Can the Climate Be Restored?
By Robert Hunziker
A fresh approach to fixing climate change/global warming is outlined in a new book: Climate Restoration, which focuses on how the climate can be restored. Indeed, the book is full of fascinating details, meriting a closer look and critique (Peter Fiekowsky and Carole Douglis, Climate Restoration, Rivertowns Books, 2022).
But first: The words climate change and global warming have become imbedded in the fabric of society so much so that the attendant dangers become a nonevent in people’s minds. Over time, they become comfortable with their own personal knowledge of what it means. That’s a problem because studies suggest that only a tiny fraction of people truly understand the real science and inherent dangers.
Meanwhile, in touch with reality, the risks associated with climate change/global warming keeps climate scientists wide-eyed in the middle of the night staring at the ceiling, unblinking, in a cold sweat.
For example, one well-known scientist claims: “At just 1.2°C of global average warming, tipping points (ed. meaning the point of no return) have been passed for several large Earth systems. These include Arctic sea ice, the Greenland Ice Sheet, The Amundsen Sea glaciers in West Antarctica, the eastern Amazonian rainforest, and the world’s coral systems… The meme that ‘we have eight years to avoid 1.5°C and tipping points’ should be deleted from the climate advocacy vocabulary. It is simply wrong.”
Moreover: “Certainly, in the case of West Antarctica, the evidence continues to pile… Thwaites ‘doomsday’ glacier could begin rapid melt with ‘just a small kick’, researchers say… Similarly, scientists now report that Greenland ice sheet has passed a point of system stability and is now “irreversibly committed” to a significant sea-level rise regardless of twenty-first-century climate pathways.” (Source: Climate Dominoes, National Centre for Climate Restoration, Melbourne, May 2022 by David Spratt, Climate Code Red, September 28, 2022).
On the other hand, from a positive viewpoint, is it possible to roll back time and restore the climate to its former self? Climate Restoration makes that claim and offers supporting evidence.
But first, Climate Restoration tells the ugly truth about the popular rallying cry “Net Zero by 2050.” This idiom is widely accepted as the solution to the global warming monster, but that assumption is simply wrong.
In point of fact, if the world follows through on Net Zero by 2050, by the year 2050 CO2 will be at 460ppm, or higher, and according to Fiekowsky/Douglis, the world will have changed: “The great coral reefs are gone… the oceans are largely devoid… gone, too, are most of the old-growth forest and rainforests… average sea level rise of about two feet. The path of humankind in this scenario is a risky one from which there may be no turning back.” pgs. 7-9
Therefore, assuming the nations of the world continue on the pathway of Net Zero by 2050. Fiekowsky-Douglis make a case for a planet that nobody will want to live on. And, maybe they should’ve even gone further in the analysis by stating major portions of the planet will basically be unlivable. There are scientists who believe that’ll be the consequences of Net Zero by 2050, which the world at large has already embraced as the magical solution: “No worries, we’re gonna hit Net Zero by 2050!”
Thus and therefore, it’s vitally important to be brutally honest about whether one book can change the world, re-educate enough people to see the scientific truth and find a better pathway? Hopefully, Climate Restoration can turn enough heads to make a difference. Moreover, double-hopefully, will it truly work?
Fiekowsky-Douglis, echoing Al Gore, state: “It’s time to acknowledge the inconvenient truth that climate scientists and activists have failed to confront, which is: Meeting the goal of Net Zero by 2050 in no way guarantees the survival of human society as we know it or even that of homo sapiens as a species.” pg. 22.
That paragraph is a shot across the bow for today’s world leaders as the Net Zero by 2050 ship logs into Titanic’s route, Southampton to New York. According to the authors: “The ecosystems we depend on will still continue to collapse” even as society achieves Net Zero by 2050 with universal renewable energy, electric vehicles, and total elimination of fossil fuels.
The hard truth: A monster hangs over, and in fact deflates, Net Zero by 2050: “There will still be a trillion tons (ed. 1,000,000,000,000) of excess CO2 lingering in the atmosphere for a millennium or longer.” pg. 23
Under that scenario with a trillion tons of CO2 still hanging around like a big blanket in the atmosphere continuing to heat up the planet (1) ice caps will continue melting (2) sea levels will keep going up and (3) ecosystems will continue collapsing all whilst the world community pops champagne corks on January 1, 2051 to celebrate Net Zero!
