Thursday, December 17, 2009

Global Warming and Prevention Thereof

The news story I've been forwarded the most this week is a little thing that they call climate-gate. Apparently, some of the global warming researchers have been fudging their research. Anti-warming-activists, who insist that warming is not happening and that if it is it is natural and not man-made, and been continuously crowing about this.
Back in 2003, there was a South Korean researcher claimed to have made a significant number of moves towards human cloning, humiliating his American counterparts who had unsuccessfully attempted the same sort of thing. Suddenly, the South Korean researcher was found to have been faking large amounts of his research. He had not done the things he said he did, and what evidence he did have was faked.
If I go by the logic I've been hearing, the fakery of this one piece of research proves that human cloning is therefore impossible and should be immediately abandoned. This is insane troll logic -- the conclusion is not supported by the premises. One or two scientists faking evidence means that one or two people is a fraudster or an idiot. It does not mean that the entire field, which has thousands of people working in it, is fraudulent.
Even the claims of fraud are based on hacked emails, essentially stolen evidence. Stolen evidence that seems to only be "leaked" only to newsrooms, newsrooms who have suspiciously refused to further leak the raw data in favor of summaries of their supposed contents.
If I seem suspicious of this, I remember that there has been a movement to discredit claims of global warming lurking since I was in junior high school. Back then, their argument revolved around "so if the globe is warming, why it still winter, huh, dumbass?" This movements funding has primarily been heavy industry groups and coal concerns, two groups that would strongly lose out were the public to develop any real concern about this issue. I find their motives, claims, and rhetoric all deeply suspicious. Their only claim that has credibility to me is their claim that action will cause economic damage, and I'll get to that soon.
In any case, here's the evidence I have. The global average temperature is increasing. This increase is very uneven. In fact, increasing the temperature in some places distorts the weather and decreases the temperature elsewhere.
Global temperatures are slowly rising...
Now, any such discovery in science has implications. A change in 3 degrees doesn't sound like much, but it's already causing 6 feet of sea rise, and with it trouble for low-lying countries like the Netherlands, Tuvalu, and Bangladesh. Australian investigators suggest that reducing the CO2 level from its current 390 parts per million (ppm) to 350 ppm would do the trick. Let's figure out how to reduce 50ppm from the atmosphere, with the extra 10ppm for a safety margin. (Since cars and coal burning power plants will continue to operate while we do this.)
Asking Wolfram Alpha do do some math on this. It reports that the atmosphere weighs 2.57*10^21 kg, and therefore the mass of CO^2 that we want to cut is 2.57*10^11 kg. Quite a bit, for sure, but there are things we can do about it.
Besides not making more and allowing existing systems to absorb it, we can increase the absorption of systems. There are chemical processes that turn CO2 and salt into baking soda, which we can then stuff into an abandoned mine and forget about. This would take 1.19*10^12 m^3 of abandoned mine, which would be half the freaking Earth. Clearly, this method is a supplement. Freemanson Dyson, the inventor of the Dyson sphere, proposes that we plant trees. If a tree contains 327 kg of carbon, we will need to plant 785,932,722 trees. This would cover the entire north American continent. The ones planted in the desert regions like Arizona, Nevada, eastern California, and western Texas will require supplemental watering, but better still would be to plant them in non-American areas. Argentina, perhaps, or the grasslands in Eastern Europe.
Or, CO2 can be pumped underground, into enormous sealed pockets, in a practice called sequestering. This should ideally be in a non-inhabited area, because if the seal ever fails, it will suffocate all animals in the area to death, humans included.
In the past, the sea absorbed a lot of carbon, but this is slowing up. We could speed this back up by feeding the unproductive areas of the ocean. (they are marked black on the map). "Feeding" would consist of either pouring a nutrient-rich liquid into the water there from a boat, or stirring up nutrients from the depths below. The nutrients would encourage plankton to grow there, which would increase the mass of fish, which would increase the mass of birds, all of which would get their bodily matter from carbon that the plankton would suck from the water.
Seems to be the equatorial regions that are mostly deficient...
The plankton solution is my favorite, because another problem facing those interested in the ocean is the reduction of fish schools, which can't replenish as fast as they are fished. More fish equals more dinner, less carbon, everybody wins. But best still would be a combination of all of these, plus increased efficiency in energy use. More nuclear, less coal. More electric cars, fewer gasoline ones.
But don't worry, coal mining concern. If we also terraform Mars like I want to, Mars will need a billion tons of coal, both to keep warm and to run their growing steel industry. Mars's colonists would pay a fortune, for sure....
Aaaand I just noticed that a biologist from Alaska has completely beaten me to this. Whoops.

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