Emergency medicine for our climate fever | Kelly Wanser

Emergency medicine for our climate fever | Kelly Wanser


I’m here to talk to you about something
important that may be new to you. The governments of the world are about to conduct
an unintentional experiment on our climate. In 2020, new rules will require ships
to lower their sulfur emissions by scrubbing their dirty exhaust or switching to cleaner fuels. For human health, this is really good, but sulfur particles
in the emission of ships also have an effect on clouds. This is a satellite image of marine clouds off the Pacific West Coast
of the United States. The streaks in the clouds
are created by the exhaust from ships. Ships’ emissions include
both greenhouse gases, which trap heat over long periods of time, and particulates like sulfates
that mix with clouds and temporarily make them brighter. Brighter clouds reflect
more sunlight back to space, cooling the climate. So in fact, humans are currently running
two unintentional experiments on our climate. In the first one, we’re increasing
the concentration of greenhouse gases and gradually warming the earth system. This works something like a fever
in the human body. If the fever remains low,
its effects are mild, but as the fever rises,
damage grows more severe and eventually devastating. We’re seeing a little of this now. In our other experiment, we’re planning to remove
a layer of particles that brighten clouds and shield us
from some of this warming. The effect is strongest
in ocean clouds like these, and scientists expect the reduction
of sulfur emissions from ships next year to produce a measurable increase
in global warming. Bit of a shocker? In fact, most emissions contain sulfates
that brighten clouds: coal, diesel exhaust, forest fires. Scientists estimate that the total
cooling effect from emission particles, which they call aerosols
when they’re in the climate, may be as much as all of the warming
we’ve experienced up until now. There’s a lot of uncertainty
around this effect, and it’s one of the major reasons
why we have difficulty predicting climate, but this is cooling that we’ll lose
as emissions fall. So to be clear, humans
are currently cooling the planet by dispersing particles
into the atmosphere at massive scale. We just don’t know how much,
and we’re doing it accidentally. That’s worrying, but it could mean that we have
a fast-acting way to reduce warming, emergency medicine
for our climate fever if we needed it, and it’s a medicine
with origins in nature. This is a NASA simulation
of earth’s atmosphere, showing clouds and particles
moving over the planet. The brightness is the Sun’s light
reflecting from particles in clouds, and this reflective shield
is one of the primary ways that nature keeps the planet
cool enough for humans and all of the life that we know. In 2015, scientists assessed possibilities
for rapidly cooling climate. They discounted
things like mirrors in space, ping-pong balls in the ocean,
plastic sheets on the Arctic, and they found
that the most viable approaches involved slightly increasing
this atmospheric reflectivity. In fact, it’s possible that reflecting
just one or two percent more sunlight from the atmosphere could offset two degrees Celsius
or more of warming. Now, I’m a technology executive,
not a scientist. About a decade ago,
concerned about climate, I started to talk with scientists about
potential countermeasures to warming. These conversations grew
into collaborations that became the Marine
Cloud Brightening Project, which I’ll talk about momentarily, and the nonprofit policy organization
SilverLining, where I am today. I work with politicians, researchers, members of the tech industry and others to talk about some of these ideas. Early on, I met British
atmospheric scientist John Latham, who proposed cooling the climate
the way that the ships do, but with a natural source of particles: sea-salt mist from seawater sprayed from ships into areas
of susceptible clouds over the ocean. The approach became known
by the name I gave it then, “marine cloud brightening.” Early modeling studies suggested
that by deploying marine cloud brightening in just 10 to 20 percent
of susceptible ocean clouds, it might be possible to offset
as much as two degrees Celsius’s warming. It might even be possible
to brighten clouds in local regions to reduce the impacts caused
by warming ocean surface temperatures. For example, regions
such as the Gulf Atlantic might be cooled in the months
before a hurricane season to reduce the force of storms. Or, it might be possible to cool waters
flowing onto coral reefs overwhelmed by heat stress, like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. But these ideas are only theoretical, and brightening marine clouds
is not the only way to increase the reflection
of the sunlight from the atmosphere. Another occurs when large volcanoes
release material with enough force to reach the upper layer
of the atmosphere, the stratosphere. When Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991, it released material
into the stratosphere, including sulfates that mix
with the atmosphere to reflect sunlight. This material remained
and circulated around the planet. It was enough to cool the climate
by over half a degree Celsius for about two years. This cooling led to a striking increase
in Arctic ice cover in 1992, which dropped in subsequent years
as the particles fell back to earth. But the volcanic phenomenon
led Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen to propose the idea that dispersing
particles into the stratosphere in a controlled way might be
a way to counter global warming. Now, this has risks
that we don’t understand, including things like
heating up the stratosphere or damage to the ozone layer. Scientists think that there could be
safe approaches to this, but is this really where we are? Is this really worth considering? This is a simulation from the US National Center
for Atmospheric Research global climate model showing,
earth surface temperatures through 2100. The globe on the left visualizes
our current trajectory, and on the right, a world where particles
are introduced into the stratosphere gradually in 2020, and maintained through 2100. Intervention keeps surface temperatures
near those of today, while without it, temperatures rise
well over three degrees. This could be the difference
between a safe and an unsafe world. So, if there’s even a chance
that this could be close to reality, is this something
