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Carbon dioxide hits a new high, but geo-engineering won’t help

This week, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere finally crossed the 400 parts-per-million mark. The last time that happened was 3-5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, several million…

Measurements in the skies over Hawaii show we’ve reached a carbon dioxide milestone, but geo-engineering won’t get us off the hook. J.S. Nawati

This week, carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere finally crossed the 400 parts-per-million mark. The last time that happened was 3-5 million years ago during the Pliocene epoch, several million years before the evolution of modern humans.

During this period the planet was 3-4 degrees warmer and sea levels 5-40m higher than today. Now, however, our activities are adding this gas hundreds or thousands of times faster than the natural sources that caused climate to change over Earth’s history.

The concentration is measured at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii, and is averaged on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. CO2 has increased since 1800 from under 300ppm, and has rapidly increased since 1950.

So what should we be doing about this? One idea is starting to get a lot of attention. Instead of reducing carbon emissions, let’s tinker with the system to cool the planet off – a type of geo-engineering.

For example, we might be able to lower the temperature of the planet by several degrees by flying a small fleet of aircraft in the stratosphere, spraying sulphur-containing gases. This would form a mist that reflects some sunlight back to space - maybe enough to offset many decades' worth of greenhouse gas emissions, at least as far as the global temperature is concerned.

If only it were that simple. Geo-engineering is not a miracle cure for climate change. It is more like a tourniquet. It may save the patient’s life as a last option, but that life will never be the same.

Doesn’t CO2 just heat things up?

Recent studies, including this one published last week, and to which I contributed, show that carbon dioxide from fossil fuels would alter our world in ways that have nothing to do with global warming at the earth’s surface. Carbon dioxide affects climate by itself, and without its warming influence.

Sound strange? CO2 does this by interfering with natural energy flows within the atmosphere. This in turn affects how the air circulates, and shifts rainfall patterns.

It also reduces total global precipitation. While the overall change in precipitation is less than that caused by global warming, the regional shifts in precipitation are comparable. In short, some areas that were used to lots of rain will likely get less. Others will get more.

What does this mean? A few isolated skeptics claim that our climate has strong negative feedbacks. Instead of temperature increasing indefinitely, changes in climate like increased cloud cover may act to cool the planet. Even if these far-fetched claims proved correct on a large scale, the new studies now show that humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions would still alter global rainfall patterns, albeit less severely.

Negative feedbacks, even if they existed, would not stop this. Neither would artificial cooling of the planet.

The geoengineering tourniquet?

This new effect adds to the list of drawbacks already associated with artificial cooling plans such as the one involving aircraft sprays into the stratosphere.

Such plans leave carbon accumulating in the system and acidifying the oceans. These geo-engineering solutions probably could not cope with the massive amounts of carbon dioxide released if all recoverable fossil fuels are burned.

Still worse, artificial cooling increases the risk of even greater harm. It would have to be sustained annually for a century or two until enough of the carbon dioxide had finally seeped into the ocean depths. If artificial cooling were interrupted by war, economic collapse, or some other crisis, nearly all of the pent-up climate change would be unleashed in the space of a few short years, hitting some future generation when it is already struggling.

There are ideas around to actually remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. These would be great if they worked, but to me they look like impractical pipe dreams. Artificial cooling is by contrast cheap, relatively feasible and, to some, tempting.

We should resist this temptation. You do not apply a tourniquet to a man’s leg if, with a bit of extra effort, you could get him to a hospital and save the leg. Bringing down carbon emissions is a matter of rolling up our sleeves and choosing to do it. For this generation to say, “we can't” would be a sad admission of failure for a civilisation that has achieved so much.

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97 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

    1. Trevor S

      Jack of all Trades

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "would be a sad admission of failure for a civilisation that has achieved so much."

      I have been thinking about this of late after reading a comment on a SciAm blog refuting that very statement. Sure, the human race seems to be currently proliferating but is not what we are doing actually destroying the biosphere ? albeit slowly (in human terms), Like the AGW issue from our tech, the pacific plastic gyre, air pollution etc etc Are we not actually going about this the wrong way and just bankrupting…

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    2. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Interesting link that Mike and CO2 and climate change predictions aside, clear evidence of sea level rises ought to have all governments making decisions for displacement of communities away from lower lying areas that would be affected, an immediate banning of new developments in such locations being a great start.

