Climate Change Mitigation: Near Term Solutions

Climate Change Mitigation: Near Term Solutions


This video is sponsored by CuriosityStream. Get access to my streaming video service,
Nebula, when you sign up for CuriosityStream using the link in the description. Humanity has a way of altering and even severely
damaging our environment and climate, and it would be nice to be able to avoid doing
that, or at least mitigate the problems it causes. So let’s see what’s in our toolbox. So today we’ll be looking at ways to mitigate,
reverse, or even amplify climate changes using only near-term technologies, which for SFIA
usually means we either have the tech today or it is comfortably on the radar. If you’re a channel regular, you won’t
be surprised that we won’t be focusing entirely on carbon dioxide based climate change or
even just man made approaches, and you also won’t be surprised that a lot of the solutions
we discuss involve mega-engineering we’ve looked at for terraforming other planets. For those of you who are new to the channel,
a lot of the concepts we discuss can seem rather over-the-top at first glance, but are
always rooted in hard science. Or in short form, welcome to SFIA, where we’ll
cheerfully discuss how to use hydrogen bombs to save the environment. Now climate change is inherently a politically
controversial topic and we’ll be doing our best today to stay as far away from that as
possible. So we’ll enter this episode with only three
assumptions regarding it. First, that climates change naturally and
that you might not always like those changes and may want to minimize them. Second, that humans can change an environment
through accident or intentional effort, if you don’t believe that, stick around. Third, that minor changes to complex systems
like our overall global ecosystem can have all sorts of unanticipated consequences. We’ve gotten much better at modeling those,
but at least for now, precise weather and ecological modeling is unavailable to us. I believe those are all universally accepted
by every faction with an opinion on climate change. A result of our third assumption, that our
climate and ecology are rather chaotic, is that pretty much no matter what we do it’s
going to have unanticipated side effects and sometimes even the most minor tweaks can have
massive unanticipated consequences. Just as an example, even something as small
as switching to a type of lawn grass that was lighter or darker to cover 1% of Earth’s
surface, so that it reflected or absorbed just 1% more sunlight, would result in the
Earth absorbing or reflecting away about 1/10,000th more light than now. It sounds small, but that is 20 terawatts
of energy, which for comparison is 10 times humanity’s total power consumption and parallel
to the rate of heat energy released by a powerful hurricane. I think we’d all agree that’s nothing
to sneeze at. It’s also about the amount of power needed
to produce about 12 billion tons of aluminum a year, one of our more energy intensive metals
to make. On that note, that amount of aluminum rolled
at a 20 nanometer thickness, what we envision for aluminum solar sails, would cover a bit
over 200 billion square kilometers of area, enough to entirely wrap Earth 400 times over. Remember that for later on. Small things can have huge effects on the
environment, and since small things are usually cheaper and easier to do, they tend to be
the preferred approach for geoengineering projects. There’s just one problem, small things can
have huge effects on the environment, including unpredicted ones. We choose today to look at the big brute force
approaches not because they’re surgical, but because we can’t perform surgery anyway. We simply lack the atmospheric, climatic,
and ecological modeling capacity, even with our best modern computers, to predict what
little changes will do. On the other hand, raw brute force, which
can obviously have unpredicted consequences too, has a certain simplicity to getting the
job done. If your tweak had big unexpected consequences,
you can brute force it back to where you want, which surgical approaches don’t generally
permit. Most of our climate change scenarios, natural
or unnatural, cyclic or caused by things like volcanoes or asteroid impacts, do it through
brute force of tinkering with how much light we get down here on the ground and how slowly
that light turned into heat gets radiated away. This gives us three basic approaches, either
remove the problem causing that effect – such as cutting down on how much carbon dioxide
we produce or removing that effect – such as removing that carbon dioxide from the air
and sea by carbon sequestration – or flat out counteracting that effect – such as
by decreasing the amount of light that can reach the ground and get absorbed and re-emitted
as infrared. There’s arguably a fourth approach too,
but it’s not really a solution so much as coming to terms with it. Now of course one could adapt to a changed
world as is normally the case throughout our world’s long history – though of course
many things failed to adapt and went extinct. However you can also treat the effects too. If you’re getting more rain and rising water
levels, you can take advantage of that where it helps you – plants do love warmth, rain,
and carbon dioxide after all – and you can work to mitigate effects where they hurt you. You can build sea walls to prevent coastal
flooding and erosion from waves while actively managing your waterways to keep that rain
from draining all the soil and nutrients into the sea. You can create zoos and preserves and DNA
storage vaults to prevent extinction or later reverse it, see the De-extinction episode,
but these aren’t really solutions so much as adaptation. Now as to solutions, you’ve always got the
question of not just if it can be done, but does it cause additional problems, possibly
worse ones. You also have to ask about cost, can it be
done by something else cheaper? Also, if possible, can we actually make a
profit off it? Directly or indirectly. Just as an example, if someone found out a
way tomorrow to get fusion power working cheaply and easily, so that we could churn out reactors
that made electricity in bulk significantly cheaper than hydrocarbon fossil fuels plants,
we could entirely eliminate the carbon footprint of power generation. Cheaper power is obviously a global economic
boon, but we could also then turn a profit sucking carbon dioxide out of the air, because
gasoline is an amazing portable power source and while it takes more energy to force carbon
dioxide and water back together to make a hydrocarbon than you get burning it, what
we really care about for mobile power generation is easy and portable energy, and chemical
fuels way outperform batteries in energy density and cost. You can then remove CO2 from the air and store
it as liquid money. This basic technology was demonstrated by
