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A Bold Solution for Global Warming

  • 1.  A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 09-30-2019 01:17 PM

    I would appreciate feedback on this Global Warming theory. If we construct Solar Umbrellas above the Earth's atmosphere- sunlight could be reflected out into deep space and the Energy/Sunlight that contributes to Global Warming could be controlled. We could prevent Hurricanes and Tornadoes which are caused by sunlight creating high and low pressure zones in our atmosphere. Solar umbrellas would reflect light away from the Earth- and all would be equipped with Solar Cells to power and sustain them.  In fact if these Space umbrellas could be controlled and adjusted accordingly we could actually control the weather.

    Solar umbrellas could be constructed similar to a trampoline. Aluminum tubing with a reflective cloth like the astronauts wear. Not one huge piece but spliced together and assembled from below in a series of maze walls (Much like a mechanics trench) that could have docking clamps to keep them in place until launch. I am thinking good quality balloons filled with hydrogen. Hydrogen is of course flammable vs helium - which is not lighter and more expensive. Hydrogen has a bigger lifting capacity.

    The balloons would lift the umbrella to the edge of the atmosphere (circa 300 miles)  where they would float. All would need to be equipped with a solar powered iPhone that had a GPS so it could be tracked.

    I am not sure how they, the Solar Umbrellas, could be controlled. A satellite has a much higher orbit and is held in place when gravitational force equals centrifugal force. These would not have a large weight- so how do we get velocity around the Earth?  Does the atmosphere rotate as the Earth rotates? In addition to the GPS these should probably have a device that could release the balloons if required to remove them- just in case that option is needed.

    Test runs could be made with smaller models (say 2000’ in dia.) to see how this works. Launch them and track them. The cost would not be exorbitant- as compared to launching a rocket. I would like to hear your thoughts on this theory. Does anyone know of any research being done in this field?


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    Richard LaPrairie P.E.,M.ASCE P Eng MSME
    LMI Engineering L.L.C.
    Reno NV
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  • 2.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-01-2019 08:10 AM
    ​Richard,

    Interesting idea, but what do we do when we enter a global cooling cycle? The climate is constantly changing and has done so for as long as the earth has existed. Who would control the solar umbrellas? Who will pay for initial launch and then maintenance of the umbrellas? Can we really control the weather? I ask these questions and the possible answers are not very good. Sometimes as engineers we forget to look beyond the technical portion of the problem and thus miss dire unintended consequences. Unfortunately there are people in this world that would try to use something like this to control people and countries politically.

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    James Wilson P.E., M.ASCE
    P.E.
    Charleston Water System
    Charleston SC
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  • 3.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-01-2019 10:04 AM
    Interesting idea, but I think scale is a problem along with the unintended consequences as James mentions.  People, animals, and plants are dispersed and adapted on this planet based upon repeatable weather patterns that usually change slowly.  I think we  humans are best suited to ride out the coming heat/weather and let mass migrations, extinctions, and advancing technology just work themselves out over the next few hundred years.

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    Paul Bryant P.E., M.ASCE
    Moore SC
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  • 4.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-01-2019 12:00 PM
    Richard:
    To search for research about this approach, use the keywords "geoengineering" and "solar radiation management". See Geoengineering: 'Plan B' for the planet
    Phys remove preview
    Geoengineering: 'Plan B' for the planet
    August 23, 2019 by Marlowe Hood Dismissed a decade ago as far-fetched and dangerous, schemes to tame global warming by engineering the climate have migrated from the margins of policy debates towards centre stage. "Plan A" remains tackling the problem at its source.
    View this on Phys >

    for a quick overview. The big drawback with geoengineering is that we would be using the only planet we have as an experimental subject in an uncontrolled study.

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    W. M. Kim Roddis P.E., F.ASCE
    The George Washington University
    Washington DC
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  • 5.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-02-2019 02:36 PM
    This theory appears to run against the current peer-reviewed scientific theories regarding global warming. Engineers should design solutions to problems identified by the full body of scientific knowledge and should never try to design based on a minority public opinion that may be politically popular.

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    Yance Marti P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Milwaukee
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 6.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-03-2019 12:44 PM
    There's a good podcast that covered one of the earliest proposals to block out sunshine to avoid warming (http://outsideinradio.org/shows/ep100).

    I think that your idea focuses on the name of the problem, on the warming aspect. It forgets the other complications that are not covered directly by the name "global warming". Additional CO2 acidifies the oceans (Ocean Acidification is sometimes referred to as Global Warming's evil twin), messes with the food cycles, animals with shells and coral reefs. Blocking the sun won't change that.