      Looking at the keeling curve basis for CO2, perhaps with the Hawaii Islands being an active volcanic zone from where natural emissions are occurring even without eruptions, questions…

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    3. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      Every heard of the Dunning Kruger effect Greg.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

      Consider your statement. A classic case study.
      "Looking at the keeling curve basis for CO2, perhaps with the Hawaii Islands being an active volcanic zone from where natural emissions are occurring even without eruptions, questions ought not be asked just on the suitability of there for CO2 measurement and surely by now a body such as the IPCC would be having far broader corroborative readings…

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      I suppose I should not be surprised by your response Mike nor that you do seem to be incapable of any renowned analysis by yourself and merely content with accepting whatever science you read of rather than questioning as most scientists do " Why might that be so "

      I also should not be surprised why you would think I would first assume
      " (a) Charles Keeling from Scripps did not notice he was on a volcano when he set up the measuring station in 1958. "

      And then it is not surprising that you…

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    5. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      If you read accurately what I stated
      " surely by now a body such as the IPCC would be having far broader corroborative readings undertaken. "
      was a statement which might answer your other assumption claim:
      " b) it has not occurred to climate scientists to setup other measuring stations. "

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    6. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      The classic climate science denier double down from North! Who did not see that coming?

      NASA and ISS instruments that measure CO2
      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/aura/media/tes20100628.html

      Location of testing stations again
      http://scrippsco2.ucsd.edu/research/atmospheric_co2.html

      A measure of North's comments can be gained from the fact that CO2 measurement denial is strictly the domain of the most fringe of the climate science denial groups.

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    7. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "Recent estimates suggest CO2 levels reached as much as 415 parts per million (ppm) during the Pliocene."

      Of course, the CO2 level is not stopping where it is now. I expect it would be a miracle requiring some sort of massive economic collapse to avoid reaching 450 ppm and if things keep going the way they are now, 450 ppm will be reached in 20 years.

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    8. In reply to Greg North

      Comment removed by moderator.

    9. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Do you really think scientist are dumber than you are?"
      Dumb or not, they are certainly disingenuous when they continually link this:"During this period the planet was 3-4 degrees warmer and sea levels 5-40m higher than today." The question should be why - if CO2 levels are the same - is the temperature 3-4 degrees cooler today? The answer as I know and as climate scientists know (but they try to conceal) is that the increased temperature drove the release of CO2 from the oceans, not a high level of CO2 fixing higher temperatures.
      We don't know the effect of moving a large amount of fossilized carbon into the atmosphere - we are conducting the experiment right now. At the moment it appears the effect is astonishingly minor.
      Bring on 450 ppm!

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    10. Osk Archer

      Chemist/Maltster

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Correct me if I'm barking here, but what was glaringly omitted from news coverage of this was the crucial fact that the pliocene CO2 levels would have taken millenia, or longer, to build up naturally, whereas ours are a mere hundred years' effort. I think this might have some bearing on Mr Lamb's interpreation.

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    11. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      " climate scientists know (but they try to conceal)..." Scratch a climate science denier and you inevitably find a conspiracy theorist.

      Sean says
      "The question should be why - if CO2 levels are the same - is the temperature 3-4 degrees cooler today?"

      The Pliocene warming took place over hundreds of thousands of years. While 90% of the current warming is going into the oceans, it takes a long time to heat the oceans and melt the large ice sheets.

      Over that time period the appropriate metric…

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    12. John Campbell

      farmer

      In reply to Osk Archer

      Yes CO2 levels are going up 200,000 % faster now than they would naturally and at least 8000% faster than they ever have in the past!.

      Mr Lamb is of course talking crap from the denialist's handbook, the idea that CO2 emissions trailed temperature rise has long been debunked and was in any case always on very shaky ground.

      Clearly the industrial revolution, not even 200 years old is going to destroy us unless we find some moderately sensible ways of doing things.

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    13. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to John Campbell

      Suit yourselves, you are the folks that year after year have to come up with excuses why temperatures aren't meeting expectations.

      I just get to mock your increasingly desperate hand-waving attempts to explain away the obvious - your models are lemons. The early Christians must have felt like this when their predictions of the apocalypse kept failing to turn up when the Pagans jeered at them. Who knows? Perhaps in another few decades we might be allowed to throw the climate scientists to the lions!

      Carry on.

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    14. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Try an experiment Sean. Get an ice cube from the freezer, put it on a plate and time how long it takes to melt. I don't know how long it will be, but I do know that it will be more than two seconds which is what you are suggesting by your thoughts.

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    15. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Phil Dolan

      Try learning about the behaviour of dissolved gases and thermodynamics.
      Phil, there is no dispute by climate scientists that what I said is correct. The only argument is the degree to which the correlation of between temperature and CO2 levels is the result of temperature driving CO2 release and the amount that is due to a positive feedback from the released CO2.
      The flattening of temperature rises suggests the climate scientists have got it gloriously wrong.

