Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming

Apr 08, 2009 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
John Holdren talks about his role as President Obama's science adviser during an interview with The Associated Press, in Washington, Wednesday, April 8, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP) -- Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming - a radical idea once dismissed out of hand - is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday.

That's because is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press in his first interview since being confirmed last month.

The concept of using technology to purposely cool the is called geoengineering. One option raised by Holdren and proposed by a Nobel Prize-winning scientist includes shooting pollution particles into the to reflect the sun's rays.

Using such an experimental measure is only being thought of as a last resort, Holdren said.

"It's got to be looked at," he said. "We don't have the luxury ... of ruling any approach off the table."

His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" 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."

He and many experts believe that warming of a few degrees more would lead to disastrous drought conditions and food shortages in some regions, rising seas and more powerful coastal storms in others.

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.

"We're talking about all these issues in the White House," Holdren said. "There's a very vigorous process going on of discussing all the options for addressing the energy climate challenge."

Holdren said discussions include Cabinet officials and heads of sub-Cabinet level agencies, such as NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The 65-year-old physicist is far from alone in taking geoengineering seriously. The National Academy of Sciences is making it the subject of the first workshop in its new climate challenges program for policymakers, scientists and the public. The British Parliament has also discussed the idea. At an international meeting of climate scientists last month in Copenhagen, 15 talks dealt with different aspects of geoengineering.

The American Meteorological Society is crafting a policy statement 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.

Holdren, a 1981 winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, outlined these possible geoengineering options:

- Shooting sulfur particles (like those produced by power plants and volcanoes, for example) into the upper atmosphere, an idea that gained steam when it was proposed by Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in 2006. It would be "basically mimicking the effect of volcanoes in screening out the incoming sunlight," Holdren said.

- Creating artificial "trees" - giant towers that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

The first approach would "try to produce a cooling effect to offset the heating effect of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases," Holdren said.

But he said there could be grave side effects. Studies suggest that might include eating away a large chunk of the ozone layer above the poles and causing the Mediterranean and the Mideast to be much drier.

And those are just the predicted problems. Scientists say they worry about side effects that they don't anticipate.

While the idea could strike some people as too risky, the Obama administration could get unusual support on the idea from groups that have often denied the harm of global warming in the past.

The conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute has its own geoengineering project, saying it could be "feasible and cost-effective." And Cato Institute scholar Jerry Taylor said Wednesday: "Very few people would rule out geoengineering on its face."

Holdren didn't spell out under what circumstances such extreme measures might ever be called for. And he emphasized they are not something to rely on.

"It would be preferable by far," he said, "to solve this problem by reducing emissions of greenhouse gases."

Yet there is already significant opposition building to the House Democratic leaders' bill aimed at achieving President Barack Obama's goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.

Holdren said temperatures should be kept from rising more than 3.6 degrees. To get there, he said the U.S. and other industrial nations have to begin permanent dramatic cuts in carbon dioxide pollution by 2015, with developing countries following suit within a decade.

Those efforts are racing against three tipping points he cited: Earth could be as close as six years away from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice, he said, and that has the potential of altering the climate in unforeseen ways. Other elements that could dramatically speed up climate change include the release of frozen methane from thawing permafrost in Siberia, and more and bigger wildfires worldwide.

The trouble is that no one knows when these things are coming, he said.

Holdren also addressed other topics during the interview:

- The U.S. anti-ballistic missile program is not ready to work and shouldn't be used unless it is 100 percent effective. The system, which would be used to shoot down missiles from countries like North Korea or Iran "needs to be essentially perfect ... that's going to be hard to achieve."

- Holdren said NASA needs some changes. He said the Bush administration's plan to return astronauts to the moon was underfunded so money was taken from science and aeronautics. Those areas, including climate change research, were "decimated," he said.

The administration will "rebalance NASA's programs so that we have in space exploration, a suitable mix of manned activities and robotic activities," Holdren said. Doing that "will only get under way in earnest when a new administrator is in place."

