Mary A Moore
The novel ‘Fahrenheit 451′ brought us to a world where books were banned and in a flicker of absurdity, your house would be burnt to the ground by ‘firemen’ if you were found to possess such an inflammatory form of knowledge. As our carbon levels soar past the 400ppm mark, and then the 450ppm mark, the 500ppm mark and so on, will we be forced to examine what our science can do to change our dire predicament or do we choose to continue along a critical trajectory unabated . Will we wait to do the absurd and geoengineer our world if we hit 451ppm or more, and we will agree together or will a few decide for all in a state of chaos? What will be the fallout of actions initiated on one side of the world perhaps negatively impacting the other side, or that leaves others to fend for themselves. Can we help future generations or have we condemned them. With our current carbon 400ppm rating, and assuming some degree of similarity to an ancient past we have little in common with, our temperature should rise about 4-5 degrees from our global average currently. At that time the oceans were significantly higher (40 meters) and the Arctic was ice free. One model of prediction views our current time as critical to where our levels will peak and then hopefully, decline. The time frames used are 2015, 2020, and 2025. Whether we stabilize at the theoretical possibility of 450, 550 or 650ppm with corresponding reductions of 4%,6% and 3% in reductions of CO2 and further decreases of 6.5%,9% and 3.5% in energy and process emissions, what we start to lay in place now will affect generations that come after us. The time frames are closer than we like to think of with global warming. We often view this a something far off in the distance, something which we can procrastinate about.
Considering a future that is heavily reliant on coal electrical production and accelerating, our chances for survival can be increased by using both a front end process of scrubbing and carbon capture technology, and a back end process of carbon sequestration on a large scale, perhaps using a large vector such as the ocean with associated acidification. How much we can delay the inevitable warming through further means such as solar radiation management (SRM) from reaching the atmosphere remains to be seen. Our rate of survival for not only our species but all others, will be better the more time we have to adapt. Others have debated whether we will have opened Pandora’s box while trying to delay a natural equilibrium, and will we be ever more playing doctor with our planetary homeostasis with little understanding of what we do. We have been geoengineering our world ever since man first started altering his natural environment to suit his purposes. Homo Sapiens have damned rivers, flooded valleys, blasted roads through mountains, changed the composition of our atmosphere, dumped mounds of garbage in our oceans, and created vast tracks of deforestation. We just have not thought about the cumulative nature of our collective actions as geoengineering, and for the most part our actions were done without extensive consideration. At this critical juncture can we be different?
While a carbon tax can be used to change behaviour patterns, the financial resources needed to do geoengineering on a global scale have not been considered, and would be difficult to accurately calculate. Would payment be decided as an amount or percentage of GDP. Are countries the financial source or will corporations also be taxed. Core design factors need to be considered in managing a dynamic process. Is there the ability to adjust, stop, or reverse in response to targeted feedback markers, what associated catalysts or variables can enhance or slow the process in question, and can some of what we design be multipurpose to defray some of the costs or provide additional utility? Proposing to throw some quantity of something somewhere and hoping this will turn out, even with advanced modelling, is foolhardy. We have sent men to the moon, and machines to the outer limits of our galaxies. Can we organize sufficiently to globally self regulate our planet to maintain a livable ecosystem and what organizational structures have to be put into place to allow us the global refocusing that will be needed. The absurd will have to become reality.