Johan Rockström predicts climate doom again but is not advocating nuclear or ocean solutions

Johan Rockström made big predictions of 9 environmental systems that would each reach tipping points and doom humanity. Now Johan Rockström has co-written a paper that predicts climate doom caused by an environmental global warming chain reaction. The claim is that big changes are needed within 10-20 years or the world will pass tipping points.

“Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene,” published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If global warming reaches 2 degrees C it could trigger a feedback, or “tipping element,” in one or more of our natural systems and drive further warming, Rockström.

* Johan Rockström has predicted ticking environmental clocks to doom before. I will review his warning from 2009.
* Many others have predicted climate runaway scenarios
* They never actually propose solutions that would be of sufficient scale. If the projections were serious then it is not about slowing CO2 increase. It is stopping the growth which is 10 times more than Paris and repeating it every decade and then getting to zero (trillions of tons of CO2) and then getting any overrun out of the atmosphere. About 200 times the Paris accord for the remainder of the century.
* The world has not agreed to stop the increase in CO2 emissions. Paris accords if fully followed and met would avoid about 25 billion tons of CO2
* China has already broken out to middle-income levels and will reach world bank high-income levels in the 2020s. China will reach European levels of per capita wealth by 2050. India and South East Asia are also heading to higher income levels. No environmentally justified ultra-radical austerity will be accepted by Asia. Two decades will roll by and the World will not even stop increasing CO2. If environmental predictions start happening then only at that point do we go to the real solutions of geoengineering to set climate on pause and then ocean and nuclear solutions.
* Geoengineering would be cheap and would work to buy decades of time to rollout solutions. This is described below.
* Solutions that can scale in decades are ocean forests, iron seeding the ocean and mass production of nuclear reactors. These are described below.

The Paris Agreement on climate is talking about emitting 745 billion tons of CO2 between the beginning of 2017 and the end of 2030 instead of 770 billions tons of CO2. This is the max if commitments were met. Currently we would be very lucky to get to 5 to 8 billion tons of total lower emissions because most countries are falling well short of slowing the increased CO2 emissions.

This means that the world reaches the same 770 billions tons of total CO2 emissions 60-180 days after Dec 2030.

There is no forecast to stop the growth in CO2 emissions until maybe the 2050s or 2070s. This is like the forecasts where the world population would peak in the 21st century. However, Africa is not lowering its birth rate as fast as expected so now there is no forecasted world population peak in the 2100s. If there is no peak in cO2 in the 2030s combined with some wishful rapid decline then the world will blow past 2-degree warming without massive climate intervention aka geoengineering.

Thorcon is working to build a gigawatt nuclear molten salt reactor that would constructed using modular cargo ship construction techniques. It would walk-away safe and would have almost no unburned fuel (aka nuclear waste.) If the world’s ship construction yards were tasked with building Thorcon reactors there would be the capacity to build 100 gigawatts per year of there nuclear reactors. The world’s planned added coal and natural gas power could be replaced within 14 years. Existing coal and natural gas power could be fully replaced in about 30 years.

More about the newest predicted doom

Permafrost thaw is one the 10 feedbacks studied in the paper. Permafrost exists in nearly a quarter of the land area of the northern hemisphere.

A different 2012 paper research suggests that if 5-30% of the permafrost carbon was released by 2100 then it would only be 0.13-1.7 degrees celsius of warming by 2300.

PNAS – Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene”>

Other feedbacks include Amazon rainforest and boreal forest dieback (when an entire forest suddenly dies from drought or some other cause), the reduction of northern hemisphere snow cover, Antarctic sea ice and polar ice sheets, and loss of Arctic summer sea ice.

“These tipping elements can potentially act like a row of dominoes. Once one is pushed over, it pushes Earth towards another,” said Rockström.

2009 Predictions of doom

In 2009, Johan Rockström identified nine categories of Nature that were essential for life as we know it. He warned that we had already crossed into dangerous territory on three of them – including climate change. By 2016, Rockström, an environmental science professor at Stockholm University and executive director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, had added a fourth category, deforestation, to his list of “planetary boundaries” in the danger zone, which threaten irreversible, devastating consequences to the planet.

In 2016, he was optimistic about global warming. He thought the worst of the threat could be contained. He was more optimistic than he had been since 1992. His optimism was because of the rapid innovation in wind and solar power in the past two to three years.

