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Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’

By Joe Romm

"Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’"

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dysonf.jpgI cannot imagine what possessed the New York Review of Books to have theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson review two books on human-caused global warming (see here). It is a subject completely outside of his expertise and one that he has repeatedly said is bunk.

Dyson has previously said stuff directly at odds with the actual scientific evidence, like “There is no doubt that parts of the world are getting warmer, but the warming is not global” (see “Freeman Dyson, Climate Crackpot“).

Then again, while he was once a brilliant theoretical physicist, he’s never been strong on the applied side of science. He was, after all, one of the “geniuses” pushing Project Orion — the absurdly impractical idea of creating a rocket ship powered by detonating nuclear bombs.

The new article is critiqued by RealClimate (here). But I did want to highlight one amazing assertion by Dyson on how he believes the issue of carbon emissions will be solved soon, which makes all too clear why he should stick with theoretical physics:

I consider it likely that we shall have “genetically engineered carbon-eating trees” within twenty years, and almost certainly within fifty years.

Carbon-eating trees could convert most of the carbon that they absorb from the atmosphere into some chemically stable form and bury it underground. Or they could convert the carbon into liquid fuels and other useful chemicals. Biotechnology is enormously powerful, capable of burying or transforming any molecule of carbon dioxide that comes into its grasp…. If one quarter of the world’s forests were replanted with carbon-eating varieties of the same species, the forests would be preserved as ecological resources and as habitats for wildlife, and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be reduced by half in about fifty years.

It is likely that biotechnology will dominate our lives and our economic activities during the second half of the twenty-first century, just as computer technology dominated our lives and our economy during the second half of the twentieth. Biotechnology could be a great equalizer, spreading wealth over the world wherever there is land and air and water and sunlight…. After we have mastered biotechnology, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed. In a world economy based on biotechnology, some low-cost and environmentally benign backstop to carbon emissions is likely to become a reality.

Oh, well, genetically-engineered carbon-eating trees will solve the problem. Why didn’t anyone point this out before? It certainly would’ve saved me a lot of time.

Wait, I can improve his idea. It’s obviously too risky to take the carbon and “bury it underground.” What if it leaked? Let’s put the carbon on rocket ships powered bynuclear bombs. That way we can be sure the carbon ever return to our atmosphere….

As long as influential publications like the NYRoB publsih such unmitigated disinformation, it’s going to be a long time before this country is ready to take the actions needed to avert catastrophic climate outcomes.

‹ The End of Nature … at least for me

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31 Responses to Freeman Dyson and his amazing, incredible ‘genetically engineered carbon-eating trees’

  1. Eric Roston says:

    Once we have the carbon on nuclear-powered spaceships, we should dismantle Jupiter, reconfigure its mass, and mix it with the carbon, to build a Dyson Sphere that humanity can then inhabit peacefully, not wasting a photon of sunlight from now until our star turns out its lights (See Dyson, Freeman J. “Search for Artificial Sources of Infrared Radiation.” Science, (June 3, 1960): 1667-8.).

  2. Joe Andersen says:

    While Dyson is not a climate change expert, it is not fair to criticize Project Orion. The Orion “engine” was and is a very good idea. Possibly not the best one around, or the one we should go with. But perhaps you should take your own advice and stick to commenting on _your_ own field too…

    I personally agree with Dyson, to a point – every challenge of climate change can be overcome. The question is one of speed and cost – for example will the Supertrees be able to keep up if we let emissions grow unchecked between now and then? I doubt it.

    Joe

  3. hapa says:

    i hereby include billions of dollars in my budget for the development of flame- and bug-resistant desert-dwelling supertrees whose lumber and sap can be the next great building materials, and an additional fifty thousand (for me) to study the impact of unstoppable supertrees as an invasive species.

  4. Ronald says:

    It amazes me how unserious so many people are who should know better. How could the New York Review of Books have asked Dr Dyson for a review of Global Warming books. And then having received it, not think that references to super duper growing trees might not be a reasonable review.

    I’m thinking that New York Review of Books was looking for someone to review books who are deniers and delayers by someone who themselves is a denier or delayer. But that is the problem with books reviewed by one reviewer.

    Dyson spheres are great fun though to think about, even if they are unstable and would fly apart. Much better would be ringworlds.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Kudzu. Think kudzu.

  6. Peter Foley says:

    Didn’t the High Explosive test of the ORION concept work? Again we’d have a Mars colony if the test ban treaty hadn’t stopped Orion. It would be a great replacement for the 30 year old shuttles–imagine multi-million pound payloads.