    Block the sun too much and your plants and fitoplakton won't yield as much. Block the sun and reverse the temperature trend and it removes any incentive to reduce emissions or improving efficiency, bringing peak oil, peak gas and other resource "peaks" closer to today. Then what?

    Also, can you imagine all of the world collectively agreeing to such a project? Or some rejecting it and not wanting the shade to go over their territory whatsoever? We have trouble getting all to agree to simpler things like basic human rights or the scientific facts showing the world is warming.

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    Kevin Acosta P.E., M.ASCE
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  • 7.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-03-2019 02:08 PM
    Ideas of engineering and technological interventions like carbon sequestering, reflecting sunlight through space mirrors, seeding of space and ocean, etc. - to modify the warming global climate - have been floating around for some time. There are at least two NAP publications (2015) - (1) Climate Intervention: Reflecting Sunlight to Cool Earth. https://nap.edu/18988; (2) Climate Intervention: Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration. https://nap.edu/18805. These two documents discuss potentials of the proposed interventions - their viability and impacts.

    Many such ideas and experimentation perhaps rate as loud thinking now, but things have to start somewhere. At the same time, it must be realized that the Sun-Earth energy system has evolved over geologic time to a stage where we live now - but all are in a rather delicate (delicate, because our tolerance thresholds of many things are very narrow) dynamic equilibrium of stresses and consequences. Enhanced storminess and others, are an indication of instability in climate-fluidity, triggered by Nature's own variability and/or by human activities (Anthropocene Epoch started only in 1950; the 70 years of heavy human footprint is not even an instant in the geologic context of Sun-Earth system). These and the uncertainty of things make climate intervention proposals rather tricky and complicated.

    Here are some things in a lighter vein:
    • A scenario of interests and conflicts. The cold polar and sub-polar people of Scandinavia, Russia, Canada and northern USA: hold on, we are freezing down here and it's very depressing; we need more sunshine. The Equatorial people: good idea, it's very hot down here. The middle countries people: hold on, what about our beautiful season?
    • Global warming? What a beautiful gift of Nature! It's time to sharpen our skill to open the Northern Route, and exploit the treasure trove of minerals in the polar areas.
    • Coastal lowland communities? Mountains and midlands and sparsely populated, and are ready for sale.


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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Website: https://widecanvas.weebly.com
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  • 8.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-03-2019 05:03 PM

    My thanks to all who have replied. I do not disagree with any comments offered. I in fact agree with all. As a Mining Engineer my education included geology, electrical engineering, thermodynamics and structural engineering. ASTM was never mentioned. When I registered as a Civil Engineer ASTM was discovered! 

    I am just exacerbated to hear politicians say that Global Warming is our greatest threat. (Chicken Little Syndrome).

    Why not a Solar Umbrella? Yes, if we launched 100 million possible long term effects could be disastrous. But if we launched a few and monitored them we could possibly learn something. Ben Franklin flying a Kite could have been a fatal error- but we all learned to install lightning rods from his work. 

    I think that the most important issue is that we humans can not affect the climate change! Our efforts might be futile.
    If we can't prevent it we need to prepare for it!

    As Engineers we are smarter than the average bear and we should lead by offering creative solutions.

    I believe that a few Solar Umbrellas should be built and launched to study the effects. Not a huge capital cost - but more than I can do as a private entity. The Space Force could really have a task.


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    Richard LaPrairie P.E.,Peng, M.ASCE M.SME
    LMI Engineering L.L.C.
    Reno NV
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  • 9.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-04-2019 08:05 AM
    Global Warming appears to be real and in need of a solution.  My personal opinion is that we should first try to reduce emissions and re-forest to the mid 1930 levels.  My understanding is that is what will be required to see a change in the trend within the next thirty to fifty years.  We should also take action to stop killing the oceans.

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    Lester Germanio P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal
    Austin TX
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  • 10.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-05-2019 03:08 PM
    Assuming that the Brazilian Rain Forest is as important to our air and global health as claimed, and assuming that we can find a way to quantify the CO2 reduction and oxygen generation that are so important, I suggest we recognize Brazil as a major exporter of a critical commodity, just like sugar or cars or steel and compensate the country accordingly through a United Nations activity. National contributions could be calculated on the basis of a country's share of consumption of the oxygen "exported" by Brazil. Brazil's leaders, appreciating a source of income, would go to greater lengths to protect the Rain Forest for more destruction and conversion to agriculture and other development.
    It is a radical idea and perhaps impractical or impossible on geopolitical, geo-economic, geo-cultural grounds, but if the Rain Forest is so important to the world why not consider it?

