An international solar geoengineering non-use agreement

I wrote about Solar Radiation Managment, or solar geoengineering, earlier this year. It’s become a rather contentious topic, with some regarding it as worth exploring, and others almost seeming to regard it as something we should avoid at all costs. The latest saga involves a group of scholars signing a letter arguing for an international solar geoengineering non-use agreement, which is partly based on this paper. Their main reason for proposing this is that they regard it as being virtually impossible to develop a suitable governance framework.

As a result of this, I ended up in a brief Twitter discussion with Dan Miller, who then asked me to join their clubhouse discussion that took place yesterday evening. It was an interesting discussion, but a little tricky as I was there to partly defend the call for a non-use agreement, which I hadn’t signed and don’t completely agree with. I do, however, share many of their concerns.

On the other hand, Dan and his colleagues, Stacey and Ely, seem fairly convinced that there is a high risk of us crossing a tipping point soon and that this means that we should be seriously considering actually implementing some kind of solar radiation management now.

Although I don’t completely agree with all of what seems to be being proposed in the call for a non-use agreement, I do not think that we should be seriously considering the use of solar geoengineering. One reason is that even though I agree that there are risks of us crossing some tipping points, I think these become much more likely if we warm beyond 2oC. Consequently, I think our focus should be on limiting emissions so that we give ourselves a good chance of keeping warming below 2oC, rather than implementing some kind of solar geoengineering.

The other reason is because of the risk of what is called a termination shock. If we were to implement solar geoengineering now so as to keep global warming close to today’s level while continuing to emit CO2 into the atmosphere, solar geoengineering could end up masking quite a lot of unrealised warming. If for some reason we were unable to sustain this solar geoengineering, this unrealised warming could then materialise on a timescale of a few years, which could have catastrophic consequences.

So, I do think we should be very cautious of actively implementing such technology. In fact, I would suggest that we really shouldn’t be aiming to implement anything like this at the moment, or any time soon. I also think the governance issues highlighted in the letter are valid concerns, and there may well be no easy way to overcome them. On the other hand, I think it’s probably still worth understanding this option, even if it is something we never actually want to use. In some sense, the cat is already out of the bag (we know that there are ways to artificially cool the planet) so it’s probably better to be informed, than not.

Links:

Solar geoengineering non-use agreement
Solar geoengineering: The case for an international non-use agreement, paper by Biermann et al.

Update:

As highlighted by Alastair McIntosh on Twitter, solar geoengineering also doesn’t directly address ocean acidification, which is another reason for focussing on emission reductions, rather than implementing something like solar radiation management.

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69 Responses to An international solar geoengineering non-use agreement

  1. One thing I did wonder is that if you could get the international community to agree on a solar geoengineering non-use agreement, than maybe one could also get them to agree on how to use it in ways that resolved these governance issues (in particular, making sure that those who are most likely to be adversely affected have a say in its implementation). The problem, though, would then seem to be enforcement, rather than governance. I’m not a governance expert, though, so may well misunderstand some aspects of this.

  2. Jon Kirwan says:

    Your perspective, as I gather it from the above, is pretty close to mine. I’ll let it gestate a bit to see if anything else develops worth mentioning. But your writing sounds almost like what I’d write. And I didn’t have the benefit of your clubhouse meeting. Interesting post. I’ll need to think and read a little more, now.

  3. Jon Kirwan says:

    The cost of some of these approaches, and here suggests I read decades back about spraying sulfuric acid (or similar) into the stratosphere comes to mind, will be both quite cheap to perform and will have global reach because of the very high winds aloft. There are too many sovereign powers and individuals and corporations (agents with the opportunity to act) who can afford the price, if sufficiently motivated. And so far as I’m aware, there’s nothing that can really stop them.

    There will come a time when at least one of these agents with the capacity to act will also find some motivation to act. And when you have both motive and opportunity in the same place, then there the likelihood of action skyrockets. I’m pretty certain someone will do at least one of the cheaper things with global impact, because we don’t really have sufficient penalties in place to counter what I imagine will be continually mounting motivations.

    Do you think that restraint will win the day? Or, like me, do you feel it is more likely than not that some agent will “just go and do it” with regard to the lower-cost global-impact options, such as stratospheric modification for solar geoengineering purposes?

  4. Jon Kirwan says:

    Correction: I meant to write “…, and here something I read decades back suggesting spraying sulfuric acid …” I need to proof-read more. 😉

  5. Jon,
    My general view is that you’re right that it’s probably cheap enough, and easy enough, that some nation (or region) could simply decide to go ahead and do it. I did, however, once suggest this to colleague who worked in the general area who suggested that this concern wasn’t really all that worth worrying about, but I didn’t quite understand their argument.

    In a sense, though, it’s one reason why it might be worth continuing to study this. If there is a chance that this could be implemented by a nation (or region) then it is probably worth understanding the implications.

  6. Jon Kirwan says:

    I still think someone is going to do it. I’d love to know why someone who is better informed may think otherwise. If you do find out more on this, and it makes any sense to you, I’d very much appreciate hearing more about it.

    On the point about added study, I do agree! Particularly in the cases where it is “low hanging fruit” (cheap enough to do that there are more than a few with the opportunity to try), I consider it more on the urgent side and I’d want to fund that more quickly, than not, consistent with prudent study designs and not “just anything that someone proposes.” 😉

  7. Bob Loblaw says:

    Yeah, let’s add sulphur dioxide again. Acid rain was all a communist plot, anyway.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_rain

  8. Jon Kirwan says:

    Bob Loblaw
    “Yeah, let’s add sulphur dioxide again. Acid rain was all a communist plot, anyway.”

    One of the defining characteristics of the stratosphere is that it starts right at the boundary where water content drops to zero.

    I seem to recall that the large-scale ascent in the tropics is partly driven by moist convection and extreme drying, where lateral movement in the stratospheric layers (where the name comes from) then may feed a large scale subsidence system towards the polar regions, memory serving, partly through radiative cooling and katabatic winds (kind of a suction of sorts is the way I imagine it.)

    Spraying chemicals into the stratosphere is relatively cheap compared to other global impact mechanisms. That’s the reason I think it will likely occur. But it was some 20-30 yrs ago when I last remember hearing specific discussions about H2SO4. I don’t recall SO2 being discussed then, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been discussed.