the Naval Research Laboratory for making jet fuel a number of years ago, and can work with
fission power plants, but the program was canceled after long-duration testing due to
lack of funding. It could be revived and possibly be an economical
approach, and this would presumably work all the better with fusion power. Of course we don’t have fusion yet, except
for fusion bombs, and though we’ve discussed using fusion bombs for economical power generation
in mega-reactors, this is just one of a handful of ways you could use nukes to save our planet. Another would be using it to blow up asteroids. Now asteroids have often caused climatic and
ecological problems when they’ve hit our planet, and would be one case where you need
to engage in climate change mitigation that has nothing to do with carbon dioxide. Indeed you might want to pump up your greenhouse
gas production if one hit us to counterbalance any cooling effects from the debris. Key thought there: cooling effects from the
debris. We often discuss asteroid mining on this channel
and I’ve noted that you want to do all your mining and refining out at that asteroid and
just bring the bits you want home, not drag the whole thing here at great cost of energy
and risk accidentally dropping the thing on Earth, however miniscule that risk is. Of course it’s a lot different if you do
it on purpose. There’s quite a few Near Earth asteroids
we could bump with some carefully coordinated nuking into a collision path with Earth, then
blow up just before it hit to scatter its bits and pieces so they burned up in the atmosphere
and the debris rained down and helped cool the planet a little, just enough to reflect
away maybe 1% of our sunlight. You could potentially keep a long cycle of
smaller asteroids coming from the Belt too. Head out, strip the things down to manageable
chunks depleted of all their precious and valuable metals like gold and platinum, then
slug the thing towards Earth. Not the best space-based approach, as we’ll
see, but it certainly gets the job done. Of course if you just want debris in the atmosphere,
we can make it a lot closer to home. And no not by scraping regolith off the moon
and chucking it down at Earth via Mass Drivers, though if you need a quick and dirty solution
you could nuke the heck out of the Moon for a while and rely on all the debris kicked
up by that in Cislunar space to hang around the area blocking light and it would have
a very long dwell time before settling back down, but this of course would be quite problematic
for future spacecraft. Another option is to get that debris from
Earth, just nuke volcanoes and force them to erupt, and volcanoes of course are another
of our frequent causes of climatic issues. It’s all well and good to discuss dealing
with carbon dioxide, but if we have a major volcanic eruption tomorrow, we need to be
able to deal with that too. Now there’s no opposite of a greenhouse
gas. A greenhouse gas is any gas that absorbs radiation
in the wavelengths or frequencies the Earth emits it, which incidentally is a much lower
frequency of infrared than what comes off very hot objects like the sun, most of the
photons coming off the Sun are in the infrared range, not visible or ultraviolet frequencies,
but infrared is a very large range of the spectrum compared to visible light. Quite a lot of gases do absorb infrared, generally
the ones that don’t are those composed of two of the same atom like diatomic oxygen
or nitrogen, or monatomic noble gases like helium or argon. As gases go, carbon dioxide isn’t all that
good of a greenhouse gas, but there are lots of things that produce it and it has a very
long dwell time, as opposed to Ozone, triatomic oxygen, or nitrous oxide, which don’t last
too long; or water, which handily falls out of the sky after a bit. Needless to say, there are gases that don’t
absorb infrared in any significant way, but there isn’t any gas that anti-absorbs it,
so no anti-greenhouse gas. What we do have are things which either directly
reflect light away when it comes in from the Sun, or which cause the formation of things
which do, like clouds. Not all clouds do this job as well, after
all clouds are made of water and water is a greenhouse gas, so it’s got to be clouds
that reflect more visible light than they’re absorbing in infrared. We can calibrate what aerosols we use for
encouraging cloud formation and where to try to get the best cloud types. Our preferred candidate for this is sulfides,
but launching them up there from aircraft or artillery is arguably counter-productive,
since those tend to produce greenhouse gases to operate. Alternatively we might just add some sulfides
to aircraft on their regular flights, though since that takes extra fuel, isn’t actually
free. Lofting the stuff up there is going to cost
energy and our energy production via hydrocarbons is the issue of concern in the first place. This is exactly what something like a nuclear-powered
rail gun or mass driver spacecraft launcher might be ideal for. When not chucking spaceships into orbit, it
could be firing up larger pods of sulfides into the upper atmosphere to seed those reflective
clouds. It’s estimated it would take about 5 million
tons of sulfur dioxide sent into the atmosphere every year to offset the CO2, less than a
billion dollars a year of material, and your launch cost isn’t much higher though would
vary depending on the launch mechanism. Now this all sounds good, and it should work,
but sulfur isn’t the healthiest thing in the world and while the amounts are minimal,
there’s concerns it would have some negative effects on folks with breathing problems like
asthma, and might damage the stratospheric ozone layer. One also hates to say it, since it will tend
to be true of most methods, but it’s also likely to have lots of effects on the climate
and ecology we didn’t anticipate anymore than we anticipated a lot of the issues of
other byproducts of industrial production. This is part of why I generally dislike the
notion of using aerosols for climate control. It isn’t that it doesn’t work, but that
it’s essentially trying to fix the problem with another problem. Climate change factors are not limited to
just things which alter how well we absorb and reflect Sunlgiht, or emit the infrared
waste heat of that light afterward, but it is the big one. And carbon dioxide, asteroid impacts, or volcanoes
are all essentially disrupting that reflection, absorption, and emission balance by altering
the chemical properties of the atmosphere. Altering it more but in a different way always
strikes me as a bit non-ideal. If you’ve got a pot of water you can add
some salt so that it will boil at a higher temperature, you could lower that back down
by decreasing the pressure in the room you’re in, or changing the pot to lose heat to the
