. We’re all working to eliminate the destructive geoengineering we’re doing now–to eliminate the anthropogenic causes. Why do scientists think that mega-droughts and flooding are inevitable (and I don’t)? Let the NRC tell you.
The National Research Council (NRC) came out with a paper on geoengineering last week acknowledging that climate engineering could restore the ice caps in just a few years. That would stop sea level rise and restore normal weather patterns, and has no currently-known significant side effects, even with the full-scale test performed by Mount Pinatubo in 1991.
That said, they conclude: Given a choice between geoengineering or anything else, we should pursue anything else. And that’s what most people still say. That’s why scientists say the dismal future is inevitable.
But no one is proposing a one-or-other choice. It’s a false choice. It’s the “fallacy of the excluded middle” (look it up). Everyone, even the oil companies are saying, “put a meaningful price on carbon” in any case, whether or not we go on to use climate engineering to restore the ice caps and a healthy climate.
Why would the NRC conclude that? Maybe because they’re working towards the possibility of ending anthropogenic global warming. To accomplish that there’s no need for climate engineering, no reason to spend effort and possible embarrassment on it as we figure out how to do it well.
NRC does recommend putting together an organization to manage it, and that is the next step towards “Restoring a healthy climate”. Excluding the verbiage about the false choices they present, I agree 100% with their report. If I were on the committee, given the current context (ending global warming), I would have written the same thing.
The question is: In addition to slowing the damage we’re causing, are we interested, and willing, to restore a healthy climate? Are we willing to be at-cause in the world we give our children, and restore it; or do we really prefer to tell them, “We stopped burning it, and then left nature to restore what’s left at a geological pace. Sorry about that.”
Inside the possibility of restoring a healthy climate, there are unlimited opportunities for action. And given the technology we have, and that which our children will develop, there is no reason to expect we wouldn’t achieve it, just as we went to the moon, developing all the technology in 8 short years.
I’ve researched in detail all the relevant technologies, and we could restore a healthy climate by 2040 (at a leisurely pace) or by 2030 (if we get excited by the prospect) with existing technology, and at a net benefit to the economy. Of course we’ll develop new and better technologies along the way.
Just like we would not have gone to the moon without declaring the goal, we won’t restore a healthy climate without declaring that goal. Accomplishing it is not impossibly difficult. It just requires a vision—a future which calls people into action.
Let’s restore a healthy climate. We can, therefore we must. Please share this widely if you want the scientists to know you want a healthy climate.