Only geo-engineering can reverse climate change — too bad it won’t work

seeing through car dashboard

Can we cool down the Earth? Don’t count on it, say scientists. Photo: KristinaDragana.

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among the most conservative scientific organizations on Earth, issued a report concluding that global warming is irreversible without geo-engineering.

Yet, as Earth System Dynamics recently pointed out, known strategies for geo-engineering are unlikely to succeed and that “climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming.”

Meanwhile, in December, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences announced that gradual change of the climate is not guaranteed: “The history of climate on the planet — as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores — is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years.”

Indeed, Earth has witnessed a five-degree Celsius rise in global-average temperature during a span of 13 years.

Writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, John Davies concludes: “The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040.” Davies considers only atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, not the abundant self-reinforcing feedback loops triggered on the climate-change front.

Considering only one feedback loop among many, methane release from the Arctic Ocean is expected to increase global-average temperature by more than 4°C by 2030 and 10°C by 2040, according to Sam Carana’s research (see especially Image 24).

Humans have not occupied Earth at 3.5°C above baseline. If this seems problematic to you, I believe you’re paying attention.

— Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

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    • says

      If your question is indeed ‘Will this wind be so mighty as to lay low the mountains of the Earth’, then I don’t think you really need to look to wind to lay any mountains. From what I can see, humans seem to be doing plenty of that without any help from any ‘wind’.

      If, on the other hand, your enquiry is about picnic baskets, then, to paraphrase the words of Peter Cook: “Can’t understand a blind word you’re saying. You’re speaking too strangely for the human ear.”

  1. Kim Baba says

    It is time for those of us who are aware of the situation to speak with our loved ones about their reproductive choices. I cannot imagine that potential parents are wanting to bring new human life into the world only to have it extinguished in horrific ways before their 30th year. And I personally believe 2040 is way too optimistic.

    • Nick Alexin says

      I truly agree with you Kim,
      I being 28 years old have decided to not have any children. Thankfully my wonderful life partner and girlfriend also agrees. However my mother and sister do not. My sister is due to give birth next month and I am increasingly worried for the future of that baby’s life.
      It seems I am left to make that soon to be born child’s life as meaningful and fun as possible in a world growing dark everyday.

      • bertha says

        Can’t agree more. I look at people who are having children and wonder what they are thinking. I wouldn’t want to bring any children into this world the way it is heading. It’s plain selfish.

  2. says

    Indeed I agree entirely that geoengineering will not work – most of the techs proposed seem likely to make things worse, not better. I believe the Arctic Methane Emergency Group is an outspoken advocate for geoengineering.

    see our article here:

    Further, IPCC certainly has not said that climate change cannot be reversed without geoengineering (which won’t work, so how can it reverse?). It seems not a good idea to convey that they support geoengineering so blithely. What their report stated was as follows: “Methods to counter climate change, termed geoengineering,have been proposed and an overview is provided in Box TS.7.” It then lists proposed techs and uncertainties. Thats all.

    • James R. Martin says

      The confusion results from the New Scientist article which Dr. McPherson references in his article.:

      ~~~ “Global warming is irreversible without massive geoengineering of the atmosphere’s chemistry. This stark warning comes from the draft summary of the latest climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” ~~~

      The report’s draft summary actually does not say what the NS article’s author says it says. But, according to the NS author, the IPCC IMPLIES such.

      ~~~ “According to one of its lead authors, and the latest draft seen by New Scientist, the report will say: “CO2-induced warming is projected to remain approximately constant for many centuries following a complete cessation of emission. A large fraction of climate change is thus irreversible on a human timescale, except if net anthropogenic CO2 emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period.”

      In other words, even if all the world ran on carbon-free energy and deforestation ceased, the only way of lowering temperatures would be to devise a scheme for sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.” ~~~~

      I’ve read only about the IPCC report, and quotes from it. I have no idea if what was predicted in this NS article about the – then – future report was finally included.

  3. James R. Martin says

    Guy McPherson says, “In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among the most conservative scientific organizations on Earth, issued a report concluding that global warming is irreversible without geo-engineering.”

    Yeah. Sure they did. They also said that giant pink fuzzy-furry happy dances will directly absorb carbon from the atmosphere.

    Didn’t anybody notice that this same IPCC report included a “carbon budget” which suggested that worst case climate catastrophe can be averted if only we’ll not consume roughly as much fossil fuels as we’ve done since the beginning of industrialism?

    Fact check please!

    • says

      “… worst case climate catastrophe can be averted if only we’ll not consume roughly as much fossil fuels as we’ve done since the beginning of industrialism (sic)”

      You want a fact check? You might want to start with the current doubling time for humanity’s usage of fossil fuels. Hint: it’s a damn sight shorter than a couple of centuries.

      “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” — Dr Albert A. Bartlett.

  4. James R. Martin says

    That is, the IPCC’s “carbon budget” of 2013 seeks to keep fossil fuel consumption under a near doubling of emissions since the advent of industrialism. This is meant to keep the temperature rise (during this period) below 2C — which maximum target is considered utterly catastrophic by Dr. James Hansen and others. (Hansen now proposes an upper limit target of 1C.)

    That the situation is dire is not in question by me. But how could McPherson’s claim about the IPCC report be accurate while at the same time the IPCC is offering a “carbon budget” which allows for a near doubling of atmospheric CO2? Is the IPCC entirely incoherent, Dr. McPherson?

    • ulvfugl says

      The IPCC puts out a POLITICAL report, which is vetted before release by parties with political and economic interests, and yes, it is INCOHERENT.

      BP predicts that global emissions will rise 29% by 2035. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that emissions must peak by 2020 to give the world a chance to avoid a further two degrees of warming, beyond which the effects of climate change become catastrophic and irreversible.

      • James R. Martin says

        ulvfugl says

        ” … and yes, it is INCOHERENT.”

        This would be no sleight incoherence! Why isn’t anyone (apparengly) other than a few climate denialists even talking about incoherence of such a grand scale within the IPCC 2013 report?

        Don’t get me wrong, I understand the “mainstream media” is a joke, that it won’t touch ever so many crucial issues…. But is it really THAT bad? So bad that the IPCC can put out a report of such ostensible “consequence” which just happens to be incoerent in the most crucial, central sort of way?

  5. Bill says

    Given that the 1700 oil fields which provide 70% of the planet’s petroleum have measured decline rates today of 6.2%/y, the planet will have half the production of today in 12 years or less, since decline rates are increasing. (Data per EIA/IEA) I suspect the loss of input energy for the transport sector will be more worrisome to western people than extinction.

    • James R. Martin says

      And, given that the current mode of economy/money/finance is utterly dependent upon continuous growth, and tends toward sharp collpase without said growth, the eventual oil crunch will likely soon result in a collapse of the broad economy. Unless we swiftly emplace alternative modes of economy/money/finance along with a more sensible strategy in transitioning away from oil dependency.

      If we remain more or less in a business as usual mode, the most salient feature of our failure to respond won’t so much be directly about transport, per se. It will be about financial and economic collapse resulting from our failure to create a money/finance system which doesn’t require continuous growth.

      Cheap energy has enabled near-continuous economic growth since the begining of the modern industrial era. The end of cheap energy requires a post-growth economy, which topic is almost completely off the cultural and political radar screen.

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