outside air faster so less gets in the water, but it seems easier to just turn the heat
down. Of course the heater in this case is the Sun,
which is hard to adjust the thermostat on… and while there are methods for doing so,
see our episode on Starlifting, such efforts would be outside today’s parameter of near-term
solutions. What we can do instead though is effectively
slide something between the Sun-Flame and Earth-kettle to turn that thermostat down. That’s essentially the notion with clouds,
and we already suggested doing that in space by creating debris. However, I’m a big believer in getting two
birds with one stone, or preferably a whole flock with a shotgun, so we’ll move on to
consider a method for cutting greenhouse gas emissions while lowering Earth’s temperature
in a way we can control, and even reverse if we need to warm the planet for some reason,
and do it all at a profit. We can employ measures to prevent the current
issue worsening but what we ideally want is something that leaves us in far better control
against any such disaster scenario in the future too. We’ll discuss that method momentarily but
first a quick aside. I’ve mentioned using nuclear energy in the
form of bombs or running mass drivers, but ultimately our biggest problem is getting
all the energy we need while causing the minimum ecological and economic disruption or damage. Nuclear power, even regular old fission, really
does work well for that though is hardly without its issues either. There is a habit of folks polarizing on the
issue, either it’s a horrible idea or one with nothing but benefits, and of course the
truth lies somewhere in the middle, but in my opinion it tilts toward the latter. For power generation, if your option is fossil
fuels or uranium, go with uranium. Similarly, if we can get better at making
cheap and durable solar panels, that can replace or heavily supplement current power generation,
and an improvement in battery technology would make that even better and let us do mobile
energy like electric vehicles better too. You could also potentially make your solar
panels highly reflective to any frequency they couldn’t turn into electricity and
that might help quite a lot as well, as would minimal things like painting things more reflective
colors. As we mentioned with grass near the beginning,
even small changes to the planet’s net reflection, its albedo, could help quite a lot. Of course the easiest way to raise that albedo
without messing with our atmospheric composition or surface is to place mirrors far above the
Earth, and if you’ve seen Sky Cities or Sky Platforms you know there are ways we could
do this with floating structures that would be far above what we think of as our atmosphere
and where all the real weather happens. We’ll discuss orbital versions in a moment,
but there’s a lot to be said about just making big reflective balloons and floating
them up very high. Now you mostly put them up high to minimize
weather issues, but the higher the better since at least some light is getting absorbed
and turned into heat for every meter of air that light passes through, and reabsorbed
after being emitted as heat for every meter of air the waste infrared photons travel through
before leaving the planet. This is part of why we don’t want ground-based
mirrors, which would be easier to do, as they’d be a bit less effective. Mostly of course we just don’t want to lose
that land. Although wear and tear is an issue too. If you just stuck a reflective foil over deserts
or tracts of deep ocean, all that sand and water is going to be a pain to keep clear
and damage your mirrors. This is less of an issue high up, especially
above the clouds where the air has thinned out to a tiny fraction of the sea-level density. These would generally need constant replacement
though if they relied on simple lifting gas buoyancy, as they’d leak and probably get
chewed up by solar and atmospheric wear and tear. It might be better to go for something like
a big sheet that wasn’t quite lighter than air, so it could be sturdier, and that wasn’t
just mirrors but had some solar collectors on it too to power thrusters to provide some
speed and lift. That also keeps them in motion so they’re
spreading their shade around. I mentioned near the beginning that we could
produce huge quantities of aluminum foil, enough to wrap the Earth many times over,
with a fraction of the energy hitting Earth. And of course if we were getting a lot of
our power from carbon-neutral sources that would mitigate the problem and even allow
you to spend some of that power on carbon sequestration technologies. It takes energy to sequester carbon, and indeed
as nice as trees are for doing it, they take energy too, we just don’t have to plug them
into a wall socket as they use sunlight and their leaves for it. I should note that plants aren’t even vaguely
efficient at carbon sequestration compared to existing technologies. You can sequester a lot more carbon with the
same footprint of solar panels as a tree has leaves with just about any of our sequestration
technologies, and over a much shorter period of time. The issue is just economics. Though building and maintaining has a carbon
footprint, all machines do since they are made by people who have carbon footprints,
whereas a seed tossed in the dirt mostly grows and maintains itself. Just remember though, biology is generally
not efficient, even if often more appealing as natural. Let’s combine all these notions though. We have a device called a Power Satellite,
and we walk through the mechanics and economics of them in the episode of that name, but fundamentally
they are giant big thin mirrors that bounce their light onto a solar thermal device that
turns it into energy and then into microwaves then beams those microwaves down to us, to
be re-converted into electricity. They are thin and thus quite light, but most
of their mass is abundant material and easy to make; it’s just a reflective thin foil
made from some metal like aluminum or steel, either of which is very easy to source off
the Moon – See our episode Moon: Industrial Complex for discussion of that. Now, mining and manufacturing in space tends
to seem high-tech, and we’d assume it was grossly expensive to launch all components
from Earth, but a simple remote controlled scooper robot and solar kiln on the Moon is
well within modern technology. You would need a serious base on the Moon
but to be honest I think most of us would regard that as an added bonus. However, let’s consider cost. We need to be able to reflect or shade maybe
1% of Earth overall to mitigate current thermal concerns, which would be about 5 trillion
square meters of shade or mirror, or power satellite dishes. We’d probably pessimistically need to replace
them every decade. So we’d need to launch 500 billion square
meters of foil into space a year. Launch costs are about $1000 a kilogram now