    [JR: You are a kidding, right? But the disinformation has no place here and was deleted.]

  7. Lamont says:

    Dyson needs to get me my jetpack, aircar and robotic servant before genetic engineering fixes the carbon problem.

    I also don’t understand how mitigation strategies involving the manufacture and sale of compact flourescents, solar panels and wind turbines will harm the economy. Isn’t building and selling stuff supposed to be what its all about?

  8. Peter Foley says:

    Joe Romm, You need to take a mental health day at the doctors office as soon as possible.

    Not one Thing I posted is dis information– if it is surely the wisdom of the village would discover it.

  9. Nylo says:

    Every summer, Mauna Loa’s registered concentration of CO2 goes down by between 6.5 and 8 ppm, although man-made emissions of CO2 do not stop during the summer (they rather increase), and we have a pretty number of forest fires too. The reason for this seasonal decrease is the photosinthesis taking place in the Northern Hemisfere. Any policies that concentrate in improving the way photosinthesis sequesters carbon during the summer should not be dismissed so easily, although this one in particular sounds pretty weird. I would just focus on proper reforestation criteria wherever reforestation is needed, but with well known species that 1) grow fast, and 2) are useful for us, for their wood, for a later manufacture of products. In the end, it is the same that Freeman proposes, although without playing gods.

  10. Andrea Boykowycz says:

    The NYROB is famously receptive to corrective letters to the editor, and they generally force their writers to respond to direct critiques — I recommend you submit a letter. Really.

  11. Nylo says:

    (Correction: the CO2 concentration goes down between 5 and 6.5 ppm in the summer, after a new look at a graph with improved resolution. But curiously, in the 50′s, it was the same. Which may mean that either we have not increased the emissions of CO2 in the summer since the 50′s, quite unlikely, or the world’s capability to sequester CO2 in the summer has increased by the same ammount that our emissions have increased).

  12. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    Here is Harold’s very practical and straight-forward process for sucking gazillions of tons of CO2 from the air.

    It has been known for quite sometime that vast areas of the ocean lack micronutrients, in paricular ferrous iron and silica, that are required for good growth of alga and diatoms. A few experiments have shown that adding ferrrous iron greatly promotes the growth of alga. However there is serious problem with this approach: fertiilization of the ocean will-nilly will promote the growth of good alga but also bad alga like the species that form toxic red blooms.

    The simple way around this problem is to innoculate ocean with starter culture of a mix of good alga and diatoms at the same time the micronutients are being added to the ocean.

    Here is how the process would work. A supertanker is filled up with concentrated solutions of the micronutrrients and water glass (i.e., sodium silicate which is required by diatoms) and with actively growing cultures of good alga and diatoms. These are prepared on shore using standard growing precess and equipment.

    Let us suppose the tanker is sailing east to west. At the desired ocean location, the tanker starts dispensing the alga and diatom cultures and micronutrient solutions just as the sun comes up in these east. We can use satellites to monitor the growth of the organisms because we don’t want to over-fertilize the ocean and create an oxygen deficet condition which will kill many other organisms at night when oxygen production by the photosyntherizers ceases. At night alga and diatoms respire and use up oxygen as do all other ocean plants and animals.

    To take advantage of the newly food sources of alga and diatoms, we could have a second tanker dispense zooplankton that gobble up the alga and diatoms.

    A third tanker would dispense first hatchings of desireable food fish. We arrange all of this so that the hatchlings will be carried into the coastal waters were there is natural supply of food.

    This is a no-brainer. It is no different than a farmer bringing seeds, fertilizers, and irrigation water to a plot of land, like the Central Valley of California.

    This would operation would have to been run by the UN FAO for example, because private companies would not be able to earn a predictable and immediate return on their investment since this process takes place in the free ocean.

    What see ye JOe?

  13. Ronald says:

    On the serious side of fertilizing the oceans to create algae or other living organisms has been tried, but for a number of reasons has so far failed. It would be nice if some safe method were found and scientists keep looking and maybe they’ll come up with something. Until then, we got to do it the old fashioned way, by installing low and non carbon energy sources and energy reductions.

    In keeping with Dr. Dyson ideas, there was a interesting book out a few years ago called “The Millennial Project: Colonizing the Galaxy in Eight Easy Steps.” One of the steps was to put some 10 000 power stations in the oceans using Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) that would pull up ocean water from 1000 feet in the ocean and using the thermal difference in the deep cold ocean water and the sun heated warmer upper ocean water to run an engine for power. Not much temperature difference, only about 20 –23 degrees F, but the idea is to use lots and lots of water.