    And yes, I do recall the song:

    “Welcome, sulfur dioxide,Hello, carbon monoxideThe air, the air
    Is everywhere

    Whatever the chemical mechanism that might be considered today, I would imagine (I’m just a hobbyist) that whatever is sent up will take some days or weeks to make it into the polar regions where it can subside and then mix back into the troposphere to have an impact on precipitation.

    I wish I knew more details about quantities needed and what’s being suggested these days. I don’t. But the statement of shock from the Ferengi, Quark, of “They irradiated their own planet!?” still does come unbidden to my ignorant mind. 🙂

  9. Russell says:

    The success of Sami climate activists in aborting Scopex suggests Scandinavia should take the political lead by delegating geoengineering governance to IKEA, the only entity positioned to deploy it internationally in kit form:

  10. jacksmith4tx says:

    And this is without considering what exciting discoveries in genetic engineering await us!?
    We are already doing massive changes to the biosphere.
    “Outside the Safe Operating Space of the Planetary Boundary for Novel Entities” – Environmental Science & Technology:
    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.1c04158

    “Since the 1950s, chemical production has increased by 50-fold. By 2050, it’s on track to triple again…
    Today, there are about 350,000 human-made chemicals on the market, including plastics, pesticides, industrial chemicals, cosmetic chemicals, antibiotics, and other drugs.
    The fact this number continues to rise at an extraordinary rate makes it virtually impossible for any authority to keep track of their potential impacts on the environment.
    https://www.sciencealert.com/synthetic-chemicals-aren-t-just-pushing-earth-s-boundary-they-ve-crossed-it

  11. Ben McMillan says:

    The proposal to use sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere would cause a much smaller increase of sulphate near the ground than currently existing pollution does, because these aerosols stay in the stratosphere a long time.

    People are going to start thinking about this pretty seriously once we get somewhere with CO2 emissions. If a 0.5C difference (e.g. between 1.5C and 2C) is really seen to be crucial, then geoengineering the only way to make this size of change on a reasonable timescale once GHG emissions are near zero.

    That means we pretty much need real-world research on this now; the Scopex fiasco shows that this is going to require a lot of care and tact, and consulting the people on the ground.

    Some of the geoengineering proponents have not exactly covered themselves in glory in terms of cultural sensitivity or appearing to care about potential impacts of their favored schemes.

  12. Ben,

    That means we pretty much need real-world research on this now; the Scopex fiasco shows that this is going to require a lot of care and tact, and consulting the people on the ground.

    Some of the geoengineering proponents have not exactly covered themselves in glory in terms of cultural sensitivity or appearing to care about potential impacts of their favored schemes.

    Indeed. Even if a group of researchers believes that an experiment is safe and carries no risks, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t still engage constructively with local communities.

    People are going to start thinking about this pretty seriously once we get somewhere with CO2 emissions. If a 0.5C difference (e.g. between 1.5C and 2C) is really seen to be crucial, then geoengineering the only way to make this size of change on a reasonable timescale once GHG emissions are near zero.

    Indeed. One of my concerns with implementing it now is that if we don’t get somewhere with CO2 emission reductions, it could then mask a lot of unrealised warming. If we are getting somewhere with CO2 emissions reductions, we could then consider using it to suppress a relatively small amount of warming which, given that this small amount of warming could have a lot of impact, could substantially reduce the negative effects of climate change. In particular, if we thought we could develop negative emission technologies (NETs) that would artificially draw down atmospheric CO2, you could envisage SRM being used temporarily to suppress some warming, and then withdrawn as the NETs come on line.

  13. wmconnolley says:

    The “non-use” idea is rather vague on “use” vs “research”. But I think what they want is a ban on research (they say “not prohibit atmospheric or climate research” but it isn’t clear whether than means on geoeng research, or more general research). But their unambiguous call for a ban on outdoors experiments would mean no effective research.

    In the comments above you respond to “That means we pretty much need real-world research on this now” with “Indeed” so can I take it you disagree with them on this, and do support research, including outdoor experiments?

  14. WMC,
    If you’re asking me, then “yes” that is the aspect that I disagree with. However, I do think that the SCoPEx group did blunder when they didn’t engage with local communities (or engage suitably) when planning their experiment in Northern Sweden. I also think (as Gavin Schmidt has pointed out) that one of the key issues is governance, which is the main focus of the letter. I don’t think more research is going to resolve this. However, since it seems that some could go ahead with some kind of SRM anyway, being informed seems preferable not being informed. Of course, one might argue that being informed could somehow justify such attempts, but I still tend to think that it’s better to be informed than not, and to work on how to better govern such activities (which would include potentially developing procedures that might preclude such activities).

  15. Dave_Geologist says:

    Ah yes, the old “work expanding to fill the time and space available” meme. Brings to mind something I was thinking about which although tangential to climate change has a climate-change punchline.

    I realised a few days ago I was lacking some of the seminal plate-tectonics papers which I’d had on my work computer. On downloading, IIRC, Le Pichon 1968, I saw an article below on Activation Analysis. Glanced at it and said, “hey that’s neutron activation: how I did the rare earths for my PhD”. OK “did” means giving the samples to a technician to take to the Risley research reactor to be irradiated. Oddly enough, they didn’t return my samples. Wonder why? It was state-of-the-art in 1980 (developed in the late 60s although invented in 1935), but obsolete by the late 80s. Replaced by ICPMS (inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry). Made me feel old 😦 .

    By the late 90s I’d seen the electron microprobe I used obsoleted by increased miniaturisation and detector sensitivity which meant you just slapped an EDAX system onto an ordinary electron microscope and were good to go. No more need for monster beams that could cut metal. Although power has merits as the instrument I used was a bit worn, so sometimes I burned a visible hole in a quartz grain to check the beam alignment with the optical cross-hairs. Plus of course there have been huge reductions in data reduction and analysis time as computers improved. I didn’t mind that as the technology stayed the same, just got better.

    Of course people didn’t cut the machine count by 90%: they kept the same beam time and just did ten or a hundred times as many measurements, and ten or a hundred times as much calculating. On the plus side that enabled insights that would have been impossible in my day (precision improved as well as speed and cost). And actually, I bet a modern machine uses a lot less electricity. I had to climb a twelve foot ladder several times a day and pour liquid nitrogen in at the top to keep mine happy. And I bet the IBM mainframe I did my subsequent calculations on used ten or a hundred times as much electricity per FLOP as the PC I’m typing on. More, probably. The mainframe at my undergraduate university had a whole floor of cooling radiators above it, long before Amazon server farms. And that was the early integrated circuit era, not individual transistors or, heaven forbid, valves.

