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Global Warming and the Thermohaline Circulation

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william on July 24, 2005:

Is there a means that would allow humanity to restart the current through the use of some present technology? Either by the introduction of heat directed from orbital platforms collecting solar radiation and focusing it on the critical junctures of the current as direct light heat, or as microwave radiation.

Jan Wolter on October 17, 2005:

It might be possible. It would certainly be terrifying.

I think what you should take from this essay is less a sense that stopping the thermohaline circulation is an immediate danger, than that the earth's environment is a vast and complex system, whose behavior we are only barely beginning to understand.

The idea of humanity trying to take active control of the earth's climate should be as reassuring as the idea of an 9-month old baby turning off the auto-pilot of a 747 airliner to take direct control.

Of course, this may be exactly what we will have to do. If we mess up the system enough, then we'll need to try to take countermeasures, as best we can. If you've broken the auto-pilot, then you have to do the best you can to fly the plane, whether you know how or not.

So there is nothing more important to do in the realm of climate than to invest all we can in developing a better scientific understanding of the earth's climate and ecosystem. We are far from knowing as much as we need to know.

I'm no expert, but it seems like beaming heat down to specific spots might (or might not) do some good in the short term, but would add to global warming overall, and thus do more harm in the long term. Sounds like a questionable idea to me.

Anonymous on unknown date:

The climate will change. It has always. The question is: How long (and how nicely) will we humans adapt to the changes (changes caused by our own action included)? Life, as a whole, much more endurable than one quite complex and dependable species like ours, will last longer on earth, but even all life forms, will eventually end on our beautiful (in our antropomorphic point of view) planet. Our actions do affect the quality and quantity of life we expect for ourselves and our descendents and there is no turning back. That knowledge makes us utterly responsible, but far, far, very far, from infalible. We are and have ever been flying the spaceship earth. Before we were totally blind folded but didn't change its course - we were a very small group and used very litle resources (we didn't know how). Now our population is bigger than ever and we are using considerable more resources than we really need (unwisely) and we are geting some glimpses (not very nice) of the effects and possible future effects such behaviour - knowledge evolution! We are following our evolutionary path. Does this (natural) path make us a "superior" adapted species or this overdeveloped mamal talent will just prove to be not viable making short our journey? Who knows? We will eventually crash land. It seams that if we just keep flying as we are, the flight will be shorter (and the landing harder). Trying to make the trip safer and/or more confortable (the present consumption based economy makes "confortable" antagonical to "safer", but cultural values change can overcome this - I hope it will be just a primitive phase of our evolution) will probably even increase the risk. There is no alternative, is there?

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