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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Email to IPCC focal points

We are writing to you along with all other focal points at the coming IPCC meeting (August 15th onwards) to discuss the implications of a 1.50C temperature increase. We wish to offer a necessary course of action that has a genuine chance of success and which can break the deadlock that we are already trapped in.

As we are sure you are already aware, there is no chance that the temperature rise can be held beneath 1.50C, even if we were to implement a zero carbon global economy tomorrow.

The clear, but brutal, evidence from every critical measurement is that runaway climate change has begun. This has been reinforced by the extraordinary temperature rises that have occurred since the Paris COP which have taken the global temperature almost up to the agreed target.

All the statistics reflect this hypothesis. Atmospheric CO2, oceanic and atmospheric temperatures, sea ice extent, methane emissions and precipitation are all changing at rates that exceed the worst case model predictions. In many cases, these continue to change at exponential like rates in spite of current efforts and discussions to implement a zero carbon economy.

We cannot afford to wait for critical temperature increases to occur before we take action, instead we must start action today based on the exceptional rate of change observed in the variables listed above.

We must also be realistic.

There is a significant time constant between a CO2 increase and a temperature response. We don’t know what this is, but it is likely to be significantly longer than 30 years and it is prudent for us to work on this assumption. As we are already about to breach the 1.50C temperature increase (see our warning here), then the emissions added in the last 10 years along with the time constant make it impossible to maintain a temperature rise below 20C. Thus, our current approach of controlling temperatures by relying on developing technologies for a low carbon economy and hoping these can out compete fossil fuels is quite simply inadequate on its own.

We are already seeing our global political system coming under strain before the temperature has even got to 1.50C. Mass migration, heat waves, floods, war, terrorism and land grabs have become the norm for news headlines. The result is that competition for resources is usurping co-operation for the common good.

As the warming that is already in the pipeline comes through, competition will increase and the chance of the mutual co-operation and discipline needed for a successful transition to a zero carbon global economy with all nations remaining in this state indefinitely reduces to zero for all practical purposes.

It does not appear to us that this inevitable increase in global competition has been factored into the COP agreements. This leads to an inherent and unspoken critical danger within its process. That danger is the illusion of success must be preserved at all times, even when this is impossible. If the COP process fails to do this, then the negotiations will break down and a deadly free-for-all will break out. The irony of this is that the currently failing strategy is adhered to in a tightening embrace as the situation worsens with the ultimate paradox that a free-for-all becomes inevitable. (You may want to read our experiments on the emergence of free-for-alls here).

The developing nations will be the first to suffer in the ensuing free-for-all. Their weaker economic and military strengths mean they are already suffering disproportionately from the climate change impacts caused by the emissions of the more powerful nations that have gained competitive advantage by continually subverting climate change agreements in the past. Thus, the developing nations have nothing left to gain by taking the risk of the mutual sacrifice needed to get to a zero carbon economy, especially if they perceive that control of climate change is about to be lost.  Ironically, the regular mantra from politicians and the media is how severely affected the poorest nations will be by climate change, thus backing up this assertion.  The result is that most developing nations are developing plans for new fossil fuel driven economic growth as a hedge against coming climate change loss, irrespective of the science of climate change and COP agreements. The reciprocal response from the developed nations is to continue with business as usual.

The result for the planet will be continued inaction in spite of the inevitable catastrophic consequence.

It is thus essential that we collectively embark on a different course of action that has a genuine prospect of success. The heart of this is a systematic climate restoration programme which is based on a three pronged strategy which consists of cooling the planet using marine cloud brightening, sequestrating CO2 using slow release of nutrients into the ocean and restoration of the Arctic ecosystem using ice thickening techniques. With the three interventions being deployed in the order given, we believe the climate system can be stabilised and runaway climate change avoided.

We summarise each of these below, and include a further extension of their application to address atmospheric methane accumulation, with  further details being available on our website,

  • We will cool the planet by Marine Cloud Brightening using a novel technique with a fluidic oscillator which allows seeding of marine clouds using salt water sprays.  This is the most energy efficient, controllable and safe way of increasing the planet’s albedo.  This replicates the natural formation of marine clouds, so it is inherently safe. By using it to block the heat flux into the planet at the subtropics, it will prevent excessive heat flowing to the Arctic and help the reflective ice cap to be re-established. It can also be used to protect coral reefs from bleaching and to mitigate extreme weather events.
  • We will sequestrate CO2 from the atmosphere by fertilising the ocean surfaces with buoyant nutrient flakes. This is the most rapid method of converting the excess CO2 in the ecosystem into biomass and exceeds by far the speed that can be achieved with any land based method. Converting CO2 into biomass also reverses ocean acidification. Without tackling this, most marine ecologies will not survive in anything other than a grievously impoverished state. The consequences of this would be starvation and a further diminution in the ocean’s ability to sequester CO2.

  • We will thicken the Arctic Ice Cap using renewable power systems which can be deployed over multiple years to pump water from below the ice sheet to its surface in the winter months. The restored ice cap will lead to an increase in the planet’s albedo, stabilise the jet stream, restore the Arctic habitat and trap methane emissions.  The act of pumping water onto the ice surfaces acts as a planetary radiator. This needs to be rolled out in conjunction with the MCB to be most effective.

  • We will bring atmospheric methane levels down using two methods. Firstly we will stop methane getting into the atmosphere by tailoring the nutrient recipes on the buoyant nutrient flakes to favour methanotrophs. Secondly, we will use the fluidic oscillator to disperse iron chloride salts which in the presence of sunlight which will convert methane to CO2 a thousand times faster than would occur in naturally.

It is critical that this programme is started immediately.  We are already heading for an ice free Arctic Ocean in September and once we pass this critical threshold, the effectiveness of our proposed strategy will rapidly diminish, with the risk that at some point in the near future it will be overwhelmed by events.  This is not an attempt to hold a gun to the heads of policy makers, but a sober and clinical assessment of the facts.

At the same time much work needs to be done - engineering and scientific validations are needed; approvals need to be sought; funding needs to secured; equipment must be manufactured and deployed and finally there is the time constant of response. All this must be completed before the heat in the pipe line strikes us and undermines our ability to co-ordinate a response. Thus, the consequences of delay are critical and have been outlined in a risk assessment we prepared in May. In the relatively short time since preparing this presentation, events have unfolded to support our worst fears associated with inaction.

It is thus absolutely vital that this intervention strategy becomes the subject of serious discussions at the coming meeting and we ask your support in enabling this. As a minimum we need clear and unambiguous political commitment towards this to enable us to secure seed funding for early development. If this is not forthcoming, the consequences are too dire to contemplate. Further to this, we need all the help that we can to secure that initial funding.

Thus we write to you not as pessimists who have given up all hope for the survival of higher forms of life on the planet, but as realistic optimists who believe that once the reality is clear and a feasible solution is evident, then better instincts will prevail allowing time to be safely bought and competition avoided to allow the types of ideals implicit in the COP 21 agreement to be realised.

We will be delighted to offer any support and information delegates wish and we will remain humbly at your service.

With kindest regards,

Kevin Lister and Sev Clarke.