Here is the paper on Planetary Boundaries.

They identified nine planetary boundaries and, drawing upon current scientific understanding, they proposed quantifications for seven of them.

These seven are
* climate change (CO2 concentration in the atmosphere less than 350 ppm and / or a maximum change of +1 Watt per square meter in radiative forcing);
* ocean acidification (mean surface seawater saturation state with respect to aragonite over 80% of pre-industrial levels);
*stratospheric ozone (less than 5% reduction in O3 concentration from pre-industrial level of 290 Dobson Units);
* biogeochemical nitrogen (N) cycle (limit industrial and agricultural fixation of N2 to 35 Tg N yr-1) and phosphorus (P) cycle (annual P inflow to oceans not to exceed 10 times the natural background
weathering of P);
* global freshwater use (less than 4000 billion tons per year of consumptive use of runoff resources);
* land system change (less than 15% of the ice-free land surface under cropland);
* rate at which biological diversity is lost (annual rate of less than 10 extinctions per million species).

The two additional planetary boundaries for which we have not yet been able to determine a boundary level are chemical pollution and atmospheric aerosol loading.

350 ppm was the claimed threshold and the planet is currently at 410 ppm CO2. The world passed 400 ppm in 2013.

The atmosphere weighs 5148 trillion tons. One part per million of the atmosphere is 5.148 billion tons.

January 2007, the CO2 concentration was 383 ppmv. This was just short of 3 trillion tons of CO2 int the atmosphere. This was 105 ppm (37.77%) above the pre-industrial average. There has been an increase of 27 ppm as of 2018. 140 billion more tons of CO2 were added to the atmosphere over the last 11 years. Emissions were about 32-50 billion tons of CO2 per year.

The nine threats

In the danger zone

Biodiversity loss: the fewer species in an ecosystem, the less healthy it is
Climate change
Eutrophication: Nitrate/phosphate build-up in water (from fertilizer)

Other Risks

Ocean acidification
Freshwater consumption
Chemical pollution, such as plastic
Aerosol pollution
Stratospheric ozone depletion

New York Magazine David Wallace-Wells had a simliar doomer article “When the Earth will become uninhabitable”. They got their most read article ever, so they will probably keep it up.

The combination of dooms proposed
* maximum climate warming per models which have overestimated warming to this point
* adding in maximum feedback effects having all carbon released from the permafrost by 2050 or 2100.
* agricultural collapse
* acidic oceans
* economic collapse
* Hydrogen sulfide poison release for mass extinction

IPCC in 2013 through climate runaway are very unlikely by 2100

IPCC now believes that in the 21st Century, Atlantic Ocean circulation collapse is “very unlikely,” ice sheet collapse is “exceptionally unlikely,” and catastrophic release of methane hydrates from melting permafrost is “very unlikely.”

Chapter 12 of the upcoming Fifth IPCC report

Nature Geoscience (2012) – significant contribution to climate warming from the permafrost carbon feedback

Permafrost soils contain an estimated 1,700 Pg of carbon, almost twice the present atmospheric carbon pool.

Scalable ways that could prevent and reverse climate change and CO2 within ten years of conditions getting sufficient to get serious

Simple and cheap artificial volcano effect cools planet in the event of a runaway

A “cocktail” of geoengineering tools to reduce changes in both temperature and precipitation caused by atmospheric greenhouse gases.

The good news is that their simulations showed that if both methods are deployed in concert, it would decrease warming to pre-industrial levels, as desired, and on a global level rainfall would also stay at pre-industrial levels. But the bad news is that while global average climate was largely restored, substantial differences remained locally, with some areas getting much wetter and other areas getting much drier.

Researchers including Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira, Long Cao and Lei Duan of Zhejiang University, and Govindasamy Bala of the Indian Institute of Science—used models to simulate what would happen if sunlight were scattered by particles at the same time as the cirrus clouds were thinned. They wanted to understand how effective this combined set of tools would be at reversing climate change, both globally and regionally.

Caldeira’s key contributions to science are his relatively early recognition of the threats posed by ocean acidification, his pioneering investigations into the environmental consequences of intentional intervention in the climate system (“geoengineering”), and the first peer-reviewed study to estimate near-zero-emission energy needs consistent with a 2°C climate stabilization target. Kenneth Caldeira works with Intellectual Ventures, a Seattle-based invention and patent company headed up by Nathan Myhrvold. Myhrvold made important contributions at Microsoft.