    LEDs are cool 😉 . I don’t feel guilty about mine. I did wonder about the halogen and mini-fluorescent lights, which only save about half the power on incandescent and must have had a much higher environmental impact in manufacture and disposal. Were they even carbon-neutral over their whole life-cycle? But they were a transition technology, like gas replacing oil or coal, or hybrid cars. I bet if I searched I could find articles saying they’re not worth it, and we’ll never replace them with LEDs because no-one will ever work out how to make a white LED. Yes people will be a bit more extravagant about leaving them on, but for once I agree with Tom. Unless you only used them two hours a day in the incandescent era, it’s a win even if you leave them on 24/7.

  16. The discussion at 40 minutes is right on target imo. We should not see our options as either we focus primarily on emission reductions or we move ahead with SRM and other dubious schemes, we need to accept that we will need to do many things at the same time if we want to manage our predicament.

    I think it is naive to think that we can prevent deliberate solar radiation management. A global agreement to not research and deploy SRM would probably work as well as the nuclear anti-proliferation agreement, which is to say that countries would attempt to violate the agreement and get away with it. Once the tech exists and can be deployed, you can’t unring the bell.

    The discussion at 45 minutes is also right on imo.

    The other speakers on this podcast sound sane and reasonable to me and I think there conclusions about tipping points is completely reasonable. It is not dark green or extreme doomerism, it is simply reasonable analysis with an understanding of the risks that we face on the current pathway.

    Stacy says around 45 minutes that we need to be doing everything. Not one thing or another, everything. Think about this if/when you feel like slamming folks who suggest we have to address methane emission reductions with the same intensity that we use to address CO2 emission reductions.

    Thanks for taking part in this podcast discussion, Ken. I hope folks here will think hard about the points that the other speakers made in this podcast. Also, if you have used terms like extreme doomerism or dark green approaches, please listen to this podcast closely. I think the rhetorical slamming of tipping point discussions does not serve us well.

    Cheers
    Mike

  17. Again, thanks for taking part in this discussion, Ken. The message at 1 hour 14 minutes reflects pretty exactly my thoughts on where we are and what we should recognize about our situation. I would be interested in hearing what folks think about the monologue at that point. It just seems so right to me.
    Cheers
    Mike

  18. The speakers on this podcast are quite clear (and correct imo) to point out that we are already doing SRM with the aerosols associated with our burning of fossil fuels. The rebound in temp that is happening now with reduction of aerosols is not very different from the rebound that will occur if/when some party moves forward with an SRM plan that could be compared to Pinatubo. Not equal to Pinatubo, but could be compared, say half or a quarter. Pinatubo is useful because we have so much data on the aerosols and their impact on global temps.

    It’s interesting that the Clubhouse platform appears to be aimed at “teens.” Is that some sort of greta effect where scientific discussion is different where it occurs in populations that expect to be alive in 2050 and beyond? Is that why most of the speakers sound so different in their analysis from the commenters here? If you have an impulse to slam my comments here, please listen to this podcast and frame your responses with reference to time stamps in this podcast.

    Mike

  19. Russell says:

    Scopex would have involved experiments on the scale of a fireworks display, dispersing kilogram quantities of sulfate and carbonate aerosols over northern Scandinavia to study optical scattering from the resulting small clouds.

    Those raising Lapland’s consciousness of the hazards of the scary balloon born stratospheric dustup did not , to the best of my knowledge, ask the locals if they recalled any harm arising from aerosols injected into the skies overhead from satellite and space debris re-entry , or recent eruptions in Iceland and Jan Mayen. The annual regional fallout of the former may well exceed the Scopex mass budget, and the latter , witness the grounding of commercial flights, was conservatively a factor of million larger. :

    https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/0377027386900041

    Ethicists are invited to discuss the demerits of :
    1. Conducting experiments without public transparency.

    @. Filing to tell people that you are trying to scare them into political action by distracting them from relevant priors.

  20. Bob Loblaw says:

    The proposal to use sulphate aerosols in the stratosphere would cause a much smaller increase of sulphate near the ground than currently existing pollution does, because these aerosols stay in the stratosphere a long time.

    They don’t stay there forever, and eventually the rate of descent into the troposphere will have to equal the rate at which they are added to the stratosphere to keep the levels high enough to maintain the effect.

  21. Ben McMillan says:

    Bob: the point is that you can get a large cooling impact using sulfates by adding them to the stratosphere without a very large concentration of sulfates near the surface.

    i.e. Crutzen: “Albedo Enhancement by Stratospheric Sulfur Injections: A Contribution to Resolve a Policy Dilemma?”

    “Although climate cooling by sulfate aerosols also
    occurs in the troposphere (e.g., Ramaswamy et al., 2001), the great advantage of
    placing reflective particles in the stratosphere is their long residence time of about
    1–2 years, compared to a week in the troposphere. Thus, much less sulfur, only a
    few percent, would be required in the stratosphere to achieve similar cooling as the
    tropospheric sulfate aerosol (e.g., Dickinson, 1996; Schneider, 1996; NAS, 1992;
    Stern, 2005). This would make it possible to reduce air pollution near the ground,
    improve ecological conditions and reduce the concomitant climate warming”

  22. Dave_Geologist says:

    Oops, my tangential post yesterday was meant for the previous thread 😦

  23. b fagan says:

    Ben – thanks for this info:
    “Although climate cooling by sulfate aerosols also occurs in the troposphere (e.g., Ramaswamy et al., 2001), the great advantage of placing reflective particles in the stratosphere is their long residence time of about 1–2 years, compared to a week in the troposphere.”

    Any research into sulfate injection would have to be built around modelling and assessing the impact of the following stratospheric co-residence equation:

    1 (full scale human sulfate injection program) + 1 (Pinatubo eruption) = ?

    If humans plan to act like a massive tropical volcanic eruption, assume we’d be doing it for at least a few decades, so the “great advantage” of long residence time would increasingly likely become a great disadvantage should a genuine volcano loft go. We can’t schedule volcanoes, and we’re already seeing climate impacts affect crop production, like the 2010 Russian heatwave and drought.

