Topics for Week 3 Student Presentations
ESP 2010 - Responding to Climate Change
for week 3, Dec. 1, 2010
All students should attend week 3, including those who already presented in week 2. Everyone please read these two papers for week 3:
- Long, so JUST SKIM:
SH Schneider et al., 'Earth Systems: Engineering and Management' (from chapter 20 of 'Climate Change Policy: A Survey' [Island Press, 2002] (This is long - just skim for the big ideas)
RJ Cicerone, 'Geoengineering: Encouraging Research and Overseeing Implementation' 
Click "Download PDF" to read the full article.
Also note that the page with the Cicerone abstract also has a useful list down the left side of "Related Documents," where you might perhaps find a good source for one of the week 3 talk topics.
- Everyone also please watch (live or via PVR) this Thursday's episode
of CBC Doc Zone,
"Playing God with Planet Earth" Thursday at 9 pm on CBC-TV
The full show is now online as streaming video at:
Playing God with Planet Earth (video) so if you missed it on TV you can still
catch up online - please watch prior to our next and final session.
This feature documentary is exactly on our topic of Geoengineering!
In fact, it turns out to include interviews with Alan Robock and other
authors from our class readings. How cool is that?
One of you may choose this as your source for your 3 minute
talk on week 3.
Next Tuesday, the day before our last meeting,
there is a very relevant talk by a guest speaker as well.
BA1170 at 3:40 pm
"Why is There So Much Confusion
About Climate Change and Why
Does it Matter?"
by Claire Parkinson, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Considerable concern exists that human activities are leading to a level of
global warming that would cause serious problems for humans and other
species. Not everyone agrees with the projections, but the concerns are
substantial enough that a wide range of suggestions are being advanced either
to limit the human activities seen as causing the problems or to counteract
their effects through the implementation of various geoengineering
technologies. Many of these actions would be expensive and could have
serious unintended consequences. Hence the issues surrounding them extend
beyond purely academic interest. This talk will explain major concerns
regarding upcoming climate, key scientific and non-scientific reasons why so
much confusion exists about climate change, and various geoengineering
suggestions to modify the climate. Earth science has advanced considerably in
the past several decades, with the assistance of such relatively new tools as
climate modeling, satellite technology, and ice coring. Still, we remain far from
fully understanding all the intricacies of the Earth system or being able to
predict with accuracy all the consequences of one change or another,
whether intentional or non-intentional. As in other realms, in the realm of
climate change and human contributions to it, society faces tough decisions
despite incomplete knowledge.
I'd encourage anyone who is free Tuesday afternoon to come to this talk
as it is such a good fit to our topic. Come find me there afterward, and
I can count that toward your participation mark.
Someone could even choose this for their presentation, but if so you should not leave all the prep until Tuesday.
You could first look up one or two articles by Dr. Parkinson on
geoengineering, to get started during the week.
See this page Coming Climate Crisis? Consider the Past, Beware the Big Fix
on Dr. Parkinson's recent book that talks about geoengineering schemes.
She has also given talks on this topic lately, including one that
was recorded as a podcast (that might be a convenient intro).
Week 3 Topics
Each student must select a topic and prepare an oral presentation
to give to the class during either week 2 or week 3 (eleven students
each week). The presentation
should last 3 minutes. No visual aids (PPT, posters) are to be used.
You are welcome to use the chalkboard of course.
Thanks to everyone who presented in week 2. Great job! Now the rest
of you get your turn. These can take for granted what has already been
covered in the first two weeks so you don't run out of time in your
3 minutes. For week 3, please focus on your interpretation / judgment
about the proposal's pros and cons (no need to spend much time
restating the basic mechanics if we heard them this week.)
Here are the topic selections you made at the end of seminar #2.
For each proposal, briefly describe who proposed it and what
is their field of expertise; briefly summarize what they propose to do.
Then choose among these questions to apply to your proposal.