The cost to construct a Stratospheric Shield with a pumping capacity of 100,000 tons a year of sulfur dioxide would be roughly $24 million, including transportation and assembly. Annual operating costs would run approximately $10 million. The system would use only technologies and materials that already exist—although some improvements may be needed to existing atomizer technology in order to achieve wide sprays of nanometer-scale sulfur dioxide particles and to prevent the particles from coalescing into larger droplets. Even if these cost estimates are off by a factor of 10, cost is trivial to cool an overheated planet by technological means.

Preliminary modeling studies suggest that two million to five million metric tons of sulfur dioxide aerosols (carrying one million to 2.5 million tons of sulfur), injected into the stratosphere each year, would reverse global warming due to a doubling of CO₂, if the aerosol particles are sufficiently small and well dispersed. Two million tons may sound like a lot, but it equates to roughly 2% of the SO₂ that now rises into the atmosphere each year, about half of it from manmade
sources, and far less than the 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide released over the course of a few days by the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo. Scientific studies published so far conclude that any increase in the acidity of rain and snow as several million additional tons a year of SO₂ precipitate out of the atmosphere would be minuscule and would not disrupt ecosystems. The new work indicates that additional cloud thinning would offset side effects.

A 2016 study that claims feeding cows a diet with 2% seaweed along with their normal diet of grass can reduce methane emissions by up to 99%. This would reduce the equivalent of global CO2 by 2-4 billion tons per year.

Ocean solutions scale – kelp grows two feet per day

Seaweed production can be ramped up to offset all CO2 production.

Macro-algae forests covering 9% of the world’s ocean surface, which could produce sufficient biomethane to replace all of today’s needs in fossil fuel energy, while removing 53 billion tons of CO2 per year from the atmosphere, restoring pre-industrial levels. This amount of biomass could also increase sustainable fish production to potentially provide 200 kg/yr/person for 10 billion people. Additional benefits are reduction in ocean acidification and increased ocean primary productivity and biodiversity.

Iron Fertilization works too

Iron can be placed into the ocean to restore iron levels to what they were centuries ago. Every 100 tons of iron placed into the ocean can be used to trigger algae blooms which would die in a few weeks.

Treating 20 million square miles of ocean each year would sink 3.5 billion tons of CO2 every year. In 2009, researchers, aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Endurance, have found that melting icebergs off the coast of Antarctica are releasing millions of tiny particles of iron into the southern Ocean, helping to create huge ‘blooms’ of algae that absorb carbon emissions. The algae then sinks to the icy depths, effectively removing CO2 from the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

Iron releasing systems could be towed behind container ships and cruise as they move about the oceans.

* Iron in some parts of the Ocean are at 2-4 parts per trillion when it should be at 10-15 parts per trillion for healthy amounts of plankton and algae.
* Tens of millions of tons of soil is blown into the ocean from deserts. That soil is 1 to 5% iron. Volcanoes also naturally deposit a lot of earth materials with iron into the oceans
* The 120-ton iron dumping in 2012 generated record salmon harvests in 2013 and 2014. The 2012 iron fertilization generated an algae bloom that fed salmon at the right time to boost the salmon population
* the salmon bloom died in days and then fell to the bottom of the ocean taking over 100,000 tons of CO2 with them

The combinations of putting iron into the oceans, more seaweed, geoengineering cocktail might be a few tens of billions of dollars per year but the doomsday scenarios talks about tens of trillion per year in damage. So eventually the choice will be easy. Geoengineering will be fast, easy and cheap versus other proposals for trillions to be spent on modifying the global economy and how everyone lives.

Harassing people to do the expensive, hard and futile changes has not worked. We should shift to things that will work and are affordable and relatively easy.

Temperatures will rise a degree per decade but you will do nothing and the world will die. Now repent and sign onto the stupid plans to upend the world economy because you are a carbon sinner. Your plans to restore iron levels in the oceans and to cheaply restore the climate does not make everyone suffer enough.

Robert Zubrin calls out all of the climate doomers as anti-human

The anti-humanity environmentalists are talking about keeping 80% of the world’s population poor.

It would take something 100 times worse than WW2 and the cities and world would still be burning and generating CO2.

Zubrin points out that the DDT ban allowed 100 million people in Africa to die from Malaria.