and would drop more if we were doing major work up there, but if we were assuming the
very thin foils intended for solar sails we mentioned near the beginning, that would be
20 nanometer thick sheets. You can stack 50 million of those a meter
high, so 500 billion square meters of them would be a stack 100 meters by 100 meters
by 1 meter, 10,000 cubic meters, so 27 million kilograms, or 2.7 billion dollars in launch
costs at that $1000 a kilogram figure. Mind you, this is just for launching the material
alone, however. Now I suspect you’d go thicker, making and
deploying sheets that thin is no easy task but you’d find the balance point where the
other manufacturing and deployment hassles and costs equaled out to the added launch
costs of a thicker foil. It’s easier to make thicker foils too, so
if you were cutting launch costs by working from the moon with mostly automated equipment,
you might go pretty thick. Solar Shades and mirrors are easy to make
and cheap, but to be useful and durable you need to include some power and guidance on
them, they can do station-keeping by bouncing sunlight around since they’re essentially
a big solar sail but that requires some computerization and machinery on board, not just a paper-thin
sheet of shade or mirror. If you’re doing all that, why not bounce
that light onto a solar thermal power generator and ship it down to Earth as carbon-neutral
Electricity? A source that can be used for carbon-capture
too, as even with cooling we may want to reduce carbon levels which have some other climatic
and ecological effects we may need to mitigate. How about a solar source not dependent on
weather or time of day. Why not use it to power anti-asteroid lasers
to protect us from an asteroid impact and climate change from that? Why not include the ability to swivel so they
can just bounce more light down to Earth in case we need to brighten or warm things up
after a volcanic eruption? Indeed as your computerization improves, you
might be able to use them in tandem with superior weather modeling to control the weather and
mitigate hurricanes and more extreme storms. You could even do rotating ones on more polar
orbits to shade the arctic region disproportionately and help ice formation -which also reflects
sunlight along with storing water- to mitigate ocean rising. And the best thing is that you could do it
all at a profit! As we mentioned in power satellites, for space
based industry to really take off it helps to have a major sector of the global economy
that can be done in space, and the energy sector is trillions of dollars a year. Could we do it today? Well, actually yes but probably not at a profit
just yet. I suspect economy of scale and experience
doing it and improving designs would actually permit that even with modern tech, but to
really make it profitable – which is obviously preferable – you really need to improve
automation so we could get around launch costs by doing it from the Moon, including building
most of the non-simple shade or mirror components, or get launch costs a good deal lower. We’ve discussed a lot of options for that
in our Upward Bound series, many of which we could build today but only economically
if we were seriously scaling up how much stuff we threw into space. But of course, if you’re shipping a million
tons of shade, mirror, and power production into space every year, that’s pretty scaled
up. So while there are a lot of near-term solutions
for climate change we might use, if I had my own pick, I’d go all-in for power satellites. All that cheap energy, and carbon neutral
at that, would represent a massive economic boon across all sectors of our global economy,
let us run carbon-capture, give us quite a nice infrastructure in space for our other
space-based goals and aspirations, and let us begin contemplating serious weather control
operations. And we wouldn’t have to devote any extra
land to energy production or carbon-sequestration efforts too, or tinker with our atmosphere’s
chemical composition. It’s not something we could literally do
tomorrow, but it’s hardly far future stuff either, and it’s a solution that not only
doesn’t force us to curtail our dreams by limiting our economy and production, but actually
could be a huge benefit to enhancing those and making our dreams of space come true. Why get two birds with one stone when you
can use a shotgun and get a whole flock? We were talking about Climate Change Mitigation
today and one part we mostly skipped was the whole notion of waste, recycling, and garbage. About the same time I was writing this we
did a episode topic poll where the Future of Garbage came up as a topic and I decided
we go ahead and do it as a companion video for today’s episode, and you can catch that
as an Early Release over on Nebula, along with our other early releases like “Can
we have a Trillion People on Earth?” or our Nebula exclusives like our Coexistence
with Aliens series. Nebula, our new subscription streaming service,
was made as a way for education-focused independent creators to try out new content that might
not work too well on Youtube, where algorithms might not be too kind to some topics or demonetize
certain ones entirely, or just doesn’t fit our usual content. And if you’d like to get free access to
it, it does come as a free bonus with a subscription to Curiositystream, which also has thousands
of amazing documentaries you can watch, on top of the Nebula-exclusive content from myself
and many other creators like CGP Grey, Minute Physics, and Wendover. A year of Curiosity Stream is just $19.99,
and it gets you access to thousands of documentaries, as well as complimentary access to Nebula
for as long as you’re a subscriber, and use the link in this episode’s description,
curiositystream.com/isaacarthur. I mentioned today that when climate changes
happen our ecology slowly adapts to it and that one option is that we would adapt, but
that takes a long time to occur naturally. However, there may be artificial routes that
can be done even in existing organisms, not just subsequent generations, and we’ll explore
those more next week in “DNA Manipulation of Living Beings”
The week after that, we’ll return to the Fermi Paradox series for a look at the Zoo
Hypothesis, the notion that we don’t see aliens because they are keeping us unable
to, essentially living in their zoo. Before those episodes though, we also have
our monthly livestream Q&A coming up this Sunday, February 23rd, at 4pm Eastern time,
and I hope to see you there. If you want alerts when those and other episodes
come out, make sure to subscribe to the channel, and if you’d like to help support future
episodes, visit our website IsaacArthur.net to donate to the show or look over our inventory
of over 200 episodes or our awesome SFIA merchandise. Until next time, thanks for watching, and have a great week!

