Gore Rejects Geoengineering As Climate Change Panacea

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The $100-million German Schwarze Pumpe pilot power plant was developed by the Swedish firm Vattenfall. A demonstration-scale CCS project is expected by 2015.
This pilot German Schwarze Pumpe power plant was developed for $100 million by the Swedish firm Vattenfall. A demonstration-scale CCS project is expected by 2015
Image Credit: TreeHugger

Former U.S. vice-president Al Gore pulled no punches about geoengineering in a phone conference with reporters on Wednesday. He was apparently reacting to a suggestion in a leaked draft summary of the forthcoming climate solutions section of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change fifth climate assessment report.

The definitive study, to be released in Germany in April, suggests that before 2100, the world’s national governments may have to use massive geoengineering programs such as carbon capture and sequestration in order to check the forces of climate change. Gore finds the notion much less than appealing.

“The idea that we can put a different form of pollution into the atmosphere to cancel out the effects of global warming pollution is utterly insane.”

According to Guardian reporter Suzanne Goldenberg, Gore believes that large, untested measures carry enormous risks while doing nothing to address complications of climate change. These complications are known to include intensification of the phenomenon through ocean acidification, increased methane release, and other compounding factors.

Since climate change has been documented, some scientists and political leaders have grasped at the idea that radical, sweeping engineering interventions might hold back the forces loosed since the earth’s industrial revolution. These measures might include “easy fixes” like capture and deep burial of greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants, injecting the atmosphere with sulfur dioxide to reflect incoming sunlight, and seeding the ocean with algae to consume carbon dioxide. To Gore, the geoengineering ideas are as fanciful as alchemy, with results by tomorrow.

“The hubris involved in thinking we can come up with a second planet-wide experiment that would exactly counteract the first experiment [pollution-emitting industrialization] is delusional in the extreme,” the climate leader said. He feels that such proposals indicate how desperate some have become in the face of paralyzed global politics.

Among the reasons for doubting the usefulness of large-scale carbon capture and sequestration projects:

  • No CCS technology has yet been proven. Large installations to date are still in demonstration or on the drawing boards.
  • Commercialization of “zero-emissions coal-fired thermal power generation” is likely at least decades away–probably too late to mitigate negative climate change in the 21st century.
  • CCS carries with it a substantial energy penalty, estimated to be between 10-40% of the energy a power station produces, increasing the negative effects of mining and transportation as well as increasing consumption of fossil fuels by 25%.
  • Like nuclear power, geoengineering can produce dangerous wastes that must be disposed of safely or stored.
  • Investments in developing CCS would siphon away resources from proven longer-term antidotes to climate change, most notably renewable energy.

The former vice-president reportedly draws a line between large-scale geoengineering and small changes with impressive effects in the aggregate. And unlike climatologist James Hansen and colleagues, who recently advocated nuclear power development, Gore does not see nuclear power technology becoming safe and inexpensive enough in the coming 10-15 years to invest in it now.

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43 thoughts on “Gore Rejects Geoengineering As Climate Change Panacea

  • If you use power to gas you can solve the intermittent issue of renewables.
    Even more fun, you can get CO2 out of the atmosphere.
    You can use the methane storage infrastructure that is already laying around.
    You can reuse gas burner power plants.

  • Unfortunately geoengineering has, in fact, been ongoing since 1998.

    • Contrails, they’re called contrails.

    • Show me the science, contrarian. Just hyping up conspiracy theories will get you nowhere.

      • There’s plenty of science out there if you do some research (other than reading fake news). Solar Radiation Management experiments specifically state using aerosols in the atmosphere to block sunlight. Those aerosols are dispersed from aircraft. So ground observations of this process would look like these “chemtrails” that millions have been reporting on. Not to mention the numerous soil test done under these “chemtrail” areas which show high amounts of aluminum, barium, and strontium from the fallout. This mixture of ingredients matches the geoengineering patent for SRM, Welsbach patent # 5003186. You can also look in the history of the United States Military and see many examples of “chemtrails” being used in our atmosphere. In the 50s, San Francisco was sprayed with serratia/ cloud seeding operations during the 60s-70s were very common (aircraft sprayed silver iodide). Even recently in June of 2012, the military admitted to chemtrails over the city of Huntsville Alabama where they sprayed “chaff” from aircraft. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/25/weather-radar-blob-chaff-military-test_n_4163247.html
        Also, millions of people around the world have submitted numerous pics and videos of abnormal trail formations in the sky that can’t simply be written off as contrails. And if you actually knew the science of contrail formation, you’ll see that it’s actually not that common for jets to leave behind trails. It takes a certain amount of humidity and the right temperature in the atmosphere at certain heights to actually create a contrail, much less one that lingers.