we should consider seriously? Today, there are no capabilities, and scientific knowledge
is extremely limited. We don’t know whether these types
of interventions are even feasible, or how to characterize their risks. Researchers hope to explore
some basic questions that might help us know
whether or not these might be real options or whether we should rule them out. It requires multiple ways
of studying the climate system, including computer models
to forecast changes, analytic techniques like machine learning, and many types of observations. And though it’s controversial, it’s also critical that researchers
develop core technologies and perform small-scale,
real-world experiments. There are two research programs
proposing experiments like this. At Harvard, the SCoPEx experiment
would release very small amounts of sulfates, calcium carbonate and water
into the stratosphere with a balloon, to study chemistry and physics effects. How much material? Less than the amount released
in one minute of flight from a commercial aircraft. So this is definitely not dangerous, and it may not even be scary. At the University of Washington, scientists hope to spray
a fine mist of salt water into clouds in a series of land and ocean tests. If those are successful,
this would culminate in experiments to measurably brighten
an area of clouds over the ocean. The marine cloud brightening effort
is the first to develop any technology for generating aerosols for atmospheric
sunlight reflection in this way. It requires producing
very tiny particles — think about the mist that comes
out of an asthma inhaler — at massive scale — so think
of looking up at a cloud. It’s a tricky engineering problem. So this one nozzle they developed generates three trillion
particles per second, 80 nanometers in size, from very corrosive saltwater. It was developed by a team
of retired engineers in Silicon Valley — here they are — working full-time for six years,
without pay, for their grandchildren. It will take a few million dollars
and another year or two to develop the full spray system
they need to do these experiments. In other parts of the world,
research efforts are emerging, including small modeling programs
at Beijing Normal University in China, the Indian Institute of Science, a proposed center for climate repair
at Cambridge University in the UK and the DECIMALS Fund, which sponsors researchers
in global South countries to study the potential impacts
of these sunlight interventions in their part of the world. But all of these programs,
including the experimental ones, lack significant funding. And understanding
these interventions is a hard problem. The earth is a vast, complex system and we need major investments
in climate models, observations and basic science to be able to predict climate
much better than we can today and manage both our accidental
and any intentional interventions. And it could be urgent. Recent scientific reports
predict that in the next few decades, earth’s fever is on a path to devastation: extreme heat and fires, major loss of ocean life, collapse of Arctic ice, displacement and suffering
for hundreds of millions of people. The fever could even reach tipping points
where warming takes over and human efforts are no longer enough to counter accelerating changes
in natural systems. To prevent this circumstance, the UN’s International Panel
on Climate Change predicts that we need to stop
and even reverse emissions by 2050. How? We have to quickly and radically
transform major economic sectors, including energy, construction,
agriculture, transportation and others. And it is imperative that we do this
as fast as we can. But our fever is now so high that climate experts say
we also have to remove massive quantities of CO2
from the atmosphere, possibly 10 times
all of the world’s annual emissions, in ways that aren’t proven yet. Right now, we have slow-moving solutions
to a fast-moving problem. Even with the most optimistic assumptions, our exposure to risk
in the next 10 to 30 years is unacceptably high, in my opinion. Could interventions like these
provide fast-acting medicine if we need it to reduce the earth’s fever
while we address its underlying causes? There are real concerns about this idea. Some people are very worried
that even researching these interventions could provide an excuse to delay efforts
to reduce emissions. This is also known as a moral hazard. But, like most medicines, interventions are more dangerous
the more that you do, so research actually
tends to draw out the fact that we absolutely,
positively cannot continue to fill up the atmosphere
with greenhouse gases, that these kinds of alternatives are risky and if we were to use them, we would need to use
as little as possible. But even so, could we ever learn enough
about these interventions to manage the risk? Who would make decisions
about when and how to intervene? What if some people are worse off, or they just think they are? These are really hard problems. But what really worries me
is that as climate impacts worsen, leaders will be called on to respond
by any means available. I for one don’t want them to act
without real information and much better options. Scientists think it will take
a decade of research just to assess these interventions, before we ever were
to develop or use them. Yet today, the global level of investment
in these interventions is effectively zero. So, we need to move quickly if we want policymakers
to have real information on this kind of emergency medicine. There is hope! The world has solved
these kinds of problems before. In the 1970s, we identified
an existential threat to our protective ozone layer. In the 1980s, scientists,
politicians and industry came together in a solution to replace
the chemicals causing the problem. They achieved this with the only
legally binding environmental agreement signed by all countries in the world, the Montreal Protocol. Still in force today, it has resulted in a recovery
of the ozone layer and is the most successful
environmental protection effort in human history. We have a far greater threat now, but we do have the ability
to develop and agree on solutions to protect people and restore our climate to health. This could mean that to remain safe, we reflect sunlight for a few decades, while we green our industries
and remove CO2. It definitely means we must work now to understand our options
for this kind of emergency medicine. Thank you, (Applause)


