… continued from yesterday’s article here.
- Ocean pollution by oil and plastic. An oil-smoothed water surface has a lower albedo so it warms. It has fewer breaking waves thus producing fewer salt aerosols which reduces cloud cover, so it warms. It stirs less, reducing nutrient flow from the depths, feeding fewer plankton which in turn do not emit dimethyl sulphide (DMS) aerosols, which reduces cloud cover. An oil-smoothed surface is slower to evaporate.
- Massive changes in land use – mechanised farming for example – may have increased the flow of dissolved silica into the oceans. The first spring bloom in sea water is an explosion in the number of diatoms, silica shelled competitors which, I have read, suppress the DMS-producing, CO2-fixing plankton that can bloom only when the diatoms exhaust their silica supply and die off.
- Black carbon emitted by our vehicles and industry settles on snow and ice – lower albedo, more melting. Dust caused by the destruction of ground cover does the same thing.
- The water vapour feedback assumptions used by the climate models are wrong.
- The climate sensitivity parameters used in the climate models are wrong.
- The climate models have been parametrised beyond usefulness.
I’m sure readers can suggest others. It would seem sensible to address the real causes of warming, including CO2 of course, rather than betting the farm on an hypothesis which so far has failed to produce one single prediction that has worked out. Remember ‘twelve years to save the world’?
None of this will satisfy the true climate believers. Only massive reductions in CO2 production could do that, so, to go halfway to meet their concerns, we should do some pre-emptive development of the only technology which could support a CO2 neutral civilisation. The Greens won’t like it as their DNA is mainly derived from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, but nuclear power can deliver. Not the stupid big reactors that are getting more expensive and further behind schedule every day: we need small modular reactors (SMRs) that can be factory-built and shipped to site on barges or rail. There are several companies which already have most of the technology – they provide the engines for nuclear submarines – so it should be a comparatively easy and a cheap insurance policy. Get the SMR designs ready and then wait for the science to become clear. That provides a long-term and permanent solution if a solution turns out to be necessary. There is ample monitoring already in place to ensure we get sufficient warning to put preventative technologies into production.
Then we need to address the rather unlikely possibility that we really are in a crisis situation and need to respond with crisis measures. Build a couple of prototype cloud ships as designed by Salter and Latham. These wind-powered vessels are designed to cruise on the oceans pumping out salt aerosols. More salt aerosols increase the amount of cloud cover and thus reflect sunlight back into space. (Before anyone starts producing apocalyptic suggestions that the world will die of salt poisoning, this process is already happening every time a wave breaks — the particles are tiny and every drop of rain already contains some.) This is not ideal as a solution but if it’s a crisis then you have to prepare to match the crisis with crisis measures. Deploy the prototypes in the areas of the ocean where the introduction of salt aerosols will create low level cloud.
Satellite measurements can quantify the effect and allow us to calculate how many ships are needed to fine-tune global temperatures. The data obtained comparatively cheaply will prepare the world for a crisis if it actually seems to be approaching. Then if needed we can run a crash programme to build hundreds – still a lot cheaper than closing down fossil fuel energy.
Here’s the science message: while we are preparing for the possible crisis we demand a prediction from climate science, something, anything, unequivocal, something not blindingly obvious, something definite. An accurate prediction will greatly enhance their credibility. This is meant to be science and science makes predictions: no predictions, no science. Up to now climate projections have been wrong.
Here’s the political message. We hear your concerns and we are taking them seriously. We will clarify the science and while that research is going on we will prepare contingency measures which will tackle any problems that emerge from the studies. In the meantime we will not close down our civilisation in a panic reaction which could kill millions of people, nor will we spend £1,000,000,000,000 (£15,000 for each and every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom) on something which lacks adequate proof. Abandoning modern levels of energy use is not a sensible response.
Here’s the overall message. Do not be afraid. We do not believe that the climate is heading for a crisis or a catastrophe, but just in case we have put measures in place which will save us if it is. No climate crisis, not yet. No climate catastrophe. If we act like grown-ups there will be neither in our future.
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Julian Flood spent twenty-two years in the RAF as a nuclear bomber pilot, retiring to grow climbing plants commercially. He has seen massive oil smooths in the Mediterranean, North and South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico.
Photo by twicepix