100 thoughts on “Climate Change Mitigation: Near Term Solutions

  1. Isaac, why worry about climate change when we're all going to die anyway? Let's solve the problem of our mortality first then we'll have plenty of time to solve all the other problems.

  2. Can someone please explain why power satellites aren’t a really bad idea? Global warming happens because more solar energy is captured by the earth system than is ideal, due the impact of greenhouse gasses. If we are capturing large amounts of energy in space and beaming it into the earth system then this is by definition an addition of energy to the earth system, beyond the normal amount. That energy is used for work but ultimately dissipates as heat. I suppose the question is, would this happen at a scale that would represent a significant net gain in energy and heat that would amount to a forcing of global temperature that matters? I feel like it could. So why is this never really addressed?

    And yes, there could be consideration of where in orbit the energy is collected. Collect it between the earth and the sun, rather than off to the side, and that may matter. But part of me also suspects that it won’t…

  3. are the nebula exclusives marked in some way? To make it easier to scroll through your vids and see them among st all the ones that are also on youtube?

  4. 1:25 I'm actually really disappointed. Someone who is supposed to be all about science, dodging the subject of climate change because "it's too political". You're right that it is, Isaac. And you just put yourself on the wrong side.

  5. The best solution is to mine moon dust,   launch large sacks of moondust into moon orbit.  Use shuttles to retrieve the huge sacks of moon dust.   Have the shuttles dump the moondust into earth orbit.    However,  humans are a corrupt, insane, uncontrollable, omnicidal and unsustainable species.    Preventing human extinction would be a major mistake.   I vote to allow abrupt, extreme, lethal and irreversible climate collapse to wipe out the humans before they can drive the last wild animals into extinction and cut down the last trees.

  6. The problem with blocking the sun (especially with particulates) while not addressing the additional excessive CO2 in our atmosphere is that it would do nothing to mitigate ocean acidification caused by said CO2, which is helping wreck the coral reefs and runs a high risk of crashing the ocean’s ecosystem that we all depend on (besides that, I’d miss my sushi 🙂 so any short term solution would have to include or coincide with CO2 mitigation/removal.

