Andy’s Reader

Here is where I post reading material that I found interesting. I hope you find it interesting too.

A wonderful array of scientific geekery set up to attack the climate change problem. Lots of good sentences in here. For example, I did not know that methane was the driver behind concerns regarding the permafrost: 

Many climate scientists say their biggest fear is that warming could melt the Arctic permafrost… There is twice as much CO2 locked beneath the tundra as there is in the earth’s atmosphere. Melting would release enormous stores of methane, a greenhouse gas nearly thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide.

And some wild scientific ideas (I don’t mean “wild” pejoratively, more like, “wow that’s pretty wild”): 

[Entrepreneur Nathan Myhrvold] has proposed deploying a million plastic tubes, each about a hundred metres long, to roil the water, which would help it trap more CO2. “The ocean is this giant heat sink,” he told me. “But it is very cold. The bottom is nearly freezing. If you just stirred the ocean more, you could absorb the excess CO2 and keep the planet cold.” (This is not as crazy as it sounds. In the center of the ocean, wind-driven currents bring fresh water to the surface, so stirring the ocean could transform it into a well-organized storage depot. The new water would absorb more carbon while the old water carried the carbon it has already captured into the deep.)

Two perspectives on geoengineering, one negative:

Many people see geoengineering as a false solution to an existential crisis—akin to encouraging a heart-attack patient to avoid exercise and continue to gobble fatty food [i.e. refusing to cut carbon emissions] while simply doubling his dose of Lipitor. 

And the other side of that coin: 

Predilections of the rich world… require enormous physical resources. Yet many people still hope to solve the problem of climate change just by eliminating greenhouse-gas emissions. “When people talk about bringing emissions to zero, they are talking about something that will never happen,” Ken Caldeira told me. “Because that would require a complete alteration in the way humans are built.”

This pretty great quote, for kicks:

Unlike some other scientists engaged in geoengineering, Eisenberger is not bothered by the notion of tinkering with nature. “We have devised a system that introduces no additional threats into the environment,” he told me. “And the idea of interfering with benign nature is ridiculous. The Bambi view of nature is totally false. Nature is violent, amoral, and nihilistic. If you look at the history of this planet, you will see cycles of creation and destruction that would offend our morality as human beings. But somehow, because it’s ‘nature,’ it’s supposed to be fine.”

And finally some great points regarding climate change as an international issue, another reason we need to move on towards strong, binding international governance. 

“Let’s say the Chinese government decides their monsoon strength, upon which hundreds of millions of people rely for sustenance, is weakening,” Caldeira said. “They have reason to believe that making clouds right near the ocean might help, and they started to do that, and the Indians found out and believed—justifiably or not—that it would make their monsoon worse. What happens then? Where do we go to discuss that? We have no mechanism to settle that dispute.”