        • “Even recently in June of 2012, the military admitted to chemtrails over the city of Huntsville Alabama where they sprayed “chaff” from aircraft.”

          Chaff is used to confuse radar guided missiles.

          Nothing to do with “chemtrails”.

          • Real Lib: wow – you’ve stumbled into a conspiracy theory group that you were unaware of. It’s the “Chem Trail” wackos. Trying to reason with them is like trying to convince some folks that Elvis Presley really is dead.

          • I know.

  • I would not classify CCS as geoengineering, it is really more “spill clean up”. And will for sure make coal/gas too costly a form of power. But we have already spilled a lot so some form of CCS (massive tree planting program, etc) would be a good thing. The black board ideas for geo-engineering go from “sounds safe” (paint all roofs in the world white, which again isn’t really geoenginnering) to scary (pump sulfur into upper atmosphere at the rate of say 5 large volcanos going off at once, 24/7/365). They scary part, is that many of the people pushing the big ideas are the once pushing again renewable power, price on CO2, etc. While the sulfur idea might work, and for sure would impact the atmosphere; we don’t really know all that it would do. More in the middle is the idea for 1000’s of robot ships the circle in the oceans and put tons of water vapor into the air (forming lots of clouds). Repairing a broken vase is always harder than not breaking it to begin with.

  • geoengineering has the benefit of showing that humans have unintentionally already impacted climate enough to change it. There is money to be made by not fully addressing the mess we made AND in mitigating the damage the mess has caused.

    The “market” has a bias towards creating disasters and then cleaning them up. The fact it is poor at the latter is rarely up to discussion.

    I agree with his points but I don’t think logic is going to prevail, it rarely does anymore.

    • True. Do you think that this might be the pattern that all civilizations follow, in the last few hundred years of their existence?

      • Yes.

  • Another reason to think it won’t work is we’re already at a CO2 level where sea levels were much higher. When the energy imbalance and positive feedbacks like the loss of the Arctic ice cap adds up to enough to melt the land based ice in significant quantities it will be next to impossible to rapidly reverse it.

  • What we need is carbon capture that isn’t predicated upon fossil-fuel generation. There are companies working on net-carbon-negative power generation that would actually create a business model around sequestering carbon in the form of biochar. This is completely different from the coal-industry-driven research into pumping large amounts of CO2 gas into the ground or some nonsense.

    We need to find a way to economically remove CO2 from the atmosphere (and soon) or I honestly believe we will hit the tipping point into runaway global heating. Reducing emissions is not going to get us there in time.

    • Azolla, hemp, reforestation, and Sweeney’s comment above about cattle management might be potential avenues of attack. I don’t think anyone should pretend that these are the only solutions, but they certainly wouldn’t hurt.

      What we need more than carbon traps right now is a way to robustly remove methane from the atmosphere. It’s not a problem, yet, but if the gigatons of methane in the arctic start going without any way to check them – which we have reason to believe they will – there is a good chance we are screwed.

  • Not sure why Gore still commands any attention. More of a comedy sideshow than serious climate consultant, which he fancies himself to be.

  • This article seems to be a bit muddled. While carbon capture coal plants are not economically viable – plain old fashioned coal plants are having trouble competing with wind and solar, I doubt anyone concerned about global warming would prefer a coal plant that spews CO2 directly into the atmosphere compared to one that captures and sequesters its CO2. But if he is like me he may be annoyed that coal companies are taking tax payers’ money to attempt to develop a system to preserve their business that will never be able to compete with other low emission sources of energy. (Actually, coal companies appear to be using tax payers’ money as an excuse to do nothing about reducing emissions, but I won’t go into that now.)

    My guess is this that when this guy says he’s against geoengineering he may be referring to things like spreading sulphate in the upper atmosphere which has both cost and side effect issues or H-bombing mountains to make gravel to increase CO2 removed from the atmosphere by weathering. I doubt he’d be against things like reforestation.

  • The knee jerk opposition by the great green bandwagon to
    geoengineering schemes of all types always puzzles me. Always. It indicates a
    frame of mind which is just as religiously pigheaded as the great
    theistic religions of the world like Christianity and Islam. Or is there, with with those mega-rich gurus like Gore, who owns a host of so-called ‘sustainable’ investments a more sinister motive for their strident negativity?