  7. I think you underestimate the effects of micrometeorites on your large space structures. Your materials have to be able to take a hit and not propagate damage.

  8. Sulfides/sulfides/sulfates are most definitely not the preferred option. They rain out like water vapor, putting you on a perpetual treadmill. And that rainout occurs as sulfuric acid or caustic salts. So you are stuck doing it for generations and you are making acidification of the oceans worse while bringing back the acid rain problem that kills off freshwater fish and forests and reduces crop yields from food plants. All the while destroying cultural artifacts like marble and granite architecture. You aren't just spending money with your solution, you are actively harming the environment in a known way that hurts the economy and human survivability.
    If you want to go that path, you want an IR absorber up above the skin temperature line in the atmosphere (upper tropopause +) which will reradiate where the path to space is shorter than the path to the troposphere and ground. You also want this to be a relatively inert aerosol, not a gas that diffuses into the troposphere (so becoming a GHG) or a chemical that becomes a harmful reactant lower in the atmospheric column or in the ocean.
    But reducing insolation globally across the spectrum has its own root problem. It reduces crop yields and phytoplankton production in the oceans. That will have both immediate near-term effects on humans, and long-term effects on the base of the food chain and one side of the oxygen generation infrastructure of the planet.

  9. Anyone remember that show dinosaurs
    (Was that the name?)
    Where the last episode had them basically becoming extinct from messing around with nuclear bombs and volcanoes

    : P

  10. there is no such thing as human-induced "climate change"; the models are rigged, the data is cooked. We have vast and naturally-occuring climate changes: ice ages, tropic ages, and zig-zags in between. That's been going on for billions of years and will continue. No matter how many new taxes, fees, and deficits are incurred "fighting climate change"….and no matter how many new 6-figure socialist apparatchiks are hired at the soon-to-be-minted Department of Climate Change and how many new 12-figure skim-off opportunities are thus created for crony capitalists. Most of Issac's tcho-optimist vids are worth a watch….not this one. I'll visit District 9 instead.

  11. Was frustrated by your discounting of biological systems impact on climate change. My current PhD work is in this area – the data shows that we have lost 50% of soil microbe sand oceanic plankton in the last 50 years- effectively halving the planet's ability to deal with CO2. Soil microbes and Ocean Microbes produce about 25% and 60% of atmospheric O2 (and thus consume 25% and 60% of CO2). If we simply restore our microecosystems to where they were 50 years ago, we would basically be nearly carbon negative (now having an additional 85% consumption of CO2). Soil microbes have been killed by over tilling soil and over-application of agricultural chemicals. Precision and regenerative agriculture suggests we can reduce agrichemical usage by over 75% (which is over 1000% increase in profitability due to saved inputs). Oceanic plankton loss seems to be related to agricultural runoff, and oceanic plastic disrupting patterns. The CO2 would be cycled, and plankton falls to the ocean bottom, or becomes topsoil, and is effectively sequestered.

    If we just combine precision spraying, slightly better land management to prevent runoff, and the Ocean Cleanup Project to remove oceanic plastic, my back of the napkin calculations suggest we can get back to microbe levels of 50 years ago in 5 and basically carbon negative. Add to it things like Professor David Johnson's BEAM soil, and it could really take hold. Ultimately a biologically mediated approach to climate change is more efficient, less costly, and more productive, and less work. Hopefully that made sense, would be happy to discuss more.

  12. The fun aspect of using aerosols or mirrors. Politicians talk a lot about climate change. And amusingly, you can literally mitigate climate change with smoke and mirrors. Lol. Hilarious. Also, the cheapest way to put aerosol dispersal into the stratosphere is probably hydrogen filled balloons.

  13. I started watching your channel because I'm working on what was a geo-engineering sun shade project. So this is fucking awesome, though it's 2% of light being blocked eventually and there are applications for targeted solar sun shading that can deliver more albedo as well as water to dryer areas.

    Edit: look up the 2008 August 1st lunar eclipse over the svalbard archepeligo and how a 2.5 min solar eclipse produced a 3 day fog that prevented planes from landing or taking off.

  14. Climate change is not a politically controversial topic in any developed country in the world except Jesus-Marlboro-Halliburton-Exxon-land and Australia

  15. I had an idea the other day. I'm not sure if it's practical or not, but hear me out. There's been a lot of talk about carbon sequestration. Most of the idea's floating around are IMO ridiculous. For example, collecting CO2 from the air and pumping it deep underground. Well, we already have something that's great at collecting CO2, they're called trees. We use Trees for a lot of things. One of them that has become problematic over the last few decades is paper production. Paper is great. Renewable, recyclable, durable.
    So here's my idea. Instead of recycling paper, we landfill it. We lock that carbon away in solid form mostly stable and reasonably harmless. Instead of recycling it we bury it and leave it buried.
    This has a serious advantage over other sequestration methods, because the paper is being used for something before the landfill.
    Just an idea. Not sure if it would be practical or effective.

