Danish Think Tank: $9B Cloud Project Could Prevent All 21st Century Global Warming

By Barbara Hollingsworth | January 24, 2017 | 2:28 PM EST

Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, stands outside the United Nations headquarters in New York in June 2014. (Copenhagen Consensus Center)

(CNSNews.com) –  Instead of collectively spending $100 billion annually under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to combat global warming, developed nations should consider investing just $9 billion in a marine cloud whitening project that could prevent global warming for the rest of the 21st century, according to Bjorn Lomborg, director of a Danish think tank.

Marine cloud whitening mimics the effects of a volcanic eruption by inserting salt particles into the atmosphere to make clouds denser so they reflect more sunlight back into space.

“Spending just $9 billion on 1,900 seawater-spraying boats could prevent all the global warming set to occur this century,” Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, writes in a January 18 column for Project Syndicate, adding that the benefits the project would generate would be worth an estimated $20 trillion.

“This is the equivalent of doing about $2,000 worth of good with every dollar spent,” he pointed out.

To put this in context, the Paris climate agreement’s promises will cost more than $1 trillion annually and deliver carbon cuts worth much less – most likely every dollar spent will prevent climate change worth a couple of cents,” Lomborg continued.

“Even climate activists increasingly recognize that the lofty rhetoric of the global agreement to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, concluded in Paris just over a year ago, will not be matched by its promises’ actual impact on temperatures,” he said. “This should make us think about smart, alternative solutions.”

“All of the global warming for the century could be avoided” by using geo-engineering such as marine cloud whitening, according to a working paper by Americans J. Eric Bickel and Lee Lane for the CCC, which “has commissioned 21 papers to examine the costs and benefits of different solutions to global warming.”

Warning that such technology “is not ready for deployment” and “even base case estimates for many important benefit and cost parameters are unknown,” Bickel and Lane estimate a 5,000-to-1 direct benefit-cost ratio for a marine cloud whitening project, which would use unmanned GPS-navigated ships to spray seawater into ocean cloud formations.

According to the co-authors, “reflecting into space only one to two percent of the sunlight that strikes the Earth would cool the planet by an amount roughly equal to the warming that is likely from doubling the pre-industrial levels of greenhouse gases.”

Pointing to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, which “reduced global mean temperature by about 0.5% C,” they wrote that “scattering this amount of sunlight appears to be possible.”

In addition, the expected research and development costs for a marine cloud whitening geoengineering project “are clearly quite low. Indeed, they appear to be almost negligible,” the study’s co-authors noted.

“People are understandably nervous about geoengineering,” Lomborg acknowledged. “But many of the risks have been overstated. Marine cloud whitening, for example, amplifies a natural process and would not lead to permanent atmospheric changes – switching off the entire process would return the world to its previous state in a matter of days.”

Reversability is important because Bickel and Lane point out that one of the negative effects of “changing global temperatures without lowering the level of GHG [greenhouse gas] concentrations…. is the possible lessening of rainfall.”

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement – which was signed by former Secretary of State John Kerry but not ratified by the U.S. Senate – the U.S. and other developed countries pledged to raise $100 billion a year to help developing nations limit carbon emissions, which the United Nations claims is the chief cause of global warming.

The stated goal of the international agreement is to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels while carbon emissions are eventually reduced to zero worldwide.

As part of his promise to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 26 to 28 percent over 2005 levels by 2025, President Obama pledged $3 billion to the UN’s Green Climate Fund, which was set up to help developing countries meet their carbon reduction goals.

To date, the U.S. has contributed $1 billion to the fund, with $500 million transferred just days before President Trump’s inauguration on January 20.

During his presidential campaign, Trump promised to “cancel the Paris Climate Agreement and stop all payments of U.S. tax dollars to U.N. global warming programs” during his first 100 days in office.