The Oman geoengineering scheme to save the planet

A story in the Arizona Daily Star, 4-14-17 (the great march for science issue) shows how some scientists create the most tenuous links between their research and climate change as a plea for funding.

This story is “Oman’s mountains may hold clues for reversing climate change.” (Link) The lede: “Deep in the jagged red mountains of Oman, geologists are searching for an efficient and cheap way to remove carbon dioxide from the air and oceans — and perhaps begin to reverse climate change. They are coring samples from one of the world’s only exposed sections of the Earth’s mantle to uncover how a spontaneous natural process millions of years ago transformed carbon dioxide into limestone and marble.”

The researchers are excited because the exposed mantle rock is mostly peridotite, a coarse-grained igneous rock made up of the minerals olivine and pyroxene, both magnesium silicates. “They hope to answer the question of how the rocks managed to capture so much carbon over the course of 90 million years — and to see if there’s a way to speed up the timetable.” A researcher goes on to say, ““Every single magnesium atom in these rocks has made friends with the carbon dioxide to form solid limestone, magnesium carbonate, plus quartz.”

A couple of nitpicks: Limestone is calcium carbonate, not magnesium carbonate (Calcium and magnesium together with carbonate form a rock called dolomite). Marble is a metamorphic rock which requires heat and/or pressure to form. That “spontaneous natural process” happened not only millions of years ago, but is a continuing natural process in the ocean when calcium ions derived from weathering of surface rocks combine with carbonate ions in the ocean. Basaltic ocean crustal rocks act as a buffer by continuously removing CO2 from the ocean by combining carbonate with calcium derived from surface weathering of rocks.

Their great scheme is this: “a drilling operation could cycle carbon-rich water into the newly formed seabed on oceanic ridges far below the surface. Just like in Oman’s mountains, the submerged rock would chemically absorb carbon from the water. The water could then be cycled back to the surface to absorb more carbon from the atmosphere, in a sort of conveyor belt.”

Perhaps the researchers made the climate change link to their research just to suck up grant money so they can continue studying. The geology is interesting, but their idea sounds like another crazy, expensive, and totally unnecessary geoengineering scheme. (See Wacky Geoengineering Schemes to Control Climate)

See also:

Evidence that CO2 emissions do not intensify the greenhouse effect

Arizona State University researchers want to deploy 100 million ice-making machines to the Arctic

Fourteen researchers from Arizona State University want to save the Arctic ice sheet by deploying up to 100 million ice-making machines at a cost of about $5 trillion over the next 10 years. Essentially, wind-powered pumps will spread ocean water over ice where it will freeze and thicken the sea ice. Their proposal was published January 24, 2017, in Earth’s Future, an open access journal of the American Geophysical Union. You can read their full paper here:

The researchers claim that loss of Arctic sea ice is due to global warming caused by human release of CO2 (they don’t provide any evidence). Thus, there is an “urgent need to deal with climate change.” Within the paper they invoke all the usual boogeymen of dangerous global warming alarmism.

The paper abstract begins: “As the Earth’s climate has changed, Arctic sea ice extent has decreased drastically. It is likely that the late-summer Arctic will be ice-free as soon as the 2030s. This loss of sea ice represents one of the most severe positive feedbacks in the climate system, as sunlight that would otherwise be reflected by sea ice is absorbed by open ocean. It is unlikely that CO2levels and mean temperatures can be decreased in time to prevent this loss, so restoring sea ice artificially is an imperative.”

Their ice-making machine:

“We propose that a wind pump mounted on a large buoy, could perform the function of capturing wind energy to pump seawater to the surface. The basic components of such a device would include: a large buoy; a wind turbine and pump, drawing up seawater from below the ice; a tank for storing the water; and a delivery system that takes the water periodically flushed from the tank and distributes it over a large area. The goal is to raise enough water over the Arctic winter to cover an area approximately 0.1 km2 with approximately1 m of ice. A system of such devices would have to be manufactured and delivered to the Arctic Ocean, probably repositioned each season, and would need to be maintained.”

The researchers recognize “it is a challenge to prevent the water inside the device (tank, delivery system) from freezing.” But, they provide no solution. Where will they get energy to heat the water to prevent a freeze? They also say that the buoy-turbine contraption must be sturdy enough to prevent it tipping over in the fickle Arctic environment.

The researchers propose starting small with only 10 million pumps at a cost of $500 billion. They say we would need 100 million devices costing $5 trillion to cover the entire Arctic.

In my opinion, this is just another wacky and completely unnecessary geo-engineering scheme. It is also a complete waste of money and resources. Within the paper is a discussion of the need for a multinational governance of the Arctic ice. This seems to me to be a plea for more bureaucracy and future funding. Why 14 authors for this paper? Maybe the group wants to get “publish or perish” credit, which is vital in academia, before President Trump pulls the plug. Or, it could be a class project with professors and students. By the way, a note in the paper says: “The authors received no funding to carry out this work.” That probably means they had no special grant funding. I presume that the University pays the professors a salary (with taxpayer’s money).

