Monday, December 16, 2013


It doesn't take much to feed the conspiracy theorists. (La Responsable. Wiki.)

by Louis Shalako

Geoengineering is environmental engineering on a planet-wide scale.

Human beings have been engineering the planet since the first trees were cut down to make room for agriculture, and since the first wells were dug, and since the first canals were used for irrigation.

What’s different in the modern world is of course the scale of such operations.

“Geoengineering is the deliberate large-scale manipulation of environmental processes to combat global warming. It involves two types of processes — carbon dioxide removal and solar radiation management (SRM). SRM, the more controversial prospect, is a form of climate modification that reduces the amount of sun hitting the earth’s surface. Sulfate Aerosol Geoengineering (SAG-SRM) would inject the stratosphere with aerosols and could be done at such a reasonable cost ($8 million per year) that it’s possible one nation could take action for the entire planet. Whether used locally or globally, adopting a SAG policy would have long-term and far-reaching consequences. One nation’s policy decision could immediately and adversely affect another country’s economic well-being as well as affect human health over both the short and long term. Calls for environmental justice and adopting ethical guidelines have been raised.” — Reilly Center, Notre Dame.

Gone are the days when the ‘gentleman virtuoso,’ best exemplified by Newton and Hooke, Halley and Kepler, can make world-shattering discoveries in science by patiently working away over a period of years in their own homes and laboratories.

Science is now a huge collaborative effort. Such collaboration involves debate, conflicting opinions, and conflicting aims.

“The basic idea behind geoengineering (or climate engineering) is that humans can artificially moderate the Earth's climate allowing us to control temperature, thereby avoiding the negative impacts of climate changeThere are a number of methods suggested to achieve this scientific wizardry, including placing huge reflectors in space or using aerosols to reduce the amount of carbon in the air.” – Guardian.

Is it really just that simple? Spray a little sulfur-dioxide into the atmosphere, and it blocks out x-amount of sunlight? Of course things are never that simple. The debate over global climate change has raged for over thirty years. What’s interesting is that just prior to the beginning of that debate, questions were being asked in the media if we were poised on the brink of a new ice age!

Last spring and summer, in southern Ontario, it was unusually cold. Spring was chilly, and summer really didn’t start until late June—when according to the calendar, it should start.

Of course climate-change deniers see this as ‘evidence.’ Yet it has been clearly stated, many times in fact, that global climate change will result in disruption of regional climates. Records going back hundreds of years are simply not available. Is Canada warmer than it was five hundred years ago?  No one can really say. 

Anecdotal evidence, my childhood recollections of 'deep snow days,' (I was only two feet tall, remember) or statements to that effect by our parents and grandparents really aren’t evidence at all.

But our natural human expectations is that we can go in shorts, take our shirts off, maybe go swimming by late June. Yet I also remember swimming on or about April 20, back in the early 90s, and that particular year I swam (in Lake Huron and the St. Clair River) up until about September 20.

Let’s say we did have a cold summer of 2012. That sure doesn’t sound like global warming. But of course a gradual warming of the entire planet, is only a statistical average. The problem has only been seriously studied for about thirty years. Data is incomplete, in that the ability to study climate in a systematic, global way is very new. Assuming global warming is real, proving it is another thing. In climate upheaval, some areas will become deserts, some will get hotter and some will get colder. The statistical average will rise globally.

Anecdotal evidence certainly exists. Edward Gibbon, writing the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire back in the 1770s noted that the grape vine had been introduced by the Romans to France and even southern Germany. He observed that the barbarians had crossed the frozen Danube, and the frozen Rhine, on their incursions into Roman territory, and that the freezing of the great rivers was unheard-of in his own ‘modern times.’ He also pointed out that settlement in Europe had resulted in the clearing of the great Hercynian Forest, and that the sun’s rays now touched the earth in a way they could not before—resulting in a change of climate that could never be proven in modern scientific terms.

Also from the Guardian story:

“It's a hugely controversial theory. One of the main counter-arguments is that promoting a manmade solution to climate change will lead to inertia around other efforts to reduce human impact. But the popularity of geoengineering is on the rise among some scientists and even received a nod from the IPCC in its recent climate change report.”

What they’re saying is simple. If there is a quick fix, and especially a cheap one, then everybody gives a big sigh of relief, and efforts to reduce our human impact, largely the effect of consumer lifestyles, on the planet fall by the wayside.

Wind and solar power development is expensive. The fact that they are so expensive, at least in the development stages, means the electrical power generated is expensive when compared to hydro-electricity, or nuclear power generation. Advocates of clean coal would point out that compared to other fossil fuels such as natural gas and oil, it can be an effective solution for power generation needs. Climate change is best left out of their sales brochures and so that’s what they do! It’s human nature, really, to play up the benefits and play down the side-effects.

The hysteria surrounding wind power and windmills in farm country is another interesting factor, a psychological one. But then, change has often been hard and often unwelcome.

This leads us to the question of interest. In Canada, the shale-oil developments would never have gone ahead if the price of petroleum wasn’t high enough to sustain it profitably.

Alternate power sources may threaten that profitability, and the conservative, knee-jerk reaction is of course nothing new. The conspiracy theory of climate change—that it’s all a big lie, is not exactly unexpected, especially when we realize that someone’s present interests are threatened by a change in the status quo.


Conspiracy theories abound in the modern world. They are nothing new. Speculation is rife that ‘mystery contrails’ spewed out by U.S. military aircraft are in fact chemical sprays designed to reduce the impact of global warming. This story dates from 1998. But I’ve seen one recently on Facebook, and the statement was made that commercial jetliners were using some form of fuel additive to produce similar mystery contrails. If so, it would have to be one of the best-kept secrets in history for it not to have been documented already. 

