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Geoengineering Schemes Sound Too Good to be True? That's Because They Are



Sometimes you wonder if republicans, fossil fuel investors, climate change deniers and even democratic minded skeptics all secretly believe that the magic of climate engineering will pull the rabbit out of the hat and all the warming planet's troubles will be over.

I mean how could any rational person (or mostly rational ... um... occasionally rational republican) not see the danger signs or heed the dire warnings by scientists of global climate catastrophe? How could they not see the writing on the wall? How can they continue to drill for more oil and so forth?

Maybe they do see and think there will be a quick fix that will leave them rich and sitting pretty and they won't have to stop making all this money off fossil fuels?

Maybe greed provides substance to any whimsical fantasy solution however unlikely. Any excuse to avoid reality and make the switch to get off fossil fuels!

We have more oil than we can use already so why are we drilling for more in the arctic? We drill because some people can ignore the danger signs and geoengineering schemes fit the bill perfectly.

We need a progressive president or we shall all suffer terribly in the future... and what could even be worse is that one of these last desperate measure geoengineering schemes gone wrong could very possibly make us all suffer worse than we would have if we never attempted one of them.


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It's astonishing that anyone takes seriously the prospect of Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) technology - and yet some respected sources certainly do - the more optimistic IPCC scenarios for future climate assume that CDR will be forthcoming somehow.

There's a striking incongruity where it comes to trained physicists discussing CDR, as the very concept violates the second law of thermodynamics (entropy), like a perpetual motion machine. It will always be far easier to shatter a goblet into a thousand pieces than to glue all the pieces back together again. And the energy overhead of capturing airborne CO2 will always far exceed the energy derived from burning the carbon. Because of entropy, plain and simple.

The most practical ways to recapture CO2 from the atmosphere are biologically, not technologically, based. But absorbing CO2 into soil and plant tissues, into the biosphere, is not equivalent to reversing the contamination from millions of years worth of deeply sequestered carbon dumped into the atmosphere. There will be no CDR technology, you can take that to the bank. The only way to avoid excessive CO2 in Earth's surface reservoirs - oceans, biosphere, and atmosphere - is to avoid burning it in the first place.


I feel ya;.... when you say how can any rational person... because I have a friend... who says.... "I hear ya'... I'm on your side" but, then, he says "I won't stop driving to work..." (we do live rurally, but that was in response to an idea I had)..... and he has said other things about how, he is sure that "technology" will eventually fix it.... I constantly explain how TIME is a serious factor and that even IF ... some kind of techno fix came about miraculously in a couple of years.. .we'd still have to SCALE UP.... and if the earth's tipping points have already "BUSTED LOOSE".... well, there goes your techno fix....


Bravo Aleph, Bravo.... love this...


Well, I don't know about "silly".... because, we HAVE hit peak oil... already.... only to have the morons... come up with fracking for it or fracking for gas.... or digging to China for freakin' sake.... to get at some damn tar...so, Peak Oil hasn't stopped the RAPISTS OF THE EARTH.... I'm sure they'll try ANY EARTH DESTROYING HAIR BRAINED SCHEME to get the oil they think they need....


Your very cool screen name implies that you are a mathematician, not an engineer. You may have blurred the first and second laws of thermodynamics together but that is not important. As I understand your argument, the energy required to "burn" CO2 captured from the atmosphere exceeds the energy required to put that CO2 into the atmosphere in the first place. That is a first law argument. However, If you Google carbon dioxide removal, you will see that there are a number of systems already operating that are removing - not burning - CO2 from the atmosphere without violating the first law. So there is still hope. Of course you are correct in observing that the best procedure would be to leave the fossil fuels in the ground in the first place. Unfortunately, capitalism will not allow that and we have to place our hope in the carbon dioxide removal systems that are being built.


Here is a link to a typical article on the subject of CDR:


carbon + O2 => CO2 + energy.

That powers our steam engines and all our internal combustion engines.

Nothing from the article you linked to indicated that the genie could be put back into the bottle for a lower cost of energy than the energy liberated.

The third law of thermodynamics says you cant do it. If you cant do it, then carbon capture is just a trick to divert our attention.


The trick would be, if the capture were via non-carbon energy. Like, trees or something...


"Burning" (oxidizing) hydrocarbon is what we do to release energy from it, not a means of recapturing airborne CO2. My subject here is entropy, the second law, which says that disorder steadily increases with the passage of time. To bring anything disordered (such as widely scattered airborne CO2 molecules, or shards of a shattered goblet) into a more ordered state requires considerable energy.

See Post-Combustion CO2 Capture to Mitigate Climate Change: Separation Costs Energy.

Entropy is the arrow of time - the quality which distinguishes the future universe from the present universe. You can put the goblet back together again, but not without increasing overall entropy by expending energy to do so. This is the secret of Life, actually: the only reason animals and plants are able to fabricate their orderly selves from disordered elements is because of the input of solar energy.

Some say there's hope that Nature will be lenient in her enforcement of physical laws - but that kind of talk is actually hubris, not hope.


Horse shit.


Nothing to counter in this article, although the sage commenters here on CD will invariably get their two cents in (mea culpa). The most ironic element therein is that the picture in the lead is of the inside of an aquarium tank. When hunger really becomes manifest in the good ol' USofA , the hungry will be fishing out the last ocean dwellers for dinner from whatever's left in the tank (looks like Baltimore Aquarium - I may be wrong).


Well, the linked article certainly implies that the devices do not produce more CO2 than they remove. I don't think the smartest people in this country are as dumb as you imply they are. Every scientist alive knows very well that you can never get more energy out of a system than you put into it. If that had happened in the pilot stages of these programs, they would not have moved on to the second stage as many of them have.


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I want Common Dreams to be careful not to smear all possible geoengineering ideas based on one or ten schemes dreamed up by friends of the billionaires. We know that California favors white roofs over black roofs because white roofs reflect just a bit more light back into space and the two types of roofs cost the same.