Net Zero does not remove the big blanket. Get over it!
Furthermore, according to the book: “No scientist I know will defend the claim that humankind is likely to survive if we limit our climate efforts to meeting the Paris goals… I sometimes refer to the Paris Accords as ‘the Paris Suicide Pact.” pg. 27
The authors initially discuss the goals of climate restoration on page 28: “Achieving the net zero goal set by the Paris Accords is not enough to guarantee a healthy, sustainable future… We need to go further by reducing the level of atmospheric CO2 to below 300 ppm level to which our species originally evolved and has historically flourished.”
Significantly, the climate restoration plan supplements and completes the work that Paris has started with its target of Net Zero by 2050. Keep in mind, it’s not all bad, as Paris ’15 has inspired the world to work towards a common goal of a cleaner, healthier, sustainable planet as well as motivating nations to work to reduce emissions. In spite of general neglect by nations to abide by IPCC commitments to reduce emissions, Paris ‘15 is still a positive event in many respects, specifically by bringing the issue onto the world stage.
Beyond the work to be (hopefully) accomplished by Net Zero by 2050, the good news is that climate restoration is already fairly well advanced. It involves technological processes not anticipated by Paris ’15. Many have already been tested and successfully developed.
“Restoring the climate means reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide from today’s 420 ppm to below 300 ppm by 2050. This will require removing roughly a trillion tons of carbon dioxide that we’ve already pumped into the air that would otherwise remain in the atmosphere far beyond our lifetimes, as well as removing any continuing emissions while we head to zero emissions.” pg. 30
Removing a trillion tons of CO2 is the same as removing seven tons of CO2 per year for every person on the planet. Try that one on for size!
All of which prompts a burning question for many people: Where is all of the CO2 located? According to MIT: “Carbon dioxide mixes evenly through the atmosphere. But the atmosphere as a whole is densest near the ground, so a cubic foot of air at ground level will contain more carbon dioxide molecules than a cubic foot of air high up in the sky.” (Source: Is There a Place in the Atmosphere Where Carbon Dioxide is Concentrated, and if so, Can we Remove it? MIT Climate Portal)
The restoration schedule: The decade of the 2020s is projected for scaling up the removal technologies. Thereafter, removal technologies work full tilt from 2030-2050, thus removing a minimum of 50 gigatons of CO2 each year, which in effect removes legacy CO2 by 2050.
Significantly, the technologies all have one thing in common. Each is an adaptation of natural processes that have actually occurred in former geological eras, hands free, no humans involved.
Climate restoration is not based upon fancy new technology breakthroughs. Rather, it’s as 0ld as nature itself. The planet on its own merits has encountered and resolved the same exact global warming problems over the eons but much, much, much more slowly. As explained by the authors: “Nature was not in a hurry to remove geologically relevant amounts of CO2.” However in contrasts to good ole slow Mother Nature: “Using modern technological tools, we can do the same as nature but on an accelerated timetable. For our survival, we now need to do so roughly a thousand times faster.” Hmm.
Accordingly, “scientists and engineers have developed and demonstrated four major technology processes for reducing greenhouse gas levels that reproduces large-scale natural processes.” pg. 33
Four Major Technologies
The technologies for climate restoration are classified as biomimicry and geomimicry, as follows:
1. Synthetic Limestone Manufacture – capturing CO2 and converting it to synthetic limestone producing a commercial product, which when scaled-up could pull 50 Gt of CO2 per year from the atmosphere.
2. Seaweed Permaculture – the construction of arrays of light-latticed structures constructed of tubes to which seaweed can attach in mid-ocean. At scale it could capture enough CO2 to reduce excess CO2 by 20% over 20 years.