Or maybe it has been documented, or maybe it is being documented even as we speak. A photo on Facebook showing a funny-coloured trail coming out of a jet engine is not exactly the same as evidence or documentation.

“How to De-Bunk Chemtrails” is a website devoted to, as the name says, de-bunking chemtrail theorists.

But it is strictly true that contrails, the long white trails of vapour left behind by not just jet aircraft but piston-engined ones as well, go back a long ways, to the dawn of aviation, and in fact they persist for quite some time. Recently at sunset, on a drive in the country, the western horizon was crisscrossed by dozens, even hundreds of contrails. It all depends on atmospheric conditions at the time. The Battle of Britain, high above southern England, left all kinds of contrails. They show up in photos and even oil paintings of the conflict. 

B-29 Bomber pilots would change altitude even at night to reduce contrails so that enemy fighters could not easily locate and engage them.

Are contrails evidence of the government spraying chemicals on the population? (Examiner.)

From the same article:

“There are three main theories as to what purpose chemtrails serve.” (My apologies for the poor quality material, but it is good for a giggle.)

“Weather modification -Chemtrails could indicated a chemical means to influence weather patterns.  Whether suppressing undesirable weather phenomenon or attempting to create desired outcomes, the chemicals sprayed by planes are intended to alter normal weather patterns.”

“Population control -  Are we running out of space on our planet?  Is the government trying to control population growth by spraying chemicals?  If you believe the chemtrail theorists, then the answer is yes. claims the government sprays flu strains each year in an attempt to control population numbers.”

“Inoculation - In direct contrast to the theory that the government is spraying chemicals to make people sick is the theory that the government is spraying the general population to vaccinate against diseases, and probably diseases like Anthrax that are typically used in bio-warfare.  Chemtrails are used to avoid raising the potential alarm caused simply telling people to go get vaccinated at their local pharmacy.”

It is amazing, and an interesting commentary on the human condition, what hysteria a little water vapour in the sky can do. Like Roswell, there are people making a living by spreading what is essentially nonsense, but what the hell, if it sells books…right? Someone is pleased by all the attention. Feeding conspiracy paranoia is an easy way to get some web traffic to your site.

Other forms of geoengineering.

“A scheme to dump quicklime into the oceans to sequester more carbon in their depths is being revived by a British management consultant with backing from Shell.”

Limestone quarry, Belgium. (Jean-Pol GRANDMONT, Wiki.)
“First proposed back in the ’90s by Exxon engineer Haroon Kheshgi, the idea takes advantage of a series of simple chemical reactions. Limestone, at high temperatures, breaks down into carbon dioxide and quicklime, in a process that produces greenhouse gas. But dump that quicklime in seawater, and it absorbs roughly twice as much CO2 as was released in the first reaction.”

“The heat required to decompose the limestone will probably come from fossil fuel, generating more CO2, but even so, the sum of the process could be a reduction of the CO2 in the atmosphere.” (Wired Science.)

“The quicklime scheme is different. It would go right at the heart of the CO2 buildup problem by removing the gas from the air and sequestering it in the world’s oceans. It also makes the oceans more alkaline, directly combating ocean acidification.”

Niagara Escarpment, Milton, ON. (Basho, Wiki.)
“Of course, the scale of the project would have to be eye-poppingly large. The early calculations, Kruger told, indicate that 56 billion cubic feet of limestone would be required to sequester each gigaton of carbon. Humans put out about 5.5 billion tons of carbon annually by burning fossil fuels, so a limestone offset budget could reach 300 billion cubic feet of limestone per year.”

Where is all that limestone going to come from? Efforts to protect the Niagara Escarpment, the source of much limestone in Ontario, involve concerns over environmental impacts. Some of the quarries are huge, if you’ve ever driven up there, and there’s quite a few of them. Finding enough limestone to dump in the ocean would disrupt naturally-occurring habitats that are already under threat.

Marine debris washed up on Hawaiin beach after a storm.
Here’s another interesting one. In the science-fiction story ‘The Hermit,’ author Dusty Miller proposes to use a genetically-modified symbiote, the same one that causes hermit crabs to go from a soft-bodied nymph to an animal with a hard protective shell, and train it to eat or bond with plastic. It’s a nice thought and elegant in its simplicity.

Huge mounds of plastic bottles now circle endlessly in the Pacific and Atlantic gyres, (and probably the Indian Ocean as well.) The theory here is that the bottles become coated with a hard shell and sink to the bottom of the ocean—with unpredictable results, but as the saying goes, ‘out of sight, out of mind.’

And maybe that’s our real problem—looking for the quick fix, and doing almost anything rather than changing our lifestyles and attitudes towards our natural environment. Something like such a symbiote, once released from the lab, would of course affect everything in the ocean. Ships’ bottoms would be coated with it, dock pilings, offshore drilling platforms, coral reefs…such a plan would have to be well thought out and take time to implement. A quick fix would inevitably cause more problems that it would solve, but in a crisis situation, desperate times might call for desperate measures.

The money that would have to be spent on ocean de-acidification might be better spent on retrofitting aging, low-rental apartment buildings with better insulation, doors, windows, putting high-efficiency furnaces in working-class homes, designing smaller or at least lighter cars that are more fuel-efficient. All of that goes directly against someone else’s self-interest, of course I am referring to the traditional energy industries.

So far, they have proven effective lobbyists and are holding back many significant changes that are already available and well within our projected budgets.

A quick fix simply isn’t going to happen when a good percentage of the world is either unaware of the problem or living in a state of denial for reasons which they feel are best kept to themselves.


The real question is not so much are there moral dilemmas facing science. The question is how do we solve those dilemmas? It's a question of the quality of information we have to go by, and also the quality of the questions we ask.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment on the blog posts, art or editing.