Humanity’s Urgent Moral Imperative: Returning the Planet to a Proven Safe State

Abstract – two pages – (download the PDF at Planetary Restoration Action Group (Information)

This is the concluding paragraph … download the pdf to read the entire paper.

8. Conclusions

The ultimate goal of our endeavours is planetary restoration: returning the Earth System to a healthy state for human posterity – a state which is guaranteed safe, sustainable, biodiverse and productive. Such a healthy state can only be guaranteed if it is close to pre-industrial norms. But planetary restoration will be impossible without reversing the most dangerous trends, which are apparent in the Arctic.

The problem we set ourselves was to find plausible methods for addressing the major crises emerging as a result of an accelerated Arctic meltdown. These crises could potentially manifest as abrupt and catastrophic climate change, sea level rise and multi-megaton methane release. The necessary action to quash these crises turns out to be nothing less than a refreezing of the Arctic: offsetting the heating that has resulted from lost albedo; cooling the Atlantic and Pacific water which continues to inject heat into the Arctic; restoring the sea ice whose retreat has boosted methane emissions; halting the ice mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. We recommend a judicious combination of albedo enhancement, radiative cooling and physical constraint. But albedo enhancement using stratospheric and/or tropospheric aerosols turns out to be absolutely essential to provide the necessary basic cooling power if we have done our engineering assessment correctly. These techniques are commonly referred to as Solar Radiation Management (SRM).

With so much at stake, every effort has to be made to ensure a successful stabilisation of the Arctic situation. This is a huge operation which will require, for a decent chance of success: multinational collaboration; brilliant management; detailed planning; independent evaluations; multiple skills and expertise; and careful use of the resources available, since they could be a limiting factor for some techniques.

Parallel development of alternative technologies should be encouraged and parallel deployment allowed where there is no interference. For example, different MCB techniques could be applied in different areas of the ocean at the same time as SAI is deployed in the stratosphere.

However our assessment of the engineering techniques shows a wealth of expertise and ingenuity for tackling the problems. It suggests that there is a good chance of overall success if given proper backing for development and deployment, with appropriate systems for safety, monitoring and continuous evaluation.

But public opinion is heavily against SRM. Here are the predominant arguments against SRM:

• SRM is intrinsically dangerous. However, the proposed SRM methods are all based on naturally occurring processes which cool the planet’s surface without adverse side-effects. Additionally, much research has gone into identifying possible risks; and top modellers say that these risks can be circumvented or mitigated by appropriate careful application and monitoring.

• SRM is dangerous because, when stopped, the temperature will rebound – this is known as the termination problem. However, we urge that the levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are reduced in parallel with the application of SRM, so that no such rebound is possible. SRM can be regarded as a stop-gap in this sense.

• SRM is morally wrong, because it allows polluters to continue polluting – it is a “get out of gaol free” card. This is the so-called “moral hazard” argument. However, reducing emissions is not going to save the Arctic, and saving the Arctic is not going to affect emissions; so that does not seem to be a valid argument.

• It would be morally wrong to rely on SRM when it is politically unacceptable, and so the world should prepare for what will happen without SRM – e.g. a metre of more of sea level rise this century. However the starting point should be what is possible from engineering considerations and what has to be avoided. If SRM is necessary to avoid passing points of no return leading to inevitable catastrophe, then this fact has to be faced by the international community. One such catastrophe would be the sudden destabilisation of major Greenland glaciers, with avalanches of kilometre-size chunks of ice leading to tsunamis and abrupt sea-level rise – complete disintegration of the Greenland Ice Sheet would produce 6-7 metres of sea level rise.

• SRM threatens biodiversity. However the opposite is true. For example refreezing the Arctic will help to preserve wildlife such as polar bears.

Although one could restrict SRM to application in the Arctic only, in order to avoid some of this criticism and acrimony, we have found that more globally applied SRM will almost certainly be necessary for refreezing the Arctic. On closer examination, global SRM could have huge benefits besides refreezing the Arctic, especially as regards sea level rise and reducing flood events.

