David Keith on Colbert discussing Geoengineering

Strawman

Senior Member.
David Keith was on The Colbert Report last night, promoting his new book. It was interesting in that Keith was making clear that he wants to incite debate on options, even if they are ugly, like spraying sulfuric acid into the atmosphere.
Right at the end, Colbert mentioned contrails and asked whether this was already happening without anyone being told about it. Keith considered it unlikely. The whole bit took maybe ten seconds. Naturally, Colbert had the better on him, he always does, since he is amazing at interviews. There was no debate, Keith didn't get to explain the visual difference between contrails and sulfuric acid, nor the difference in height of application. The word "chemtrails" wasn't mentioned, but Colbert obviously picked up on popular culture and conspiracy and he got a good laugh out of it. Seeing how Colbert is basically playing a role, and he's not really choosy with what he throws at people in interviews, as long as it makes for a funny interview, it was all in good spirit.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/431083/december-09-2013/david-keith

Extracted from the Closed Captions:

(Cheers and applause)
>> Stephen: welcome to the report, everybody.
My guest tonight is a Harvard Scientist with a new book called A Case For Climate Engineering. That is how you end up with a Sharknado. Please welcome David Keith.

Mr. Keith, Dr. Keith what you have got. What you calling yourself?

>> David Keith: I'm good with Mr.

>> Stephen: Mr. Keith, okay, all right. You've got a little book here called a Case for Climate Engineering. How will we save the planet. Because all the people, all the chicken littles out there are saying the planet is warming up. You don't believe that do you.

>> David Keith: I totally believe it. It is warming up and I have been thinking about, along with many other people, ways to stop it.

>> Stephen: okay, does it involve me using one of those little pig-tail light bulbs?

>> David Keith: That is a useful thing to do. And I have those in my house. But I'm thinking about something else.

>> Stephen: okay, good what is the other thing because I would like to do anything other than that.

>> David Keith: Exactly.

>> Stephen: so what do we do?

>> David Keith: The other thing is horrifying. It is that you could actually spray sulfuric acid in the stratosphere 20 kilometers over our head and use that to stop the planet warming up. And it's an ugly tech fix.

>> Stephen: you can spray something into the atmosphere to change-- okay.

>> David Keith: spray pollution into the atmosphere to stop it warming.

>> Stephen: so in the end pollution saves them all. We owe pollution, we owe acid rain an apology is what are you saying.

>> David Keith: It would be a totally imperfect technical fix, it would have risks, it wouldn't get us out of the long run need to stop polluting, but it might actually save people and be useful.

>> Stephen: okay, again, I interrupted you slightly there. How does it work, you how many planes are we talking about here, how do you do this.

>>David Keith: let's say you wanted to stop it warming in 2020. You start with a fleet of just 2 or 3 kind of modified business jets.

>> Stephen: like a G6.

>> David Keith: that's it.

>> Stephen: like a G6.

>> David Keith: and you put say 20,000 tons of sulfuric acid into the stratosphere every year and
each year you have to put a little more and this doesn't in the long run mean that you can forget about cutting emissions. We will need to reign it.


>> Stephen: no, we'll get to it eventually. In the meantime we're shrouding the earth in sulfuric acid.

>> David Keith: So people are terrified about talking about this because they're scared that it will prevent us cutting emissions.

>> Stephen: right, and also that it is sulfuric acid.

>> David Keith: It is.

>> Stephen: is there any possible way this could come back to bite us in the ass? Blanketing the earth in sulfuric acid because I'm all for it. This is the all chocolate dinner. I still get to have my CO2 and I just have to spray sulfuric acid, right. All over the earth.

>> David Keith: Right question but we put 50 million tons of sulfuric acid in the air now as pollution. It kills a million people a year worldwide.

>> Stephen: that's good or bad?

>> David Keith: It's terrible

>> Stephen: but it will be better if we put more in.

>> David Keith: we're talking about 1% of that. A tiny fraction of that. So we should reduce that sulphuric acid emission

>> Stephen: but if it kills a million people ..

>> David Keith: It's bad

>> Stephen: we only do 1% more we're just killing 10,000 more people.

>> David Keith: you can do math, okay. But that's-- so killing people is not the objective here.

>> Stephen: killing people is not the objective. I just wanted to be clear.

>> David Keith: actually, slowing climate change, actually stopping climate change in a way that could help people this generation, people living now, in a way there's no other easy alternative.

>> Stephen: can you just do it for part of the planet.