Holdren, who advises the president on such decisions, said he hopes Obama will pick a new NASA boss soon.

---

On the Net:

Office of Science and Technology Policy: http://www.ostp.gov/

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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User comments : 33

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Arkaleus
3.3 / 5 (17) Apr 08, 2009
Mr. Holdren,

You're fired.

I recommend that you move to the UK, where paranoid climate hysteria happily strides alongside psychotic social policy.
Doug_Huffman
3 / 5 (8) Apr 08, 2009
Precautionary principle!
MikeB
3.6 / 5 (14) Apr 08, 2009
Employing Holdren at the highest levels of power in our government is like being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."
MikeB
4.1 / 5 (13) Apr 08, 2009
Instead of making artificial trees, it is out of the question to plant real trees? The engineering has already been done.
mikiwud
2.3 / 5 (10) Apr 08, 2009
Arkaleus,
Keep him, we've enough nutcases in the government already. I still give you 5 for effort.
Horse and stable door comes to mind. Now we are going into a cold spell, more cooling is what we need! Not.
GrayMouser
3.6 / 5 (9) Apr 08, 2009
Precautionary principle!

Has no foundation in science. It is a political principal only that is used to justify panicking people for no reason.
E_L_Earnhardt
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2009
There ARE ways to increase rainfall!
vlam67
2.1 / 5 (8) Apr 09, 2009
Holdren didn't spell out under what circumstances such extreme measures might ever be called for...


Oh well, personally i'd say when half the human population died off before inertia and dogma will be overcome, and harsh measures taken. When it's all over, welcome to a leaner world with 1/4 the numbers!
Doug_Huffman
4.2 / 5 (6) Apr 09, 2009
Yes, the precautionary principle is used only to panic people. That is the way it has been employed against scientists that resist political manipulation. Now the government would indulge in speculative actions and ignore their precautionary principle.

Hoist on their own petard, sniffing their own fart.
lengould100
2.3 / 5 (10) Apr 09, 2009
Be interesting to know when the last time any of you commentors published a scientific paper on anything, much less on climatology!
JCincy
3.5 / 5 (6) Apr 09, 2009
Instead of making artificial trees, it is out of the question to plant real trees? The engineering has already been done.


That's too obvious for the intellectual folks trying getting more government grants to fund their 'research'.

Follow the money trail.
MrGrynch
4.1 / 5 (9) Apr 09, 2009
Stupidest thing I ever heard... Yes, mankind is polluting the environment, and that needs to stop on its own merit, but we are NOT causing global warming. The entire idea is based on a false assumption about why Venus is so hot. Why is Mars experiencing a similar trend? Are the rovers pumping out too much "greenhouse" gasses? This is a natural process and we're just gonna have to ride it out. Mucking with the atmosphere is the ultimate in folly when we don't even understand the mechanics behind the problem. If you want to know why we are warming, just like Mars, or why Venus is so hot, check out plasma cosmology.

Forget about altering the environment, instead, figure out where to move the millions of people that will be displaced by rising waters, and develop continuity plans so we aren't destroyed economically.

@lenqould100 - I have been published several times, 4 times in the field of aerospace research and once (so far) in the field of theoretical physics:

http://dx.doi.org....3062146
marjon
3 / 5 (6) Apr 09, 2009
Obama wants to prove he is the Messiah?
LuckyBrandon
2 / 5 (4) Apr 09, 2009
there's only one messiah...

and it was a ship or something on a movie :D
marjon
3.2 / 5 (9) Apr 09, 2009
Be interesting to know when the last time any of you commentors published a scientific paper on anything, much less on climatology!


The Wegman report claimed the climatology community to be incestuous. Why should being published in the incestuous climatology community mean anything to me?
thales
5 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2009
The Wegman report claimed the climatology community to be incestuous. Why should being published in the incestuous climatology community mean anything to me?