    And one study last year finds that it’s possible the warmer climate will increase the cooling impact of large eruptions. I don’t have access to the paper, but Eos has an article about it:
    “Climate Change Will Alter Cooling Effects of Volcanic Eruptions
    New research indicates the cooling effect of rare, large eruptions will increase, whereas the effects of more frequent, smaller eruptions will be reduced.”

    https://eos.org/articles/climate-change-will-alter-cooling-effects-of-volcanic-eruptions

    As Jon and others said, it’s fairly easy for humans to do stratospheric aerosols. History shows we’re prone to over-confidence that we can control things we don’t fully understand. And the same groups who want to continue not changing our energy mix will be promoting any “quick, cheap” fix since they won’t pay for the impacts.

  24. Russell says:

    Ben

    Aerosols designed and optimized for high Mie sunlight scattering efficiency differ physically and chemically from volcanic aerosols. They owe their high cooling potential per unit mass to extremely small and uniform particle or droplet size and careful control of refractive index contrast.

    Crutzen’s big idea was making the particles really small to exponentially increase their collective backscattering cross section. The importance of doing this is evident in the high brightness of ordinary white clouds in the troposphere, which , like fog, may consist of just parts per million by volume of micron sized water droplets . Thanks to Stokes Law, their minute size allows them to remain in Brownian suspension

  25. Ben McMillan says:

    I think that articles like the following are probably useful for agricultural impacts:

    Proctor, J., Hsiang, S., Burney, J. et al. Estimating global agricultural effects of geoengineering using volcanic eruptions. Nature 560, 480–483 (2018). https://0-doi-org.pugwash.lib.warwick.ac.uk/10.1038/s41586-018-0417-3

    It is worth keeping in mind that current and projected warming due to greenhouse gases have quite severe impacts on agriculture. Obviously there are various tradeoffs between precipitation, dimming, and temperature for SRM.

    If someone is allowed to do experiments, that would help to quantify these tradeoffs.

  26. Fergus Isback says:

    I am afraid of ‘insteadery’. One key risk, as with many such propositions, is that SG will be implemented instead of what is truly necessary, emissions reductions. Is research a good idea? Yes; someone might actually come up with something which isn’t a sticking-plaster solution. Science is amazing that way. Meanwhile we need to put the pressure where it counts, regardless.

  27. Fergus, are you back 🙂

    I largely agree that the focus should be on emission reductions, rather than on implementing something like SRM. It’s possible that researching SRM could slow action to reduce emissions, but my guess is that this infuence will probably be small. Not only are we seeing alternatives becoming cost competitive, but there are so many other factors that are influencing this that the addition of work on SRM will probably not have a substantive impact (I could be wrong, of course).

  28. Fergus Isback says:

    Yes, more or less back. Research on SRM won’t prevent emissions reductions in itself. But two points: Actually using SRM as a proxy can’t possibly work, and the ongoing project (sic) of seeking a magic bullet to get us out of our quandary needs no encouragement. There may be a place for some kind of SRM in the mix of adjustments down the line, and sooner or later someone will try it, with or without agreement or regulation. This is what India does after a heatwave in Kim Stanley Robinson’s ‘The Ministry for the Future’ (yes, it’s fiction, but plausible). I’m keen to see a clear defining of what SRM is for and what it can and cannot achieve. Context.

  29. The discussion at 1 hour point makes it clear that we are already doing SRM with our current coal burning on the planet. Discussion regarding Hansen’s point about our faustian bargain with coal is easy to avoid, but the impacts of coal burning reduction (which has to happen) and the loss of short term aerosol cooling that comes with burning coal can be ignored at our peril.

    I am not sure what “insteadery” means, but if it means the rhetorical punch of suggesting we cannot discuss methane emission reduction or the loss of aerosol cooling that comes with cleaning up dirty emissions or reducing the actual FF burning that creates cooling is a bad idea because it will somehow reduce our ability to focus on reduction of CO2 emissions, then I like that term very much. The speakers on this podcast are quite persuasive and clear about the risks we face with our current pathway. I would add that our current pathway includes all our past efforts and focus on reducing CO2 emissions, so when folks talk about the danger of losing that focus, it seems like black humor to me. We are at 419 ppm of CO2 and the graphs I have seen bending the Keeling curve suggest we top at 440 ppm. At current rate of increase, we blow by 440 ppm in less than 10 years. Can we walk and chew gum? I have seen it done.

    Cheers

    Mike

  30. Susan Anderson says:

    sbm, I believe insteadery means using symptomatic (temporary) relief (with likely unintended consequences, let alone crops and loss of sunlight) to avoid fixing the underlying condition. Profits, habits, and apathy make us prone to accept flash in place of substance, too.

  31. Susan Anderson says:

    I am grateful to Russell for sharing his expertise here. Partly weighing in because some of us, accustomed to enjoying his sharp humor (or not), may not realize just how knowledgeable he is on this subject.

  32. mrkenfabian says:

    My own view of “Deep Green” and other extremists as bogeymen impeding sensible progress is that it is the enduring failures of mainstream politics to grapple convincingly with the climate issue that gives them the opportunity to rise to influence the broader public. When significant political interests appear to want deadlocks and delays on a very serious issue there will be a need for scapegoats, so in a backhanded way opponents of strong action benefit from fringe voices being amplified, not suppressed.

    If experiments in stratospheric aerosol injection are considered seriously important they will get done – somewhere, with appropriate permission and support. “But if Greens just supported x, the problem would get fixed” seems like diversionary blameshifting to me.

  33. thanks for help with the “insteadery” term. I can follow things better if there is limited jargon or at least jargon that I think I understand. Even then, I am pretty sure I am not sorting and understanding it all.
    Cheers
    Mike

  34. Fergus Isback says:

    sbm, No jargon intended, just an Isback neologism. Your point about particulate reduction raises the possibility of SRM as a potential solution to loss of coal ‘carp’ in the atmosphere and this might be a promising avenue for research. Don’t know the numbers well enough to be confident.

  35. Susan Anderson says:

    Just invested nearly 3 hours listening to the “clubhouse” discussion, and, for starters, here’s a video from George Marshall, which is short (lovely and short!). More later (we’re getting “bombogenesis” which no doubt most of you will hear about in the news (Boston US), so I’ll be homebound tomorrow). “only has the shape we give it, and we can choose that shape” – 2014, so more optimistic than now.

