Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Newsday Tuesday

Obama looking at cooling air to fight warming

Tinkering with Earth's climate to chill runaway global warming ? a radical idea once dismissed out of hand ? is being discussed by the White House as a potential emergency option, the president's new science adviser said Wednesday. That's because global warming is happening so rapidly, John Holdren told The Associated Press.

In fact, global warming is occurring so rapidly that the current administration is also investigating its use as a distribution mechanism for the federal stimulus package, as many states are complaining that the money is not arriving fast enough. "We have a very fortuitous overlap," said Holdren, "since the states that do not believe in global warming, like Alaska, are also the states that are refusing to accept the stimulus money." Holdren also mentioned that successful attempts to harness the speed of global warming could ultimately lead to improved response times in clearance background checks, passports, and the time it takes to get from the end of the Blue Line to Metro Center.

His concern is that the United States and other nations won't slow global warming fast enough and that several "tipping points" could be fast approaching. Once such milestones are reached, such as complete loss of summer sea ice in the Arctic, it increases chances of "really intolerable consequences," he said.

To promote consumer awareness, the Nantucket Nectars corporation has trademarked "Summer Sea Ice" and is donating 5% of the profits from their new drink to geoengineering research. They will also be sponsoring cow tipping (point) competitions on college campuses, since explosions of methane are both hilarious and educational.

Twice in a half-hour interview, Holdren compared global warming to being "in a car with bad brakes driving toward a cliff in the fog."

Like all good politicians using bad analogies, Holdren's description of global warming was open-ended enough to be interpreted multiple ways. He did not specify whether we were driving the car towards the base of a cliff, which would probably result in immediate death and dismemberment, or whether we were driving off the top of the cliff, which would assuredly be scary, but would also give us precious seconds to fashion a makeshift global warming parachute out of seat cushions and safety belts.

The 65-year-old physicist is far from alone in taking geoengineering seriously [. . .] At an international meeting of climate scientists last month in Copenhagen, 15 talks dealt with different aspects of geoengineering.

A closer look at the schedule revealed that 7 other sessions discussed the legitimacy of climate science, with an 8th devoted to bad weather jokes like "How many meteorologists does it take to change a lightbulb?1

Holdren, a 1981 winner of a MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant, outlined these possible geoengineering options:

  • Shooting sulfur particles (like those produced by power plants and volcanoes, for example) into the upper atmosphere [. . .]
  • Creating artificial "trees" ? giant towers that suck carbon dioxide out of the air and store it.

Although John Holdren insisted that no approaches were off the table, it was discovered that he had already abandoned less promising approaches:

  • Telling people to stop breathing.
  • Gathering melted Arctic ice in ice cube trays and refreezing it.
  • Breaking down CO2 into its base elements, and then starting a carbon dating website to pair up the newly single carbons with other less destructive elements.

[E]fforts are racing against three tipping points he cited: Earth could be as close as six years away from the loss of Arctic summer sea ice, he said, and that has the potential of altering the climate in unforeseen ways. Other elements that could dramatically speed up climate change include the release of frozen methane from thawing permafrost in Siberia, and more and bigger wildfires worldwide.

In mentioning these possible catastrophes, Holdren inadvertently revealed the Soviet Union's secret Cold War stash of methane bombs, painstakingly created by feeding the populace lentils and beans for over thirty years. Although Khrushchev had hoped for power on the order of Hiroshima, the research was devalued after the bombs "just made people run out of the room", and permanently discontinued after some test subjects merely reported that "it smelled like popcorn".

1: Three -- two to hold the ladder and one to climate.

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