>> David Keith: pretty much the whole planet.

>> Stephen: could you, just say like make things better for the United States?

>> David Keith: Very hard to do. It seems that this is mostly global but the big fear is that one
country will want it one way and one the other, like two frat boys argue over the thermostat and in many ways the biggest fear here, we have no idea how to actually agree about how to control the planet's thermostat.


>> Stephen: let's say the United States and China say yeah, let's do it but Russia and India say yeah, not do it.

>> David Keith: this is the kind of stuff i wake up sweating about. exactly.

>> Stephen: Well it's your goddamn idea.

>> David Keith: No, it actually turns out to be an old idea. This is known since President Johnson. And a [science?] that the community mostly decided not to talk about it for fear people would then lose the threat of cutting emissions.

>> Stephen: What what happen to its sulfuric acid after it is sprayed. Does it just stay up there.

>> David Keith: no, it rains down but as I said, it rains down. It's a tiny edition of what we're already doing.

>> have you gotten some grief for suggesting this?

>> David Keith: sure this is like writing a book about the case for leprosy.

>> Stephen: do you have one. Yeah, it's a great weight loss plan.

>> David Keith: But also many people are happy that people are finally talking about this because while it is ugly but does appear that it really could do some good.

>> Stephen: could an individual start this?

>>David Keith: in practice only a country.

>> Stephen: what about a man in like a hollowed out volcano with henchmen who occasionally shakes his fist at the sky and says they said I was a fool at Harvard. Who's the fool now!

(cheers and applause)

>> David Keith: it's a natural worry but i think in the end, no. This would be done by major countries but the problem is how countries agree about where to set the thermostat. Who decides. And my biggest reason for writing the book and for talking about it is my view that we won't make good decisions in ignorance.

>> Stephen: we have to have the discussion now so when it becomes our last hope, people can say hey, we talked about this, remember. We said we get to do it.

>> David Keith: the worst way to make decisions about this would be if we all agree that we won't talk about it in polite society, we suppress it which is basically what had been happening. And then in 2030 suddenly the crisis we make fast decisions.

>> Stephen: maybe it's happening already. Do you ever look at those planes up there, they have contrails behind them? Maybe all those planes with the contrails are spraying chemicals into the atmosphere right now and Uncle Sam isn't telling us.

>> David Keith: seems extremely unlikely. The fact is the government...

>> Stephen: the fact that the United States isn't telling something to its citizens? That seems extremely likely to me. Read the newspaper. I think they might have your idea already.

Thank you so much. David Keith, A Case For Climate Engineering.

We'll be right back.

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Lone Bison

New Member
Keith: "It's like writing a book that's a case for leprosy."
Colbert: "Do you have one of those, is it next?"

Hahahaha. Laughter aside though, this interview is kind of scary.

I thought Keith's plan was to blanket the skies with nano-aluminum? Why is he switching to sulfuric acid?
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I thought Keith's plan was to blanket the skies with nano-aluminum? Why is he switching to sulfuric acid?

He does not have a plan. He's one of several scientists who are considering what the options are, how they might be done, and what the effects would be.
 

Strawman

Senior Member.
He does not have a plan. He's one of several scientists who are considering what the options are, how they might be done, and what the effects would be.

Exactly. Which is a good idea, having an open debate.

It also goes to show how evaluating options publicly is being misread by chemtrailers as preparation and manipulation. With a mindset that sees ulterior motives at play everywhere every time, it hardly matters how oftern David Keith points out how bad the ideas actually are and that we have to consider them anyways, in order to decide what to do, where to go, and what emergency breaks we may have. It's a fine demonstration of a conspiracy theory working towards poisoning discourse, intentionally or not.
 

Bob Moore

New Member
Very much so, and he hardly ever drops it in front of a camera. He even appeared before Congress in character, much to their disapproval.

In this video, and with almost everything he does on his show, he is brilliantly using satire to make his point. The reactions from the others in this video are priceless. The occasional laughter alternating with non-attention from some was telling. The sour faces during his delivery from a few illustrated how completely out of touch, uneducated and ignorant these people are. Anyone with an IQ over 80 can sort this out. This should not be difficult to understand.
This discussion with Mr. Keith tonight, I felt, was a disservice to Mr. Keith's proposition. There was never a conversation about the science behind what Mr Keith was proposing or even a basic explanation as to why this would be something worth considering. I felt it was unfair and Mr. Colbert could have been the same satirical character and allowed Mr. Keith a chance to make his case more coherently. Maybe Mr Keith could have responded differently and made a good case for his ideas, but it seemed he was overrun by the Colbert character.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
This discussion with Mr. Keith tonight, I felt, was a disservice to Mr. Keith's proposition. There was never a conversation about the science behind what Mr Keith was proposing or even a basic explanation as to why this would be something worth considering. I felt it was unfair and Mr. Colbert could have been the same satirical character and allowed Mr. Keith a chance to make his case more coherently. Maybe Mr Keith could have responded differently and made a good case for his ideas, but it seemed he was overrun by the Colbert character.