  36. Just invested nearly 3 hours listening to the “clubhouse” discussion.

    It was maybe a little long 🙂 . Hopefully you found it interesting.

  37. Susan Anderson says:

    aTTP: yes, I found it interesting, if a little overdone on SLR boosterism. But there are no good answers. I liked Marshall’s Ted Talk too, but too many are hell bent on destroying each other one way or another.
    We got 24 inches of snow today, but I copped out on following up today despite being cozily at home. Another time.

  38. Ben McMillan says:

    An “unsolicited peer review” of this non-use agreement.

    View at Medium.com

    “The argument here seems to rest on an ideological commitment that it would be dangerous, socially, because of how the authors weight the risk of mitigation deterrence (which is actually impossible to quantify). One must be pretty sure that one is correct about the danger of this social risk before taking it off the table. Can you not imagine someone in, say, 2050, who is suffering from extreme heat, wondering why their parents’ generation decided to forbid research on something that might be able to cool the climate and save them from a dangerous heat wave?”

    I agree that it is odd that people think “mitigation deterrence” (for which we have no evidence) is so big a threat that even research into SRM should be taboo.

  39. mrkenfabian says:

    I don’t think opposition to SRM is odd – not surprising nor especially alarming. When mainstream politics doesn’t want to fix the climate problem at any inconvenience to fossil fuel producers and users SRM looks like a side issue. The ability to point at “green” intransigence as pivotal in stopping a viable and useful option is convenient but more symptomatic than causative.

    If mainstream politics does choose to front up to the problem fringe opposition will be sidelined – but I think SRM will still not be at the top of priorities and more a sign of enduring failure on other fronts than indicative of getting serious. If it looks likely to really be necessary by governments determined to tackle global warming no prior agreements to NOT do it will count for much – even legislated limits or bans get overturned.

    Do people really need evidence to conclude it will be used as mitigation deterrence by powerful interests that have shown themselves willing to utilise every opportunity to use misinformation, misdirection and the tools of influence to evade climate responsibility and accountability and keep emissions happening? Watching emissions reduction funding going to fossil fuel companies for CCS for taking CO2 out of gas to make it more marketable and having the CCS element fail (surprise!) and them keep the money and the gas sales profits (Gorgon gas project in Australia) or making H2 with brown coal with only dubious emissions offsets and calling it a low emissions pathway, again on the back of emissions reduction funding – Australia “leading” the way – does seem to show a lack of trust is warranted.

  40. Ben McMillan says:

    We ban research on SRM for several decades and then suddenly decide to implement SRM in a hurry in a big way seems like the worst possible option to me.

  41. Ben,
    Indeed, that would seem to be a pretty poor option.

    I came across this paper, which seems to do a reasonable job of summarising the various issues. Maybe a bit too positive about SRM prospects, but a reasonable summary.

  42. Ben McMillan says:

    ATTP: Thanks, interesting, covers most of the bases.

  43. mrkenfabian says:

    Well, there is not in fact any global ban on SRM science. It seems quite clear calls for it will provoke others to argue against such a ban. If a ban were adopted that would be because of the broader failure of mainstream politics to care more than the opposition of extremists.

    I think the doubts about the advisability of encouraging the view that we have a way to fix it if we fail to bring emissions down – that it will be used to enable further Delay by Doubt, Deny, Delay politickers – are valid. It is up to those who think it is important we explore SRM to make the case for it.

    “We ban research on SRM for several decades and then suddenly decide to implement SRM in a hurry in a big way seems like the worst possible option to me.”

    I suspect a whole lot of choosing worst possible options would be the prerequisite to suddenly deciding to use it – almost certainly those will be mainstream political choices to have weak emissions reductions/clean energy policies. Concerns about governance should nations decide to deploy it? Yes.

  44. russellseitz says:

    For the last ten years the ” Doubt, Deny, Delay politickers” meme has also applied reflexively to campaigns denying the need for climate mitigation & merchandising popular doubt in order to delay experiments like Scopex.

  45. “I suspect a whole lot of choosing worst possible options would be the prerequisite to suddenly deciding to use it – almost certainly those will be mainstream political choices to have weak emissions reductions/clean energy policies. ”

    Ethanol in cars? Check
    Palm oil plantations? Check
    Off shore wind? Check
    Wood chips for Drax? Check

    There is no shortage of examples of choosing worst possible options…

  46. David B Benson says:

    thomaswfuller2 —- What wrong with off shore wind?

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    Why offshore wind Tom?

    It gets them out of sight of the neighbours, and in the previous UK round of bidding it came out cheaper than new nuclear. And it’s a tried and tested technology. And the latest UK round was very well subscribed, including by the likes of BP and the former Statoil, who know how to build and operate large chunks of offshore kit.

    Obviously it wouldn’t make much sense in Minnesota, but the world isn’t limited to Minnesota.

    Fun fact: one of the biggest beneficiaries of ethanol-in-fuel subsidies is the Koch Brothers.

    Indeed why palm oil? AFAIK it’s fuel use is minuscule. It’s all about processed food and other consumer products like cosmetics.

  48. Fergus Isback says:

    On the other hand, onshore wind is a mature technology and costs less than half the price of offshore. If you want the best option, for the right places, it wins hands down.

  49. Ben McMillan says:

    Interesting to see some familiar names sign up to ‘regulate short-vs-long-lived greenhouse gases separately’. I like the proposed solution a lot better than GWP*:
    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41612-021-00226-2

    Also, as usual, Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser do an awesome job on palm oil:
    https://ourworldindata.org/palm-oil

    Indeed palm oil use for biofuel is worldwide a small proportion, but a large fraction of use in the EU.

    I think the high capacity factor of (especially remote/floating) offshore wind is going to make it a winner (in the right locations), even if it is somewhat more expensive per unit energy.

  50. Chubbs says:

    The worst options are: coal, followed by petroleum. Better options are becoming available.

  51. Chubbs says:

    That’s what makes a carbon tax attractive. Its easier to pick losers than winners.

  52. since you mentioned carbon tax and some of the ideas in the podcast have to do with global governance, I will say that I will believe that our species has risen to the global warming occasion when serious discussion and negotiation of a carbon tax is underway. Even then, discussion is insufficient. Discussion does not doom us, but it is insufficient to address global warming. Agreement and implementation of a carbon tax program looks like a primary step if our species wants to stop global warming.

