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The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 09 Jun 2014, 17:44:23

Can carbon emissions become a revenue stream?

But what if we could take CO2 emissions from factories, refineries, and power plants and turn them into value-added byproducts that generate cash? What if we could mimic nature’s process of reusing waste streams, but with turnaround times in minutes instead of months, years, decades, or centuries? One company, Austin, Texas-based startup Skyonic, claims it is just months away from cracking this code.

The company's initial effort, a $125 million commercial-scale facility located at a San Antonio, Texas cement factory, is scheduled to open later this year. Skyonic plans to capture CO2 from the cement plant’s exhaust stream, convert the gas into solids in a process called “mineralization,” and process it into bicarbonate (baking soda) and hydrochloric acid. For its next act, the company is aiming to take carbon emissions and turn them into limestone (an approximately $400 billion annual global industry, according to the company), and use it for making everything from paper and glass to paint and cement.

What’s the payback time for such a plant? Skyonic CEO Joe Jones estimates that the company’s first facility will produce around $50 million per year in saleable product, split among acid and bicarbonate. The company is projecting an internal rate of return of 30 percent on its first plant and expects that future plants can be built with similar returns. Additionally, the San Antonio plant will reportedly strip more than 90 percent of the CO2 from the factory’s emissions, with future plants projected to perform similarly.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 28 Jun 2014, 21:58:15

Capturing carbon dioxide emissions needed to meet climate targets

Technologies that are discussed controversially today may be needed to keep the future risks and costs of climate change in check. Combining the production of energy from fossil fuels and biomass with capturing and storing the carbon dioxide they emit can be key to achieving current climate policy objectives such as limiting the rise of the global mean temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 30 Jun 2014, 19:34:32

The secret to richer, carbon-capturing soil? Treat your microbes well

Imagine if someone invented machines to suck carbon out of the atmosphere — machines that were absurdly cheap, autonomous, and solar powered, too. Wouldn’t that be great? But we already have these gadgets! They’re called plants.

The problem is, plants die. So there’s one hurdle remaining: We have to figure out how to lock away the carbon in dead plants so that it doesn’t just return to the atmosphere. The obvious place to put that carbon is into the ground. And so, for years, scientists and governments have been urging farmers to leave their crop residue — the stalks and leaves — on the ground, so it would be incorporated into the soil. The trouble is, sometimes this doesn’t work: Farmers will leave residues on a field and they won’t turn into carbon-rich soil — they’ll just sit there. Sometimes, the whole process ends up releasing more greenhouse gasses than it locks away.

This has left people scratching their heads. But now a simple idea is spreading that could allow farmers to begin reliably pulling carbon out of the atmosphere and into their soil.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Tue 01 Jul 2014, 00:33:56

"The secret to richer, carbon-capturing soil? Treat your microbes well"

Which is exactly what we haven't been doing for decades on a massive, massive scale!
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 01 Jul 2014, 17:59:25

Engineering the ocean

Since the 1980s, Smetacek has taken regular expeditions from his home port of Bremerhaven to the Southern Ocean aboard the sturdy icebreaker Polarstern. He goes to study the plankton that fill the sea from top to bottom, extending even into the sediments of the sea floor. Plankton is our planet’s most prolific life form, and the food it generates makes up the base layer of the global food chain. The variety of shapes among plankton species shames plants on land, showing more range in size than the difference between moss and redwood trees. There are more plankton cells in the sea than our current count of stars in the entire universe. Indeed, it is precisely this abundance that leads Smetacek to suspect that plankton could be used to change Earth’s environment.