    We have, in the oceans of the world a massive continuous
    geoengineering machine wherein the world’s ‘standing crop’ of
    photosynthetic algae (cyanobacteria) absorb dissolved CO2 and
    bicarbonate and excrete oxygen. This is about 47% of the world’s living
    biomass. It is largely ‘fuelled’ by iron-rich dust blown off the

    Note well, this machine has been running naturally and successfully for almost 4
    billion years, cropping the CO2 in effect. This is why we are evolved oxygen-breathing creatures! We breath the excreta of algae! So, why couldn’t or shouldn’t we tweek the CO2 sequestration/O2 release of this machine upwards in certain areas? Over 14 controlled experiments have shown this can be routinely and
    easily accomplished. Also, every day millions of tonnes of fine iron ore
    are shipped across the oceans. It would be a simple matter to tap into that supply.

    There can be no ‘unforeseen effects’ from a geoengineering process which has been running naturally for 4 billion years. Get real.

    • “The knee jerk opposition by the great green bandwagon to geoengineering schemes of all types always puzzles me. Always. It indicates a frame of mind which is just as religiously pigheaded as the great theistic religions of the world like Christianity and Islam.”


      Because I think “Don’t worry geoengineering will save us” fits better.

      • Sorry, but your tiny little duration, on geological timescales, of ‘thinking’ just doesn’t really crack it in comparison with 4 billion years of oceanic photosynthesis….

        • So you think “fuck around with the oceans” is the preferable option compared to “stop fucking around with the atmosphere”?

          • During the glacials the continents go drier and colder. This increases the desertification and hence the amount of dust blowing off the continents, thus increasing oceanic CO2 sequestration. These are natural processes which could easily be safely mimicked as they have safely occurred millions of time before. So as you clearly aren’t a REAL Libertarian, does this mean you are just a regular (boring) fuck head?

          • Cut the name calling.

          • Cut the holier-than-thou lecturing yourself. You already do far too much of that all over the Net.

          • You’ve had your one warning Stephen.

    • because it’s not about fixing the problem wit them, nor do they care about real science (unless it cements their beliefs) it is their religion,

  • Gore is a wh0re. They’re setting him up to be controlled opposition in a fake debate about the most important issue of our lifetimes. Geoengineering is weather warfare and genocide. Geoengineering was developed decades ago and has been implemented globally for over a decade. Anyone who can’t see the evidence of this visible in the sky should apply for government disability because they’re either legally blind, braindead, of so deep in denial that they should get their government kool-aid for free. Wake up. Watch this: Mainstream Flounders to Spin the Geoengineered Drought in California http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsxeZrwjQqs

  • The Savory Institute demonstrates how managed herds of cattle massively increases CO2 sequestration in topsoil. Half of the world’s grasslands treated this way will bring us to pre-industrial levels of CO2. This is geoengineering I could get behind. Also it creates jobs and healthy food for those who eat meat. http://www.savoryinstitute.com/

    • I would be curious to see how the increased CO2 sequestration in topsoil compares to the methane output of the cows. Methane is 10x as bad a greenhouse gas as CO2 so the increase in CO2 retention would need to be at least 10x the methane output from the cows.

    • if by “It’s all madness” you mean that there’s still people who believe in chemtrails, yes that is madness. Of course the same amount of people believe there is secret lizard people that rule the world, so hey you’re in good company

  • Is the methane level still flat-lining as it has for 25 years? (if the graphics are really true all over the net)

    Do we have an accurate understanding where government or local programs could better benefit all without wind solar and geothermal and geothermal tax credit- free give-a-ways to the few instead of many to get improved buildings, and homes, and things like less glass-walled federal buildings in northern and southern or any climate zone?

    Beter Ut’y rates for all without messing with choices, could be a start.
    Then Better buildings
    better distribution of Htg and Clg and hot Water generation in heat recovery from cooling;
    then a tiny HVAC HW or equipment for needs and comforts some sort of credit funding that really benefits all the middle class taxpayers..

    Why does Mr. Gore not care at his own home using several times per sq ft than better ones? (ie)

    • Mr. Gore had a house that used a tremendous amount of energy and renovated it so that it now uses much less energy.

      How clean is your nose?

      • Is that the same AL that brokered credits for carbon after instating rules and regs for his interests?
        how much renovated is the qualifier, I have reason to believe…
        I have spent 35 years getting large 1970’s to 1980’s homesdown to 10 and 11 btuh per sq ft in zone 5 and 6 of which hit -22 below peaks and average -12f normal winters lows… 6600 to 6800 degree days~ IE) Heating 3700 sq ft family of 2 and 4’s under 300 bucks last long coldest winter in 12 years… NEOHIO.