100 thoughts on “Emergency medicine for our climate fever | Kelly Wanser

  1. We've always dreaded the day when we had to hear a lecture on saving our atmosphere ,in a human caused atmospheric catastrophe….. AIN'T IT?

  2. While I generally agree that we should do something about our impact on the environment, why do we keep fighting the symptoms? Nobody in their right mind would suggest to take a bath in ice water to cure a fever. You stop the goddamn virus from spreading! Or decrease it to a healthy level. We are just too many and we are still growing rapidly! The number is also only half the story. Each of us at the same time consumes more and more energy. We therefore have to come up with a world wide solution for population control. The best method in my opinion is to introduce universal basic income and free video games to everybody!

  3. What about air planes they put so much , when 9/11 happen and the planes were stopped from flying the air was tested and was much cleaner..

  4. Anything the government does is scary and outrageous when it comes to experiments like this. Just look at DARPA's record and the cia's MK Ultra program. I hope you folks are not falling for this drivel.

  5. I feel hopeful. Perhaps out climate problems will be the impetus to learn how to truly control our climate. We might come out of it with ways to make many more parts of the world fertile or livable in other ways.

  6. If the earth is going through a cycle, no human power will change the climate 🤣 What a scam with the increasing of taxation!!!! Are they trying to kill humans with starvation and homelesness techniques?

  7. Please don't be fooled. Those stakes are from jet aerosol spraying. And yes sulfates are one chemical, but barium and magnesium, plus many others are among them. This is not the answer. Please go to geoengineeringwatch.org for more information, and the truth.

  8. The plan to profit from ignorance and mass hysteria continues. Climate change is not man made so far so they desperately try to affect it by massive, expensive and questionable intervention – now that's a huge double down on one of the greatest scams of all time.

  9. I witness planes spraying North Georgia daily which disperse and it's soon overcast. Who is spraying? Who is funding this program? What are we breathing? Sept 23 2019

  10. One thing to also consider is a while you’re at it strategy. Use planes boats to emit sulfur at GPS locations to protect the ice caps. This is water that cannot return for thousands of years, we will also lower global warming at the same time. We will get acid rain but less in our cities corroding structures. A while you are at it strategy will reduce the cost part of the next decades solutions. There is not a high risk in this. It is what has protected us for the beginning of deforestation of north America and Europe and carbon emissions since the industrial age.

  11. How fuclimg stupid people are. YOU DONT KNOW FUCKING THING. And you think that sience is wrong.. You are just like those islam fanatics denial and denial.

  12. Heartening to see that there is some hope.. even if it's little. Hopefully in the next decade more people would wake up to this

  13. This is what Bill Gates wants to do -looks dangerous https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/07/bill-gates-funded-solar-geoengineering-could-help-stop-global-warming.html

  14. Its entirely possible that 90% of the global warming is caused by expansion of the sun as its core fizzles out like all stars do. Not the massive ego of a bunch of arrogant primates running around fear mongering!

  15. We need action today, we have solutions today, it needs investment, this is a pipe dream that may never happen and if it does, might not work. I'd rather invest in the solutions we know do work.

  16. I'll say this here in hopes someone sees it: Air travel should be banned at night in order to disperse aerosols during the day when we benefit from the reflectivity.

  17. A carbon tax could fund the marine brightening ships. If Governments don't make it possible to run as a business it won't happen.

  18. Climate change is a government scam to get money out of us. Millennia ago we had the ice age. When it was warming up then, nothing was mentioned about climate change. Scam.
    Plant more trees. I know it's not the solution but prevention is better because we have not the cure.