That these tiny creatures could affect such massive change is not as unreasonable as it sounds. Much of the oxygen we breathe comes from just one species of cyanobacteria, Prochlorococcus. This species was not even discovered until the 1980s: it is so tiny that millions can fit into a single drop of water and no one had produced a sieve small enough to catch it. The oxygen made by these tiny marine plants dwarfs that produced by the Amazon rainforest and the rest of the world’s woodlands combined. By taking in CO2 and exhaling oxygen, these tiny creatures serve as the planet’s lungs, whose steady breathing is limited only by nutrition. Just as land plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and other elements to thrive, missing nutrients restrain planktons’ growth. Add enough of those missing elements – via dust blown off a continent or fertiliser run-off from farm fields – and the oceans will produce blooms that can be seen from space.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Sat 05 Jul 2014, 19:04:47

Climate engineering offers little hope of mitigation

Injecting particles into the stratosphere to shade and cool the Earth will never stop climate change. This is the shocking claim made in the July issue of Nature Climate Change by an international group of prominent scientists, including Dutchmen Marten Scheffer from Wageningen University and Aart de Zeeuw from Tilburg University.


Furthermore, geo-engineering is not without risk. For example, there is much uncertainty about the effects on the distribution of precipitation and heat around the world. Its application to solve a regional problem (to extend the monsoon season, for example) can lead to unpredictable, new problems for other countries. Achieving political consensus is most likely if the world as a whole is faced with a major disaster, such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. However, even then politicians will ask themselves – given the risks involved in geo-engineering – whether adaptation to climate change is not a better solution.

This is a blow to technocrats, acknowledge the researchers. 'In any case, geo-engineering is not going to be the breakthrough that some had expected.'


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 08 Jul 2014, 18:11:17

Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change

The first success of the environmental movements of the 1960s was to save the whale. Now, with deep irony, whales may be about to save us with their poo. A new scientific report from the University of Vermont, which gathers together several decades of research, shows that the great whales which nearly became extinct in the 20th century – and are now recovering in number due to the 1983 ban on whaling – may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces.

Not only do the nutrients in whale poo feed other organisms, from phytoplankton upwards – and thereby absorb the carbon we humans are pumping into the atmosphere – even in death the sinking bodies of these massive animals create new resources on the sea bed, where entire species exist solely to graze on rotting whale. There's an additional and direct benefit for humans, too. Contrary to the suspicions of fishermen that whales take their catch, cetacean recovery could "lead to higher rates of productivity in locations where whales aggregate to feed and give birth". Their fertilizing faeces here, too, would encourage phytoplankton which in turn would encourage healthier fisheries.

Such propositions speak to our own species' arrogance. As demonstrated in the fantastical geoengineering projects dreamed up to address climate change, the human race's belief that the world revolves around it knows no bounds. What if whales were nature's ultimate geoengineers? The new report only underlines what has been suspected for some time: that cetaceans, both living and dead, are ecosystems in their own right.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Tue 08 Jul 2014, 18:48:52

"Climate engineering offers little hope of mitigation"

Say that over to yourself, G, again and again and again, every night before you go to sleep, every morning when you wake up, every time you sit down to eat...maybe eventually it will sink in! :lol:

Really, the juxtaposition of your last two articles here did strike me as kind of funny--give up all hope of engineering your way out of the apocalypse and place all your faith in...cetal feces! (OK, I just made up the word 'cetal;' but English is oddly lacking a specifically adjectival form for 'whale.')
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 08 Jul 2014, 19:01:29

D, The first article you refer to is about SRM. That is a dead duck not the myriad of other "geoengineering" efforts I've posted in this thread including whale poo! All need to be evaluated; the worst thrown out (SRM) and best adopted - not sure what they are off the cuff (BECCS? CCS?). I think humanity will try many of them soon enough. We have no choice because carbon reduction in atmosphere can't come soon enough and this (geoengineering) is required anyway.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby dohboi » Tue 08 Jul 2014, 23:04:00

I mostly see it as a sure sign of our utterly desperate predicament that even thoughtful, intelligent people such as yourself (and many others) are considering these schemes.

Haven't there been movies made about Solar Radiation Management schemes gone awry? (Unless, of course, you meant Supply Relationship Management, or Schoberer Rad Messtechnik, or the Society for Range Management, Sri Ramaswami Memorial University... :lol: )
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby americandream » Wed 09 Jul 2014, 02:18:35

In fact, peddling false hope in remedying the ills of a fatally flawed system is possibly as dangerous as promoting the system.
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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 15 Jul 2014, 18:22:02

Can the Fern That Cooled the Planet Do It Again?