      Only one way to settle this argument - complete the experiment.

      Bring on 450 ppm!

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    16. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      " “The main lagging indicator is likely to be sea level just because it takes a long time to heat the ocean and a long time to melt ice. "

      And yet a commonly referred to measure of climate change for many is the rapidly depleting Artic Sea ice!

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    17. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      " The classic climate science denier ......... "
      And I would hardly think it was too classical to be perpetually bullying and slagging rather than having a reasonable conversation.
      This article is on rise of CO2 levels .........all be it at Hawaii where no doubt there would be localised effects and records even show how there are differences for the wind, that being a bit like talking of the weather and climate.

      Despite having what?, a dozen CO2 monitoring stations! is that really sufficient…

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    18. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      Greg - you are taking the Dunning Kruger effect to unsurpassed levels.

      "rapidly depleting Artic(sic) Sea ice" does NOT raise sea level.

      "Just like an ice cube melting in a glass of water, melting Arctic sea ice does not contribute to sea-level rise..."
      http://www.eo.ucar.edu/basics/cc_2_b.html

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    19. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      "And I would hardly think it was too classical to be perpetually bullying and slagging rather than having a reasonable conversation."

      Please spare me. This is you in response to Chris O'Neill "It seems Chris that you lack the necessary brain matter .."

      You have trolled every climate science article here for months with your "invincible ignorance" accusing the scientists who write for The Conversation of getting it wrong.

      When your ignorance is pointed out, all you do is whine.

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    20. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      "Try learning about the behaviour of dissolved gases and thermodynamics." That is a joke coming from the Science Denier.

      "Phil, there is no dispute by climate scientists that what I said is correct." Yes there is. What you say is BS. It does not even pass the laugh test.

      The increase in atmospheric CO2 started with the Industrial Revolution. Coincidence? Where exactly do you think that the 34 billion tonnes of CO2 that we now pump into the atmosphere every year is going.

      A detailed discussion of the science can be found here.
      http://www.skepticalscience.com/Mackie_OA_not_OK_post_10.html

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    21. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      "The increase in atmospheric CO2 started with the Industrial Revolution. Coincidence?"
      No, strawman. The trouble with you, Mr Hansen, is you don't even understand the science of the orthodoxy you are trying to defend - so no wonder any critique of this orthodoxy flies over your head.

      I repeat, no one disputes that the correlation between the historical (or paleohistorical [word?] if you prefer) going back to the Pliocene is partly a result of increased temperatures modifying CO2 levels and partly a result of CO2 levels modifying temperature. The fact that you don't understand this link simply underscores your complete lack of understanding of even orthodox climate science.

      The dispute between warmists and luke-warmists revolves around the partitioning between these two effects. Happily, empirically the luke-warmists are coming out on top. Much to the chagrin of all those on the Climate Science gravy train.

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    22. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Greg North

      "you lack the necessary brain matter"

      Look who's talking.

      "I have no interest in testing myself against scientists"

      Ok. The scientists are too dumb to realise their CO2 measurements might be affected by nearby volcanoes. Yes, that does make them dumber than you.

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    23. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, Science Denier and Allround Clown:

      "your models are lemons"

      Temperature rise has been within the 95% confidence interval of the forecasts in SAR, TAR and AR4. You're just making it up again.

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    24. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, Science Denier and Allround Clown:

      "the effect is astonishingly minor"

      0.8 deg C and rising is astonishingly minor?

      Now that is astonishing.

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    25. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      "Temperature rise has been within the 95% confidence interval"
      Chris, I think you meant to write: "The flat-lining temperature curve is just clinging on by its fingertips to the very edge of the lower bound of the 95% confidence interval. I won't dare show my face at The Conversation when it slips under in a couple of years."
      Isn't that what you were thinking? Rest assured, Chris, no matter how outrageously wrong your predictions turn out to be, I will always be delighted to see you.
      Best regards
      Sean

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    26. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, Science Denier and Allround Clown:

      "why is the temperature 3-4 degrees cooler today?"

      "the increased temperature drove the release of CO2 from the oceans"

      That isn't an answer to the question. The question was about temperature, not CO2 level.

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    27. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, Science Denier and Allround Clown:

      "I think you meant to write"

      OK so you have no disagreement that you were making it up when you said

      "temperatures aren't meeting expectations"

      I'll take that as an admission you were making it up.

      "The flat-lining temperature curve"

      Yeah, yeah, making it up again. Even when you start with a blatant cherry-pick you don't get a flat line: http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/uah/from:1998/trend

      "when it slips under in a couple of years"

      Promises, promises.