  19. Good talk, I think she is very thoughtful and cautious which is good. On a side note, her outfit is fantastic! That's how to dress for a TED talk!

  20. Once in history the phsychators fought for their right to be taken serious now we have adhs and waht not and now in history you climate chills fight to be takin serious thats even worse

  21. Changes in the albedo through clouds (the reflectivity she mentioned) does not necessarily help. Cloud themselves trap a lot more heat than co2.

    Increasing reflectivity reduce energy coming in, yes, but think of global warming as traffic jam, you can reduce the amount of people coming in, and it would help, but if the blockade exist still, it is still going to be jammed for a long while.

    She graphed 2 worlds, but she failed to mention the 3rd, one that cool through the first half of the century, and rapidly burn up in the second half. That is when the heat trapped outweigh the heat reflected. And it is one of those tipping point that literally does not turn back.
    Example? Venus

  22. I see the possibility. But I prefer to work on the cause, not symptoms. If the CO2 (or any other emitted gas) is the problem, I prefer to handle CO2. If I have a fever by virus, just suppressing the fever without handling the virus, this sounds like a short term solution for me. I really want to work on the cause and real cure. I see this is one option, but I don't see this as the final solution.Still I thank to a nice talk.

  23. I really like how she says the cooling effect from particle emissions reflecting sunlight is equal to the heating effect while she simultaneously shows us a graph that says the net effect has been to massively warm the planet. Good job.

  24. so when your giving you're next talk you might want to ask the Russians if you can use their climate model, cause the one your using is wrong matter of fact all except the Russian one is wrong that has been proven and i don't know why there are still ignorant people out there thinking that we are all going to heat up to this drastic temperature over night
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fA5sGtj7QKQ take a look.

  25. It's reassuring and terrifying at the same time. Reassuring because we have ways to buy more time. But terrifying because I feel like if these measures work governments will use this as an excuse to no longer take carbon emissions seriously.

  26. So these"clouds" that look like stripes in the sky and can be watched coming from the aircraft that spray it is really coming from ship's in the ocean………hmmmm

  27. These computer models have always overestimated the extent of global warming, no surprise given that these government-funded modellers are paid to develop models that predict the devastation that this woman talks about, so as to justify drastic, precipitous- and potentially catastrophic – interventions.

  28. I dont know why. But this talk dint impress me like other TED talks. Problem is real. The Solution offered is not real. May be I am wrong. Solving the root cause will be better.

  29. This type of research will probably have no problem getting funded. Petroleum industries will throw money at it to divert discussion from renewable energy towards damage control while looking virtuous.

  30. Just stop this joke, you have to realise you can't do anything it's not done by human and it will not cool down by human too, whatever you will do it will not affect the earth neither in positive way nor negative just shut up and calm down.

  31. The Earth started out with volcanoes …with enough carbon spewing out to grow huge plant-life… which supported huge plant-eating animals….animals that couldn't put out fires….so the fires just burned and burned….and the plants(who thrive on carbon) just grew and grew. The Earth eventually started to cool as the many volcanoes went away. The carbon levels plummeted so the huge plant life plummeted too…..along with the huge plant eating animals. Huge ice formations accumulated near the poles. The Earth balanced itself out with smaller plants and smaller animals. (Earth has a way of balancing itself out.) Humans were created and eventually learned how to put out the forest fires….and the carbon levels diminished again….so the plant life diminished too. Then came the democrats and the (AOC) SQUAD. They wanted to stop the production of carbon completely!!! But thank god Earth has a way of balancing itself out and created Trump…….
    Without carbon…. life on Earth is doomed…it's a mathematical certainty. Democrats do not believe in facts….only themselves….Earth has a way of dealing with that too.

  32. Finally someone pointing out using particulates to cause global cooling. These have caused ice ages. They can certainly cool down the planet enough to counter act any human activity.

  33. I can see runaway unintended consequences initiating an ice age. But I don't worry about CO2, since we will bury ourselves in plastics before it goes critical.

