Given the man’s ego and fondness of nutty ideas, when we say that President Donald Trump wants to change the global climate you’re probably thinking of King Canute saying he’ll hold back the water in the Wash, only to lose all his gold. Sadly this is a little more dangerous…
Harvard scientists have said that they believe by sticking sulphur crystals very high up in the atmosphere over 100 years, the crystals will reflect solar rays and cool the world’s atmosphere. For Trump’s oil junkie friends, this means they can carry on pumping junk into the atmosphere without being accused of global vandalism.
The idea of ‘geoengineering’ the Earth’s atmosphere has been around for decades. In the 1960’s the US tried seeding hurricanes to stop them from hitting the mainland’s coast. They had brave airmen fly to the front edge of the storms and spray silver iodide crystals to weaken the hurricane and hopefully kill it off. What they found was that their theories as to how hurricanes formed were wrong, and even the four hurricanes that stopped after the spraying were doing what they would have done without human intervention.
The UN’s view
When the idea of changing the planet’s climate with human intervention came to light, in the face of man-made climate change, even very sane scientists took the idea seriously. Thanks to its impact on humanity, meteorology units around the world have some of the most powerful computers in existence. These systems can now predict the weather a week ahead with the same accuracy as they could 24 hours ahead in the 1980’s. Rather than go to real-world experiments they modelled the climate with human intervention by computers that are measured in Petabytes (millions of terabytes) of power.
The way they do this is to run perhaps 1000 simulations of what would happen to the climate by altering it one way or another. The Met Office in the UK, the NOAA in the US, as well as their opposite numbers in Japan, China and Europe would have done this. With the 1000 simulations, they will have sat down and assessed what the most likely outcomes would have been based on the highest numbers of predictions going one way or another.
A 2014 Guardian article reported the outcomes the scientists found: “While the computer models showed that big temperature rises could be completely avoided, it also showed cuts in rain of up to one-third in South America, Asia and Africa. The consequent droughts would affect billions of people and also fragile tropical rainforests that act as a major store of carbon.” Given the latent racism of the Trump administration, a few billion Mexicans and Asians starving potentially isn’t a great barrier…
In 2010 the UN Convention on Biological Diversity issued a moratorium on geoengineering, and in Mexico, in 2016 this was extended. Funnily enough, the US is one of the few countries not to have ratified it. The door’s open for Trump to meddle with something he doesn’t understand.
Future Trump supporter, US Senator Newt Gingrich said in 2008, “We would have an option to address global warming by rewarding scientific innovation. Bring on American ingenuity. Stop the green pig.”
While nothing official has come from the Trump administration, his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (ex CEO of Exxon) has shown great interest largely because they can drill and pump more rubbish into the atmosphere. The scientist behind the project at Harvard University, David Keith said that he plans to launch the test in Arizona in 2018: “We’re headed down the road of doing that, but depending on what an advisory committee says and what we learn technically we’re certainly willing to stop. Our long-term goal is to build a sustainable effort in solar geoengineering research that allows us to say more about ways it might actually provide a public benefit.”
While meteorology experts and climate scientists have some great forecasting skills and equipment, they know enough that they know that they don’t know enough to start meddling with something so complex. A group of mad scientists, however, with a direct line to the scariest US President ever to be elected may just be about to do something the majority says is a downright dangerous idea.
A better plan
How about this as a not-so-nutty and certainly not-in-any-way-dangerous idea?
Let’s all stop burning fossil fuel in our cars and go full steam ahead with the transition to electric vehicles.
There is a sufficiently wide range of EVs already on the market that there’s something for everyone, from hatchbacks to SUVs to supercar saloons.
Even the maddest of mad scientists (or a crazy president!) would have to admit that reducing pollution on our overcrowded roads is a great idea, with no downsides.
Just do it. Now.
By Richard Shrubb