Geo-engineering, transport, widening access to engineering

Developing knowledge of geo-engineering, transport, climate change, energy and transport with possible links to widening access for engineering to disadvantaged communities, young people, ethnic minorities, girls and women.

The little research unearthed (no pun intended) so far is fascinating.  Making me wonder about the viability and ethics.  By using one part of the eco-system to ostensibly heal another part is there the potential to cause even more harm than good?

I’m using this post as a repository for my links to date with, where time permits either a few lines to summarise the issues raised by the author of that link.  More likely it’s a cut and paste  of the main point which I may/may not have edited.  Anyhow some of the ideas and technologies I’ve uncovered are:

  • Scientists remain cautious over advocating geoengineering, or attempt to factor in the risks it poses, they do fulfil a research need as geoengineering is increasingly being considered in climate policies.  Studies suggest geoengineering is theoretically feasible and affordable, but scientists are concerned about implementing it and  that research on economic feasibility might move focus away from risks of geoengineering. Responding to the cost analysis, Dr Matt Watson, who leads the SPICE project on geoengineering,  warned: “…we must not get drawn into discussion where economics becomes the key driver. Impact on humanity and ecosystems must be, and continue to be, of primary consideration.” Unintended impacts are perhaps one of the biggest fears around geoengineering. The release of particulates could affect the regional climate including cloud formation and rainfall patterns, with knock-on effects for the growth of plants and crops. Particulates could also interact with the ozone layer in a harmful way. …  It doesn’t address the greenhouse gas emissions rise driving climate change, or …  ocean acidification. While temperatures could be controlled, the climate would still be different. Professor of Atmospheric Physics at Imperial College London, Joanna Haigh explained:  “There is no evidence that [geoengineering] would enable the climate to stabilise in a state similar to that which it would occupy naturally at lower greenhouse gas concentrations.” With all of these negative factors, geoengineering is unlikely to be implemented on a large scale any time soon. The threat of harmful side effects currently outweighs the desire for action. But since global greenhouse gas emissions are still rising, research like this is becoming increasingly relevant.
  • most high-profile link between engineering and climate change is in the field of renewable energy. At a special event last year, the APPCCG launched The Offshore Valuation Report, groundbreaking assessment of the UK’s offshore renewable energy potential. The report reveals that if the country develops its renewable energy resources to the limits of current technology, the UK could not only meet its own energy needs, but profitably export renewable energy to Europe. Engineering plays a central role in this development of renewable resources. Practical engineering
  • solutions needed to address key obstacles to widespread use of renewable energy,  how to distribute electricity from renewable sources without major power losses ;  store excess renewable energy during periods of intense production to cover later shortfalls in generation; link different renewable technologies, so excess of one type of renewable energy can cover shortfall in another.  APPCCG advocates a strong voice in engineering sector to help shape renewable energy policy. Joan Walley MP, chair of the APPCCG, committed the Group “to lead the necessary discussions on renewable energy at the government, parliamentary, industry, and international levels”, hosting debates that “will help provide the basis for future policies”, and these debates have covered the engineering and technical, as well as the policy, aspects of renewable energy in depth. In November of 2011, the APPCCG will host a joint event with the German Embassy, calling for a renewable energy revolution and celebrating the advances in engineering that have made a transition to a renewable-energy system possible.  For more information about the APPCCG, or to discuss becoming a member, Catherine Martin at the APPCCG Secretariat on 020 7833 6035 or at  Latest study isn’t the first to warn of the effect that the release of methane from methane hydrates can have on our climate. There’s some evidence that a warming of the ocean in the geological past caused a massive release of methane into the atmosphere. This, affectionately termed an ‘ocean fart’, caused a large scale change in the carbon chemistry in the atmosphere and could have accelerated the warming in ancient times.  Humphry Davy (a rather interesting character who wrote romantic poetry aside from being a leading chemist) discovered clathrate materials in 1810, when he pressurised water with chlorine gas. Since then we have discovered that these structures form in a number of gases; Nitrogen, Argon even hydrogen to name a few. There are also a number of ways that the water forms a cage about the gas molecule it’s hosting. These differ in the size and variety of cages that they contain. The research into these has opened up a number of intriguing possibilities of how we can engineer and store a lot of gas in a small amount of space.  Hopes that methane can be part of the solution and not just the problem.
  • US Invests in methane-hydrate research as a potential source of energy
  • The Arctic sea ice maintains the cold of the polar region and acting like the Earth’s air conditioner it helps moderate climate with the oceans and the atmosphere rebalancing the heat on the planet (Rice 2012; Speer 2012). Each year the Arctic sea ice melts in the summer reaching its smallest extent in September and reaches it largest extent in March (Rice 2012). At the end of August 2012, the Arctic sea ice reached it lowest extent that has ever been recorded (Vizcarra, 2012) due to the increasing input of globally warmed Gulf Stream waters into the Arctic generating what is now termed a death spiral for the floating Arctic sea ice (Romm 2012; Morison 2012). In the IPCC fourth assessment report in 2007 it was predicted that the Arctic would become ice free at the end of this Century, while more recent estimates suggested that the ice would melt by 2030 or in this decade (Romm 2012). Piomas ice volume melt data indicates that by 2015 the Arctic sea ice cap will be gone (Carana 2012d; Masters, 2009) and this paper confirms the accuracy of the Piomas estimate.
  • Pipes in the ocean to pump up water Science Museum head Chris Rapley and Gaia theorist James Lovelock are suggesting to install flotillas of vertical pipes in the tropical seas. Free-floating or tethered vertical pipes could pump up nutrient-rich waters from below the thermocline in order to mix them with the relatively barren waters at the ocean surface. Such pipes could be 100 to 200 metres long, 10 metres in diameter and with a one-way flap valve at the lower end in order to pump water upwards powered by by wave movement. The water pumped up this way could fertilize algae in the surface waters and stimulate them to bloom. More specifically, pumping up water through such pipes would result in an increased presence in the surface waters of the salp, a tiny tube-like species that excretes carbon in its solid faecal pellets. This carbon would subsequently descend to the ocean floor. The hope is that this could store carbon away for millennia on the ocean floor. An additional effect would be that the algae produced an abundance of dimethyl sulphide (DMS), a chemical that acts as the precursor of nuclei that form sunlight-reflecting clouds. As more clouds would form above the ocean, more sunlight would be reflected away from the Earth’s surface, resulting in relative cooling of the ocean underneath. US company Atmocean has in fact already started trials with this type of technology, using pipes that bring cold water to the surface from a depth of 200m.

Ocean pipes could help the Earth to cure itselfSee associated Correspondence: Shepherd et al. , Nature 449, 781 (October 2007) James E. Lovelock1 & Chris G. Rapley2 Green College, University of Oxford, Woodstock Road, Oxford OX2 6HG, UK Science Museum, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London SW7 2DD, UK propose a way to stimulate the Earth’s capacity to cure itself, as an emergency treatment for the pathology of global warming.Measurements of the climate system show that the Earth is fast becoming a hotter planet than anything yet experienced by humans.

About actionforinvolvment

We're an independent think tank, founded in 2006 to bring people in our communities together with policymakers and stakeholders. We create space often in a workshop format to pool ideas, develop networks and tackle hot topics. Since 2009, we’ve focused on the sustainability agenda such as: climate change, energy, housing, technology, transport with interest in:education, health, welfare, regulation and enforcement. Our latest project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering Ingenious Grant and our next event on 27th June 2013 includes George Monbiot with other high level environmental policy makers.
This entry was posted in RAE Ingenious booster proposal. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s