Because it's a way to signal how kinky you're willing to be?
Gammakozy
3.9 / 5 (7) Apr 09, 2009
The greatest danger to the planet are pseudo-intellectual megalomaniacs like Holdren being given power to try to fix the world. When has the liberal left fixed anything? Their decades long war on poverty, measures to fix public schools and sex education programs are all abysmal failures that have made each problem worse. With a track record like this, only a gullible fool would trust them to "fix" the planet.
Branden520
3.2 / 5 (5) Apr 09, 2009
Here's an idea. Let's start a nuclear war.

Not only will it cool the planet in a decade long nuclear winter but it will also lower the population of the world by at least half. Hmmm. Why not?

What about drilling into the Yellowstone Basin and erupting that supervolcano? There is a cheap easy fix.

The point is we are considering injecting pollutants into the upper atmosphere to cool the planet to an unknown degree with unknown consequences and unknown results.

Let's fix our population and energy problem, let the globe warm and once the ocean currents stop we will be fine. :)
Velanarris
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 10, 2009
Just one more reason to part ways with the US. They keep this up and I'll be moving.
mikiwud
3.4 / 5 (5) Apr 10, 2009
Just one more reason to part ways with the US. They keep this up and I'll be moving.

Where could you go? Options shrink day by day as more lunatics run the asylum. Out of the frying pan into the fire and captive audience come to mind. I think it will all end in tears, especially in the Evil Union.
Velanarris
4.5 / 5 (11) Apr 10, 2009
Where could you go? Options shrink day by day as more lunatics run the asylum. Out of the frying pan into the fire and captive audience come to mind. I think it will all end in tears, especially in the Evil Union.


Contrary to popular belief there are a lot of countries that lead a far safer and freer existence than the US.

On another note, before scientists even think about implementing any sort of global warming solution they need to establish a few things that this magical consensus can't speak to.

1) Is warming occuring? (most people believe this to be true, I am one of them)
2) Is this warming outside of natural deviation?
3) Is this warming detrimental?
4) Is this warming catastrophic?
5) Can it be mitigated through adaptation?
6) What are our available options if adaptation is not an option?

etc etc.

To have someone blatantly say "we can shoot pollution into the atmosphere to combat pollution based warming" really offends me, and it should offend anyone who's paying tax dollars to keep these people employed.
GrayMouser
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 10, 2009
Be interesting to know when the last time any of you commentors published a scientific paper on anything, much less on climatology!

What would that prove? Isn't this an electronic Hyde Park?
Velanarris
4.3 / 5 (6) Apr 10, 2009
What would that prove? Isn't this an electronic Hyde Park?
Len isn't really that up on technology, and as such, the free exchange of ideas is anathema to his former schema of Argument from Authority or Bust.
thorn
2 / 5 (4) Apr 10, 2009
Forget about altering the enviroment... To late we already have in profound ways. In about 20 years if everyone under the age of 25 doesn't eat everyone older than themselves. It will be because we have managed to curb polution or they have been raised to be bigger and better people than us.
Noein
1.6 / 5 (7) Apr 10, 2009
Be interesting to know when the last time any of you commentors published a scientific paper on anything, much less on climatology!


The answer to that is, of course, never.

The global warming denialists really aren't interested in doing science at all. They're only interested in advancing their ideologies: anarcho-capitalism, free market theology, orgasmic consumerism, shallow materialism, etc.
Velanarris
5 / 5 (4) Apr 11, 2009
The answer to that is, of course, never.


Well let's take a look at a review of the published works from Mann and his ilk.