        How can I help you?, oh, not any radiant heating tubes in the best retrofits, saving that usual 50 year ROI on the difference in new construction radiant , also.
        Also out performing heat pump minisplits, of which I am a dealer for KLIMAIRE and CARRIER, about 30% per year HVAC, not to mention instant on-demand hot water and heat-recovery to all free summer / A/C HW generation: HVAC-HW-HeatRecovery is what is really a “rennovation” , but since 1981 … Hydro-Temp.com (patented 1981)

  • “The idea that we can put a different form of pollution into the atmosphere to cancel out the effects of global warming pollution is utterly insane.” Al Gore (Clean Technica)

    Critters and plants are very, very confused in Iowa this spring because humans have caused a double whammy to our climate, first an industrial/urbanizing monster pumping insane quantities and kinds of deadly crud into my air…..then those same idiots pumping even more insane quantities and kinds of dirty, deadly crud into my air to try to fix the first round of horrors ….turning our earth into a mess. If humans caused the mess, humans can clean it up to correct the problem. The problem is privatized profiteering for only 1% that are ruining earth and their own childrens’ futures for private/short term/not-so-obvious bank accounts of only 1%. Who is making these very stupid decisions…..profiteers from those selling industrial waste from dirty energy profiteers? I want an investigation now…..But AG Eric Holder strangely authorized/encouraged geoengineering that is exacerbating methane release insanely. Methane/CH4/NG/”natural gas” of fricken fracken is 25 to 100 times more powerful than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Could this be another stunt of oil/gas profiteers to cause methane release, to harvest methane to sell for privatized profiteering for the oil/gas industries? Perhaps we need a new attorney general without roots in the culture that caused climate catastrophes in the first place? Perhaps we need a new definition for “economy” that counts more than privatized, deregulated cash-flow floods as “worth”…… Let’s start now with an investigation…..perhaps at the ICC?

    Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2014/01/20/gore-rejects-geoengineering-climate-change-panacea/#rUL6VUwPZw93VQO3.99

    • “If humans caused the mess, humans can clean it up to correct the problem. ”

      We could, but religious zealots like gore and you don’t want to let us

  • mm
    and China? How many generations ago?
    (the culture that caused climate catastrophes in the first place?)

    good and bad
    yes we can have interest in improvement, but global climate shifts are a vulnerable as the 1989 CANADIAN power line out for 6 million residents from one solar “belch” or just a ‘burp’ …
    and what did 2013’s belch show you?

    THE sun IS JUST RECENTLY TAGGED on latest activities by a 2010 watch-vehicle…
    and the findings are pointing to why Jupiter and Mars surface temps are rising as we watch this very very very very short time….yet.

    Local clean ups agreed…

    global climate changes of mankind vs say even just one sun…

    Even the CO2 readings analysts cant agree within 40%…

  • Although I agree with Mr Gore on his overall statement here, I find it fairly hypocritical that he owned a company for carbon-offsetting. That approach allowed carbon pollution as long as you paid a fee, so that someone else would go and reduce the same amount of pollution. The man is a legend, a buffoon for the ages.

    • Help me out here. Al’s company facilitated a net decrease in carbon output and that was bad why?

      • Because it didn’t

      • “… facilitated a net decrease in carbon output …” That’s a good one! In my years of reading on both sides of this issue, I’ve never heard anyone say that! Wow! You may not have heard that Al Gore is not very well liked in the scientific community.

        • I know that many scientists are fully behind Gore. Not sure what scientific community you are referring to, but I don’t think it’s a legit one.

          • Zachary: you may be a young man, or lacking a scientific background. It’s easy to confuse a respected politician who speaks well with a true climate scientist who’s an authority on the subject.
            Here’s are some quotes I found in 5 seconds:
            “…. with scientific and mathematical theories, he did not do well in science classes in college….”

            “Gore forecasted ice-free arctic by 2013…”

            ” A Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) expert is gently telling Al Gore that he goofed during his new Washington Post interview on global…”
            In “An Inconvenient Truth” there are 35 documented scientific untruths. Britain high court quit reviewing them after confirming the first 9, and forbade the showing of the movie to British schoolchildren, due to a law forbidding the political indoctrination of children. One of the most remarkable parts of the movie is a graph that he accidentally inverted, which effectively disproved the point he was making. He corrects this graph in his book, proving that he recognized his error.
            It’s easy to find this information on the web. Al Gore is a lawyer, not a scientist. Scientists, in general, view Gore as a buffoon, although he’s pushed climate issues to the forefront, for which he is to be congratulated. Also, his “carbon offsetting” company (a for-profit company) is laughable with the so-called carbon projects that it’s funded. You should read about them – he’s made hundreds of millions of dollars from climate related actions.
            On the other hand climate change is a huge issue that must be reckoned with, using the best scientific minds that we have in the world. It’s the most complex issue that has perhaps ever been presented to civilization. Al Gore is at his best when he advocates the solutions, not create them.

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