Well, if you viewed the Introduction, and if the basic assessment seems sound, what sort of approach might be taken? After all, the problem appears massive.
Based on a lot of research, and a whole lot of thought, it seems to me there may be at least two broad approaches which may begin to address the issue, and they could, and probably should, be pursued at the same time.
The ideal solution is to transition all agricultural, and indeed nearly all natural land management, to a regenerative approach. The initial indications are this could sequester the entire carbon load all on its own, and should any sort of catastrophic climate event actually be avoided, it would ultimately be essential anyway.
The difficulty, of course, is it would take time to make this kind of transition, very likely many decades. It challenges the current agricultural economic paradigm, and it has yet to be demonstrated at scale and at reasonable cost, though I think it reasonable to conclude both are within reach.
In the mean time, things are getting warmer, and the ocean is continuing to acidify.
As a result I think we also need to look into engineering approaches, specifically carbon dioxide removal through direct air capture and processing, and, given the scale of the problem, one particular type of artificial cooling, specifically targeting the Arctic.
There are ongoing efforts at direct air capture, but the difficulty lies in what to do with the gas once it has been separated out. The approach taken so far is to try to pump it back into the ground in one way or another, but nearly everyone admits this approach is inherently expensive and risky. Any gas can escape, after all, and it wouldn’t do to spend a lot of time and effort putting it away only to have it come back out again.
As a result it seems to me much better to take the perspective the captured CO2 must be further processed in some way. The challenge is CO2 is a very stable and happy molecule, and it takes a significant amount of energy to separate it into its constituent components.
Here is where very large amounts of relatively carbon-free energy would need to come into play. Again, the scale is the key, and the scale, it seems to me, dictates the use of an energy source thus far largely shunned by the mainstream environmental movement, namely nuclear power.
When the sheer size of the problem began to really sink in I set aside my own previously deep reservations about nuclear energy, and began to look at it again. In searching for information I ran across a documentary on PBS entitled Radioactive Wolves (not available in all areas, unfortunately).
This film, which I initially thought would demonstrate why nuclear energy could never be an answer, turned out to demonstrate exactly the opposite. Instead of a desolate wasteland, populated by small numbers of mutant creatures, the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant is a thriving nature preserve. It would appear nature is undaunted by even the worst accidents we can throw at it.
Given what I saw in the documentary I continued reading, ultimately determining that not only was nuclear power an important part of any potential climate solution, but that it was the essential part.
Which turned out well, since I’d come to the conclusion a massive amount of CO2 would need to be pulled down and processed one way or another. Uranium is a million times more energy dense than oil, and that is the type of math essential to considering a solution which might work
Capture and Process
The basic idea is, again, fairly simple, and again the implementation anything but. If a significant amount of nuclear energy can be spun up, it might be attached to direct air capture devices, the CO2 pulled down, and the gas processed and converted into various products. Given the need, at least some of it ought to be processed into some type of carbonate for use in the de-acidification of the oceans.
Affecting ocean acidity is a monumental task, but we’ve done it successfully already, albeit inadvertently. The use of nuclear power provides at least a chance of pulling down and processing the amounts of material which may permit de-acidification to occur.
The North Pole appears to be affected by atmospheric heating at a significantly faster rate than most other areas, and this seems to be having a disproportionate effect on global climate patterns, as well as having the unpleasant side effect of releasing methane from previously frozen Arctic tundra. In the short term methane is a significantly more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Not so good.
As a result I think the Arctic should be studied as a place for special emphasis. There are proposals out there for using tiny water droplets dispersed in the air to create very low level clouds. These clouds would increase the albedo, or whiteness, of the Earth’s surface, as a result reflecting the Sun’s energy back out into space.
I suggest this technique be tried in the Arctic, using nuclear submarines as the base technology. As a test, remove a missile from one of the silos and reconfigure the tube to accommodate a periscope-like device which pulls sea water in and blasts it out via a set of nozzles. The resultant mist should form clouds which increase albedo.
The use of nuclear submarines addresses three issues involved in trying to increase Arctic albedo. First is the energy source, the second is the hostile nature of the environment, and the third is being able to reverse any process undertaken if needed.
Despite warming the Arctic can still be a very unforgiving and brutal place for people and equipment, and a submarine’s ability to provide ample power and to simply submerge in inclement weather makes it the best candidate for this sort of effort. Should there be unintended consequences of the cloud formation process it can simply be ceased.
This has hopefully been a readable summary of what I think might help address the climate issues we appear to be facing.
To sum it all up in a short list:
- The scale of the issue is far larger than most are discussing so far
- Carbon must be withdrawn from the atmosphere in massive quantities
- The carbon must be further processed, and much of it devoted to de-acidifying the oceans
- Given the scale of the issues nuclear power will be essential to the solution
- The Arctic should receive special attention, and an attempt made to increase the area’s albedo
- The long term transition to regenerative agriculture will be essential to bringing humanity into a sustainable relationship with the planet which sustains us
Well, there it is. Or at least it’s a beginning. If you’re still here, you may wish to take a look at what I think our Prospects might be, as the next chapter in this narrative.