• Countries like Bangladesh and mega-cities like Calcutta and Shanghai which lie on huge river deltas are already suffering heavily from a combination of sea level rise produced by ocean expansion and tidal surges produced by storms. Both sea level and storm intensity have risen due to global warming; global SRM would reverse these two trends.

• Over a billion people at mid and low latitude rely on meltwater from glaciers and their lives and livelihoods are threatened by glacier retreat. SRM applied at these latitudes would help to save these glaciers and prevent disastrous water shortages.

A basic requirement for planetary restoration will be SRM to reduce the global mean temperature below 0.5C, halt glacier retreat worldwide, and reduce intensity of tropical storms.

Complete planetary restoration, including a halt to sea level rise, is a realistic prospect to benefit future generations by returning the planet to a proven safe state.

Link to the 33 page PDF paper

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Follow-up email to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s COP26 delegation

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My email to California Governor Gavin Newsom’s COP26 delegation

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Tell World Leaders at COP26 to Unite Now On a Climate Restoration Action Plan!
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COP26: October 31-November 12, 2021page1image28826176


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Sir David King – Climate repair: Three things we must do now to stabilise the planet

The Conversation – August 12, 2021

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Letter to the Editor: Response to David Keith’s Opinion

Reference to original New York Times October 1 Opinion

The following letter is in response to the Opinion posted a few days ago.

Dear Editor,

If you can remember “Houston, we have a problem,” it is time to start shouting “Mother Earth, we have a conundrum!” We have several do or die remedies for our predicament, but politicians, scientists and activists emphasize only one: decarbonization that relies on energy efficiency and renewable energy. 

Unfortunately, difficult realities and decisions confront us.  Geoengineering and removal of carbon from the atmosphere are suggested to be both mutually exclusive and complementary emergency remedies in David Keith’s October 1 NY Times Opinion.  I agree with the latter: i.e., both are necessary.

Some fear a “milky-white sky” while humanity’s very existence hangs in the balance if we don’t face what has become obvious, that an interim emergency tourniquet or CPR-type intervention is needed to avert our demise until long term prescriptions take effect to restore a vibrant healthy Mother Earth.

Reducing emissions and removing legacy emissions will not rescue us from the climate emergency.  The transition to climate stability will not be completed for at least several decades without geoengineering.

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What’s the Least Bad Way to Cool the Planet – True/False answers
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What’s the Least Bad Way to Cool the Planet – NY Times Opinion by David Keith

True or False?

These statements are in the first four paragraphs, and three are indeed false, while five are true.

  1. T or F: Zeroing out emissions will not cool the planet.
  2. T or F: Warming is proportional to the cumulative emissions over the industrial era.
  3. T or F: Average temperatures will stop increasing when emissions stop
  4. T or F: Cooling will take thousands of years as greenhouse gases slowly dissipate from the atmosphere.
  5. T or F: While the heat will stop getting worse, sea level will continue to rise for centuries as polar ice melts in a warmer world.
  6. T or F: Stopping emissions stops making the climate worse.
  7. T or F: Repairing the damage, insofar as repair is possible, will require more than emissions cuts.
  8. T or F: To cool the planet in this century, humans must either remove carbon from the air or use solar geoengineering. .

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My comments during the September 30 Vermont Climate Action Plan public event (text & PDF)

Johanna and Ian,

Thank you and the Climate Council for conducting public comment zooms.

As I mentioned, I see the emphasis exclusively on CO2 emissions from energy consumption and agricultural and waste emissions of methane, which I are one leg of a three legged stool—Carbon removal and Arctic cooling being the other two legs.

I would like to elaborate on my closing comment about Vermont’s inability to actually implement carbon removal and Arctic cooling measures. The other two legs of the three-legged stool must be addressed with international engagement of the world community, but Vermont should acknowledge the fact that simply reducing fossil fuel and agricultural and waste emissions is insufficient to effectively curtail the accelerating increase of global temperature and curtail the extreme weather events caused by the meandering jet stream and accentuated polar vortex.