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    28. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Greg North

      "I'll always be open to seeking further information"

      You left out:

      "and I'll never accept anything I don't like."

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    29. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Greg North

      "And yet a commonly referred to measure of climate change for many is the rapidly depleting Artic Sea ice!"

      And your point is?

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    30. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Oh, the old dunning-Kruger effect. That's shorthand for "anyone who thinks differently from me must be incompetent" - based on a tiny sample of first year students from California or somewhere.

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    31. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, enough of the larking around. Don't you know what that extra 50 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere could do to the planet? The global temperature might increase by as much as 0.0005 degrees centigrade! God God man! Think of the polar bears!

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    32. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      So, are you saying that the effects of all this carbon pollution won't be noticed for some thousands of years? That's a pretty long bet. I thought we were all going to be rooned in the blink of an eyeball.

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    33. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Well done Mike. Looks like you finally got one on the board. Oops, let's check the video ref on that one. Looks like you've been thrown a bit of a non sequitur there so - NO TRY. Must be the Dunning-Kruger effect again.

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    34. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      That's a great link. I know that instinctively because it comes it comes from skeptical science. I love your links, there are so many of them. How many of these tonnes get absorbed by the not heating oceans? How many get absorbed into biomass? Why isn't it getting any warmer? Have you any non-link idea or is it something to do with the Dunning-Kruger effect?

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    35. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      Obviously nothing you are prepared to try and understand. Go back to to you link and do a little proper exploring. Global temperature gradient is flat for quite soon time. For how long depends on the product and when you pick the start of the series. Doesn't matter. None of this is compatible with the doom models. You seem to be able to use the wood for trees tool. Have another shot.

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    36. Chris O'Neill

      Retired Way Before 70

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean Lamb, Science Denier and Allround Clown:

      "How do you like this one?"

      Thanks for letting us know that recent giss flat trend cherry-picks are a maximum of 11 years long.

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    37. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Here is Mark Pollock demonstrating that his knowledge of science is on a par with Lamb the Science Denier and North the DuKe.

      "the slight extra temperature caused by CO2 is supposed to cause an increase in the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere."
      https://theconversation.com/learning-from-europes-carbon-price-crash-we-need-a-carbon-bank-13860#comment_154133

      "supposed" - the scientifically challenged Pollock denying some basic physics which these days is taught to preppies.

      We need some light entertainment Mark. Why don't you explain the science of global warming again. I mean you are all over these posts absolutely convinced that climate scientists are hatching a new world order etc. You must know in detail what you are arguing against.

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    38. Phil Dolan

      Viticulturist

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      'Only one way to settle this argument - complete the experiment Bring on 450 ppm!.'

      Very sad but true. It will be a little too late though. There will be a whole hungry world with hindsight.
      I prefer foresight.

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    39. greg fullmoon

      being and doing

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Christians took over the Roman Empire and instituted their own apocalypse on the Earth.. still at it along with the banksters and the soulless scientists who insist on technology for technology's sake..

      the climate scientists are doing their best to read the akashic record of Earth in order to divine the future.

      Sean, the last time we had a duel you were a physicist?? you got a few non-tin hats?

      the industrial revolution and its climactic, and toxic effects on our space ship are unique…

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    40. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Looks like you are discussing sea levels with yourself Mike for please show where I made reference to it.
      You continually assert that which is not mentioned when you have written discussions and if that runs over into your life in general, it is likely not good for outcomes.

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    41. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Chris O'Neill

      You might see that was in response to another poster submitting
      " ..........because it takes a long time to heat the ocean and a long time to melt ice. "

      Perhaps you could see if they can supply your point within a context and good luck.

      Meanwhile, whilst you may operate with a MO of " "and I'll never accept anything I don't like." "
      A rational conversation will never really be achieved as long as you attempt putting your own words into others' mouths or onto their keyboards.

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    42. Alvin Stone

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Oh dear Sean. I think you might have forgotten to look at the heat content of the oceans. The slowing of the increase in atmospheric temperatures is only a small part of the entire global warming scenario, as you well know.

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    43. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      There you go Mike for is it too challenging to engage in rational discussion and not engage the selective side trait by which you can ignore that I did not say that Chris did not have brain matter but it seemed he lacked that necessary to be questioning.

      There's a huge difference btw if your analytical side has a block on that.

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  1. John Newlands

    tree changer

    I suspect 2013 will turn out to be a warm dry year. Recent years' good figures for hydro and wheat yields probably won't be repeated. People will ask if this is the new normal. Conceivably the following years could be even worse. Yet emissions and coal exports seem likely to remain steady. A strong hint is that net CO2e was 558 Mt in 2000 and 552 Mt in 2012.