That's the risk you take going on Colbert. People know this, yet they still go on because it's good publicity. He even had Rick Santorum on there a couple of weeks ago, and Santorum is an easy figure of fun for Colbert.

I'm sure David Keith was annoyed with the chemtrail dig, but he did at least manage to get out the "we should talk about this now, so we don't get forced into making a stupid decision" and something of the "we can't avoid talking about it just so we don't stop polluting" arguments. (The latter being the "moral hazard" argument, which is rather difficult to convey in such a setting).

There's numerous comments on the internet about how Colbert "owned" Keith over chemtrails. But that's just preaching to the choir. I think on balance Keith did a net good in raising awareness of the specific issue of being able to make an informed decision in the future.
 

George B

Extinct but not forgotten Staff Member
The LA Times covered it (basically a bouncy recap), and chemtrail enthusiasts show up in the comments:
http://www.latimes.com/entertainmen...c-acid-20131210,0,4265545.story#axzz2nDSNSQVW
Me thinks the real news is the small amount of Sulfur he thinks would be effective . . . 20,000 tons of sulfuric acid injected into the stratosphere in one year is a fraction of estimates previously proposed . . . This changes several things if correct . . . 1) the ability to engage in such a project becomes much more easily accomplished . . . 2) the negative side effects become theoretically less negative in some cases 3) It makes ramping up such a project many magnitudes easier and 4) If one wishes to be covert . . . it is much easier to do so . . .
 
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Steve Funk

Senior Member.
Me thinks the real news is the small amount of Sulfur he thinks would be effective . . . 20,000 tons of sulfuric acid injected into the stratosphere in one year is a fraction of estimates previously proposed . . . This changes several things if correct . . . 1) the ability to engage in such a project becomes much more easily accomplished . . . 2) the negative side effects become theoretically less negative in some cases 3) It makes ramping up such a project many magnitudes easier and 4) If one wishes to be covert . . . it is much easier to do so . . .
Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. In writing, what you usually see is 20 million tons. That was the amount emitted by Pinatubo, and it didn't last long. I have seen a projection of an initial application of 10 million tons, with 1-2 million added each year for maintenance.
 

George B

Extinct but not forgotten Staff Member
Perhaps it was a slip of the tongue. In writing, what you usually see is 20 million tons. That was the amount emitted by Pinatubo, and it didn't last long. I have seen a projection of an initial application of 10 million tons, with 1-2 million added each year for maintenance.
I don't think it was a slip because he went on to say two or three converted business jets could accomplish the project in one year . . .
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
From an exceprt of his book he posted on the Geoengineering group:



Technology and cost to reach the stratosphere How hard would it be to move one million tons of sulfur per year to the stratosphere? What would it cost? Popular writing is filled with the whizbang aspects of geoengineering hardware. Stories in media outlets ranging from Popular Science to the BBC debate the merits of naval guns, giant hoses suspended by balloon, dirigibles, and airplanes.

The excessive focus on deployment hardware arises from a healthy instinct: readers want a physical picture of what might be done and journalists find it hard to paint a simple graphic picture of stratospheric chemistry or climate response. In effect the whizbang treatment, however, distracts audiences from the hard questions of risk and trade-off that are largely decoupled from the particular choice of hardware. That said, I describe some of the likely deployment technologies here because I want to make clear that the technology is not the primary issue. Deployment is neither hard nor expensive.