I saw no mention in the paper of an unintended consequence of freezing ocean water: it will increase the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere. “When sea water freezes, all of the CO2 that is bound up in that water is forced out. Not only is the dissolved gaseous CO2 released, but all of the CO2 held in the carbonate form is released as well.” (Source)


See also:

Predictions of an ice-free Arctic Ocean

Wacky Geoengineering Schemes to Control Climate

The Arctic-Antarctic seesaw

Purdue scientists propose to curtail anthropogenic global warming by manufacturing snow in Antarctica

I’m not making this up. Here is the paper and its abstract:

Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 2012 ; e-Viewdoi:

CO2 Snow Deposition in Antarctica to Curtail Anthropogenic Global Warming

Ernest Agee,1 Andrea Orton and John Rogers

Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana


A scientific plan is presented that proposes the construction of CO2 deposition plants in the Antarctic for removing CO2 gas from the Earth’s atmosphere. The Antarctic continent offers the best environment on Earth for CO2 deposition at 1 bar of pressure, and temperatures closest to that required for terrestrial air CO2 snow deposition, 133°K. This plan consists of several components, including: (a) air chemistry and CO2 snow deposition, (b) the deposition plant and a closed-loop liquid nitrogen refrigeration cycle, (c) the mass storage landfill, (d) power plant requirements, (e) prevention of dry ice sublimation and (f) disposal (or use) of thermal waste. Calculations demonstrate that this project is worthy of consideration, whereby 446 deposition plants supported by 16 1200-MW wind farms can remove 1 B tons (1012 kg) of CO2 annually (a reduction of 0.5 ppmv), which can be stored in an equivalent “landfill” volume of 2 km x 2 km x 160 m (insulated to prevent dry ice sublimation).

The individual deposition plant, with a 100m x 100m x 100m refrigeration chamber, would produce approximately 0.4m of CO2 snow per day. The solid CO2 would be excavated into a 380m x 380m x 10m insulated landfill, that would allow one year of storage amounting to 0.00224B tons of carbon. Demonstrated success of a prototype system in the Antarctic would be followed by a complete installation of all 446 plants for CO2 snow deposition and storage (amounting to 1B tons annually), with wind farms positioned in favorable coastal regions with katabatic wind currents.

Like all wind, Katabatic winds are intermittent, but they can blow at hurricane force. Now what could go wrong with that?

Sounds like a few new green jobs.

This scheme, like all geoengineering schemes, is one of academia’s answers to a phantom problem. Because carbon dioxide is plant food and necessary for all life, we should not waste time and resources trying to get the atmospheric concentration down to some imagined correct magic number, see “A Modest Proposal: Triple Your Carbon Footprint.”  The geologic history of Earth shows that the normal concentration of carbon dioxide is at least three times what it is now.  Most plants and animals evolved under this higher concentration.

Although the authors of this paper are just trying to fill a perceived need (and maybe acquire politically correct grant money), all geoengineering schemes are foolish and unnecessary. Too bad they don’t direct their expertise toward something useful.

For another view, read an article from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists: “20 reasons why geoengineering may be a bad idea.”

See also:

Geoengineering Wacky Schemes to Control Climate

British Balloon to spew sulfur, another wacky geoengineering scheme

Girthic Warming

British Balloon to spew sulfur, another wacky geoengineering scheme

In order to forestall dread global warming, many, usually wacky, schemes have been proposed. The latest is from a group of British academics who want to simulate the cooling emissions of volcanoes by tethering a balloon about 1 kilometer into the sky and pumping up and dispersing a chemical mixture of sulfates to reflect sunlight. Of course, the EPA has for years been trying to reduce sulfur emissions from coal plants and automobile exhausts.


The academics have garnered a £1.6m ($2.5 million) British government grant to build a scale model of their device.

“The whole weight of this thing is going to be a few hundred tonnes. That’s the weight of several double-decker buses. So imagine how big a helium balloon do you need to hold several double-decker buses – a big balloon. We’re looking at a balloon which is possibly 100-200m in diameter. It’s about the same size as Wembley stadium,” said the Oxford engineering lecturer Hugh Hunt in an interview earlier this year. This hose would be just like a garden hose, 20km long and we pump stuff up the pipe.”

Read the whole story from the British newspaper, the Guardian.

For more wacky geoengineering schemes, see my post:

Geoengineering Wacky Schemes to Control Climate

Geoengineering Wacky Schemes to Control Climate

The premise: Man has messed with Nature to produce unusual global warming. The proposed solution: Mess with Nature even more. That’s the idea behind geoengineering and its wacky schemes to control climate.