    Robert W. Foster, PE, PLS, F-ASCE
    85 Frankland Rd
    Hopkinton, MA 01748
    robertwf97@...




  • 11.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-05-2019 04:45 PM
    I favor the idea of an international organization buying development rights to lands for the purpose of maintaining woodlands and funding local economies for planting, management, and protection of those woodlands.  If it can be made to be the highest and best use of the selected lands, it could work.

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    Lester Germanio P.E., M.ASCE
    Principal
    Austin TX
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  • 12.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-05-2019 04:46 PM
    Such a mechanism for preserving forests, including the Brazilian rainforest has already been proposed and is included in Article 5 of the Paris Climate Accord.

    Climate Change is an example of what economists call "The Tragedy of the Commons". A market-based approach to prevent degradation of a Commons is to monetize the costs associated with the driving economic externality. Non-market-based means, such as government regulation can also be used, alone or in combination with market-based approaches.

    The regional problem of Acid Rain was successfully mitigated with approaches combining market-based initiatives and regulations. The global problem of the Ozone Hole was successfully mitigated by the Montreal Protocol which led to the successful resolution of the global Ozone Hole situation.

    The Paris Climate Accord addresses global deforestation by including a market-based initiative REDD+, the UN program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation. REDD+ is much like the approach you proposed.

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    W. M. Kim Roddis P.E., F.ASCE
    The George Washington University
    Washington DC
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  • 13.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-07-2019 06:33 PM
    • There is perhaps another way of looking at warming and climate intervention issues. This way is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and Entropy. The 2nd Law says that Entropy of the Earth has been increasing since the birth of our Solar System, and will continue to increase in the arrow of time. At the same time, the Earth is also getting disordered as a net gainer of Entropy from the Sun. This subtle but inevitable Natural process is destined to cause the Earth unlivable onetime - but far in the distant future. I have a piece on the Entropy process in my website: https://widecanvas.weebly.com/nature/entropy-and-everything else. Have a look to know more.
    • The first intervention (a negative one) on the thermodynamic process (in enhancing Entropy) started during the dawn of fossil fuel use in the 1860s, but it has begun to show noticeable consequences about 100 years later, beginning from the rapid and extensive industrialization in the 1950s. The consequences in the form of warming of the global climate, sea level rise and instabilities - continue to be measured by all organizations and entities around the world. Therefore, there is no denying of this fact. But what is not clear and uncertain is how much of this warming process is separable in definitive terms of: (1) Entropy, (2) cyclic processes that define the Sun-Earth energy system (such as the glacial-interglacial periods), and the anthropogenic footprint. Also uncertain is the future prediction.
    • Therefore among others, one is led to realize climate positive interventions such as: gradually phasing out massive dependence on fossil fuels, and recycling the gained Entropy from the Sun in terms of Solar Panel use - are perhaps some of the important sensible options. And gladly societies are heading that way in variable degrees - albeit slowly.


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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Website: https://widecanvas.weebly.com
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  • 14.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-14-2019 11:13 AM
    I was just made aware of a recent publication by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  Its title is "The Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate".  It peaked my interest because it focuses on sea level rise (a big deal in Southeast Florida) and loss of ice mass in Greenland and Antarctica. Here is the link for those interested:

    https://www.ipcc.ch/srocc/home/

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    Bevin Beaudet P.E., M.ASCE
    President/Owner
    Bevin A. Beaudet, P.E., LLC.
    West Palm Beach FL
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  • 15.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-15-2019 08:54 AM
    I think that the bold solution is impractical on a world wide basis.  It might be practical as an energy collector for a space station.

    If we believe that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is a problem, we need to start with looking at the things that produce carbon dioxide in concentrated locations.  It is a lot easier to change a large producing point source than a bunch of small scale point sources.  Factory controls make sense from a benefit versus energy (money) perspective because of this philosophy.  Controlling the minuscule amount of CO2 from each cow's flatulence is not.  We need to remember that CO2 in the low atmosphere is used by plants.  CO2 in the high atmosphere causes warming.

    If we look at the primary producers of high atmospheric CO2, many of the things that come to mind are natural, not man-made.  How about we learn to remove 15% of the carbon dioxide from the 10 biggest stable volcanoes.  This would decrease the amount of CO2 in the high atmosphere by more than the amount of the total man-made CO2.  The amount of benefit far outweighs the energy needed to implement the solution.  We already have the technology for the CO2 removal, all we need to do is figure out how to design the collectors.   The technology generated from attempting this solution would be beneficial to many different industries, not just the power producers.  Perhaps even the heat from the volcanoes can be used to drive the rest of the treatment process, so the new energy use would be minuscule.

