At the invitation of Eric Berger of SciGuy
fame (if not fortune), your humble host agreed to attend a screening of the latest soft money political ad dressed up as a documentary on Global Warming called "An Inconvenient Truth
" along with Phil, the ever lovely Natalie
, Hunter, Matt Bramanti
, and Jim
, who still looks mighty familiar to me, even though neither of us can think of where we might have met. Afterwards we walked next door to the Epicure Cafe
to discuss the movie and it's effect on any of us.
Alas, the effect on us all was pretty limited. No one really felt that thier lives or outlook was changed. I respectfully disagree with Eric, Al Gore was not a good choice for the narrator. He brings far too much political baggage along with him and he makes it very clear in the film in a number of places that he HATES and BLAMES Republicans and conservatives for the current situation as he percieves it and he REALLY hates the current administration. Much of the film comes off as sour grapes and he yet again appears to revel in the near death of his son and the death of his sister of lung cancer. Apparently in an attempt to make the audience feel sorry for him and to wrap himself in an armor of grief in order to make his position unassailable without making it look like someone was attacking his grief. Sorry, doesn't hold water with me. It didn't work for Shehan, and it won't work for him.
The movie ran for over 2 hours and it was not until the last 20 minutes or so that there was any discussion at all of how to address the problem. Much was made of the Kyoto Protocols, but the simple fact is than less than half of the signitory countries have attained the cuts they are treaty bound to meet. The US was at least honest enough with itself to recognize that there was no way that the US could meet the protocols and not severely damage the economy in the process. Some of the proposals he made were higher milage cars, more efficient appliances, and CO2 sequestration, a technology that is still in it's infancy. None of these proposals would have a large impact on the generation of CO2, 10-15% each at best. Nowhere in the movie was any serious look at Nuclear energy as a tool to reduce CO2 generation. In fact the only mention of nuclear energy was an image of a mushroom cloud and some cooling towers that looked suprisingly like those at Three Mile Island. But there was not a single use of the word "Nuclear" anywhere in his monologue. This is disheartening because Nuclear power holds the promise of massive reductions in CO2 production. There was also no discussion of other forces that impact global warming such as solar variability, land use changes, volcanoes, etc.
And that goes to the heart of the debate for me. I am not disputing that the global climate is inching upwards in temperature, and I am not saying it won't have impacts on the planetary climate. He mentions that the climate has been in a warming and cooling cycle for millions of years, but he then promptly changes the subject. But the simple fact of the matter is that even if we stopped all CO2 production (not possible but even if we did) we would at best merely delay the inevitable. The planet is already on the upward slope of another global heat wave, and has been for the last few thousand years, Humans may be accellerating it, but even if you subtract our influence it was still going up. What we really need is not just more CO2 reductions, we need something much more fundamental. We need levees for our cities, and we need to find other means to control our environment. And we do need to reduce our impact so that we will be able to buy time to do the other things we must do.
I have an idea, it is by no means fleshed out, and a number of you might think I'm nuts, but there is nothing technically infeasable about it that I can discern. The simple fact of the matter is that 99.9% of the energy that falls upon our planet comes from the sun. If we can find a way to control the energy being delivered from the sun, we will have control of the global temperature. How do you keep your car cool when it is sitting in a parking lot? You put shades in the windows to block out the sun. My proposal is a much much larger version of that same concept. There is a place between the earth and the sun known as the L1 Lagrange point. It is the point at which the gravity of the Earth exactly cancels the gravity of the Sun. At that spot, if something were left there, it would stay relatively motionless. If a rosette formation of large solar sails with only say, 10% reflectivity were placed just sunward of that lagrange point and was allowed to "hover", I.E. balance the reaction forces from the sunlight and solar wind acting on the sail with the gravity of the sun acting upon it, we could do exactly that, put a sunshade over the Earth. If the sail were designed with flaps that would allow rotation, much like a pinwheel, the light being reflected back at the sun could be further controlled while allowing the sail to be spun for stability. A central tower rising sunward with a mass at the end would be the control module and would have thrusters to aid in pointing, and would also serve as a tidal stabilizer. Think of a giant dandelion seed, with the sail being the feathery end, and the control tower being the seed pod itself, and you'll have a good idea of the configuration I'm envisioning. Other options to help sequester CO2 have been spoken of in the past such as seeding the southern oceans with iron to stimulate growth of phytoplankton, and injection of liquefied CO2 into oil wells which is not quite as easy as it sounds, CO2 has what is known as a triple point which is the temperature where all three phases can exist at the same time. The volumetric difference between the solid, liquid and the gaseous phase is very pronounced which makes handling it dangerous.
Some of these options have downsides, and/or difficulties. But the simple fact is that eliminating all CO2 production tomorrow will not prevent climate change. That change has been happening for millions of years before we arrived on this planet and will be happening long after we are gone. The human race has had a good run so far, if we are to extend that run, we will have to find ways of controlling our environment at levels we can only dream of today.
BTW, George Will
apparently agrees with my assessment of Al Gore's motivations.