    By year's end we could have the bizarre situation of a change of government that pays only lip service to climate change while around us there are relentless fires and expensive food prices. Every capital city will exceed 40C in summer. I think geo-engineering might get serious consideration.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to John Newlands

      " People will ask if this is the new normal. "
      You could John point them towwards
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothea_Mackellar
      " "I love a sunburnt country/A land of sweeping plains,/Of ragged mountain ranges,/Of droughts and flooding rains." ...
      She wrote My Country at age 19, that making it 1904
      It could be assumed that she was aware of some very dry years around the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century, the Murray all but having dried up and even perhaps she had heard of the flooding of Brisbane four or five times in the 1890s, flooding of similar levels to what was experienced in 1974 and more recently.

      And then you could find some interesting reading at http://www.australian-information-stories.com/weather-facts.html

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    2. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Greg North

      It is well know that in climate denier circles, the anecdote is the highest form of scientific proof. I am not sure about poetry but I am sure that it is up there.

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  2. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    There are a few things we could do.

    1) Complete cessation of fossil fuel use. This is essential, and should be done within a few decades. The Bad News is, this includes Queensland's exports of metallurgical coal for steel-making.

    The Good News is, methods are being developed for coal-free reduction of iron ore to iron and steel (Allanore, Yin & Sadoway, "A new anode material for oxygen evolution in molten oxide electrolysis", Nature (2013) doi:10.1038/nature12134); if Australia was really…

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  3. Brent s

    miner at Mosaic

    Why is it when it comes to CO2, no one is talking about the obvious solution? Plants use CO2 and sequester carbon in the form of sugar. The current direction of agriculture is creating plants that are sick and aren't using as much CO2 as they could. Not to mention all the forests that have been cut down.

    A healthy plant will sequester up to three times the amount of carbon as what is being grown now. There are millions of square miles of potential CO2 sequestering available, we just need to use it.

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    1. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Brent s

      I think problem is that plants don't sequester much carbon for very long at all, mostly breaking down within years-decades, except in anoxic circumstances not easily created by mere humans.

      Not that reveg on this overcleared and drying continent is a bad thing, of course its a crying need and it will help with climate, but its a silver bb rather than bullet, IIRC.

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    2. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Liam J

      Partly because it's not entirely Co2 that is the problem, even though the term is widely used. Whereas, a more accurate term is -"Co2 equivalent" which includes a range of greenhouse gases - including Methane which is twenty times more pollutive. In other words, a range of G gasses are lumped together as a Co2 equivalent.

      Candidly though, logic suggests we face an extinction event on this one, given that climate change seems to be regarded as an "event"- opposed to a process. Arriving at irreversible tipping points, and all that.

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    3. Brent s

      miner at Mosaic

      In reply to Brent s

      I also forgot to mention that infra red cameras have shown that crops that are low sugar/low nutision give off a noticable heat increase over a healthy, high sugar/nutient dense crop. It's like us having a feaver when we are sick. Again, millions of square miles of sick crops giving off heat.

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    4. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Brent s

      There's nothing I could see on that link about fertilising Brent and whilst no doubt Vandana means well and is likely doing very well for those people who wish to maintain their indigenous cropping methods, you might find that fertiliser is used, especially on poorer soils to be able to grow more not just for profitability but also for the demand from ever burgeoning populations.

      As for heat being given off and poor crops, poor crops will be due to a number of reasons, soil elements and moisture, the lack of the latter being kept up and even bugs and viruses etc., sugar cane beetles that we tried to eradicate with the toads and then of late there is the Cane fungus type virus that has affected crops in various areas as examples of just one simple crop.

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    5. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to Liam J

      Liam, somehow plants seemed to sequester all that coal and oil. Maybe we are just seeing things on a very short time scale.

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    6. Brent s

      miner at Mosaic

      In reply to Greg North

      The refference is at the 12 minute mark of the podcast.

      What we are finding is that by getting the soil balanced is the best way to eliminate the use of chemicals. The use of chemicals(most of which are salt based) causes all the problems that chemicals are being used for.When you get a plant over 7 BRIX, most of the fungas, alge, and mold will be gone, BRIX over 10 and weeds start to back off, and at 15 BRIX insects will start to eat any weeds left.

      I personally have taken a clay and gravel…

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    7. Luke Weston

      Physicist / electronic engineer

      In reply to Brent s

      Vandana Shiva? Now there's a reputable high-quality scientific reference. It's like citing Kirk Cameron on evolution.