    As to the SRM non use agreement? As a global proposal it is quite silly. We are already doing SRM with our coal and particulate emissions. We face a significant temp rebound if we ever stop with the coal and particulate SRM project that is currently underway. We squandered our opportunity to avoid implementation of SRM and other geoengineering foolishness over the past 30 years as we increased CO2 in oceans and atmosphere when we knew we should be going the the other way with the emissions. We can’t unring that bell. I don’t like SRM and geoengineering generally, but I have said for many years that we will end up undertaking these projects because collectively we refuse to stop burning fossil fuels.

    I think that only Susan and I actually listened to all or significant portions of the podcast or mentioned listening so far. If others here mentioned listening and had thoughts on the podcast, I missed that. Ken took part so he knows what got said and what did not. I encourage more folks here to listen to the podcast and share their thoughts with specific reference to the timeline of the podcast.

    I don’t want to be seen as an extreme doomer or dark greenie or anything like that, but I noticed this study and the article about it in the Guardian and thought the links were worth sharing.

    https://journals.plos.org/climate/article?id=10.1371/journal.pclm.0000007

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/feb/01/extreme-heat-oceans-passed-point-of-no-return-high-temperatures-wildlife-seas?utm_term=61fa6b3b2a72395225310f8bc6acd7ae&utm_campaign=USMorningBriefing&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=usbriefing_email

    Cheers

    Mike

  53. should be “has not risen to the occasion”… but I guess it works either way, we are certainly more enthusiastic about talking the talk than walking the walk.

  54. mrkenfabian says:

    Russell – “For the last ten years the ” Doubt, Deny, Delay politickers” meme has also applied reflexively to campaigns denying the need for climate mitigation & merchandising popular doubt in order to delay experiments like Scopex.”

    When those who hold the relevant positions of trust, responsibility and arguably accountability – with full and direct access to the expert advice and to the expertise to assess that advice, better than any of us on this forum – do Doubt, Deny, Delay to prevent climate ambition I think it is qualitatively different to interfering do-gooders doing DDD against nuclear or SRM or other specific solutions, whilst promoting the solutions they think best. (I think that was what you were alluding to). Doubt, Deny, Delay politickers as I call them are doing something much more misguided and wrong than those do-gooder activists.

    And if those with the positions and powers and influence took their duty of care seriously I don’t think they would be so willing to give leadership up to interfering do-gooders:

    Even throwing the issue back onto the public, with validity of the science based expert advice made into a matter of popular opinion by the very people with the duty of care who commissioned it was an abrogation of responsibility. When they gave their support to the doubt and deny side that was something much more serious than abrogation.

  55. Mal Adapted says:

    mrkenfabian:

    Doubt, Deny, Delay politickers as I call them are doing something much more misguided and wrong than those do-gooder activists.

    Thank you. IMHO, the difference between climate-change ‘alarmists’ and denialists is that the latter have more transparent motives for lying. Some prominent disinformers are paid by fossil fuel producers or investors; other public denialists allow their zeal for culture war to overcome their integrity. It’s evident that some climate-change activists have a wider political agenda, and some may actually be flying a false flag; but AFAICT there’s rather less financial incentive to advocate for decarbonization than against it. “Consider the source” and “follow the money” are basic tools of genuine skepticism, no?

  56. b fagan says:

    Hoping better late than never applies, but a suggestion I forgot to post when this thread was active:

    Given the real risk of any powerful geoengineering technique overshooting a cooling target, or being in use when a large volcanic event adds its own cooling, can the key feature for evaluating the different options be the ability to rapidly turn the process off?

    Russell’s water-brightening, or the cloud-brightening others suggest, have the benefit of being evanescent, while sulfur in the stratosphere is something that keeps acting for the year or two it takes to eventually return to earth. Not good to have a powerful climate forcing we use to “control” the harms from our greenhouse habit when the process used can’t realistically be controlled in a useful timescale.

  57. Jon Kirwan says:

    Re: b fagan

    I’m too ignorant to have earned an opinion worth much. The reason I haven’t studied more is that there are too many oars in the water right now and I don’t have the time to comprehensively read the details and then perform the added study and time to consider them in context before arriving at some conclusion worth the time to write out. So I’m waiting for some winnowing away of various suggestions or else the good work of another with the time to be comprehensive and then help me to understand the fuller context. At least, for now.

    That said, my gut wrenches at the idea of grasping at easy, cheap solutions. It’s very hard for most people to keep so many as just three balls in motion at once when thinking, let alone the myriad that exist — both known and unknown and unseen — when talking about striking out this way. I know there is a lot that we don’t know; and we don’t even know we don’t know them. But we love simple solutions that fix complex problems. And that’s what we will do. Not because it is right. But because it’s simple and because it is cheap. And we will do it largely clueless.

    One of the hardest problems to solve in closed loop control theory is the insertion of a delay. Worse still, is variable delays. I deal with closed loop control systems, routinely. It’s part of what I do. And the example I like to use when talking with others lacking the math and experience here is about a thin, flexible and wobbly bamboo pole and the small, round opening in a bird house that is in a tree. If the bamboo pole is short and the house nearby, it is very easy to poke the pole into the hole. Anyone can do it. But if the pole is very long and swinging around a lot as one tries to navigate it into the birdhouse hole, it’s a much harder problem. And now, if you arrange things so that the bamboo pole length varies a lot and erratically? It’s almost an impossible task.

    We would be idiots to consider the idea without a thorough and complete theory, supported by vast experimental testing and evidence. But we won’t wait for that. Not going to happen.

    So we will be complete idiots and “just do it.”

    Oh, well.

  58. Ben McMillan says:

    People have also complained that geoengineering could be turned off “too fast” leading to a “termination shock” so I don’t think there is any way to really satisfy every single piece of the hail of objections. I feel like the underlying theme is that people don’t like geoengineering, because it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem (insteadery).

    Moderate use of geoengineering to suppress 0.5C or so of warming seems much less vulnerable to problems of ‘too much cooling/dimming’: “what if there is a volcano” etc would be more problematic if we tried to suppress all the warming with geoengineering alone.

  59. Jon Kirwan says:

    Ben McMillan
    People have also complained that geoengineering could be turned off “too fast” leading to a “termination shock” so I don’t think there is any way to really satisfy every single piece of the hail of objections.