From the Wegman Report (:http://climateaud...ort.pdf)

Findings
In general, we found MBH98 and MBH99 to be somewhat obscure and incomplete and the criticisms of MM03/05a/05b to be valid and compelling. We also comment that they were attempting to draw attention to the discrepancies in MBH98 and MBH99, and not to do paleoclimatic temperature reconstruction. Normally, one would try to select a
calibration dataset that is representative of the entire dataset. The 1902-1995 data is not
fully appropriate for calibration and leads to a misuse in principal component analysis.
However, the reasons for setting 1902-1995 as the calibration point presented in the
narrative of MBH98 sounds reasonable, and the error may be easily overlooked by
someone not trained in statistical methodology. We note that there is no evidence that Dr.
Mann or any of the other authors in paleoclimatology studies have had significant
interactions with mainstream statisticians.
In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature
reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of
coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the
area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus %u2018independent studies%u2019 may not
be as independent as they might appear on the surface. This committee does not believe
that web logs are an appropriate forum for the scientific debate on this issue.
It is important to note the isolation of the paleoclimate community; even though they rely
heavily on statistical methods they do not seem to be interacting with the statistical
community. Additionally, we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results
was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much
reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent. Moreover, the work has
been sufficiently politicized that this community can hardly reassess their public
positions without losing credibility. Overall, our committee believes that Mann%u2019s assessments that the decade of the 1990s was the hottest decade of the millennium and that 1998 was the hottest year of the millennium cannot be supported by his analysis.
skitterlad
3 / 5 (2) Apr 11, 2009
Nobel Prize winner? HAHA. So is Al Gore.

What about the HUGE impact on solar energy this will have? Isn't that (solar energy) the ultimate answer to our energy problems. The ultimate source of earth's energy is from the sun; lets not block it out.

This will make us need to use more fossil fuels.

Great plan. What about building 1.5 trillion $ worth of solar panels. That would work with new $1 panels putting out 1 watts. Take care of about half our energy needs. Solar technology is only getting cheaper and better.

I love the predictions of population growth from the past. They never factor in that developed countries have lower population growth; even negative growth. More and more countries are become developed in this global economy. Do the math.

The same geniuses are talking about global warming.

Whom am I? I'm a dentist that really loves learning about everything.
mtulloch
not rated yet Apr 12, 2009
AEROSOLS MAY DRIVE A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF ARCTIC WARMING, April 08
(PhysOrg.com) -- Though greenhouse gases are invariably at the center of discussions about global climate change, new NASA research suggests that much of the atmospheric warming observed in the Arctic since 1976 may be due to changes in tiny airborne particles called aerosols.
Full story at http://www.physor...459.html
NeilFarbstein
1 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2009
Instead of making artificial trees, it is out of the question to plant real trees? The engineering has already been done.


Grass and trees can be engineered to grow much faster to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. If they are cloned with anti cellulase proteins they wont rot on the forest floor. They'll remain their without contributing to the CO2 warming. Of course the forests will pile up with dead trees, possibly choking off all growth.

Somebody tell me if you know where funds can be found to fund geoeengineering research.
protn7@att.net

bluehigh
2.3 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2009
Just a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence.

(SMH Book Review - Professor Ian Plimer, Heaven And Earth).

http://www.smh.co...?page=-1
lengould100
not rated yet Apr 15, 2009
What would that prove? Isn't this an electronic Hyde Park?
Len isn't really that up on technology, and as such, the free exchange of ideas is anathema to his former schema of Argument from Authority or Bust.


Any evidence for that statement? You know, something such as a FACT, like what science, including climatology, is based.
Velanarris
not rated yet Apr 15, 2009
What would that prove? Isn't this an electronic Hyde Park?
Len isn't really that up on technology, and as such, the free exchange of ideas is anathema to his former schema of Argument from Authority or Bust.





Any evidence for that statement? You know, something such as a FACT, like what science, including climatology, is based.


Very simple, when confronted with a logical argument, you refuse to comment and deny the value of the other side's information. It's about as unscientific as you can get Len.
dachpyarvile
1 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2009
I have a better approach to geo-engineering. Let's work to develop technology to divert the Gulf Stream away from Europe! They will cool down so fast over there that all talk of global warming will cease in short order--at least there. :)

After that, we can take the technology to use in altering ocean currents in certain other locations to quickly lower the temperatures in several other lands. :)

Obama and his goons are such idiots. Perhaps they should read this article?

http://www.physor...339.html

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