Here is a review of some of the geoengineering schemes proposed. Many schemes have been proposed by serious scientists as a fix for a perceived problem. Some might be technologically feasible, but totally impractical; most are incredibly expensive; none are necessary or even desirable. The popular press has noticed that such schemes are being considered and promoted. An article in the March issue of Reader’s Digest says, “that radically altering our environment may be our last best hope for avoiding disaster.” Uh-huh. Dr. Strangelove lives. Apparently RD authors have not been reading the news lately about climategate.

The Cooling Schemes:

Cooling schemes come in two general varieties: block the sun, or suck up carbon dioxide.

1) Add aerosol sulfur to the atmosphere to create a haze and reduce sunlight reaching the surface. Never mind that for the last few decades we have been trying to reduce sulfur emissions from coal-fired electric generation plants and smelters. And there is that thing about acid rain.

By the way, according to the EPA U.S. emissions of air pollutants have decreased significantly since 1980: carbon monoxide has decreased 79% ; ground-level ozone has decreased 25%; lead emissions have decreased 92%; nitrogen dioxide has decreased 46%; sulfur dioxide decreased 71%; and particulate matter has decreased 19%. Was all that Clean Air Act stuff a mistake?

2. Create large-scale reflective screens to block sunlight and reduce glacier melt. Who’s going to keep the snow off the screens? Ah… green jobs.

3. Spread iron filings on the surface of the Pacific Ocean. The iron would nurture phytoplankton, which, in turn, would absorb more CO2.

4. Add lime to the ocean to make it more alkaline and thereby presumably increase the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2. Shell Oil is actually funding such research. Maybe it would offset the acid rain produce in scheme #1.

5. Use a fleet of ships set up to spray water into the atmosphere in the hope of making whiter clouds that would reflect sunlight.

6. Stephen Schneider of Stanford University suggests building 60,000 shiny space ships and putting them into orbit. They would reflect away some sunshine and cool the earth. Cost, only $100 billion a year. A similar proposal involves shooting millions of tiny reflective frisbees into space to reflect sunlight. This latter plan, proposed by a University of Arizona researcher, would cost somewhere between $800 billion and $400 trillion according to an estimate in Popular Mechanics ( ). That wide range of estimated costs seems to be typical of many schemes. Still other schemes would orbit giant mirrors to reflect sunlight away.

7. CO2 Scrubbers, hundreds of thousands of them, would suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and then store it underground. This suffers from the same problem as capturing CO2 from fossil fuel plants (see: )


The Warming Schemes:

Back in the 1970s, when climate scientists were absolutely sure that the planet was entering another glacial epoch, geoengineering schemes were designed to warm the planet.

1. Melt the Arctic Ice cap by covering it with coal dust to increase heat absorption. The darker, ice-free water would then absorb more sunlight and warm up.

2. Dam the Bering Strait to keep cold Arctic water out of the Pacific Ocean.

3. Deflect the Atlantic Gulf Stream. Two kinds of proposals were discussed, a dam between Florida and Cuba, and weirs extending out from Newfoundland across the Grand Banks to deflect the Labrador current as well as the Gulf Stream. Other schemes would deflect the Kuroshio Current in the Sea of Japan.

4. Create African oceans: If the Congo River, which carries some 1,200 cubic kilometers of water per year, were dammed at Stanley Canyon (about 1 mile wide), it would impound an enormous lake (the Congo Sea). The Ubangi, a tributary of the Congo, could then flow to the northwest, joining the Chari and flowing into Lake Chad, which would grow to enormous size (over 1 million square kilometers).

5. Create Siberian Seas: Dams on the Ob, Yenisei and Angara rivers could create a lake east of the Urals that would be almost as large as the Caspian Sea. This lake could be drained southward to the Aral and Caspian Seas, irrigating a region about twice the area of the Caspian Sea. The theory behind these dam schemes is that the presence of a large lake transforms the heat exchange between the surface and atmosphere.


The problem with all these schemes, besides being unnecessary and costly, is that they would have unpredictable consequences for individual countries, regions, and the planet. They could result in political manipulation as countries and companies promote vested interests. They could, perhaps, even cause climate wars, especially if a scheme perpetrated by one country adversely affected another.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (MAY/JUNE 2008) gives 20 reasons why geoengineering is a bad idea. See:


But the schemes have their advocates (or is it patsies?). Science Insider reports that Bill Gates has spent $4.5 million of his own money supporting a wide array of research on geoengineering since 2007. It seems that this perceived problem is ripe to suck up grant money. Hey Bill, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn….

John Holdren, Obama’s science advisor, says the White House is seriously considering geoengineering options. (AP April 8, 2009). It would be better if they seriously considered the fraud and data manipulation of the Climategate revelations.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed — and hence clamorous to be led to safety — by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

–H.L. Mencken