    That worry seems to me to also carry an assumption that SRM is otherwise well-understood as a tool. Or at least, it fails to simultaneously keep on top of the table and in plain view that SRM isn’t. Which gets to the point I earlier made about juggling lots of balls at once. We get distracted by the valid point you make, but in doing so lose sight of other important issues as we drill down on returning to this point.

    We just don’t have the mental capacity to keep everything on the table and in view and where we are fully capable of discussing some aspect without forgetting about all the others.

    I’m not blaming others without including myself in this. I am just as likely to see someone write about the issue of termination shock and then focus my thoughts on that question, while failing then to pull back and wonder how other factors I’m also aware of may relate to the issue of termination shock. How do the unknowns elsewhere (or those knowns that have little real knowledge developed, yet) with respect to SRM relate to this question, too? How much do we really know about the residence time for each method that may be proposed? What methods exist on the table? What new methods might later be proposed by some creative individual that may become the dark horse that wins out? How will the implementation of any particular SRM feed back into the same system to impact the residence time? (Everything both has a more readily understood effect coupled to feedbacks, some of which we likely do NOT know about.) Etc.

    My mind just boggles. But I don’t assume for now that SRM is well-understood enough. So worrying about termination shock is has the risk of dominating discussions, which if resolved one way or another, may inadvertently provide unwarranted confidence that a solution is at hand as it sucks the oxygen from the air on other interacting considerations.

    Ben McMillan
    I feel like the underlying theme is that people don’t like geoengineering, because it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem (insteadery).

    Hehe. That assumes we can even agree on whether or not there is a single root cause.

    If you limit yourself to only considering climate change (complex enough topic), then fossil fuel use is still only one of many root causes. Alteration of land use also would have to be counted as another root cause. And there are more.

    But those supposed root causes actually are just symptoms of the true root cause, which is population. And we will never truly grapple with it. Nor can we even engage a discussion about it. We are incapable of it.

    Ben McMillan
    Moderate use of geoengineering to suppress 0.5C or so of warming seems much less vulnerable to problems of ‘too much cooling/dimming’: “what if there is a volcano” etc would be more problematic if we tried to suppress all the warming with geoengineering alone.

    That doing SRM by half-measures would be less risky is so obvious that I’m not sure saying so advances anything. Claims that are “always true” are essentially immune to evidence. Which means that they are not tentative and immune to what the future may bring. I’d argue these kinds of things aren’t knowledge nor are they helpful in developing a better understanding about what should be done.

  60. I suggest that we take a broader and longer view of SRM. It’s not a question of whether we will do it, because we are already doing it with particulate pollution and we need to recognize that. If we do that, then maybe we would discuss the “termination shock” temp bump that accompanies reduction of high particulate fuels and consider deliberate, short term SRM as a means of minimizing harm.

    If we only tried to match the existing particulate SRM with something deliberate that would allow us to avoid experiencing the particulate termination shock that will otherwise happen as we move away from burning fuels with high particulate emissions. The goal in that scenario might be that we would ramp down the deliberate SRM as atmospheric CO2e falls. That might put us in the right mind frame of understanding SRM as we currently practice it (without much thought or discussion) and moving to the mind frame of understanding how we might be able to use SRM as one part of a complex set of steps and tools we need to use to reduce the catastrophic impacts of global warming.

  61. mrkenfabian says:

    Jon, whilst there is a part of global warming that will be so closely related to population as to be inextricable – land use – the largest part of global warming is from fossil fuel burning and that link can be broken. Less people relying on fossil fuel burning reduces but cannot eliminate emissions but the same number or more shifting to zero emissions energy reduces emissions too, potentially reaching zero for their energy uses. If the solutions don’t work for the population we have and that supports the very human desire to have children they will be unacceptable.

    I see the framing of the climate problem as a population problem as very unhelpful. Taken as absolute then climate activism that doesn’t have population control at it’s core will be seen as stupid and pointless and climate activism that does have population control at it’s core must lead to tyrannical control over people’s personal lives or possibly worse – since the time scales are too short for reduced birthrates alone – deliberate population culling.

    Neither are true but a lot of opponents of strong climate policies are pleased to portray climate activism as stupid, pointless and whether intentionally or not, will lead us into to global tyranny. But I think it will be failure to face up to the climate problem that is more likely to lead to loss of good governance and the rise of tyranny.

  62. Ben McMillan says:

    To put it another way, I’m suggesting the benefit-to-risk ratio might be higher for small levels of geoengineering. Rather than the somewhat strawman scenario where we continue unabated emissions and try to suppress it all with SRM.

  63. Jon Kirwan says:

    mrkenfabian>br>
    Jon, whilst there is a part of global warming that will be so closely related to population as to be inextricable – land use – the largest part of global warming is from fossil fuel burning and that link can be broken.

    The above doesn’t capture what I thought I was trying to communicate nor respond to it directly, so I really cannot add much. It’s more your own writing about your own resonances to my writing. And I’m happy to just leave it as such.

    I believe that climate change is but one of many symptoms. Even if climate change were solved (and it won’t be), the residual changes still also taking place would be sufficient. Climate is one added pressure among many. I’m concerned about it. But I’m concerned as much or more about other impacts we are also having on the planet.

    If I were to suggest the work of only one researcher to you, about something not directly related to climate change, then I’d recommend Dr. Lovejoy’s work product from the late 1970’s through perhaps the end of the 1980’s or so. Last I heard, when a few years ago I called to talk with a Wood’s Hole researcher on boreal forest systems about work he was doing in Canada, I heard that Dr. Lovejoy was on the board there at Wood’s Hole. Regardless, his work in Brazil is impressive and enlightening.

  64. Jon Kirwan says:

    Ben McMillan
    To put it another way, I’m suggesting the benefit-to-risk ratio might be higher for small levels of geoengineering.

    Earlier, you wrote “seems much less vulnerable to problems.” It is something else, now.

    My first reaction is that I may have to agree. That is, taken with a sufficiently narrow enough focus, But I’m also reminded that when willing to be selective in the evidence considered, one can quite reasonably conclude that the earth is flat.

    I’m still very uncomfortable with the idea because I’ve yet to see comprehensive evidence being considered and I’m extremely suspicious when the view is narrow and inherently selective.

    I guess I’m just not interested in SRM without it being a part of a carefully designed and far more comprehensive set of measures to be taken as a whole piece. In no way would I budge even one inch on this topic without gaining something else in return, elsewhere, that also must be done in concert.

    And I’ll leave it there for now.