3. Ocean Iron Fertilization – adding trace amounts of iron-ore dust to iron-poor ocean areas, in turn, photosynthesis increases rapidly with expansion of phytoplankton which in turn pulls CO2 from the atmosphere. “If just one or two percent of the ocean bloomed with phytoplankton thanks to ocean pasture restoration, the trillion tons of excess carbon could be drawn… within 20-30 years.” Pgs. 40-41
4. Acceleration of Natural Methane Oxidation – by adding iron chloride to the atmosphere to oxidize methane and thus restore pre-industrial methane levels by 2028.
Each of the four strategies is discussed at length in four separate chapters, pgs. 83-162.
Climate Restoration is a bold idea; it is a fresh idea; it is new to the scene as an adjunct to Net Zero by 2050, which by itself can make a huge difference, but it cannot and will not stop the legacy of 1,000,000,000,000 tons of CO2 hanging-out in the atmosphere. That massive blanket will continue to heat up the planet post 2050. It must be removed… period!
In Conclusion, once you’ve read this article, you have some choices to make. One obvious choice is to think about it for a moment but move on with life, biz as usual.
Or, think about what you can personally do to help restore the climate. Here are a couple of suggestions:
Forward this article to everybody you know with a personal message that you intend to get involved and want friends to help, asking them to also spread the word. It’s that important. After all, “restore the climate” is not exactly well known, but the more word gets around, the better chances it can happen. Word of mouth is a powerful tool for making things happen. Your forwarding message could be: “I am sending an article about climate restoration. It’s fascinating stuff! Let me know what you think.”
Or, contact the Foundation for Climate Restoration and ask how you can join in the effort: https://foundationforclimaterestoration.org/
Or, write to every local, state, and federal government representative asking them to look into climate restoration.
Or, maybe forward William Shatner’s message, which is found in the postscript to this article.
It’s important to be realistic when it comes to fixes for climate change. For decades now, nations have dragged their feet, not keeping commitments and breaking promises to cut emissions. And, the climate change issue has acquired a considerable amount of cynicism, which is fed by various sources like Fox News, politicians of note like Trump and Bolsonaro, and a general public belief that it’s old news, heard over and over again, that somebody somewhere will handle it if it gets bad enough. In other words, the general public is not well-educated about the reality.
In that regard, it’s much worse than people realize and happening so much faster than scientists ever expected. Ecosystems are stressed to breaking points from the far northern latitudes to the far southern and everywhere in between.
Harmful climate change is happening everywhere where nobody lives. For example, while blindfolded throw a dart at a globe; it’ll probably hit close to a stressed ecosystem, for example, Thwaites “Doomsday” Glacier in West Antarctica (tipsy) or Greenland (massive ice loss) or Siberian permafrost (methane bubbling lakes) or Lake Mead (close to dead pool status) or the Po River/Italy (a trickle this past summer) or the Amazon rainforest (30,000+ human-fires/August) or melting Andes’ glaciers (water wars in So. America) or tanker trucks supplying drinking water to 400,000 families outside of Santiago, all signs of stressed ecosystems threatening to shut down nature’s climate system of life support.
Thus and therefore, whether Climate Restoration can gain enough traction to get the job done is a major concern, and it’s why every person who can help, must help. Our home, our planet is at stake, and right now it does not look good. Time is of the essence.
It is imperative that Climate Restoration gets a chance to prove itself because, frankly, it is the only known technological process for naturally reviving our spectacular blue planet.
Postscript: Dateline, October 13, 2021: Capital Kirk, aka: William Shatner’s feet touched ground after a 10-minute 66-mile trip four miles beyond the edge of space on Blue Origin. Shatner wept, but he wasn’t sure why, until he reflected for a spell: “I discovered that the beauty isn’t out there, it’s down here, with all of us. Leaving behind made my connection to our tiny planet even more profound.”
Upon more reflection: “My trip to space was supposed to be a celebration; instead, it felt like a funeral.”
At a later date, upon more reflection: We must have “a clarion call to stop climate change… a Manhattan Project of scientists charged with removing carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”
Climate Restoration, Rivertowns Books, 2022
Robert Hunziker is a freelance writer and environmental journalist whose articles have been translated into foreign languages and published in over 50 journals, magazines and sites worldwide.
This article was originally published on October 28, 2022 © Counterpunch
Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at [email protected]