[ExI] ?Existential hysteria (John Clark)

John Clark johnkclark at gmail.com
Wed Jul 30 17:54:09 UTC 2014

On Wed, Jul 30, 2014 Angel Arturo Ramirez Suárez <
angelarturo911216.1991 at gmail.com> wrote:

 > we should still start working on improving our environments

Then we need to stop fantasizing about powering 747's with sunshine (or is
it moonshine?) and get serious about Thorium nuclear reactors.

> Does anyone have any plan to counter the rise in sea level

Yes, Nathan Myhrvold, the former chief technical officer at Microsoft,
wants to build an artificial volcano. I sent the following to the list a
few years ago:

Mt Pinatubo in 1991 became the best studied large volcanic eruption in
history, it put more sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere than any volcano
since Krakatoa in 1883. There is no longer any dispute that stratospheric
sulfur dioxide leads to more diffuse sunlight, a decrease in the ozone
layer, and a general cooling of the planet. What was astonishing was how
little stratospheric sulfur dioxide was needed. If you injected it in the
arctic where it would be about 4 times more effective, about 100,000 tons a
year would reverse global warming in the northern hemisphere. That works
out to 34 gallons per minute, a bit more than what a standard garden hose
could deliver but much less than a fire hose. We already spew out over
200,000,000 tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere each year, but all
of that is in the lower troposphere where it has little or no cooling
effect, the additional 100,000 tons is a drop in the bucket if you're
looking at the tonnage, but it's in the stratosphere where its vastly more

Myhrvold wasn't suggesting anything as ambitious as a space elevator, just
a light hose about 2 inches in diameter going up about 18 miles. In one
design he burns sulfur to make sulfur dioxide, he then liquefies it and
injects it into the stratosphere with a hose supported every 500 to 1000
feet with helium balloons. Myhrvold thinks this design would cost about 150
million dollars to build and about 100 million a year to operate. In
another design that would probably be even cheaper he just slips a sleeve
over the smokestack of any existing small to midsize coal power plant in
the higher latitudes and uses the hot exhaust to fill hot air balloons to
support the hose.

If Myhrvold's cost estimate is correct that means it would take 50 million
dollars less to cure global warming than it cost Al Gore to just advertise
the evils of climate change. But even if Myhrvold's estimate is ten times
or a hundred times too low it hardly matters, it's still chump change. In a
report to the British government economist Nicholas Stern said that to
reduce carbon emissions enough to stabilize global warming by the end of
this century we would need to spend 1.5% of global GDP each year, that
works out to 1.2 trillion (trillion with a t) dollars EACH YEAR.

One great thing about Myhrvold's idea is that you're not doing anything
irreparable, if for whatever reason you want to stop you just turn a valve
on a hose and in about a year all the sulfur dioxide you injected will
settle out of the atmosphere. And Myhrvold isn't the only fan of this idea,
Paul Crutzen won a Nobel prize for his work on ozone depletion, in 2006 he
said efforts to solve the problem by reducing greenhouse gases were doomed
to be “grossly unsuccessful” and that an injection of sulfur in the
stratosphere “is the only option available to rapidly reduce temperature
rises and counteract other climatic effects”. Crutzen acknowledged that it
would reduce the ozone layer but the change would be small and the the
benefit would be much greater than the harm.

And by the way, diffuse sunlight, another of the allegedly dreadful things
associated with sulfur dioxide high up in the atmosphere, well..., plant
photosynthesis is more efficient under diffuse light. Plants grow better in
air with lots of CO2 in it also, but that's another story.

> And about Chinese's coal burning being China's problem [...]

As I said the facts are that China isn't going to be any more receptive to
the idea of abandoning coal than we in the west would have been a few
decades ago UNLESS there is a energy source that is cheaper than coal. I
think Thorium may be that source, I am certain that solar is not.

  John K Clark
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