Fifty-five million years ago, when scientists believe the Earth was in a near-runaway state, dangerously overheated by greenhouse gases, the Arctic Ocean was also a very different place. It was a large lake, connected to the greater oceans by one primary opening: the Turgay Sea.

When this channel closed or was blocked nearly 50 million years ago, the enclosed body of water became the perfect habitat for a small-leaved fern called Azolla. Imagine the Arctic like the Dead Sea of today: It was a hot lake that had become stratified, suffering from a lack of exchange with outside waters. That meant its waters were loaded with excess nutrients.

Azolla took advantage of the abundant nitrogen and carbon dioxide, two of its favorite foods, and flourished. Large populations formed thick mats that covered the body of the lake. When rainfall increased from the changing climate, flooding provided a thin layer of fresh water for Azolla to creep outward, over parts of the surrounding continents.

Azolla bloomed and died like this in cycles for roughly 1 million years, each time laying down an additional layer of the thick blanket of sediment that was finally found in 2004 by the Arctic Coring Expedition.

The fact that the fern only needs a little over an inch of water under it to grow makes the whole scenario seem just within reason—that is, until you learn how much carbon this carbon dioxide-hungry plant sucked up over the course of those million years.

"Around half of the CO2 available at the time," said Jonathan Bujak, who studies dust and fine plant particles as a palynologist. "Levels dropped from between 25,000 and 35,000 [parts per million] to between 15,000 and 16,000 ppm."


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Fri 18 Jul 2014, 21:00:02

Construction begins in Texas on world’s largest carbon capture facility

Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) could be a key technology option in reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the world’s fossil fuel power plants. But, the technology has become better known for its setbacks than successes in recent years. This week revealed a glimmer of hope for CCS supporters as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that construction has begun on the world’s largest post-combustion CCS facility.

The Petra Nova project is located near Houston, Texas and is a joint venture between the U.S. DOE, NRG Energy and JX Nippon. With a current price tag topping $470 million, the project is expected to capture up to 90% of emissions from 240 MW of electricity generation capacity.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 22 Jul 2014, 18:19:41

Corralling Carbon Before It Belches From Stack

If there is any hope of staving off the worst effects of climate change, many scientists say, this must be part of it — capturing the carbon that spews from power plants and locking it away, permanently. For now, they contend, the world is too dependent on fossil fuels to do anything less.

If all goes as planned, the effort in Saskatchewan will be the first major one of its kind at a power plant, the equivalent of taking about 250,000 cars off the road. And at least in theory, that carbon dioxide will be kept out of the atmosphere forever.

“Think about how far we’ve come,” said Mr. Zeleny, who recently retired after four decades here, most recently as plant manager.

Despite President Obama’s push to rein in emissions from power plants across the United States, coal is not going away anytime soon. The administration expects coal will still produce nearly a third of the nation’s electricity in 2030, down from about 40 percent today, even if Mr. Obama’s plan survives the political onslaught against it.


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Ten reasons why policy makers should take direct air capture seriously

Despite the fact that the impacts of manmade climate change are already being felt and that failure to mitigate these effects by lessening fossil fuel CO2 emissions could result in dire consequences, policies enacted to reduce these emissions have been grossly insufficient. While there is no one silver bullet to "solve" climate change, many technologically feasible solutions exist that together can work to close the carbon loop and account for net zero carbon emissions.


Though still nascent, and requiring more research and development, direct air capture, a technology that extracts CO2 from ambient air, represents an option to be technologically optimistic. It is economically viable in several areas and can permit negative emissions to eventually stabilize atmospheric concentrations. However, as this technology scales up from demonstrations to pilot scale to commercialization, the deployment is not without risks and challenges that could delay or distract from its use as an effective means to manage our carbon footprint. While current support for the pioneers in this industry comes from private and philanthropic investment, below are 10 reasons why policy makers should take direct air capture seriously.

1. Direct air capture represents a technological fix to climate change


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Geoengineering - Insanity? All the More Reason to Discuss It

Is geoengineering the key to solving the global climate change problem? That’s the kind of question that evokes a knee-jerk reaction from those who consider it, including me. I believe we’re already doing enough geoengineering on the planet, albeit unplanned and perhaps unintended. For me, geoengineering like the kind environmental engineer David Keith speaks of in the TED Talk video below, is a fool’s errand.

