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Thursday, July 02, 2015

ACD -- or: Cannon saves the world (revisited)

ACD -- anthropogenic climate disruption -- is the new term for man-made climate change. Dahr Jamail, writing in Truthout, has the latest grim news:
NASA recently released its global temperature data for the month of May, and it was 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit above the norm. The agency's data also revealed that 2015 has had the hottest five months of any year ever recorded. As of right now, 2015 is already hotter than last year, according to NASA; in fact, if it stays on the same track, it will be the hottest year ever recorded for the planet.

Things are bad enough that President Obama's science adviser issued a warning that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is currently barreling forward so quickly that the entire state of California could be "overwhelmed": The state's efforts to adapt will be unable to keep pace with the rapidly intensifying developments on the ground. Essentially, this means the state does not have the financial nor physical resources to keep pace with rising seas, drought and wildfires that are all becoming the norm there.
It's not news that Arctic sea ice is melting at a record-breaking pace and that the odds of there being summer ice-free periods by next year are high. But an interesting twist resulting from this development is that this thinning Arctic ice, along with a lack of air support, has officially forced an end to trekking expeditions to the North Pole this year ... and quite likely, forever.
However, the most important development this month is clearly a recently published study in Science that states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study showed that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warned ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species going extinct.
The end of the entire human experiment? Well! That idea cheers me up. (I'm in  a captious mood today.) Please don't kill my buzz by challenging the science of that study.

More seriously: A few years ago, I proposed a novel method of replacing Arctic ice with a substance called pykrete. ("Novel" is my word; others might prefer terms like "bizarre" and "wacky.") Some of you may recall the Mythbusters episode which demonstrated that pykrete would not work (as originally proposed, during WWII) as a material in the construction of giant ships...
But who cares about ship-building? I'm more interested in the finding that pykrete proved 60 times more resistant to melting when compared to normal ice.

All of which leads me to offer this modest proposal: During the ice-formation season in the Arctic, why not drop tons of shredded newsprint/paper/wood pulp over the area?

As I understand it, the pykrete -- or "pseudo-pykrete" -- should make itself. The resultant ice cover should last longer, resulting in more blockage of that dreaded dark water -- which should, in turn, result in reduced global warming.

Even if the trick does not work, there should be no great environmental harm, since wood pulp and newsprint are biodegradable. Right now, tons of the stuff go into landfills all over the world, year after year. Why not use it to carpet the Arctic?
Believe it or not, this idea has attracted attention elsewhere. Take, for example, this paper (pdf), delivered in 2013 by John Nissen at (god help us) Davos...
There are physical methods which can also be used for strengthening the ice and preventing it breaking up in the spring. The melt rate increases dramatically once the sea ice is less than half a metre thick and subjected to breaking up from wave action, followed by wind dispersion. Much ice disappears each year through the Fram Strait and quickly melts away.

One technique which can be considered is to add wood chippings or similar material to ice to form what is known as pykrete ­ from its inventor Pyke and its concrete­like properties. For example, a long curved floating barrage of pykrete could be used to prevent flow of broken ice between islands. Pykrete could also be used to dampen wave action and allow sea ice formation more readily in the autumn and early winter. There could be many other applications.
Those are the words of an actual scientist. It's not just an idea tossed out by an eccentric blogger in Baltimore.

From a 2010 article published on a science site called Next Big Future:
Artificially restoring or enhancing underwater subglacial ridges would slow the melting of glaciers. Pykrete is wood or newspaper mixed with ice that has a far higher melting point. Pykrete could be used to top up ridges that are no longer in contact with glaciers or to add an extra thickness to keep ridges and glaciers in contact.
The ensuing discussion in the comments is pretty interesting.

Here's another discussion of geo-engineering our way out of this problem:
I have no doubt that sawdust would retard melting: it was the standard insulation for block ice in ice houses when ice was cut from rivers in the winter for year round usage.
Phil Ebersole discusses my idea here...
I’m leery of such plans, without having any specific objections beyond Murphy’s Law. the Law of Unintended Consequences and the Precautionary Principle.

But if global warming starts to accelerate, the world’s people will demand emergency action, whether such action is well thought out or not. So I agree with Joseph Cannon. It is time to research Plans B just in case.
In a post published last year, I discussed the big problem with exploring a Pykrete solution: Neither the right nor the left will embrace the idea. Rightwingers -- like Professor Fate in The Great Race -- won't admit that the ice is melting until it reaches the lower lip. Smug liberals will not consider any idea that involves geo-engineering, which, in their view, is not virtuous.