  16. Gasoline itself is better energy storage density then a battery….this is correct. Incorrect that our technology on how to EXTRACT that energy is even remotely as efficient. We get well over 80% efficiency with renewable electrical energy. We get below 25% efficiency of energy extraction on the gasoline after 120 years of trying to improve the technology.
    News for Isaac. Combustion itself is going away in society after 1 million years.

  17. We should keep in mind that when we talk about covering 1% of Earth's surface area in anything, that is like discussing covering India and Pakistan in that thing. Or the continental US west of the Mississippi. Or Brazil. Or the EU. Or Australia.

    Yes, we already do that, but that doesn't make it easy. We are talking about nearly continent-sized areas.

  18. 'What do you do with your lunch break?'

    Watching the latest Isaac Arthur video over a steaming thermos of coffee. That's relaxing.

  19. I'm glad you're talking about this because with everything else you talk about, it's something in the forefront of my mind that this issue is the lynch pin of all of it.

    If we don't deal with this now it's going to be the end of us. We wont ever get to build black hole starship engines or interstellar colonies. From what the IPCC papers are saying, if things keep getting worse you're going to see a pretty huge and sudden drop-off of the agricultural carrying capacity of this planet and with 8 billion people living in nation-states armed with nuclear weapons and just knowing a bit about history and human psychology, we're sitting on a timebomb.

    The problem isn't even really a technological one. The solution is technological, but that's already mostly here. The problem is political and sociological.

  20. A space solar energy collector would not reduce the heat, you would collect the light, send it as microwaves to earth, which would be converted to electricity, the electricity would be used for various things but ultimately end up as heat, which would heat the earth. You need to send that energy away from earth (reflectors being the easiest) to reduce heating.

  21. But this does raise a question: what would future politics be like? Humans will always cluster together and interact. They will have problems that will need to be solved. Unless the future would have a scientific or market solution for everything that could happen, groups of people will try to solve those problems and that's the start of policymaking. Politics in some form is a pretty logic next step.

  22. Carbon dioxide does NOT CAUSE CLIMATE CHANGE YOU IDIOTS. And there is no climate emergency and carbon dioxide is a necessary plant food for all life. There is NO accelerating sea level rise. We are presently cooling now anyway.

  23. "I was very pleased to invest in new technology that would save the planet….. Until I realised I wouldn't make any money… to spend on a dead planet.."

  24. The approach of using solar power satellites to shade the earth is really interesting, but wouldn't be possible in geostationnary orbit, as the satellite would only shade the earth around equinoxes, and only for short periods. In the opposite a satellite in low earth orbit would effectively shade the earth, but at two costs : it wouldn't work anymore in the night, and power beaming to earth would be a much greater challenge. As I see it the only place where you could use this approach would be at the sun-earth L1 point, where a satellite could durably shade the earth and generate power. I'm not sure how we would manage efficient power transmission on a 1.5 million km distance though 🙂

  25. Shills for nuclear power are the worst. You're in favor of creating something that has to be taken care of hundreds of thousands of years. That is longer than all of recorded human history. No government or country will exist that long. Therefore, no human institution can take responsibility for it.

  26. #1 Climate Change Solution:
    Get the hell off the Earth into space and never look back. Control the climate on your space station using a thermostat.

  27. Nuclear power plants are one of the cleanest ways of producing power, generate far more power than most others and take up far less space than windmills and solar panels. Cleaner then coal, more powerful than gas, safer then biomass plants. Theres enough nuclear fuel around to power Earth for centuries, giving us ample time to develop alternatives, like hydrogen plants. With proper management and safety regulations, nothing can go wrong.

    If everyone started using Nuclear power plants, CO2 emissions would plummet. People would stop dying of polluted air and health would generally increase.

  28. I'm concerned about the idea these things need to be profitable. I understand why, motivating factor, but as things stand it seems it would be more profitable to oligarchs to let things go unabated or with minor interference. I think we, as a global society, need a cultural change in order to do things like this effectively.

  29. The program to produce a hydrocarbon fuel from air, water and energy may have been abandoned in the US, but several german unis still have programs that are working on this exact issue. They all have working prototypes and could sell high octane gas and diesel, but distribution isn't legal within germany because Berlin is of the opinion that electro mobility is the only future. as such, they distribute homeopathic amounts to people outside of gernany, as they continue to be state funded.

  30. Does anyone else remember that time it rained for almost a million years. Or when there was appr two miles of ice sitting on top of north America. I wonder how humans pulled that shit off.
    Maybe you should be looking at another author when talking about "climate change". I recommend Orwell.