Keith, who has done extensive research into geoengineering, doesn’t necessarily disagree. But he does caution that to make an informed and morally justified decision about whether to employ it or not requires a more nuanced approach in how we think about it.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 28 Jul 2014, 19:57:59

Geoengineering: Lessons from Human Bioengineering

[W]e have no non-radical solutions left to deal with climate change… either we face a radical climate catastrophe or we must radically shift our economy and modes of social organisation away from the current fossil fuel economy

That was the message given by David Spratt, author of Climate Code Red, and Ian Dunlop, who formerly chaired the Australian Coal Association but has since become a climate activist, at the Breakthrough 2014, National Climate Restoration Forum, last month in Melbourne, reported by Green Left Weekly.

One source of radical solutions is the growing geoengineering industry. Recently proposed methods for the sequestering of carbon dioxide include ants, iron sulfate and artificial trees .

Debate continues about when and how geoengineering might ever be deployed. Amongst environmentalists, support for geoengineering methods is low. Green Left Weekly explains:

as Clive Hamilton describes in his book Earthmasters, geoengineering technologies are supported by leading climate denial organisations and by the fossil fuel industry. This is because they seem to offer a way that fossil fuel use can continue unabated. The side effects of these technologies could be brutal: for example, severe drought in Africa and Asia. Moreover, if spraying was stopped, temperatures would rise rapidly, leading to even more devastating impacts.

Will regulation help? Green Left Weekly argues that governments have been unable to regulate fossil fuel industries effectively, and that they will be unlikely to succeed more here.

It is fruitful to look at comparisons with human genetic or biological modification, or human bioengineering.

Both are complex systems affecting life processes. There has been considerable debate and reflection on human bioengineering, human bioenhancement or genetic selection. Could the results of this reflection be of use in considering the ethics of geoengineering?


1. Geoengineering is already occurring
2. The treatment-enhancement distinction is unhelpful
3. Non-identity of future generations makes selection, not enhancement, a precautionary approach
4. Justice is a major ethical principle
5. Objectivity if unavoidable


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Thu 31 Jul 2014, 17:48:31

Failure to deal with ethics will make climate engineering ‘unviable’

Research into ways to engineer the Earth’s climate as a last-ditch response to global warming will be rendered “unviable” if the associated ethical issues are not tackled first, a leading environmental philosopher has warned.

Prof Stephen Gardiner, of the University of Washington, Seattle, told the Guardian that so-called geoengineering risked making problems worse for future generations.

Gardiner was in Sydney for a two-day symposium that aimed to grapple with the moral and ethical consequences of geoengineering, also known as climate modification.

Later this year, the United States’ National Academy of Sciences is due to publish a key report into the “technical feasibility” of a number of proposed geoengineering methods, which fall into two categories.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Fri 01 Aug 2014, 17:38:52

Pilot Project to Test the Climate Change Benefits of Biochar

Pilot Project to Test the Climate Change Benefits of Biochar, is an add-on component to an on-going Strategic Program for Climate Resilience (SPCR) project, Mainstreaming Climate Risk Management in Development, lead by the Asian Development Bank. The objective of the biochar project is to pilot-test, in three agro-ecological zones of Nepal, biochar production as a climate change adapting soil amendment, carbon sequestration method, and rural energy source in Nepal. Biochar is a stable form of charcoal produced from heating natural organic materials (agricultural waste, woodchips, manure) in a high temperature, low oxygen process known as pyrolysis. Biochar is said to have multiple benefits, both in terms of adaptation to and mitigation of climate change. The aim is to test and demonstrate these benefits in Nepal.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 12 Aug 2014, 18:44:46

Ants May Boost CO2 Absorption Enough to Slow Global Warming

Ants can speed up mineral reactions that capture atmospheric carbon dioxide so dramatically that they could one day be enlisted in the fight against climate change.