    Then once the resource rich but cold water reaches the surface and warms, it is eaten up by these algae and an entire ocean ecosystem is started. Each of these OTEC stations could support a population a million people or something like that.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Millennial_Project:_Colonizing_the_Galaxy_in_Eight_Easy_Steps

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_thermal_energy_conversion

    The whole book was a fun read and was imaginative and I think that Sir Arthur C. Clark gave the forward to the book. Still each of the eight steps had problems (engineering)with them and there were cheaper ways of doing it. As Science Fiction maybe becoming science fact it was good.
    But about on the same level as Dr. Dysons super duper growing trees.

  14. john says:

    Someone needs to tell me why Dyson/Nylo/Harold Peirce et. al. want to spend our collective national genius coming up with ways to mitigate the effects of global warming rather than spending it on ways to take available technology and simply avoid burning fossil fuels in the first instance.

    I mean, at one level, this seems like flying down the highway headed toward a rock wall, and instead of simply putting on the brakes, you jump out of the moving car and start trying to dismantle the cliff face.

    Are these folks so desperate to export trillions of dollars to foreign countries to buy oil that they’d ignore the obvious?

    It’s all so nonsensical.

  15. Peter Foley says:

    Read the reviews, Dyson makes more sense then Joe.
    I posted the use of gene engineered coral reefs more effective then trees–(If Dyson is wrong, why is bad to cut down forests?).
    Doesn’t any one with a fraction of a brain think gene engineered trees aren’t already in the very-low profile pipeline?) For one-Palm oil trees.

    John, if you read the Nordhaus review–it explains the economic costs of mitigation so the simplest intellect can understand. The Gore and Stern plans are deconstructed economically.

    Allow the creation of coal to liquid plants and OPEC is a footnote in history.

    The non-sense is the way the AGWers have perverted/prevented adaptive technology

  16. Lamont says:

    “The non-sense is the way the AGWers have perverted/prevented adaptive technology.”

    Uhm, yeah, the only thing standing in the way of someone producing Dyson’s carbon-eating trees is http://www.climateprogress.org. We’ve single-handedly stopped this from happening. Good job everyone.

    (And actually market-based carbon trading systems would create the economic incentives to produce stuff like this if it was actually viable — right now there’s no economic incentive in carbon-capturing trees — if businesses needed to purchase offsets, however, then they become viable in a marketplace, and nothing would be standing in anyone’s way — they would just need to be competitive with other technologies).

  17. Nylo says:

    john, first, because available technology is inefficient. I support any initiative to improve alternative technologies to make them more efficient. I hate the dependence on petroleum. But I want to change petroleum for something better, not worse. And second, because I don’t think that the climate change will be as big as pretended by IPCC, and more importantly, I don’t think that such a climate change could be a problem at all. That’s why.

  18. Eric Roston says:

    @Peter Foley — what’s with the ad hominem chatter? Bad form.

    @Andrea Boykowycz — Didn’t we go to college together?

    ER

  19. Peter Foley says:

    Joe’s earned the my statement of fact, it isn’t an attack, its the truth.

    Lamont, JR has flatly stated breeding trees as a solution is impossible even as all the fossil carbon was created by plants of various sizes. it worked millions of years ago, why not now? A phony market of unnecessary carbon trading? let us first have proof of Carbon forced AGW prior to economic suicide.
    Joe has removed all decision points from public discussion, It is my way to the future or death by a phony crisis.
    Even if there is an actual crisis, there is no need for irrational social destruction posited by Joe Romm. Just as the USA doesn’t need to sacrifice personal liberties in the War on NGOs(terrorists) we don’t have to let go of a growing economy to preserve our world.

  20. Eric Roston says:

    K.

    Quick thing on comment above:

    “…even as all the fossil carbon was created by plants of various sizes. it worked millions of years ago, why not now?”

    I think the problem within this statement is contained within this statement. The trees fell into bog swamps over a period of about 100 million years, then it took another 200 million years to cook them into coal. Not sure we have that kind of time!

  21. Joe says:

    Peter — these misstatements of yours are kind of silly, given that anybody who reads my posts or my other blog posts knows they are not true. That said, they are getting tiresome and repetitious.

    1) “JR has flatly stated breeding trees as a solution is impossible.”
    When did I ever say anything like that?