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    8. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Brent s

      I've got enough of my own clayey rocky soil on a few treed acres of rising ground and yep, you can work it up a bit with mulch, ash, other soil and a few chooks doing their bit without fertilising or just using some animal manure but I would have had to started a long time back to have enough success to be able to feed myself.

      Sure, any chemicals and companies producing them are no doubt considerable energy users and emitters but then there are also likely many broad acre farmers who might just have a better idea on what they need for where they are and what they're growing.

      Just out of curiosity and for some local weed infestation ridding, have you been measuring your before and after BRIX and what did you do to achieve change.

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  4. Sean Lamb

    Science Denier

    The Science is in: we are doomed. Isn't time we faced reality and rather than send us and our children into a The Road style man eat man dystopia, shouldn't we discuss clear sighted strategies to send humanity to S-L-E-E-P?
    Develop some kind of poison that could be spread by planes? A super-engineered virus? Or take all the nuclear weapons and nuclear fissile material and see if we could engineer a collision with the moon? We would make a lovely asteroid belt.
    If you ask Bob Brown we would probably find that was why aliens weren't contacting us. They reach a certain level of technology and then euthanased themselves.

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    1. Liam J

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Sean Lamb

      Sean, what effort you go to for a banal piece of ridicule, hope you found it worthwhile.

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    2. Sean Lamb

      Science Denier

      In reply to Liam J

      I did thank you Liam.
      But not as banal as the obdurate refusal of climate scientists to admit to the complete and utter failure of their climate models.
      When climate scientists start acting like adults, then they will be less likely to be met with ridicule.

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  5. robert roeder
    robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

    retired

    The UN panel of climate scientists will deliver it's 5th report late this year, for the first time a detailed section on geo-engineering will be included. People have claimed that some major countries have already conducted trials using planes with sprays attached. The UN has indicated that it is not appropriate for countries or individuals to go solo and is urging that a binding deal be struck at the next round. Then there is the issue of using geo-engineering as a weapon. As stated in the article…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to robert roeder

      Too true Robert and we should be quickly knocking on the head any scientists promoting more tinkering with our environment than is already happening indirectly.
      The toads were also a great innovation.

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  6. Steve Hindle

    logged in via email @bigpond.com

    The most realistic options available to make really serious reductions in CO2 emissions is to force energy efficiency with higher energy prices, and use a combination of renewable and nuclear power.
    Renewable power is expensive but it will be able to provide large quantities of intermittent power. However there has been very little progress in providing base load power at anywhere near a affordable price. The latest generation nuclear processes being developed are also expensive but will be able to supply large quantities of base load power.
    At best we should keep an open mind to geo-engineering, however the laws of unintended consequences are likely to run rampant. It is most likely to remain the last and most desperate option.

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    1. greg fullmoon

      being and doing

      In reply to Steve Hindle

      Like the law of unintended consequences with Nuclear Power? Weapons of War, DUWS etc, massive radiation releases, the seeming eternal problem of waste disposal, and decommissioning of end of life reactors... there's over 400 of these scattered across the globe.

      Ever thought about the amount of energy required to decommission and store nuclear waste indefinitely? Relative to the energy produced by the nuclear Power plant over its life how much is needed for it's construction and decommissioning…

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  7. Michael Marriott

    logged in via Twitter

    A great post Steve, and time to reflect upon what it means:

    "Silence of the milestone: how humanity is greeting 400ppm with continuing indifference"

    http://watchingthedeniers.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/silence-of-the-milestone-how-humanity-is-greeting-400ppm-with-continuing-indifference/

    'My own sense is in the same way humanity has responded much as it has throughout the climate crisis: in denial; indifference; the blaming of others and the pointing of fingers; ineffective and halfhearted…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      So Michael, is that you @ on the watch or our other Mike.

      Seems as though a Steve over there is a bit alarmed about 500 and is wondering when we would see that, my best shot being between 20 and 50 years.
      Also seems as though Joanna might even feel we should be holding a wake.

      And yet we have scientists continually discovering and maybe there are even happenings for the future we would not even contemplate, ie., in answer to john

      " Any chance that we could have an Artic ice free several…

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    2. Grant Burfield

      Dr

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      "Silence of the milestone.." Sounds like a candidate for your next cutting edge climate science paper - "400ppm and conspiracist ideation; a robust statistical methodolgy".