  31. Great video as always, but I think that, even as this channel is techno-optimistic in tone, you could investigate in lower-tech solutions, such as planting trees to capture carbon idoxyde and boost our agriculture by renewing the soils. These solutions would be very handful as they could be used in developping countries and at a cheaper cost, while guaranteeing future agriculture. I think myself that economy and ecology can totally be merged with one another to solve climate change and biodiversity loss, but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't engage in societal transformations and reduce our consumption while upgrading the economics and production means.
    But I'm disgressing.

  32. It may not be perfect, but if fission hadn't been demonized and protested against in the 70s, it would be powering most of tge world now and climate change would be a problem in the distant future, not today.

  33. The only near term solutions we have is to reduce the output of CO2 drastically. And we could do that today. Every country could be CO2 neutral in 10 years and then further reducing the CO2 output so that the temperature increase stays below 1 degree Celsius. It's just a question of the political will to do so. It's not even a right vs. left issue, because you could be hard core right wing and enact the policies to get us there. The literally only reason why we don't do is because the political right globally denies man-made climate change, because of the ties to oil and gas industry. I don't care if you are on the right or left of the political spectrum, please accept the facts.

  34. CO2 is not controlling the climate, if 0.04% of the atmosphere controlled the climate it would break every law of physics and molecular chemistry.

  35. Most of climate change's effects are bad, but one silver lining is that we might be able to colonize Antarctica in our lifetimes

  36. height of arrogance … i waive my hand and the complexity of all that is weather bends to my will and does as i command. (people being stupid).

  37. Not sure if you'll even try to reply to this but if you want I can point you out to some stuff you may not have heard of about agricultural forms of climate mitigation, some of them might even work within a span of under 10 years if enough people invest and considering that it's actually profitable and cheaper than conventional stuff it's always going to be worth it

  38. I think people would just use power satellites as a weapon, and then wars would be faught over who controled them and whom they were pointed at.
    Anything that could be used as a weapon, there will be humans that want to control it and others through it.

  39. Thank you Isaac for creating thought provoking content for the near future. From the end of the Universe to this decade, I love your insights!

  40. Simplest thing: make planes fly during certain hours of day, not mentioned once in comments (yup, I read all of them-have extra time still) nor by SFIA. It would reflect decent amount of sunlight is my understanding, though not helping in humans going to space or such.

    I realize significant amount of re-engineering of planes and airfields would be needed everywhere so not sure it'd be carbon-friendly or such at all. Compared to flying-tax (seriously thought about here) that doesn't think about time of day you fly, I'd be all for it. Some minor tax not problem.

  41. I always imagined that terraforming would require a constant stabilization method, as the terraforming would be against the planets natural state.
    As with earth, the planets natural state is habitable.
    Natures abilities dwarf humanities.

  42. Can't fix the planet so long as China exists as it is. Heading towards producing half the planet's pollution in a few decades and being a seed bed for weaponized diseases. Anything else is a bandage on a festering wound.

  43. Most people don't even have an idea of what the problem is. You have people who deny it's a problem at all and others who believe we are breaking the laws of physics and willing carbon into existence simply by living. Animals and living things aren't part of the problem because we are part of the Natural cycle. What we put into the environment is what we took from it. The Majority of the issue is removing carbon from the earth and releasing it into the atmosphere. When you remove greenhouse materials that become greenhouse gasses from the earth and release them into the atmosphere you're terraforming. What we need is to remove the extra gasses we have removed and put them back into storage where they belong. We need to stop using fossil fuels.

  44. Making solar panels reflective to frequencies they're not using is also beneficial to the panels themselves – they heat up less and should thus last longer. I think it's one of the most useful things we can more or less easily (and cheaply) do.

  45. The thing is, if we don't find and apply a solution to climate change before it begins to cause unrest and collapse our economy, then we won't have enough productivity left to employ these mitigation technologies. That's what I'm worried about. Here's a paper that warns us that this is exactly what is by now inevitable:
    http://lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf

  46. Isaac can you do a video on nuclear energy ? I think you have the ability to correct a lot of misconceptions that people have. Reading through the comments I see that people are concerned about waste disposal which means they arent up to date on the issue. Like France hardly has any nuclear waste…

  47. Not too be a bummer but when it comes to human caused climate change (and yes, it is a settled fact) one must realize that so called techno fixes has it's limitations. After all the most effective way to limit temperature raise and ecological destruction is not to do the things that cause them (!) It's not really that complicated. That's why it's so important to look at the economical and sosial causes that drives this development in the first place . The podcast Ashes Ashes talks a more about this in detail:
    https://ashesashes.org/blog/episode-21-clima-ex-machina

  48. Wait until all the climate change deniers get here. BTW, do you know Potholer54? He's a science guy. Maybe you could do a video with him?

  49. I know you don't like to cause political controversy Isaac but it's important not to give credence to people on one side of a discussion who have absolutely no backing from anyone with any scientific credibility.

  50. I sense a new movie in Isaac's future…
    "Dr. ClimateChangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the H-Bomb"

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