Category Archives: geoengineering

Live geoengineering webcast from Woodrow Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Program

The Geoengineering for Decision Makers report is being released today during a live webcast from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars at 9:30 am PST (until 11:30 am PST, this morning, Nov. 10, 2011. From the invitation,

There is an overwhelming consensus in the scientific community that human activities are significant contributors to global temperature changes, even if other dynamics are also at work. Though there are still uncertainties about how fast the climate will change, there is substantial agreement that the impacts could become dangerous over the decades ahead. The greatest danger is that we could pass “tipping points” of self-amplifying, irreversible change into a much hotter world.

“Political decision makers are certain to face choices regarding geoengineering that will be highly controversial as well as fateful for the welfare of the nation and the planet.” says Robert L. Olson, author of “Geoengineering for Decision Makers”.

As concerns about climate change grow, strategies for intervening in the earth’s climate system – through geoengineering — have emerged. Several different viewpoints have appeared about how geoengineering should or could be developed and a number of scientists have begun to argue that geoengineering needs to be part of a larger portfolio of options for addressing climate change.

Join us on Thursday, November 10th, from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. [EST] as the Science and Technology Innovation Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center discusses their new report Geoengineering for Decision Makers

[Speakers]:

Robert Olson, Institute for Alternative Futures

Tim Persons, Chief Scientist, GAO [US General
Accountability Office]

David Rejeski, Director, Science and
Technology Innovation Program

You can go here to view the live webcast.

A glacier in the desert

Strictly speaking this is not nano but it is interesting and artistic too. A Dutch artist is planning to create a sculpture that will make ice in the desert. From the Nov. 7, 2011 news item on physorg.com,

“You have to open the borders of your thinking,” he [Ap Verheggen] said, in his apartment surrounded by his works. “To make ice in the desert is breaking down the border, and that is opening a new world.”

Verheggen’s giant sculpture is so far only a sketch and a series of charts in a laboratory in Zoetermeer, near his home in The Hague. Cofely, a refrigeration company that makes ice rinks and custom-designed cooling units for food storage, is testing the principles of creating ice in desert conditions.

Scientist Andras Szollosi-Nagi says Verheggen’s work falls at the crossroads of art, environment and science. “It’s an amazing piece, it’s very unusual and that makes it very exciting.”

In Zoetermeer, engineers have produced a 10-centimeter (4-inch)-thick layer of ice on a slab of aluminum inside a shipping container-sized box that simulates desert conditions, with the temperature set at 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and plans to crank it up to 50C (122F). A humidifier provides the moisture, and a fan is directed at the ice like a desert breeze, resulting in a pool of water dripping off the surface of the ice sheet even as it thickens.

The company is using off-the-shelf technology. “Everybody thinks it’s dry in the desert, but it’s roughly the same amount of moisture in the air as here,” said project manager Erik Hoogendoorn.

Verheggen has created other art/science sculptures with environmental themes. You can read more about them on his blog and about this project SunGlacier on its own blog. I found this video about an earlier project, cool(E)motion, on Verheggen’s personal blog.

According to the SunGlacier blog (Project Outline page), there is a link between the two projects,

The SunGlacier art project hopes to stimulate people to think creatively about solutions to the challenges of climate change. These changes are not necessarily all negative or better still, if we can find a way to turn some of them to our advantage then nothing should stop us to do so. To carry this fresh and positive way of thinking forward, I have kicked off the SunGlacier project as a new and unique sequel to the successful cool(E)motion endeavour.

Geo engineering and climate change

I just finished reading an article by Jamais Cascio in the Wall Street Journal on geoengineering. I was directed there from Andrew Maynard’s 2020 Science blog and while this isn’t my usual thing it’s one of those ideas that’s both intriguing and deeply disturbing to me.

I’ve read other pieces by Cascio and find him to be a very thoughtful writer so I’m inclined to pay attention when he writes about something. From what I can gather after reading his article, geoengineering needs to be seriously considered now that climate change is rapidly approaching a crisis/tipping point. (Others may disagree with whether or not we are having a crisis but that’s another discussion.) We have not sufficiently decreased the amount of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere thereby allowing us to reverse the changes currently taking place. Cascio is proposing that we consider geoengineering not as a solution to too much carbon being released but as a stopgap (breathing space) while we seriously address the issues. You can read Cascio’s article here and you can read Andrew Maynard’s comments about it here.

The most feasible solutions as described by Cascio make me very nervous (either pump sulfates or seawater up into the atmosphere) but he presents a persuasive case for a geoengineering solution coupled with serious efforts to reduce carbon emissions.