Preparing for an Emergency: Climate Intervention
| Medea Steinman,
Tags: 12.01.10 webinar, climate intervention, iron
“This isn’t science fiction,” Professor Chai said “This is real.” What if we are not able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we face an emergency here on Earth as a result of global warming? Scientists asked this question some time ago and have been researching different technologies that could be used to cool the planet, if needed.
Since the early 1900’s, the global mean land-ocean temperature index has risen markedly
Fei Chai began his presentation by re-capping familiar news. He outlined the current understanding of, and debate concerning, climate change and global warming and presented many graphs, charts, and diagrams showing evidence of the increases in temperature and carbon outputs, sea level rise, and the increased incidence of natural disasters. He also reminded everyone of the slow progress being made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
All this set the stage for a conference in March 2010, where over 100 scientists, policy-makers, ethicists, and news reporters heard reports on a range of climate intervention technologies. Some are designed to reflect the sun’s rays back into space (space mirrors and cloud seeding, for example). Others seek options for long-term carbon storage (through such methods as “biochar” and ocean iron fertilization). Each option has been rated according to three criteria: cooling effect, readiness and cost. Space mirrors would have the maximum cooling effect, very high costs, and would take centuries to develop. Biochar has a low cooling effect and middling readiness and costs.
Solar Radiation Management approaches to managing Earth’s climate system would reflect a small amount of sunlight back into space. (click for larger image)
Ocean iron fertilization is Fei’s particular area of research. He explained its interesting history, and the eventual open-ocean experiments that led to support for the original 1990 “iron hypothesis” by John Martin, a paleooceanographer. Fei and his colleagues have stated, however, that much remains unknown about iron fertilization, including the possible ecological outcomes, and they have called for further research to be conducted before this method is implemented on a larger scale. Professor Chai also emphasized that climate emissions mitigation and adaptation efforts should continue and are obviously preferable to intervention measures.
One of the maps created by Dr. Fei Chai in the webinar highlighting the two main types of climate intervention technologies.
High school marine science teacher, Jennifer Albright, worked extensively with COSEE-OS while completing her dual masters at the University of Maine: a M.S. in marine biology and a M.Ed. in Secondary Science Education. In her webinar presentation, she described how much her work with COSEE-OS influenced the teaching methods she uses at Tabor Academy in Marion, MA. Her experiences with COSEE-OS helping scientists draft their first-ever concept maps helped Jenny understand how daunting it can be to see “that big blank sheet of white paper.” She’s learned to help her students start small and keep things simple. Jenny also described the “Oceans First” curriculum at Tabor, in which physical and chemical science are integrated into a biology course, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of ocean science. Jenny also co-authored Teaching Physical Concepts in Oceanography: An Inquiry-Based Approach. We highly recommend this guide, which offers hands-on activities for teaching key physical science concepts (e.g., density, pressure, buoyancy) in an oceanographic context.