    I do mock the notion that we don’t Need to take action on reducing emissions today because Dyson says we might engineer carbon-eating trees in the future. Let’s see — 14 wedges of trees. We is anybody going to put the 14,000,000,000 tons of carbon these trees eat every year???

    2) “proof of Carbon forced AGW” Try reading the IPCC reports already. Then read the blog posts here.

    3) “Economic suicide” — Not! Again, maybe a loss of 0.11% of GDP growth a year. Bush’s policies alone have done considerably more damage to the economy than that.

    4) I don’t think you could find a model that says action on global warming means we must “let go of a growing economy to preserve our world.”

    Anyway — last warning. I’m simply not going to let people continue to either 1) print outright disinformation on this blog that has been long debunked or 2) print outright misstatements of what I have written.

    I can’t leave the misinformation/disinformation alone, but I can’t fall into your trap of wasting my time constantly rebutting it. So deletion is the best answer all around.

  22. Lamont says:

    “economic suicide”, “irrational social destruction”, “let go of a growing economy”

    Please.

    Buying compact fluorescents, solar cells and wind turbines creates jobs and produces economic stimulus. We’re not going to stop using oil and go back to living in caves, the point is to replace the carbon-dependent economy with one that is not. If you want to profit off of it, buy shares in FSLR. The GDP doesn’t need to get damaged at all.

    And the Keynesian pump priming could actually be a better course than any other after the last 8 years — log term job growth into new industries is what we badly need.

  23. Peter Foley says:

    1. JR “Genetically engineered trees will solve the problem, Why didn’t anyone point this out before? it’d saved me a lot of time.” part b, “it is to risky to bury the carbon underground” Do we need to orbit the remaining natural gas?
    1.B. How did that carbon get underground in the first place Dr. Romm?

    2. Has the IPCC 5 came out yet that explains the 10 year break in the action yet? I’ve read the reports, We’re almost completely off the IPCC predictive charts now.

    3. At 40.oo a ton I’m taxed 400.00 a year, considerably more then 0.1 % of GNP. And that is the thin edge of the anti-carbon jihad.
    3.B How has the US economy grown so much in spite of the war in Iraq- 60% increase in GNP. Quit spreading the big lie about the US economy.

    4. A. part time power via solar, wind, B. switching costs from working power to unknown. C. Loss of freedom due to collapsing economies. D. Mass reduction in freedom of movement with concurrent reduction in earnings. E. artificially increasing energy costs for ever with irrational laws. F. The very books Dr. Dyson reviewed cover this issue in depth. G. Many countries will go negative with a 0.11% reduction in growth thus causing the four horsemen to ride again, millions or billions doomed to poverty and early death. The carbon scare has already reduced the USA economy much more than 0.11% without any environmental gains. H. your recruiting of ZPGers, Sustainability cultists, et Al prove you will allow the end of the current growing Western economic model for a slight crisis.

    Disagreement is NOT disinformation, I think you are transferring your behavior to me. If my alleged Disinformation is so patently false, show me how/why. A because I say so isn’t sufficient.
    Your emotional anti nuclear bias (“geniuses” pushing project ORION) by the way that is practical nuclear physics, Your writing is literally directly above.

    If your claims were not so disruptive our society, you would be just another eccentric who wants to run the world. Your intentions might be pure (I highly doubt it) but your actions place you on the fast lane to damnation.

    It is my duty to actively oppose evil(wrong), even evil(wrong) based on good intentions.

    I am starting to relate to Trotsky’s ghost when the NVD came around and razor bladed out of all Soviet texts and references mention of Trotsky. Deletion of my posts will not repair the logic flaws and factual errors of carbon forced AGW.

  24. hapa says:

    “all kneel before diminishing returns, for they are returns, and once were great.”

  25. Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: John!

    Do you want read my “Fossil Fuels are Forever” comment? Just think about fossil fuel usage. I’ll post it again if you are curious.

    There are a great many activities for which there are no substitutes for fossil fuel, for example, the really heavy hitters suchas boats, planes, trucks and trains, machinery of agriculture, mining, and forestry, industries that manufacture building and construction materials, all food processing, emergency vehicles, etc.

    There is no way around the high heat required for cement, metal smelting, ceramics of all types, pizzas, etc.

    And don’t me going on diamond, gold, sliver mining! Or the military-industrial complex. Can you imagine the amount of CO2 emitted on behalf of the Tiffany crowd?