    Just my thoughts.  Please feel free to examine the idea, and look for flaws or benefits.

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    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX
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  • 16.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-15-2019 11:58 AM
    "According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the world's volcanoes, both on land and undersea, generate about 200 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually, while our automotive and industrial activities cause some 24 billion tons of CO2 emissions every year worldwide. Despite the arguments to the contrary, the facts speak for themselves: Greenhouse gas emissions from volcanoes comprise less than one percent of those generated by today's human endeavors.Are Volcanoes or Humans Harder on the Atmosphere?
    Scientific American remove preview
    Are Volcanoes or Humans Harder on the Atmosphere?
    Dear EarthTalk: Could it really be true that a single large volcanic eruption launches more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the amount generated by all of humanity over history? -- Steve Schlemmer, London, England This argument that human-caused carbon emissions are merely a drop in the bucket compared to greenhouse gases generated by volcanoes has been making its way around the rumor mill for years.
    View this on Scientific American >



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    W. M. Kim Roddis P.E., F.ASCE
    The George Washington University
    Washington DC
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  • 17.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-15-2019 12:23 PM
    Thank you Kim, I appear to have been misinformed about the amount of CO2 created by volcanoes compared to cars.

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    Dwayne Culp, Ph.D., Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE
    Culp Engineering, LLC
    Rosenberg TX
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  • 18.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 10-15-2019 10:31 PM
    It also bears mentioning that CO2 is only one of the greenhouse gases that affects the planet. Methane is the more worrisome greenhouse gas which is something that we can do more about. A lot of methane is being released from thawing permafrost.



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    Yance Marti P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer IV
    City of Milwaukee
    Milwaukee WI
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  • 19.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 16 days ago
    Hello Richard,

    I just came across this discussion, and while that solution indeed sounds bold just from reading about the possibilities, what I'm focusing on are the troubling implications about such a technology you briefly mentioned.

    1. By having this much of an ability to manipulate weather, that opens the door for further chaos with the weather across the world, given the ruling of the Butterfly Effect.
    2. There would need to be a lot of consideration for what parts of the Earth are specifically going to receive this reduced amount of lighting. Regardless of how big the umbrella becomes, there will always be that section without any of the protection.

    With all the possibilities and potential of our current and near-future technology too broad to properly account for, we should focus more on addressing the rise in greenhouse gases directly, like figuring out how areas with solar panels on Earth's surface could completely charge entire buildings.

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    Alexander Granato S.M.ASCE
    Student
    Bexley OH
    614-900-7246
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  • 20.  RE: A Bold Solution for Global Warming

    Posted 15 days ago

    This interesting and contemporaneous topic (in its wider context) has been discussed nearly eight months ago with some great inputs-including looking at it in a lighter vein. But perhaps seeing it through the lens of climatic interventions (positive and negative)-is helpful in the clarities of understanding to diagnose the problem, and in thinking of solutions. Let me attempt to add some more in response to Alexander's interest.

    The beginning of fossil fuel use in the 19th century was a positive intervention-in a sense that it ushered in industrialization and improved our quality of life-and that the reversible dynamics of Earth's Fluid, Solid and Life Systems were strong enough to process any negative impact of the intervention. But as time went by, the seed of fossil fuel industry grew into a mammoth tree-its impacts turned from positive (or neutral) into negative-because they exceeded the capacity of Earth's reversible dynamics. This resulted in high concentrations of GHGs, accelerated warming, instability and adverse consequences. Despite this reality, our mother Earth is destined to get warmer (in subtlety) in the arrow of time-irrespective of what we do or don't do (more on Entropy and Everything Else).

    If we think in that line, the rationale behind some actions (in terms of positive climate interventions) becomes clear. They, already in various phases of implementation all around the world are: (1) gradually but slowly phasing out the massive dependence on fossil fuels, as well as limiting the industrial emissions; and (2) in harnessing some of the natural energy sources such as: (a) the solar power using photovolatic panels, (b) the wind power, and (c) the hydropower (rivers and streams, tide and waves). These three sources seem to be the only ones that do not add to the net one-way contribution to the Sun-Earth energy balance. See more on Warming Climate and Entropy.



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    Dr. Dilip Barua, Ph.D, P.Eng, M. ASCE
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Website: https://widecanvas.weebly.com
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