Leave enough time for this! You won't have time to cover all these -
choose those most relevant to this proposal and that you find
most interesting to answer:
For each proposal, think about the list of potential objections from the
article by Alan Robock that we read,
"20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea".
- Is this really feasible--within our powers to put into action?
- Is is controllable? Reversible?
- Does it stay there if left alone, or go away/fade on its own?
Do we have to keep renewing or replacing it?
- Rate it on simplicity vs. complexity - does it require
ongoing management? How might it fail?
- What side effects could it have? How serious are these?
- How might the public react to learning of this plan?
Another suggestion: talk about the proposed solution as an ethical issue,
and how political it could become. How many countries would it take to start
such a project - just one, or would it require many? How might different
countries be impacted? What could a country do if it feels the project
is doing them harm (even if the overall effect is good for the world at
- Do any of those objections apply particularly to your chosen proposal?
If so, mention which one(s).
- Can you think of any response in defense of geoengineering?
- Beichen: DocZone Thursday 9 pm "Playing God with Planet Earth"
Comment on how the show did at covering any of Robock's list of
objections, or other issues we have discussed. Did it add any
new themes not covered yet? Did they cover it at the right level for a
general audience not familiar with any of the science?
- Marcel: Claire Parkison talk Tuesday 3:40 pm, BA1170 If you
choose this, be sure to look up one or two papers by Dr. Parkinson
on our topic before Tuesday so you don't back-load all your prep
to Tuesday night. (Same Q's as for DocZone)
- Shahryar: Space Dust Shield at L1 -- plan by Dr. Curtis Struck
of Iowa State U. to move lunar or cometary dust to the L1 "Lagrange
Point" between earth and sun, to disperse a small fraction of
- Han Kil Lee: Trillions of Space Lenses! -- Scheme by Roger Angel
to begin launching tubes of 1000's of silicon nitride wafers into
orbits on rail-gun launchers, several tubes per day for decades, to
reach some TRILLIONS of lenses in orbit, under satellite control, to
disperse a small fraction of sunlight.
- Jun Li: The 'Human Volcano' -- real volcanoes send
sulfate particles into the stratosphere where they circulate for a
few years before settling out. We've seen that the earth cools slightly
each time this happens. Paul Crutzen proposes we start doing this
artificially, spreading sulfate particles from balloons or by
- Ruixue Li: Balloons in the stratosphere -- Someone has suggested
placing many reflective balloons in the upper atmosphere to reflect
away some sunlight. Source TBA. Hamid - if nothing turns up matching
this vague topic description, you may instead choose
Stephen Salter's idea of "Roboships" to spray sea salt to make
extra clouds. That is covered in the paper by R. Mileham so at
least we know the source!
- Zohair: Sea-spray roboships -- proposal to build a huge fleet
of robotic ships (to save on crew salaries!) and have them drive
around the world's oceans pumping up seawater and misting it into
the air. The mist should cause additional low clouds which could
reflect away some sunlight.
- Lucais: Feeding the Plankton -- Experiment begun
in 2004 by Victor Smetacek to add iron to the sea and then
measure the changes in growth of phytoplankton - the tiny
organisms that use photosynthesis.
- Suvanjan: Bio-fuels with carbon capture If we grow crops to create hydrocarbon fuels, then use these bio-fuels with carbon capture and storage, we get
a net reduction in CO2 in the atmosphere plus producing useful energy.
- Dalal: Bio-char We could convert unused plant matter such as wood or
crop residues into charcoal by heating them in a low-oxygen environment.
The charcoal so produced can be added to soils to enrich them. This takes
carbon from the air and stores it in soil. It seems
the "terra prieta" of South America are evidence of past civilations having
followed this practice. Can this be scaled large enough to make a difference
to atmospheric CO2 levels?
- Summaiya: Robock #20: The Unexpected: "Scientists may never
have enough confidence that their theories will predict how
well geoengineering systems can work. With so much at stake,
there is reason to worry about what we don't know."