Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kleiman digs further down a hole; I blast straight through Godwin's Law

The normally-excellent Mark Kleiman wrote a not-excellent post about geoengineering to combat global warming a while back. Kleiman felt it had promise and was being ignored. RealClimate did a much better discussion about the unproven and highly speculative geoengineering field earlier, noting this "ignored" subject was in the New York Times.

Kleiman then had to dismiss an attempt to ally him to a non-existent, "centrist" position between denialists and global-warming believers. While doing so, he says "there's been roughly no money to do the studies." He needs to back up that statement with some facts, or he's just digging the hole further down. There have in fact been studies of geoengineering, and there was even an experiment with seeding the ocean with iron to study (in part) whether micro-organisms can absorb carbon dioxide efficiently. The fact that these studies are being done suggests there's some level of funding for it.

These concepts are getting a moderate level of interest and moderate level of resource commitment, and that's what they deserve at this point. Should these studies look promising, then it's time to scale up the resources.

Where I want to blast through with my Godwin's Law violation is regarding the belief in modern magic - Technology! - as the easy solution to all problems. That's what Hitler thought. From the Wikipedia article on the V-2 rocket:
Dornberger had always wanted a mobile launch platform for the missiles, but Hitler pressed for the construction of massive underground blockhouses from which to launch them. According to his plans, V-2s should have arrived from a number of factories in a continuous stream on several redundant rail lines, and launching should have been almost continual.
Despite being one of the most advanced weapons in WWII, the V-2 was militarily ineffective. Its guidance systems were too primitive to hit specific targets, and its costs were approximately equivalent to four-engined bombers, which were more accurate (though only in a relative sense— see discussion in strategic bomber), had longer ranges, carried many more warheads, and were reusable. Moreover, it diverted resources from other, more effective programmes.
The desire for magical solutions is persistent in history, but it's not particularly helpful.

P.S. One more thing - Kleiman wrote in his second post:
If you really think that the Gulf Stream might stop running ten years from now, as Gore suggests in his movie (as I understand it, such a catastrophe isn't likely, but can't be ruled out)...
From the text facing page 150 of the book version of An Inconvenient Truth:
At Woods Hole Research Center, Dr. Ruth Curry is especially concerned about the rapid melting of ice in Greenland, which is adjacent to the area in which the [thermohaline] pump operates.

Recently, she observed: "The possibility of such extreme events precludes ruling out that disruption of the North Atlantic Conveyor in the 21st century could occuras a result of greenhouse warming."
Depending on the probability level one assigns to "precluding" catastrophe, Curry might represent an outlier, but there's no hint of anything happening in ten years.

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