First, we must understand how high one needs to get material for stratospheric geoengineering, since altitude plays a big role in determining the cost and difficulty of delivery technologies. While the stratosphere sometimes extends down below 10 kilometers (32,000 feet), where it is easily reached by passenger jets, air in this part of the stratosphere is rapidly mixed back into the lower atmosphere. Aerosol injected here would have a lifetime measured in months rather than years. This might be useful for the kinds of short-term tests described in Phase 2, but would not likely be sensible for large-scale aerosol geoengineering. 32

The top of the stratosphere is about 50 kilometers (164,000 feet), far from reach of practical aircraft, but one need not go nearly so high. The natural flow of air in the stratosphere rises upwards from tropical latitudes and sinks downwards over the poles, so, if one can inject aerosol a bit above the bottom of the stratosphere in the tropics, it would be carried upwards and then towards the poles, resulting in a long lifetime and a relatively even distribution of aerosol throughout the stratosphere. Computer simulations confirm this intuition and suggest that injection in the tropics at altitudes a bit over 20 kilometers (65 thousand feet) would be adequate.

One could in principle use existing aircraft such as jet fighters, but modern business jets are more efficient and much cheaper. A stock Gulfstream G650, a top-of-the-line business jet, cruises at altitudes up to 50,000 feet. If a G650 were retrofitted with a low-bypass military engine such as the Pratt & Whitney F100, it could lift a payload of 13 tons to 60,000 feet, an altitude that would likely be adequate for the minimal deployment described in Phase 3. A fleet of just twenty aircraft acquired within a few years at a cost of $ 1.5 billion should enable sufficient radiative forcing to produce large-scale climatic effects that are just barely detectable. 33

The requisite deployment technology does not exist as ready-to-go hardware today, but it could be supplied by any number of vendors using what the aerospace industry calls commercial off-the-shelf technology. We could build the deployment hardware far more quickly than we likely could develop the rest of the science, engineering, and governance required to begin deployment of geoengineering. In this sense that one can say that the technology exists today.

This is not an argument for or against immediate deployment. It is simply a statement of capability.

Keith, David (2013-09-20). A Case for Climate Engineering (Boston Review Books) (pp. 91-95). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

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With one flight per plane per day.
13 tons * 20 * 365 = about 95,000 tons per year.

This is for something that is "just barely detectable", not full scale.

3 planes is 14,000 tons, in the ballpark. He's talking about where you start, not full scale.

And you could easily do multiple flights per day
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
In his book Keith describes four phases, I have extracted the initial description of each here. What he was describing to Colbert with 2-3 jets is the start of phase 3.

Currently we are at phase 1, and poised to enter stage 2.


Phase 1: Theory and laboratory work. The first step is simply to get serious about applying the science, social science, and technology we have at hand to understand the efficacy and risks of solar geoengineering . For the physical sciences, this means exercising the current suite of atmospheric models to understand what they say about such topics as the dynamics of aerosols in the stratosphere, the impact on ozone, and the climate change that results from radiative forcing by stratospheric aerosols. Beyond atmospheric science, we would apply the toolbox— such as historical analysis of the way crop yields or infectious diseases are influenced by climate—that has been developed to understand the impacts of climate change. One could then explore how the imperfect reduction in climate change afforded by geoengineering may reduce (or increase!) climate impacts from agriculture and glaciers to water supplies, biodiversity, and economic inequality.

...

Phase 2: Experiments in the atmosphere. The first atmospheric experiments should focus on understanding the process by which aerosols are produced and through which they may disrupt the chemistry of the stratosphere. Many of the key atmospheric chemical processes have a daily cycle, so observations of an artificial aerosol cloud over just a day or two could provide a powerful test of our understanding. Such experiments are small-scale tests of the physical processes that are built into large-scale models. Because the goal is to test processes, not the atmosphere’s large-scale response to forcing, the amount of material needed for such experiments would be miniscule compared to the amount needed to alter the climate in measurable ways. Experiments that my collaborators and I are now contemplating would use less than a hundred kilograms of aerosol material— less than one ten-millionth of what we would need to add every year to make a readily measurable impact on climate. The experiments would be performed using the same scientific instruments and research platforms (balloons and aircraft) that have been used for decades to study the causes of ozone loss in the stratosphere.

...

Phase 3: Minimal deployment. If, and only if, results from the first two phases warrant, the next step would be deployment at the smallest scale at which a response can be detected. The goal would be to find unexpected problems before they become big enough to cause damage. In a rational world, one would never try even minimal deployment unless results of the first two phases suggested that benefits of geoengineering outweigh side effects. Deployment crosses a threshold beyond science that demands some form of legitimate governance.

...

Phase 4: Gradual deployment. If, after the first three phases, geoengineering still looks beneficial, one might begin gradual deployment. The goal would be to reduce climate risk, but not by suddenly “turning on” a geoengineered radiative forcing at the strength necessary to counteract all of human radiative forcing. That would cool the planet back towards the pre-industrial climate— a potential disaster. Most impacts of climate change, such as those on agriculture, depend more strongly on the rate of climate change than on the absolute amount of change, so a sudden, large scale-up would be worse than nothing.

