Breakthroughs to Cool and Conserve the Planet

While there have been major strides in the increased share of carbon-free energy, humanity is not yet on track to realize its net-zero emissions commitment. IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2020 forecasts that we will only realize this vision by 2070 – likely, too late to avoid the 2ºC rise.

Nature plays a vital role in regulating temperatures; what if we could support conservation efforts and cool the planet? Some existing methods, like cloud-seeding, have raised concerns about the toxicity of such interventions. Can there be a way to cool surface temperatures (significantly? locally?) while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

What do you think?

@DrCatherineBall @danhammer @michaelmarus @Sev @DrNatashaStavros @marz62

There are several ways to cool surface temperatures whilst enabling environmental restoration that do not involve toxic substances or requiring fossil fuel use, amongst them:
My Seatomiser (seawater atomisation) method uses offshore wind power to spray seawater of cooling size ranges into the air, thereby generating evaporation, fog, haze, marine cloud, sea salt aerosols and transporting ocean heat into the tropopause bypassing the restrictions of the saturated layer of air just above the sea surface and multiplying the area of seawater surface for evaporation by in excess of a million-fold;

My solar-powered Fiztop units inject reflective and long-lived (months) nanobubbles of air into the sea surface microlayer that increase its albedo, oxygenation and evaporation rate;

And wind turbine power in polar waters that can be used by my Ice Shield method to generate ice ‘volcanoes’ on sea ice that thicken it by hundreds of metres, thereby increasing increasing its albedo. Furthermore, the thermals resulting from seawater freezing on the conical ice shields (no longer insulated by ice above it) would convect large amounts of ocean heat to the tropopause in winter, where it would radiate into space relatively unhindered by cloud or GHGs.

3 Likes

Thanks @sev for sharing these amazing solutions. We have taken a note of it.

Hi @Janetlee and @COflyfisher - We would love to hear your thoughts on the ways to cool surface temperatures while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

Hi @nosare, @Oliver, and @rgarrett - Given your vast experience and knowledge on this topic, you might have thoughts to share on emerging breakthrough solutions to cool surface temperatures while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

Hi @cdurigan, @Zbig and @Dianachaplin - What according to you are the emerging breakthrough solutions to cool surface temperatures while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

Sev, these are all remarkable ideas, and I know you have many more Winwick Business Solutions like these.

It seems we don’t lack technology ideas, but we do lack implementations. Could you take one of these and suggest why it has not been taken up at scale?

Thanks, Graham

1 Like

Graham, Considering what I regard as the low cost-effectiveness or high risk of adverse effects of current frontrunner climate solutions, actually we have lacked good technological and nature-based solutions. Taking one of mine, Buoyant Flakes, there have been at least fourteen sea trials of ocean fertilisation. All but two of these had mixed effects, mainly because they used soluble fertiliser that sank too quickly, or used only one nutrient, or were not observed long or well enough to show the full effect. The one that did show substantial beneficial effect, in terms of increased salmon run, had its results and equipment seized and suppressed because it was claimed that it was a rogue experiment. Many fears have been expressed about ocean fertilisation, all of which are addressed by my ultra-slow-release buoyant flakes and complementary methods. Reputable research organisations are now endeavouring to determine all the effects, so that the global community can make its own judgement of the risks and rewards of deploying, or not deploying, it/them.

3 Likes

This is an interesting and significant topic. The scale of the required impact is huge, and that prompts two points:

  • A solution that uses and enhances our natural environment, or ecosystems, could be beneficial in its own right, even if the resulting climate impact turns out to be less than anticipated.

  • Climate is driven by a network of complex systems that are difficult to accurately predict, and so there is a risk that some “solutions” might have unintended ugly outcomes. Therefore, a safe solution might be one that can be easily turned off and (ideally) reversed if it turns out to have a detrimental impact.

In addition to the solutions already proposed, here’s a space based solution that should be achievable in the space based era around 2040 - 2070 …

An array of solar shields in space (e.g. in geosynchronous orbit) would reduce the amount of solar energy falling on Earth. The shields could be very thin, requiring relatively little mass per unit area. The simplest approach would be to reflect solar radiation, preventing it reaching Earth. But we can do better than that…

In order to provide added value these shields could be largely composed of solar cells - used to power the growing manufacturing industry - in space. They could also provide telecommunications infrastructure, and host new powerful telescopes (to counter the impact these shields might have on land based astronomy).