Using ants to help capture CO2 and help fight global warming stems from a study Dorn published recently in Geology linking ants to the acceleration of natural carbon dioxide absorption in rock by up to 335 times, compared with absorption in ant-free areas.

Responding to the study, David Schwartzman, emeritus professor of biogeochemistry at Howard University who reviewed but was not a part of the research, said that encouraging ant colonization “will be important in carbon sequestration” from the atmosphere.

Of course, both he and Dorn note, the ants themselves may not always be necessary once researchers learn more about how the insects promote carbon sequestration. “I don’t know if you can just have massive ant colonies hanging around a power plant. But if we know what particular secretion of an ant gland is doing this trick, or combinations of secretions,” Dorn says, then those substances could potentially be produced in quantity.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Mon 18 Aug 2014, 21:04:08

The Royal Society Proposes First Framework for Climate Engineering Experiments

The Royal Society of London, the world's oldest scientific publisher, has unveiled a proposal to create the first serious framework for future geoengineering experiments.

It's a sign that what are still considered drastic and risky measures to combat climate change, like artificially injecting tiny particles into the Earth's atmosphere to reflect sunlight back into space, are drifting further into the purview of mainstream science. The august scientific body has issued a call to create "an open and transparent review process that ensures such experiments have the necessary social license to operate."

Professor Steve Rayner, the co-director of the Oxford Geoengineering Programme, released what's been christened the 'Berlin Declaration', at the world's first major climate engineering conference currently underway in Germany. Rayner issued a call for amendments from the conference's attendees, which includes top climate scientists, policymakers, and geoengineering scholars.

The draft, in its current iteration, states that "New technologies have the potential to provide significant benefits to society, but they can also be controversial. Indeed the controversies surrounding new technologies have often led to a backlash against their development, as has been seen in the fields of genetically modified organisms and nuclear power." You can read the full draft here—it was distributed at the Climate Engineering Conference in Berlin, where I'll be reporting from all week.

It's specifically focused on a subset of geoengineering projects called solar radiation management, which also includes proposals to brighten clouds over the ocean and to send tiny mirrors into orbit to deflect sunlight. The grander geoengineering projects, which fall into this category, have inspired comparisons to schemes befitting Dr. Evil.


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Re: The Geoengineering Thread Pt. 2

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 19 Aug 2014, 18:50:31

Why George Monbiot is wrong: grazing livestock can save the world

In his recent interview with Allan Savory, the high profile biologist and farmer who argues that properly managing grazing animals can counter climate chaos, George Monbiot reasonably asks for proof. Where I believe he strays into the unreasonable, is in asserting that there is none.

Savory’s argument, which counters popular conceptions, is that more livestock rather than fewer can help save the planet through a concept he calls “holistic management.” In brief, he contends that grazing livestock can reverse desertification and restore carbon to the soil, enhancing its biodiversity and countering climate change. Monbiot claims that this approach doesn’t work and in fact does more harm than good. But his assertions skip over the science and on the ground evidence that say otherwise.

Richard Teague, a range scientist from Texas A&M University, presented in favour of Savory’s theory at the recent Putting Grasslands to Work conference in London. Teague’s research is finding significant soil carbon sequestration from holistic range management practices.

Soil scientist, Dr Elaine Ingham, a microbiologist and until recently chief scientist at Rodale Institute, described how healthy soil, the underpinning of civilization throughout history, is created in interaction between grazing animals and soil microbiology. Peer-reviewed research from Rodale has shown how regenerative agriculture can sequester more carbon than humans are now emitting. Scientists, as well as dozens of farmers, ranchers and pastoralists from around the world, describe how they are increasing the health of their land, the carrying capacity of it, its biodiversity, and its profitability, all while preserving their culture and traditions.

How much carbon can be sequestered in properly managed grasslands and how fast? We don’t know, but we do know that massive carbon reserves were present in the ten-foot thick black soil of the historic grasslands of the Great Plains of the US. We know that the globe’s grasslands are the second largest store of naturally sequestered carbon after the oceans. They got that way by co-evolving with pre-industrial grazing practices: sufficient herds of native graziers, dense packed by healthy populations of predators.


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