Putting the life back in science fiction

Hot Earth Dreams is still ahead of the curve, but…

Just a brief note.  I saw this newspaper article and wanted to share it:


Here’s a link to the Nature Climate Change article mentioned.  I haven’t received a copy yet, as I just emailed the lead author to see if I could get one.

Just in general terms, it’s great to see more climate scientists looking into the deep future.  Hot Earth Dreams is based on decade-old work by David Archer (who is a coauthor on this paper), and I’m looking forward to seeing the details from the new model.


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A point made in the article:

” a key factor that could mitigate this dire forecast is the potential development of technologies that could remove carbon dioxide from the air and thus cool down the planet much faster than the Earth on its own can through natural processes.”

Humans can have a both a positive and negative effect. We may develop mitigating technologies that seem outlandish today, but quite feasible in another century of development, that will head off the bad scenarios. While I wouldn’t bet on it, I wouldn’t rule it out. If we don’t act globally, we can create local environments that will maintain a wealthy civilization, at least in some parts of the world. Rising sea level is clearly a major issue, but in some ways it looks worse now in the US because Congress is run by climate change deniers. When their sea front homes are drowned, or their constituents cities, like Miami, that will change, and we may make heroic efforts to protect out assets.

It would be interesting to see, although I’m rather glad that I won’t.

Comment by alexandertolley

Such mitigating technologies might have their own dangers, unless the various lag effects are very well understood. It’s one way I COULD see a tipover into a new Ice Age.

Comment by ozajh

Mitigating technologies are unlikely to be unregulated, market offering, profit opportunities, but rather costs paid via taxes. Central planning and control is more likely, with too little, too late, being the greater danger, IMO.

Comment by alexandertolley

Sorry, Alex, that one has too many falsehoods to let stand.

–Government creates capitalist markets, generally in cooperation with the major players. There has to be an independent body that deals with issues of fairness and cheating, and resolves inevitable conflicts without resorting to violence.
–This is how cap and trade markets are forming.
–Central planning is playing absolutely no part in this. Even rulings that try to force developers to comply with greenhouse gas limits are based on the predicate of inevitable growth and give Cities an easy out if they want to approve the project anyway. At least in California, which has some of the most “draconian” environmental laws.

I agree that there are problems with carbon markets, but they are structural and often arising from the industry side. One good example in California is that only trees that have been planted specifically for the market can be counted. Those trees must be conifers, because only trees with long, straight trunks that can be modeled as a cylinder of wood can be assessed to determine how much carbon is in them. And no, I’m not kidding. This is the forestry industry’s version of carbon sequestration. They don’t want any plant that can’t be modeled as a large cylinder (the foresters’ version of complex math), even though the technology exists to quickly measure just about any tree. Worse, trees like old redwoods annually sequester far more carbon, but since it comes in lateral growth in existing trees, it would actually make more market sense for the foresters to cut these trees down, chip them, bury them, and plant young, straight redwoods in their place. While this will result in a lot less carbon actually sequestered, that carbon would be visible to the market, so it’s a good, market based solution. Stupid commie hippies would fly drones through stands of old redwoods in parks every year and actually record how much carbon these public non-profits were sequestering, but parks is rather more interested in the industrial approach than the public good approach at the moment.

Note that all of these decisions have been arrived at by the market sector, not by the government.

Comment by Heteromeles

The types of mitigation I was thinking of was cloud particle injection, ocean fertilization and orbital sunshades. I don’t see these are market mechanisms like carbon markets at all. What gets done has to be planned in order to not worsen conditions for other countries, and it may well require global planning to maximize benefits – e.g. where do you first site orbital reflectors – at the equator or the poles? These are likely to be national, publicly financed operations, even if done by private corporations. The space program is a model I think is likely to be used.

Planting trees in boreal regions has recently been shown to worsen GW hasn’t it (reduced albedo has a greater effect than CO2 reduction)? If so, we may not want to do that in North America or N. Europe at all. Tree planting is already rather “scammy” partly because of the market incentives to game the system.

So I see technocratic solutions rather than market based ones.

Comment by alexandertolley

I saw the same article Dr Landis and was going to link it to you because of Hot Earth Dreams in which you laid it out as a scenario. Saves me the work. I did offer a review for your book on Amazon.

Comment by cal48koho

Thanks for the review and the consideration!

Comment by Heteromeles

Thanks to Dr. Peter Clark, the lead author, I now have a copy of the paper, and I intend to read it very thoroughly. It’s not quite the Hot Earth Dreams scenario. From a superficial reading, some differences appear to be:
–The East Antarctic Ice Sheet doesn’t melt entirely, so sea levels only go up 45 meters instead of 65 meters.
–Sea levels rise over ~3,000 years instead of ~1,500 years.
–10,000 years from now, average global temperatures are around +7oC from today (Hot Earth dreams predicted around +5oC).

(Un)fortunately, none of this really contradicts Hot Earth Dreams. The time it takes for the ice sheets to melt was something I had no data on, and 1,500 years for the High Altithermal has always been labeled as a wild guess. Their model suggests that rates of sea level rise peaks fairly early at around 4 meters per century and then declines. This is good news in some ways, in that it’s a lot easier to adapt to than the bigger, faster sea level rise I’ve been talking about.

I’m still in the ballpark temperature, except their model is probably hotter in the High Altithermal than mine is. That’s not so good, but then again, I didn’t tie the Hot Earth Dreams vegetation model to a temperature regime, I tied it to what the Earth did during the Paleogene, and we’re still talking about the same general temperatures (and we’re guessing Paleogene temperatures through various proxies). The bigger question here, (if you’ve read the book), is where black flag weather hits and how long it lasts, and they seem to be saying it’s going to last for (possibly) 10,000 years or more in the worst-hit places. I’d stayed silent on it, because I don’t know.

Even in my cursory reading, though, I can see that I’ll need to have a long talk with some of the authors to make sure I understand the details of their model, before I incorporate it into Hot Earth Dreams 2.0. It appears there’s still some climate science I need to better understand, and that’s a good thing.

Comment by Heteromeles

Very good info. Lucky me I found your blog by chance (stumbleupon).
I’ve book-marked it for later!

Comment by icc world t20

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