Tubes !

Robert Waldmann

Not the intertubes, 18 mile long tubes held up by helium baloons releasing S02 into the stratosphere.

Daniel Davies writes

if you find yourself writing, in all seriousness, as a practical proposal, the phrase “pumping large quantities of sulphur dioxide into the Earth’s stratosphere through an 18-mile-long hose, held up by helium balloons”, it is probably time to take a step back and ask yourself if something has gone a little bit wrong with your life.

Ok so I asked myself and I still think that pumping large quantities of sulphur dioxide into the Earth’s stratosphere through an 18-mile-long hose, held up by helium balloons would be excellent.

Davies is one of many many people who criticize the chapter on global warming of “Superfreakonomics” by Steves Levitt and Dubner. The most quoted takedowns were written by Joe Romm and by Tim Lambert.

As far as I can tell, they really don’t have very much to say against the acid rain tubes idea. Rather they mainly object to the Steves proposal that we use the tubes as an alternative to cap and trade. The argument against doing both seems fairly weak to me.

There is the Leninist argument that the worse it is the better it is so any way to ameliorate global warming other than reducing emissions is bad, because it wil reduce pressure for reduced emissions. No one feels obliged to paint their roof black to increase pressure for emissions reductions and I don’t see the difference.

Now there are clearly problems with the acid in the stratosphere approach. The S02 won’t stay there forever. It seems to me that the best way to defend the tubes proposal is to lye — that is dump something alkaline in the oceans (this is both to deal with sulfuric acid from the tubes and carbonic acid from C02). Now if one aimed to do that in a way which wouldn’t create extremely alkaline areas and kill marine life, it would cost a lot. I think that cost should be added to the tubes cost.

Also it might not work. A case for not relying on the tubes but not, as far as I can see, a case for not trying them.

Joe Romm stresses the importance of positive feedback in global warming — he notes ways in which a hotter climate causes more emissions due to more forest fires and more bark beetles. Others have discussed the possibility that methane released from melting arctic tundra will cook us. To me, this describes ways in which the tubes approach will reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses (seems to follow no ?). It seems to me conceivable that the most cost effective way to reduce emissions of greenhouse gasses is the 19 mile long tubes approach.

Both Romm and Lambert argue that if we send up S02, then stop, then the temperature will soon be the same as it would have been with no S02. This seems to me to be inconsistent with the limits of bark beetle reproduction and mobility and the way forest fires really happen and all that. There argument seems to be high temperatures cause high emissions *and* keeping the temperature low means just the same emissions waiting in the atmosphere for us to drop our S02 guard. I don’t see how they can believe both claims at the same time.

update: spelling of Dubner corrected.