Opti-pessi-mistic tweetstorm on climate change

Jan Sramek
Dec 13, 2015 · 2 min read

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.

Tweetstorm

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 :) 📚☕📐🔬🔭️

References

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store