[It might be tempting to beam this energy to Earth, but if the amount of energy beamed is similar to the initial amount the system aimed to block then this is probably self-defeating. On the other hand, if the system generated energy from just a small part of the solar spectrum then that might be a win-win scenario - assuming the rest of the incident solar energy is reflect back into space. Or the majority could be used for space based activities and a fraction beamed to Earth.]

3 Likes

Thanks @akb for sharing this amazing breakthroughs

1 Like

Hi @yoedkenett, @Sandra and @Adrixramos - What according to you are the emerging breakthrough solutions to cool surface temperatures while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

@akb - good details to consider. One possible unintentional consequence is disrupting the Earth’s heat budget and thus altering (perhaps critically) the precipitation cycling above and over the land (lithosphere).

1 Like

@Sev - do you have empirical data/experimental demonstrations of any of these technologies? Whenever I here an inventor talking about ‘by-passing’ this or that constraint imposed by Nature (or natural forces), a red flag goes up in my brain.

Marz, my use of the term ‘by-passing’ in the Seatomiser case has nothing to do with breaking the laws of Nature. It simply means that by applying energy in a certain way we can make something happen that otherwise might not. Instances of this are: using muscle energy to lift an apple against the force of gravity; spraying seawater above the ocean surface so that it evaporates faster; and pumping seawater onto sea ice so that it freezes faster than does the seawater under the ice because it is brought into contact with the much colder air and has no insulating layer of ice to slow down the freezing process.

1 Like

Hi @alanaq, @annevisscher and @jwangjun - What according to you are the emerging breakthrough solutions to cool surface temperatures while enabling environmental conversation and even restoration?

A very good point @marz62.
It would require advanced modelling, incremental additions, and constant monitoring.

This is a good example of why solutions should have an off mode (and hopefully be reversible) - just in case reality failed to match the optimistic predictions.

1 Like

@akb -Don’t get me wrong, I like very much the idea of a reversible (geoegineering) ‘solution’…I only wonder if even this would/could work given a non-linear (dynamic) system such as the Global Climate System.

I will note that any viable Geoengineering solution must be applied on a large scale, or, if smaller scale, replicated multiple times to have a global “positive” change/mitigation impact (not to be confused with a ‘positive feedback’ scenario).

1 Like

@Sev - Right. My comment does not use the term ‘breaking" (just your term "by-passing’) . I’m not sure that your examples are congruent, either (lifting an apple, vs., spraying seawater, etc.).

In any case, this type of geoengineering (climate mitigation) strategy must be conducted over a very large (even massive) area to have any measurable (net) impact, thus bringing into play several factors that cannot be controlled (like sea surface air flow/winds, storms, and consequent dispersal of seawater ‘mist’ in the above ice air, etc.) …not to leave out temperature fluxes that will vary freezing rates.

But again, this approach has not been demonstrated (to my knowledge) to be feasible (yet) – including cost, scale-up, operational viability, impact assessment, etc. – it remains firmly within the realm of speculative or theoretical climate change mitigation. Show me the data (or experimental ‘proof of principle’).

A reminder: we contributors here are meant to be suggesting, critiquing and pre-designing potential future XPrizes…not proposing solutions to (as yet non-existent) challenges.

It is incorrect to say that spraying seawater, releasing buoyant flakes or thickening ice must be conducted over a very large (even massive) area to have any measurable effect. This study https://www.scu.edu.au/engage/news/latest-news/2020/scientists-trial-world-first-cloud-brightening-technique-to-protect-corals.php, fourteen localised release scientific experiments of supplementary ocean nutrients, and the sixty years experience we have had with making ice roads, runways and drilling platforms are all evidence. Besides, what is proposed are modelling studies, carefully gated experiments and sea trials that would give us progressively greater confidence that the net results were beneficial. The alternative to investigating which methods of climate intervention have positive potential is to let the current levels of GHG, further unavoidable emissions, and overbalancing tipping points take us into darkness.
Careful and transparent experimentation is the only way by which we can improve the various potential solutions and make them work well together. It is also the only way by which we can determine feasibility, cost-effectiveness, scale-up and other effects. All is speculative until the work is done to bring new things to fruition. You cannot have the experimental data until you have done the particular experiment. Previous analogues can only provide you with some confidence that what you are proposing could work.
There are many cases, such as the inventions of Post-It pads and Teflon, where the solution came before the problem was identified. Why may not we have a mix of existing known and unknown challenges and prospective solutions by which to devise future XPrizes?
The dozen or so climate, ocean and energy efficiency solutions I propose I have not the means, time or capability of developing myself. Why may I not provide the documentation by which others could do so, possibly winning them not only prizes and satisfaction for themselves, but the continuation of our beautiful biosphere?