Here's a TED post about the feasibility of using Pykrete to "heal" a glacier. The writer notes that we already have a working model...
America’s fastest growing glacier, Crater glacier in Mount St. Helen’s crater, is well on its way to being the lower 48’s largest glacier, and even though none of the ice pre-dates 1980, at its thickest point its over 600 feet deep. It is advancing at a rate of 50 ft a year and thickening 15 feet per year. Most of the glacier is below the average height for glaciers in Washington State, so why is it growing? Rock slides and ash. They are acting just like sawdust in Pykrete, insulating the ice and keeping it from melting. Many rock glaciers can also form below the normal height of glaciers because of this property. So, could this work, does any one have better solutions or ideas?
As I noted in my earlier post, much of the resultant commentary was hilariously -- and infuriatingly -- off-topic.
Why are so many people desperate to talk about anything other than the scientific question of "Will it work"? What psychological malady compels these people to have such a phobic reaction to any idea that involves geoengineering?

I still believe that Pykrete, or some variant thereof, may help to impede the melting of Arctic ice. Lord knows we need to do something: The Arctic "melt-down" not only kills walruses, it reveals dark oceanic water, which absorbs sunlight and accelerates global warming.

Maybe my idea will turn out to be as off-the-wall as anything Pyke ever proposed. That's quite possible.

Still, there are other people -- genuine scientists, with degrees and thick glasses and D&D dice and all the other accoutrements -- who have come up with other plans which involve large-scale geoengineering. Some of those plans sound pretty interesting to me.

Guess what? You aren't allowed to talk about those ideas.

Above, I've embedded a TED talk by David Keith. Keith suggests that we may want to inject large clouds of ash into the atmosphere in order to decrease sunlight. Good idea or bad idea? We may never know, because Keith's proposal is not a permissible topic of discussion.

His suggestion annoys the Virtuecrats, who insist that we may debate only those ideas which increase misery.

Of course, they don't actually use the word "misery." They prefer code-phrases -- usually something about "altering our lifestyles." But what they really want is misery.
The thing about misery is this: It may seem attractive in the abstract (at least to a certain type of liberal), but when you really bite into the stuff, you suddenly realize you awful it is.

So let's belay this talk about forcing billions of people to change their lifestyles. We're not going to solve the climate crisis by riding more bicycles and eating more tofu and banning cars. That scenario just isn't going to happen. People are the way they are, unto the very end of the world.

So geo-engineering is the only possible solution. Perhaps pykrete can be part of such a scheme; perhaps not. But geo-engineering is the only possible solution.
thanks joesph.. nice post with thought provoking ideas.. james
Regarding Keith's idea of injecting ash into the atmosphere to reduce sunlight, perhaps you haven't heard of global dimming. You remember that big famine in the 80s in Ethiopia and its environs? Particulate and sulphur dioxide emissions from Europe and North America caused a lack of direct sunlight on the Atlantic, which caused a decrease in evapouration and a resulting failure in the monsoon. Of course in Ethiopia there was actually plenty of food anyway, but the politics of the civil war and the requisitioning of transport meant it couldn't reach the people who needed it.

You definitely haven't had an idea more off the wall than any Pyke had. He's the one who wanted to set up a commando base in Nazi-occupied Norway and keep away the Nazis by putting a sign on the fence saying "SS Special Weapons Department - Death Ray Division".

Regarding pykrete, the arctic is fucking huge. How many trees would have to die for the project to work? You need a thick layer to stop ice melting. You can't just put it in the water in advance, either, because it will float away.

Of course you could grow trees by microwaving the seeds, which is meant to promote speedy growth, and using ultrasonics on the saplings which would probably rather more than double the speed of growth.

Stephen......or you could just use hemp pulp. Since that is highly renewable, can be harvested twice in a season (or more, not sure) and would work just the same as newsprint or sawdust from trees.
The human bean has already overstayed the Welcome. Geo Carlin had the prescription correct when he said that Humans act more like a virus than a beneficial organism. Yes we have contributed great art and lit but it's not enough to justify our presence.

Humans have created great art and lit? Says who, Ben? Other humans?

You call it rain
But the human name
Doesn't mean shit to a tree

Geo Carlin, heh. :)

::Raises hand for HEMP:: Hemp will save us all, let's go!
You call them "Virtuecrats"; I call them "The Soylent Green Caucus". ^_^
Please could someone unplug Ted.
Geo engineering, what about bio-engineering. How about females don't start ovulating until they are 25 instead of at age 13? Isn't the south pole ice growing at a fast rate? Would help explain the extended amount of humidity Southern California is experiencing, the colder water is moving northward and reacting to the additional suns rays getting through by creating humidity.
So Joseph, do ou concur that the planet is not necessarily warming up as much as the temperature highs and lows are becoming greater which is still a significant threat to life on the planet, and that the cause of the increased temperature volatility is related to the destruction of the ozone layer?

The Antarctic ice isn't "growing". The Antarctic continental ice sheets are thinning, breaking off, and falling into the sea - which leads to a temporary increase in the area covered by sea ice (as shown in satellite photographs) but less ice overall. It's actually a very bad sign, not a good one. All the Arctic ice is sea ice (there's no continent up there, after all).
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