Hi Stephen, Klaus,
We came to a similar conclusion to Stephen when addressing a 'double
catastrophe' in our study. This is an idea from Baum et al's terrific 2013
paper <https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10669-012-9429-y>, where
they explore how SRM termination shock on the back of another calamity
(like a pandemic) could conceivably represent a threat to the survival of
humanity. We could not disagree with Baum's reasoning but noted that
society seemed to be addicted to other complex technological systems whose
termination would also compound a global disaster. We chose healthcare and
agriculture but it seems that there are many more.
Klaus makes the good point that it would be useful to expand the scope and
think about termination risks from all the socio-technical systems to which
we are addicted. For ones that are already locked in - such as energy and
agriculture - it will likely be a question of risk management. For new
ventures like SRM it would be important to think about whether the risk of
double catastrophe could be great enough to preclude deployment beyond a
certain scale. For all technological addictions it would be important to
think about the factors that affect their robustness and their resilience,
as we tried to do for SRM. It seems that there is much cheerful work to be
done working out which factors will multiply the suffering of those unlucky
enough to survive the cataclysm.
On Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 4:53:02 PM UTC+1, klaus.lackner wrote:
> The fact that we are not paying attention to termination shocks, does not
> mean that not heeding this risk is a good idea. We actually should worry
> about the termination shock on fertilizer and other infrastructure issues.
> The risk of termination shocks directly plays into the climate change
> debate. One way of looking at the challenge of rapid mitigation is that if
> we end up pushing hard on CO2 reductions and forcing dramatic changes in
> the energy infrastructure, we are pushing the resilience of the energy
> infrastructure to its limits. If the energy infrastructure fails, it
> removes our ability to provide life-critical energy services, including the
> production of fertilizer. This risk is usually ignored in the climate
> debate. I don’t think climate mitigation is pushing against these limits
> right now, because we essentially refuse to act, but if we were to follow
> some of the more aggressive CO2 reductions scenario we might be exposed to
> a severe risk of an accidental failure and thus termination of energy
> services. Just like for SRM termination risks, war and/or economic
> collapse could also cause such failures, which in turn could set off a
> downward spiral. In short modern societies are exposed to severe
> termination risks, understanding them, guarding against them, not
> introducing unnecessary ones, seems to be prudent policy.
> *Date: *Tuesday, March 13, 2018 at 7:58 AM
> *Subject: *Re: [geo] Re: [CDR] SRM and CDR - The risk of termination
> shock from solar geoengineering
> Hi All,
> I think it's important to realize that we live in a world where the risk
> of "termination shock" is omnipresent in terms of dozens of technologies
> including transportation, energy, agriculture, and to a less apocalyptic
> extent medications.
> Fertilizer production might be one of the best examples. We are
> globally-dependent on the fertilizer industry to pump out many metric tons
> of nitrogen and phosphate each year. If this supply were to fail, billions
> of people would likely starve in a few years as agricultural yields dropped
> and food prices climbed. This is an activity which I imagine is roughly
> equivalent to the scale of activity required for SRM. These are large
> industrial facilities and mining operation with global economic and
> strategic importance, they are dominated by three major countries (China,
> Morocco, USA). Yet the system hums along just fine. We don't worry about
> fertilizer termination shock, at least not very much. It's an imperfect
> system where we have shortage and excess, but it gets the job done and has
> been working like this for nearly 50 years.
> We could argue about the merits of any potential comparison, but the point
> is that there are dozens of similar industrial examples, many of which come
> down to the production of critical products in just a few facilities
> globally. We live in this world each day without worry or fear. I think the
> risk of SRM termination shock is oversold. It requires basic contingency
> planning or a market-based supply/demand system, but not a whole lot more
> than that. The value in the termination shock concept was in identifying
> this as a potential issue, but now that this knowledge is widespread, I
> think the concept has outlived its useful life.
> Stephen Romaniello
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