Moreover, some unexpected bad side effect might only be detectable as the amount of geoengineering increases beyond an unknown threshold. So to control the rate of change and to maximize the chance of detecting problems early, gradually ramping up the radiative forcing from geoengineering makes the most sense.

Keith, David (2013-09-20). A Case for Climate Engineering (Boston Review Books) (p. 78-84). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Also in his book he briefly discusses the Chemtrail theory:


Critiques of geoengineering arise from diverse worldviews , and passions run very high. I have received two death threats that warranted calls to the police, and received many outraged comments from colleagues whom I respect. The most extreme critiques (and the death threats) have come from people who are convinced by the chemtrails conspiracy theory, which holds that the US government is deliberately spraying its citizens with toxins from aircraft . Believers claim that metals such as aluminum and barium are sprayed from commercial aircraft for purposes that are alleged to range from mass culling of the human population to mind control. 43 These views are widely held; one sixth of respondents in a large public survey we ran in Canada, Britain, and the United States believed that it was partially or completely true that “The government has a secret program that uses airplanes to put harmful chemicals into the air.” 44

Our poll found that people are more likely to oppose geoengineering if they are skeptical of government authority and self-identify with the right end of the political spectrum. While chemtrails believers are an extreme, they are part of a continuum that includes a much larger group which believes that climate risks are being exaggerated by the environmental left as an excuse to justify further extension of state power at the expense of individual freedoms. To overstate it, this view sees geoengineering as a tool used by a technocratic, transnational, and godless elite who have concocted both the climate threat and the geoengineering response as a means to extend their power.

Keith, David (2013-09-20). A Case for Climate Engineering (Boston Review Books) (pp. 123-124). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.

Refs:
43 . Evidence offered to support this view is often little more than the conviction that aircraft contrails persist longer than is natural. Wikipedia provides a good overview of the conspiracy theory,
http:// en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ Chemtrail_conspiracy_theory .

There are many good websites devoted to debunking chemtrails including
http://conspiracies.skepticproject.com/articles/chemtrails/ and
http://contrailscience.com

44 . The survey was run by my PhD student Ashley Mercer and administered by survey firms that guarantee representative samples. We surveyed about 3000 people in Canada, Britain and the US in 2010. See A. M. Mercer, D. W. Keith, and J. D. Sharp. “Public understanding of Solar Radiation Management”, Environmental Research Letters, 6: 044006 (2011). doi: 10.1088/ 1748-9326/ 6/ 4/ 044006.
http://www.keith.seas.harvard.edu/papers/150.Mercer_Keith_Sharp.PublicUnderstandingSRM.e.pdf

Keith, David (2013-09-20). A Case for Climate Engineering (Boston Review Books) (pp. 188-189). The MIT Press. Kindle Edition.
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zb89

New Member
As frequent viewer of the colbert report, I am afraid his interview epically failed, and will only fuel conspiracy theorists.

Stephen Colbert have previously stated whenever he is going to interview anyone, he tells them that he plays a stupid character on TV, who is a right wing nut job, and thinks the government is after anyone,
he was playing his character very well,

It is upon the guest to articulate his point very well, and maybe the subject was too complex for a 6 min. interview
 

Hama Neggs

Senior Member.
Exactly. Which is a good idea, having an open debate.

It also goes to show how evaluating options publicly is being misread by chemtrailers as preparation and manipulation.

Yes and they also see it as getting the public used to something that is already supposedly being done.
 

JFDee

Senior Member.
Addendum regarding air pollution:

25 March 2014 | Geneva - In new estimates released today, WHO reports that in 2012 around 7 million people died - one in eight of total global deaths – as a result of air pollution exposure. This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk. Reducing air pollution could save millions of lives.
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http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/air-pollution/en/

This may be a useful quote if people suspect 'chemtrails' as the cause for their health problems.
 

WeedWhacker

Senior Member
Here is some background on Colbert's on-screen persona.

Yes. It's odd that those (usually on the "right"-leaning political persuasion) simply have no sense of humor, and ability to recognize and understand satire.

Witness the recent (minor) 'flap' over the show "Colbert Report" making a satirical jab at Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins football team. Pointing out Mr. Snyder's utter and hilarious insensitivity, with an equally absurd (as satire) example!

 
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