1 Like

Respectfully, no, it is not “incorrect”. My contextual meaning of what I wrote “…too have any measurable effect…” was on the global climate. We are talking about (severe) climate change mitigation (on a global scale). Local efficacy of a given experiment is a good start but not an end point.

But let me start with some general responses to your comments, then look at the actual experiment (described in the linked to article)

First, you refer to various experimental efforts. Good, this is EXACTLY what I was talking about: Experiments (note that you mention “14 localised experiments”). Again, local is good for starters, but could be overwhelmed by global scale atmospherics and local, regional, and large-scale climate forcings, if scaled-up.

You wrote: "What is proposed are modelling studies, carefully gated experiments and sea trials that would give us progressively greater confidence that the net results were beneficial. "

Yes, of course, that is the purpose of such geoengineering (at whatever scale) experiments. You are echoing my original comment. Thank you for providing me with this (limited, special case) example.

The study (actually, an article referring to a research project near [similar conditions as] the Great Barrier Reef) you link to describes plans to ‘scale up’ the experiment (in 2021) to 3 times the original area (which is ‘one tenth’ of the planned area), with future plans (2022 and beyond) to scale-up (i.e., increase the area of impact) the experiment to ‘ten times’ the original area, which “should be able to brighten clouds across a 20-by-20-kilometre area.”

Note: ‘SHOULD’

Now, all this experimenting clearly indicates the intent to cover a larger (and larger) area to achieve its desired impact. In this case, however, since it is targeted at protecting the Great Barrier Reef, there is a limit (total area of the Reef) to the scale of THIS particular experiment. I hope it works (but see my comment, later)

You also wrote: “The alternative to investigating which methods of climate intervention have positive potential is to let the current levels of GHG, further unavoidable emissions, and overbalancing tipping points take us into darkness.”

OK, no one here is arguing FOR the ‘alternative’.

and: "You cannot have the experimental data until you have done the particular experiment. "

Right. I agree. My previous comments comport with this assertion.

You wrote: “Why may not we have a mix of existing known and unknown challenges and prospective solutions by which to devise future XPrizes?”

I am not sure how one would design an XPrize around an ‘unknown’ challenge. The purpose of an XPrize is to find a ‘prospective’ solution (or several) to a (kn own) challenge. Certainly, a prospective solution can offer us a guide to a future XPrize (e.g., by revealing short-comings, flaws, constraints, etc.). If you wish, please provide an example of this ‘mix’ that you refer to.

AS FOR THE EXPERIMENT (Harrison et al):

Here are the key/essential nuggets of information:

[Description of the purpose and procedure for the proposed experiment]

’“Microscopic sea water droplets are sprayed into the air, evaporating leaving just nano-sized sea salt crystals which act as seeds for cloud droplets, brightening existing cloud and deflecting solar energy away from the reef waters when heat stress is at its maximum.

I will note that there are many different types of clouds (density, size of droplets, etc.) and not all are candidates for brightening (although sea salt as a ‘nucleating’ mechanism sounds promising to me, assuming an inherently higher refraction index of sea salt crystals). There is evidence that smaller droplets make for denser nucleation (of water vapor molecules) and which subsequently generate more pronounced cooling effects (Rosenfeld et al, 2019)

“In the future this technology might be able to be applied over the Great Barrier Reef to reduce the severity of coral bleaching during marine heat waves, cooling and shading the corals below.”

OK, that all sounds good and worth experimenting ‘on’. I would like to look deeper at the supporting prior research that buttresses this current effort.

[Description of the actual experiment]

“We tested the hypothesis at one-tenth of the scale we’re aiming for, using a drone in the atmosphere and a sampling vessel 5km away on the sea surface and showed how we can successfully create hundreds of trillion of these sea salt crystals per second which float up into the atmosphere to bolster the reflectivity of the existing clouds,” Dr Harrison said.

I do recognize the need for stimulating near-sea-surface clouds (which are the very type decreasing due to warming). However, my main concern here is with the phrase “float up into the atmosphere”. Obviously, you do NOT want these nano-scale sea salt particles (the mechanism of cloud nucleation) to float too high into the atmosphere (and/or disperse too widely into same), as this will impact (limit) the altitude, extent/size (reflective surface area of the clouds) and ‘solidity’ (density) of the cloud formation (thus the desired impact). And, the wider the area, the more larger scale (atmospheric) forces come into play

Lastly, I will note that this experiment (Harrison et al) is as much about cloud ‘seeding’ as it is about cloud ‘brightening’.

1 Like