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AP Newsbreak: Obama Looks At Climate Engineering By SETH BORENSTEIN – 2 hours ago WASHINGTON (AP) — The president's new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth's air. John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month that the idea of geoengineering the climate is being discussed. One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort. "It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." Holdren outlined several "tipping points" involving global warming that could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said. Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog." At first, Holdren characterized the potential need to technologically tinker with the climate as just his personal view. However, he went on to say he has raised it in administration discussions. Holdren, a 65-year-old physicist, is far from alone in taking geoengineering more seriously. The National Academy of Science is making climate tinkering the subject of its first workshop in its new multidiscipline climate challenges program. The British parliament has also discussed the idea. The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement on geoengineering that says "it is prudent to consider geoengineering's potential, to understand its limits and to avoid rash deployment." Last week, Princeton scientist Robert Socolow told the National Academy that geoengineering should be an available option in case climate worsens dramatically. But Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said. Still, "we might get desperate enough to want to use it," he added. Another geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so-called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide — the chief human-caused greenhouse gas — out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said. Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Obama Science Advisor Advocates Climate Engineering In an interview with the Associated Press, John Holdren, President Obama’s newly confirmed science advisor, discussed the possibility of ‘climate engineering’ to battle global warming. The radical and somewhat controversial technology would require an extraordinary intervention by man in an attempt to purposely influence the climate. John Holdren as director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy is President Obama's science advisor. Mr. Holdren feels however the dangers of climate change could leave Earth with little choice. He is quoted as saying, “It's got to be looked at. We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." Climate engineering, or geoengineering, could theoretically be accomplished a number of ways. Most currently studied techniques revolve around attempts to counteract greenhouse gases, specifically carbon dioxide, which is believe to be responsible for global warming. Technology to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere called ‘air scrubbing’ is one alternative the administration is supposedly considering. Another extreme option would be to purposely inject pollution into the atmosphere to reflect the sun’s rays. Prior to his nomination, Holdren was a physicist and professor at Harvard. He has long sounded the alarm of manmade climate change saying global warming is like being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog." Over his career he has made a number of little-known controversial comments that those that disagree with the manmade climate change theory believe should have been vetted during his nomination. In the late 1960s Holdren warned that population controls needed to be implemented immediate and said that “some form of ecocatastrophe” would befall the planet. He has further recommended the “de-development” of modern industrialized countries in order to assist underdeveloped nations. In 2006 he said he believed global sea levels could rise 13 feet by the end of the century, far above the 13 inches the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said. While some scientists see promise in geoengineering, many caution that extreme care must be taken in the use of such technologies for fear of causing greater harm to the environment Obama Team Discusses Drastic Earth-Cooling Measures General Sciences By Rick C. Hodgin Wednesday, April 08, 2009 11:19 Washington (DC) - It's being reported by the Associated Press that the president's new science advisor, John Holdren, just confirmed last month, is looking at extreme methods of cooling the Earth's air. The most extreme example mentioned involves shooting air-polluting particles into the Earth's upper atmosphere. These will reflect the sun's rays back into space, thereby cooling the Earth. Holdren told the AP that the situation so dire that the air-polluting reflective particle idea is being discussed by Obama's administration. He said, "It's got to be looked at. We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." See the original AP article republished on Yahoo News. Opinion Data compiled by R.S. Bradley and J.A. Eddy based on J.T. Houghton et al., Climate Change: The IPCC Assessment, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1990 and published in EarthQuest, vo. 1, 1991. Courtesy of Thomas Crowley, viewable at Geocraft.com. When we look at this graph of the temperature over the past 18,000 years, we see that while we are warmer today than we were 18,000 years ago, we are still notably cooler then we were at various points over the past 10,000 years. In fact, for the past 10,000 years the temperature has gone up and down repeatedly within an upper and lower range, forcing me to ask a real question: How is the situation now "so dire" that this administration, the one operating between 2009 and 2013, has to tackle his problem right now? Surely we can afford to wait 20 years to find out if it's part of the normal cycles seen in our past? Or 50 years? Or 100 years? It's this kind of fear-based language coming from experts (national science advisor) with press coverage like, "The president's new science adviser said that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing drastic options to cool Earth's air" that boggles my mind! Seriously, who do these people think they're fooling? The Obama Administration Considers Geo- Engineering to Cool the Planet Ronald Bailey | April 8, 2009, 12:54pm The Associated Press is reporting that President Barack Obama's science advisor John Holdren has brought up the idea of using geo-engineering as an emergency measure for cooling the planet should man-made global warming get out of hand. The AP says: One such extreme option includes shooting pollution particles into the upper atmosphere to reflect the sun's rays. Holdren said such an experimental measure would only be used as a last resort. "It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury of taking any approach off the table." ... ...Holdren noted that shooting particles into the air — making an artificial volcano as one Nobel laureate has suggested — could have grave side effects and would not completely solve all the problems from soaring greenhouse gas emissions. So such actions could not be taken lightly, he said. Still, "we might get desperate enough to want to use it," he added. Another geoengineering option he mentioned was the use of so- called artificial trees to suck carbon dioxide — the chief human- caused greenhouse gas — out of the air and store it. At first that seemed prohibitively expensive, but a re-examination of the approach shows it might be less costly, he said. Naturally, Reason was ahead of the curve on the issue of geo-engineering the climate. In his 1997 article "Climate Controls," Gregory Benford outlined a number of possible technical fixes for cooling the planet including putting reflective dust or sulfur particles in the upper atmosphere and growing more trees to soak up carbon dioxide. On upper atmosphere particles, Benford wrote: Spreading dust in the stratosphere appears workable because at those heights tiny particles stay aloft for several years. This is why volcanoes spewing dust affect weather strongly. The tiny motes that redden our sundowns reflect more sunlight than they trap infrared. Even better than dust are microscopic droplets of sulfuric acid, which reflects light more effectively. Sulfate aerosols can also raise the number of droplets that make clouds condense, further increasing overall reflectivity. This could then be a local cooling, easier to monitor than carbon dioxide's global warming. We could perform such small, controllable experiments now. The amount of droplets or dust needed is a hundredth of the amount already blown into the atmosphere by natural processes, so we would not be venturing big dislocations. And we would get some spectacular sunsets in the bargain. Whole prescient Benford article here. My 2008 column on the geo- engineering conference at the American Enterprise Insitute can be found here.
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