  34. Not denying the planet is in danger, but pointing out over 70 years worth of chemical sky pollution that was caused elsewhere, which is never mentioned. Facts contributing to this dyer problem should be researched.
    •Project Cirrus, first Hurricane seeding experiment in 1947.
    GE.com
    WeatherModificationHistory.com
    Daily News-New York Times September 10, 1947
    •Eyes in outer space(1959) Walt Disney- weather modification
    •Project Stormfury(1962-1983)
    cloud seeding with Silver Iodide.
    WIKIPEDIA
    •Cloud Seeding/weather experiments
    NOAA.gov
    Global News
    Geoengineeringwatch.org
    DeepWaterChemicals.com
    Dictionary.com
    •Solar Geoengineering Study
    The Guardian(March 24, 2017)
    Business Insider
    Geoengineering.enviroment.harvard.edu
    Weather.com/science/news (December 5, 2018)
    PR Newswire Los Angeles (September 6, 2018)
    CNBC Bill Gates Funds Solar Engineering
    ArtificialClouds.com

  35. NASA articles suggested that ship and jet contrails heated the USA in the 1990's. Now they are flipping the script and saying the same activities are cooling the earth. Cirrus clouds allow the heat into the earth during the day but not back out at night. Man made contrail clouds are cirrus in nature and also heat the earth. If they truly wanted to cool the earth at all they would suppress contrails of any kind from forming and stop intentionally spreading aerosols in the air we're trying to breathe. I collected temperatures, sky conditions and fine particle air pollution levels all last winter. The coldest days were the clearest days. Geoengineering, weather modification, weather warfare, cloud brightening, cirrus cloud research. Eugenics. You can't on one hand act like you are trying to save the planet and then on the other hand make the waterways radioactive with fracking and pollute the heck out of the air with fracking chemicals, radioactivity, fine particle and larger air pollution, VOC's, etc… Now they want to cut the rain forest down in Alaska. Is that part of the plan to cool the earth? Always setting up the next deal no matter who is at the wheel. Like Tillerson making a deal to drill in Russia as the traffic increases in the Arctic. Selling China gas rights in WV for something like 83 billion. Either we're fighting with these other countries or we're not. You can't say that it will take all countries agreeing on what to set the temperature to and then act like everyone is fighting to usher in another war. So people can benefit on war contracts and the pop can be reduced.

  36. I can’t believe some scientists don’t believe in global warming though. How could you deny ? If humans don’t change , we will be our own cause of death😕

  37. The answer is clear and yet people choose to ignore it. A living root in the ground puts more CO2 in the ground than we could ever do else wise. It’s natures way. All we need to do is always have a living root in our ag fields before and after cash crops with a cover crop. And stop tillage 100%. It removes carbon from the atmosphere and stores it back in the ground where it once was before we started tillage. It improves soil. It increases the nutrient density of our foods. It gives a home for our pollinators, you know them guys who are dying off. It fixes our broken water cycle and makes us more resilient to dry and wet years. It stops our fields from washing down stream into our oceans. It makes a healthier people and a healthier planet. Guys are doing this and it’s working, but it’s done on a small percentage of crop land. It needs to be world wide and the new norm for what is thought of an agricultural field. We also need to get our slaughter animals out of feed lots and back onto the land. That’s the other half to regenerating our soils. When millions of bison roamed North America, the land was alive with diversity. Nobody was dumping fertilizer on the land. We had no deserts. When settlers came into Arizona they reported grasses a high as the saddle. Our deserts a man made from the way we treat our land. The Romans reported record crops on land near the Dead Sea which is now desert. We make our own deserts, but we can fix this with better management. Holistic management of crops and livestock integration. Check out what Gabe Brown, Greg Judy, Allen Savory and many many others are doing to regenerate our soils and our planet.

  38. So… the ships moved several hundreds of miles while the clouds remained stationary above them as the ship's exhaust emissions rose up to and through the layer of clouds so we can see these streaks on top. hmmmmmnnnnn

  39. First of all, aerosols have broken our ozone layer that is why aerosols are banned in most industries and around the world. 0:53 she said greenhouse gases trap heat over long periods of time, and then 4:44 she wants us to put more of this heat-trapping gases in our atmosphere? What happens when you put something that is heating up, by giving it more of those the same thing that causes the heating? did not finish the video and she has already lost me. This is a crisis, use the more current images of studies for your presentation, not 2007, please.

  40. I guess my main question is when will they give us the information on potential hazards of this and how to prevent them? I'm mostly worried that we're gonna lace the clouds with so many chemicals and minerals that its going to be even more unsafe to drink any natural water. We have filters in place for ours, but many countries don't, and wild animals certainly don't. And what kind of effect would the chemical changes have on the plants being watered by the rain? And on the ocean and its many life forms? I like the idea, but too few words were spoken on the potential dangers of it.

  41. Some industrial emissions are creating shiny/reflective clouds that reflect sun's heat back to atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol tells us we can do something. #TEDTalk https://twitter.com/tedstalkin

  42. I would like to see a chart that goes back further than the 80's so we can see the whole picture. You can't say definitively until you look at the entire earth climate history (which we have in ice cores)!

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