Vermont’s acknowledging the deficiency of our Climate Action Plan and expressly calling on the international community to simultaneously implement steps to address the other two legs of the three-legged stool would be in line with our self proclamation of being the Brave Little State who is a giant among among global leaders.

Following are the comments I added to the chat and the google doc …

Efficient transportation systems and vehicles What should be prioritized?
Following from Doug Grandt (Putney)Put a hard cap on fossil fuel imports into the state, declining at a specific rate annually so that we reach a zero import target by date certain.
Put a hard cap on internal combustion engine vehicles (heavy duty big rigs, light duty delivery trucks, automobiles, buses, etc.) allowed to be registered and to transit the state, declining at a specific rate annually so that we reach a zero import target by date certain.
Require purveyors of fossil fuels to be responsible for the funding of removing double the emissions associated with their products delivered in the future (TIMES 2) in order to draw down the equal amount of past (legacy) emissions in order to curtail and reverse the present unabated increase of atmospheric CO2, CH4 and other GHGs and begin cooling the planet. Removing gigatons of carbon annually and cooling the Arctic are necessary supplements to decarbonization.Preceding from Doug Grandt (Putney)

Me to Everyone (6:31 PM) It seems that reducing fossil fuel combustion is the primary goal, so atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 as well as other GHG will increase at a slower and slower rate, but continue to increase until the economy is decarbonized, or net zero is achieved. Do we really want the CO2e to continue to rise unabated, and thereby global temperature to continue to rise unabated?

To begin reducing CO2e in the atmosphere, and begin cooling the planet, we must remove CO2 and CH4 associated with all current and future fossil fuel combustion …  but the temperature will continue to rise unless we begin to remove past (legacy) emissions as well. I have proposed that purveyors of fossil fuels take responsibility to fund the removal of double future GHG emissions in order to actually begin reducing the atmospheric concentrations. #RemoveCO2 and #RemoveCH4. Finally, to curtail the extreme weather brought on by the accentuated movement of the polar vortex, the meandering of the jet stream must be reversed (continued)

Me to Everyone (6:35 PM) Continued … to curtail the extreme weather brought on by the accentuated movement of the polar vortex, the meandering of the jet stream must be reversed by restoring the polar-to-tropics temperature gradient which will strengthen the jet stream. Lest we include cooling of the Arctic as the third leg of the stool, observed damage from extreme weather, heat domes, deep freeze and drought in the south west, flooding, etc. will continue. Vermont cannot do this on our own, so we must simply make the issue of cooling the Arctic an international topic of research, testing and implementation on a global basis.

In addition, I would like to supplement the comments that I made in the chat and google doc, as well as verbally, with this diagram and explanation:

Finally, in response to Jerry Duval’s explanation that a Social Cost of Carbon will be used in assessing the various measures of the Climate Action Plan, and that a range of Discount Rates will demonstrate the range of impact on future generations, I would like to state that Discount Rate is a concept to take into account the current value of future expenses taking into account the impact of  inflation, that future revenues and expenses have less value to business an d banking centered economic analysis under inflation.  The concept devalues or underestimates the real impact of future financials in determining a Return on Investment.  Since Climate decisions are not business investment decisions and there is really no analogy to financial decisions or Return on Investment, a discount rate is inappropriate, even a very low rate.

An MBA or a responsible engineer or corporate planner would disagree, but I argue that if any discount rate were used in a climate damage assessment, it should be a negative rate such that future impacts are given more weight in the assessment.

The idea is that we do not want to defer extreme damage to future generations, rather accelerate our actions to avoid kicking the can down the road into the future.  Hence, current estimates of calculated Social Cost of Carbon are way too low and should be several times greater than the White House has declared—Obama’s as well as Biden’s recent increase are both understated by an order of magnitude in my opinion.

Best regards,
Doug Grandt

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