  65. Jon Kirwan says:

    Oops!! Didn’t get that blockquote right. Sorry about that. Hopefully the parts I wrote are obvious.

  66. b fagan says:

    Ben : “People have also complained that geoengineering could be turned off “too fast” leading to a “termination shock” so I don’t think there is any way to really satisfy every single piece of the hail of objections. I feel like the underlying theme is that people don’t like geoengineering, because it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem (insteadery).”

    My “hailstone of objection” is a reasonable one, I think. Any mechanism of SRM should be able to be stopped and restarted if conditions warrant that, and the response should be as rapid as possible. Jon’s analogy of two ways to poke a birdhouse’s entry was apt. Waiting a year after hitting the OFF switch on stratospheric aerosols means potentially having a year of far more cooling then desired – your suggested precision of ” to suppress 0.5C or so of warming” would not be the case if our influence is coinciding with natural influences.

    You suggest an ability to set the thermostat precisely for the cooling we want. Precision requires NOT cooling if the temperature goes below the set point. If a natural cooling event hits and our cooler is unresponsive to that, it is not a useful tool. We could lose a crop year globally while the combined effects wear off. If we’re going to monkey deliberately on the rapid-cooling side, an effective off switch is critical, because we’re going to be tinkering with a planetary system that is far too chaotic for precise control, and it would take decades to even learn it’s working as we think it is due to all the noise of natural variability and variable human forcings.

    But yes, I don’t like geoengineering because, like others here, I fear it will delay effective reductions in emissions, since the folks who claim we can’t accurately assess warming profit from that, and if things too-obviously hit the fan, they’ll rapidly announce we can magically control the cheap fix. So it will be sloppily done to unknown effects, and sorting out the impacts will be more politics and military threat than scientific control.

    “If backup deployment hardware were maintained and if solar geoengineering were implemented by agreement among just a few powerful countries, then the system should be resilient against all but the most extreme catastrophes.”

    That from “The Risk of Termination Shock From Solar Geoengineering” posted at David Keith’s Harvard research group on SRM. The article also links to the open-access paper in “Earth’s Future”
    https://keith.seas.harvard.edu/publications/risk-termination-shock-solar-geoengineering

    Note the system they claim will be resilient is the SRM generator system, not the climate or the human food web. Again, this becomes a system that will be run at the whim of the countries less at risk. Many of those countries (like here in the USA) have fossil industries that are not going willingly, so increase the risk of SRM as they grab profits while they can. They’ve spent decades convincing part of society that we can’t control the climate with our emissions, but I have faith that if they wanted, they could convince that same group that a magical SRM fix is easy, safe and reliable.

  67. b fagan says:

    Jon: “But those supposed root causes actually are just symptoms of the true root cause, which is population. And we will never truly grapple with it. Nor can we even engage a discussion about it. We are incapable of it.”

    I’m going to go with mrkenfabian on this. You are saying something akin to: “trying to cure cancer isn’t helpful because nobody’s grappling with the true root cause, which is disease.”

    Fixing different harms our species causes requires different methods, with different timescales for each. Population isn’t the root cause of greenhouse emissions – compare the per-capita emissions of Canada vs India for a clear indicator. The climate issue is mostly greenhouse gas, and emissions are mostly based on a nation’s specific energy systems and level of economic attainment. And we can and should address emissions quickly by addressing the use of fossil fuels and other human-based emissions sources.

    Ending rampant population growth is discussed and is being acted on, and has been for over half a century. Someone on one of these climate blogs linked a few years back to articles that corrected my own assumptions about population trends – if I remembered who’d done it I’d thank them now.

    Our World In Data has a collection of excellent, very detailed pages related to human population. You can start here, and the top of this article links to the rest.

    https://ourworldindata.org/world-population-growth

    The UN Sustainable Development Goals are something that the US press pretty consistently ignores, which is a shame. Seems the liberal or neutral press ignores the UN unless a big meeting causes traffic in NYC, whereas the press on the right just views the UN with suspicion or outright hostility. Population work in a long-lived species is slow and beyond our attention span, but it’s ongoing and having the desired effects. The article I linked above notes that rate of population growth peaked 60 years ago. And the following about the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from a PNAS paper in 2016, also addresses population.

    “Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals leads to lower world population growth”
    https://www.pnas.org/content/113/50/14294

    I’d link to the UN’s own pages on their population goals, but much of their site appears to be down for maintenance. Anyone fearing World Government can rest assured that we wouldn’t be at risk of it being the UN taking over.

  68. Ben McMillan says:

    I’m not sure I understand the ‘what if there were a volcano as well’ objection: if a little bit of SRM is going to make this an issue, imagine how bad this problem would be if we succeeded in removing all the CO2 that we’ve added. Or if the problem is some kind of nonlinearity, then that suggests than maybe a small amount of SRM would be ok…

    I guess I’d mostly like to see more quantification of risks and research on geoengineering, so if it does need to be done, then we go in with the right knowledge (or just decide it is indeed far too hazardous). There is indeed a real risk it gets done in a rush, even though the most extreme opponents of geoengineering have prevented the research needed to inform the decision.

    (i.e the agreement that this blog post is talking about)

  69. b fagan says:

    Hi, Ben. My objection to not being able to quickly get our SRM out of the way of a competing event is based on the Goldilocks assumption that people won’t go to the risk and expense of deliberately launching a long-term artificial cooling without having some kind of a “just right” cooling number in mind. Not too much SRM, not too little. You mention 0.5°C – but to maintain it in perturbations, our deliberate process might need to quickly stop for a while.

    Think of a pair of nuclear reactors. They both have monitoring systems, they have identical cores and fuel and control rods above the core, and have equal risk of a sudden event like loss of water flow requiring shutting fission down.

    — Hitting the emergency button on reactor A inserts control rods within four seconds, ending the chain reaction before growing heat warps the core assembly.

    — Hitting the emergency button on reactor B opens a locked cabinet with a small wheel that must be manually turned 170 revolutions to lower the control rods, and the gearing’s rusty.

    In both cases, operators plan on using control rods to stop a reaction that unexpectedly departed from its Goldilocks range of fission reactions in the core. Which design seems safer?

    So yes, they should probably study techniques more, but they should look quite intensely at the risks of picking a process that can’t be turned off quickly (and restarted again). I’m not a scientist, but in my line of work a back out plan is something you always prepare for big changes, and you always hope to never need it.

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