    If you live in a climates that can get darn cold, you want a rock solid supply of electrcity for the blower motors of furnances and for essential services. Coal-fired electrical power plants are that type of technology.
    Can you imagine the amount of electricity required to operate all the elevators in NYC? Or modern telecommunications systems?

    France gets about 80% of its electricity from nuclear power, but you hear no sqauwking from the enviros or no reports of any major accidents. Many countries could have had this technology, but the power companies have been blocked from constructing these plants by these totally, hopelessly and perpetually clueless enviros, whose only goal in life is to avoid hard physical labor like tying rerod on the thirteenth floor of a high rise under construction when it is 2 deg C and just pouring down rain. There is joke there, but these downright stupid and #!@&%?* ignorant enviros would never get it.

    The botton line is this: There ain’t no free lunch!

    Come to super natural, beautiful British Columbia where all the electricity is generated by hydro.

    ATTN: John Massey! Tell John about “The Best Place on Earth!”

  26. john says:

    Folks:

    Our choice is simple. We either use existing and nearly market ready technologies to free ourselves from fossil fuels now — and improve our current accounts deficit by more than half a trillion per year, clean up the air, avoid potentially catastrophic warming (even if you only admit a 1% chance of the scientists being right, any rational risk anlysis would say take action to avoid such a calimity — certainty is not necessary) as side benefits.

    Or,

    We wait for oil and other fossil fuels to either run out or get so expensive we wish they were gone (if you look at demand projections, coal will soon be joining natural gas and oil as an exploding cost) then make the switch.

    Either way we will have to make the switch. The only difference is — do we iavoid all those horrendous costs and do it now, or do we incurr them all and do it later/

    As for costs, Nordhaus et. al haven’t faired very well — the IPCC, the Stern reports and most of the analysis of them have come dwon firmly on the side that acting to cut GHG will cost relatively little, while failing to act will impose a permanent drain on the GDP equvalent to the Great Depression.

    Finally, for folks who love the power of the private market, there’s a whole lot of “Can’t do.”

    Yes, it will be hard to match the energy density of fossil fuels – but with a little ingenuity our economy can become much more efficient, as can the so-called energy dense technologies.

    Case in point — Boeing is kicking butt in sales right now because their plane is more efficient.

    At any rate, I’d rather use out collective national smarts to get off of the stuff that’s causing us problems, than use it to figure out some way to keep on using it.

    Another analogy: Inventing ways to keep on using fossil fuels makes about as much sense as donning a helmut so you can continue to walk into the wall, rather than simply going around it.

    As I said, fatuous, in the extreme.

  27. I just read the Dyson review and have these comments.

    Dyson says 8% of atmospheric CO2 is recycled through vegetation. Maybe so, maybe not. The “evidence” he cited doesn’t support that conclusion.

    He says, “The great virtue of Nordhaus’s economic analysis is that it remains valid whether the majority view is right or wrong.” I haven’t read the Nordhaus book, but I know how to do a net present value calculation, and that cannot be correct. If the deniers are right, then the future costs of a business as usual scenario would be very small compared to the costs associated with the catastrophe scenario. If the present costs are the same and the future costs are different the NPV has to be different.

    Similarly, and Nordhaus would be vulnerable here, dramatically different assumptions about costs, and especially the timing thereof, could make the NPVs of the 5 scenarios come out in a different order.

    According to Dyson, Nordaus says “climate change is unlikely to be catastrophic in the near term,” which I interpret to mean the 1 or 2 centuries the model addresses. So, that’s where Nordhaus put the rabbit into the hat–assume there is no problem and the computer model will prove a solution is unnecessary. So very econometrician of him.

    Largely left out of the discussion about GCC is explicit and sober acknowledgment of uncertainty and the implications of uncertainty. The deniers seem to require proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which some of them might admit is irresponsible if the consequence of being wrong would be a catastrophe. Maybe some headway can be made with some of them with a frank discussion of risks and the appropriate degree of (un)certainty that is appropriate under the circumstances. If they were living next to Three Mile Island as it melted down, would they wait until a Chernobyl style eruption was predicted to be 99% likely before they got into their cars and drove 100 miles upwind? How certain do you have to be that a downed power line is de-energized before you grab it?

    Nordhaus uses a 4% discount rate in his NPV calculations. NPVs are extremely sensitive to the chosen rate and one often does iterations with different rates. Nordhaus apparently says 4% is the right number to avoid economic “inefficiencies.” But Nordhaus’s co-author, Paul Samuelson, said, “Every good cause is worth some inefficiency.” http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/09/business/worldbusiness/09outsource.html?_r=1&pagewanted=print&position=&oref=slogin I’m going with the older and wiser guy on that.