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    3. robert roeder
      robert roeder is a Friend of The Conversation.

      retired

      In reply to Michael Marriott

      Michael, I am sure that there are many who agree with you. When you come to human nature and ask why we do what we do you hit a brick wall, here are a couple of quotes which don't answer the question but attempt to describe it.It is the nature of the human species to reject what is true but unpleasant and to embrace what is obviously false but comfortable. H L Mencken. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. Aldous Huxley.
      People are anticipating no Arctic ice next summer. If the oceans warm by 4C to 5c the phytoplankton will die off, the krill will die off and the domino thingy happens, then you have the outbreak of algae at the equator what a wonderful fetid future.

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  8. Peter Wood

    logged in via email @ozemail.com.au

    My younger brother says use less electricity.

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Peter Wood

      He's kind of right Peter but just make sure to tell him to ease up on burning wood, especially if you're snug and reposing in front of the open fireplace.

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  9. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    We live in a "commercial society" and any planet saving proposals that require the spending of other people's money will always throw up impediments to their application.
    How about solutions which are commercially attractive so that those who save the planet do so as their secondary purpose, since it seems quite politically impossible to get people to do so as their primary purpose?
    And abandon the totalitarian terror campaigns enamoured of environmental extremism?
    They don't seem to be working, do they?, except to induce the successful totalitarian opposition of such as dear Tony.
    Thank you single-issue conservationist extremists, you have been so successful in saving the planet with your programs of government interference.

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  10. Leigh Burrell

    Trophy hunter at Trophy hunter

    "In short, some areas that were used to lots of rain will likely get less. Others will get more."

    More rain, less rain, whatever. It's climate change. Wish I'd come up with the idea of taking public money to predict that the climate will change.

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  11. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    I love the author's closing statement. 'Bringing down carbon emissions is a matter of rolling up our sleeves and choosing to do it'

    The people have chosen Mr Sherwood - They have CHOSEN to burn JetA1 fuel to fly overseas for a holiday.

    If those who claim to support cutting fossil fuel usage to reduce carbon emissions then continue to burn JetA1 fuel for their own pleasure, what hope have you got.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Yes, international tourism and international tourists are a scourge, except when they come to Australia and bring their money with them.
      Whatever happened to the Romance of Sail, as a tourist outlet?
      Or would such visitors just become another brand of boat people, used by politiciansto scare the local wombats back underground?
      Going underground might be a sustainable response to Global Warming.
      G'arn the wombats!

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  12. Mark Pollock

    Analyst

    The authors brief biography states that he studies how various processes "conspire" to effect the atmosphere. It's a telling phrase - more suited to a criminal activity than a scientific investigation.

    How exactly do, say, the PDO, and the hydrological cycle 'conspire'? Do they meet in a bar in Toorak and prepare their plans to raise the sea level at Botany Bay in order to increase land values at Badgery's Creek?

    Do CO2 molecules meet in an illegal consortium and decide that will accept more than their allocated quanta of IR for some unknown, but indubitably nefarious purpose?

    And why does the author set up such an outrageous straw man? Obviously geo- engineering is an absolute crock. Blind Freddy knows it. Is it to make the alternative look so much better? Dumping a billion tonnes of iron filings into the ocean won't work so we have to give geo-dynamics a few more hundreds of millions? It seems to simple for me. Surely everyone is on to this one.

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    1. Alvin Stone

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mark Pollock

      Mark Pollock, you are reading things into a sentence that aren't there. It simply means certain parts of the atmosphere work together in ways we are just starting to understand that lead to unexpected outcomes - as with the finding on how CO2 by itself affects rainfall in the tropics.

      Implying that Prof Sherwood is dishonest with that sentence is a sad indictment of your approach to climate science.

      No straw man has been sent up. Prof Sherwood is responding to the developing conversation around geo-engineering and is stating that it is not feasible to counter all the elements of global warming. Fair point, I would have thought.

      Currently, and likely into the future, stopping greenhouse gases at their source is the only viable and sensible alternative.

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  13. James Jenkin

    EFL Teacher Trainer

    How do we know geo-engineering 'won't help' in the future, just because its effectiveness is limited now?

    In the nineteenth century, pills 'didn't help' fight disease.

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    1. Mark Pollock

      Analyst

      In reply to James Jenkin

      Well yes, except they knew about, say, quinine, in pills or gin helping the odd malaria sufferer and the smallpox vaccine was well established. Actually, they knew quite a lot about pills and stuff in the nineteenth century.

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  14. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    One wonders if the author has actually done the maths to backup his claim that, ' we might be able to lower the temperature of the planet by several degrees by flying a small fleet of aircraft in the stratosphere, spraying sulphur-containing gases.'

    To cover the earth's stratosphere area of 510,000,000 square kilometres with a 1 micron thick gas layer (One thousandth of a millimetre-or about the wavelength of red light) would require approx 3,800 flights by Airbus A380 freighters to lift the 500,000 tonnes of gas daily.

