Opti-pessi-mistic tweetstorm on climate change

I just tweeted some thoughts on climate change, incentives, and geo-engineering. This post has the all the tweets on a single page, plus adds references to books and articles I’ve found useful.


1/ Prediction: by 2050, a person/entity will uni- or multi-laterally use sulfate aerosols or another (SRM) tool to cool down the planet.

2/ In plain English: they will shoot chemicals 20km into the stratosphere to build sunglasses for the planet to compensate for high CO2.

3/ This will happen because incentives and practical issues w/ setting and enforcing emission limits mean we won’t do enough soon enough.

4/ COP21, all of its predecessors, and probably all of their successors are helpful but the math says these just won’t do enough.

5/ It’s a public secret that things are way worse than we think. But scientists can’t say so else they would lose all credibility. Catch 22.

6/ Nuclear+renewables getting way cheaper than fossils is the only thing that will work. Speeding this up is the main thing govs can do.

7/ So, unless energy gets way cheaper way faster than we expect, we’ll need to cool down the planet or live with the consequences.

8/ Good news: cooling down the planet using sulfate aerosols or other methods can be done for <$5bn/year (potentially much less)…

9/ …which means if govs don’t do it, it’s likely at least one country, company, or even individual decides “fuck it, we can’t wait.”

10/ This sounds scary/crazy, but it be our best real shot. We can use that method to buy time to try and get the planet CO2 neutral.

11/ Then, later on, presumably with very cheap energy, we can go CO2 negative, get us back to pre-industrial levels, and stop the shield.

12/ That is, unless we just continue patching things up with more sulfates. Hopefully energy gets cheaper fast enough to make that unlikely.

13/ Using geo-engineering won’t be free lunch, and there will be unintended consequences. But it will be less risky than doing nothing.

14/ I’m clearly no expert, but given data, incentives, and our governance systems, this seems like the most realistic scenario.

15/ In one way, this is scary and sad. Alternatively, you may think it’s awesome we have the capability to do this if all else fails!

16/ Some further reading below.

17/ EOTS. Science FTW. Onwards :) 📚☕📐🔬🔭️