    I would agree with Dyson that some of the actual public discussion is based on one secular religion or another, but no group is more practiced at fervently believing the unbelievable than economists.

    Congratulations, Joe, on the page view milestone. Keep on keeping on.

  28. Joe says:

    You are right about Nordhaus.
    I need to blog on this.
    Climate blogging is such a target rich opportunity.

  29. Barb says:

    Your criticisms of the idea of genetically engineered organic systems to capture atmospheric carbon dioxide would be more interesting if there were actually some substance to them. Far as I can see, your only objections are that: (1) molecular biology is not Dyson’s field of specialization; and (2) such systems do not exist right now (this argument is not even strictly true.

    I am a lawyer (also a CPA, with an MBA) by profession, but just because that’s how I earn a living doesn’t mean I cannot be well informed about other matters. In fact, sometimes intelligent non-specialists can see the big picture better than the specialists who become mired down in a certain way of looking at the world.

    My undergraduate minor was chemistry, and as a hands-on gardener I have studied organic systems since I was a child. I think using organic systems to capture carbon is a great idea — one would not want to focus SOLELY on the plants — you would also need to cosider the organisms that break down dead vegetation: small animals such as earth worms and snails; bacteria, etc.

    With respect to looking at the economics — far from trivializing the problem, considering the costs is the ONLY reasonable way to begin to actually DO something. As Dyson’s review says, you can tell when someone isn’t really serious about doing something when they DON’T consider the economics. Most of my clients are small businesses. I know very well what it takes to get from dream to reality. Doing the financial stuff may be dry and boring, but it’s VERY necessary in order to have any reasonable chance of success.

    Finally, since all the other commentators have been groaning and grmbling — one of the things I find most irritating about arm chair environmentalists is the way they are so eager to preach deprivation and penance for everyone else, while they drive their SUV’s two blocks to an airconditioner restaurant where they consume antibiotic-laden animal flesh produced in vile meat factories. Have you people ever stopped to think that a large % of the carbon emissions in the U.S. are produced by our agribusiness system? (I believe agriculture and food processing account for around 20% of the fossil fuel used each year in the U.S.) Are you willing to pay reasonable (meaning much higher) prices for your food in order to eliminate the food chain’s reliance on cheap corn and fossil fuel? Are you willing to forego strawberries shipped from New Zealand to New York? Are you willing to walk a mile to the store instead of driving?

  30. Barb says:

    To clarify my position: I agree 100% that it’s a good idea to switch to power sources other than fossil fuels. I set up my first photovoltaic system in the 1990′s (one weakness of using solar energy is that most systems run through storage batteries that aren’t very efficient and wear out relatively quickly).

    The problem with relying on alternative energy sources to fix the problem is that, if the pessimistic global warming models are correct, it’s too late for that. If the pessimistic models are correct, now is the time to figure out how to deal with the problem, not how to avoid it in the first place.

  31. Phillip Huggan says:

    “hapa Says:
    i hereby include billions of dollars in my budget for the development of flame- and bug-resistant desert-dwelling supertrees whose lumber and sap can be the next great building materials, and an additional fifty thousand (for me) to study the impact of unstoppable supertrees as an invasive species.”

    This is precisely why I’m wary of any grand geoengineering, especially GMO-unleashed. Nonetheless there is an enormous upside if we ever are S.O.L. I’ve read on somewhere like physorg that if the atmospheric temperature reaches 65C, some sort of physical process terminates us. If runaway warning seriously threatens (an ice age has onset in decades or less so it is reasonable to be open to the potential a melted W.Antarctic glacier or ocean current changes or ocean/permafrost clathrate release, may sharply trend temps up.
    If this threatens my Dysonian suggestion is to utilize GMOs to create a floating mat on oceans that has an albedo much higher than ocean’s 7%. More challengingly, regrowing glaciers and ice sheets may be possible if a GMO mat can be created on the surface of ice sheets to insulate them from a warming atmosphere/sea. The metabolism would be harder on the surface of an ice sheet as air nutrients might not be enough. The GMO glacier mat would function anologous to how the surface soil insulates permafrost from warm air. The benefits of regrowing the Himalayas 2100 or restoring a 1900 climate in 2200 may be huge, but as hapa commented: you don’t want Iceball Earth.