    An air lift of this size would burn billions of litres of JetA1 fuel dwarfing the current consumption used on standard aviation

    It is obvious to a blind bat that the idea of covering the earth with a reflective shield is ridiculous. It would use over half the world's GDP to achieve and cause much greater environmental damage than simply adapting to a slightly warmer environment on earth.

    Do the maths next time.

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Mike Hansen

      Mr.

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Gerard Dean joins the Dunning_Kruger convention of climate science deniers overestimating their own ability to add up.

      "The proposed technology being investigated by SPICE involves a fibre-reinforced hose, held up by a helium balloon. Reflective droplets would be pumped up the hose, and sprayed out 20 kilometres above the earth’s surface.

      Predictions show that if five to ten of these hose-balloon systems were deployed around the world, they could provide a global mean cooling effect of 2°C. That’s a significant amount of global cooling."
      https://theconversation.com/geo-engineering-why-research-something-we-never-want-to-use-3684

      But as the author of the article states
      "as an engineer involved in the SPICE project, I sincerely hope that the need for this technology never arises"

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    2. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Mike Hansen

      Do the maths on the SPICE project Mr Hansen, then laugh!

      Firstly, assuming a 2" or 50mm diameter fibre reinforced hydraulic hose is used, the total hose weight (approx 2kg/metre) will be 40,000 Kg or 40 tonnes.

      Now add the fluid column weight of 1.95Kg per metre (2.5cmX2.5cmXPiX100 = 1.95Kg) which equates to 39,000 Kg or 39 tonne.

      The world's largest helium balloon was recently used by Felix Baumgartner to set a new balloon altitude record. The Red Bull balloon had a payload of 1,350Kg, which is a little over 1% of the total weight of SPICE's hose, liquid and balloon envelope.

      Are these idiots really saying we have to make 20 helium balloons that have 100 TIMES the lifting capacity than the largest ever made to spray liquid into the atmosphere. Also remember that a helium balloon constantly leaks helium, in fact their life is quoted in hours.

      YOU HAVE ALL GOT TO BE JOKING.

      Gerard Dean

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    3. Gerard Dean

      Managing Director

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Mr Hansen

      You should know better than to believe everything you read on The Conversation.

      Gerard Dean

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  15. Alex Cannara

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Very good. And, indeed the real problem thundering down the road toward us is ocean acidification, which is now half way to a very non-linear, unhappy event -- shutdown of major ocean food chains and the natural carbon sequestration system.

    The combustion folks have already won, having converted >500 billion tons of Carbon to $ and leaving air & oceans to contend with it. And, we add another 10 billion tons per year now.

    The natural cycle can sequester maybe 0.3 billion tons per year to ocean…

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  16. Jeff Poole

    logged in via Facebook

    Sadly the writer is still stuck with the muddle headed idea that we can save the planet we once knew by reducing emissions.

    He clearly hasn't noticed that we are right now in the age of runaway climate change.

    Yes of course we have to lower emissions, but if humanity - if pretty much anything more complex than microbial life - is to survive we will need to also:

    1. Refreeze the Arctic Ice Cap
    2. Remove the excess carbon in the atmosphere that caused it to melt in the first place
    3. Remove the excess methane that is now being released at exponentially increasing rates in the arctic.

    And that's only going to happen with geoengineering.

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  17. Andrew Glikson

    Earth and paleo-climate scientist at Australian National University

    Sean Lamb is asking why temperatures are not already at Pliocene level.

    As has been indicated earlier, approximately half the rise in global temperature is mitigated by emissions of SO2 .

    According to the IPCC -1.2 Watt since 1750 (IPCC-AR4-2007)
    According to Hansen and Sato (2012 )-1.6 Watt since 1880 (Figure 1 in http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110415_EnergyImbalancePaper.pdf)

    Mean global temperatures would soar to above 2 degrees C had it not been for this (unintended) industrial geo-engineering measure.

    However, the atmospheric residence time of SO2 and sulphuric acid are on the scale of few moths to a couple of years and slightly longer in the stratosphere.

    An appeal to "temperature preceding CO2 rise" needs to explain what has driven T rise in the first place, as measurements of solar radiation over the last century indicate a rise of less than 0.2 Watt/m2.

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  18. Michael Lardelli

    logged in via Facebook

    I would like to see an energy analysis of these geo-engineering ideas. My guess is that the carbon-dioxide produced (and consequent warming caused) by implementing these ideas would probably far outweigh the carbon dioxide sequested or cooling effect induced by them. As usual, "energy blindness" prevails, even in scientific circles where people should know better!

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