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Precautionary principle, RIP

18 Oct 2023 | News Roundup

Does anyone even remember the “Precautionary Principle”? It used to be big among environmentalists back when they could use it to spike anything they didn’t like. Not that anyone could actually define it. In one version it was uncontroversial but useless, such as from the Rio Declaration of 1992, “Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.” In some hands though it came to mean don’t do anything unless you’re sure it is totally safe. That version would have stopped the invention of electricity or even fire. And if you’re wondering why it’s up front in our “News” section it’s because of the headline “Could global warming be reversed by refreezing the polar regions?” To which we answer, could we maybe have a bit of precaution here? What sane person thinks the record of mankind, on climate or more generally, justifies plunging into experiments to alter the entire ecosystem without any idea at all whether it’s safe?

Answer: a surprising number who otherwise regard human interference with the environment as wildly reckless and almost invariably bad. You might object that the headline and story in question come from “StarsInsider” and anyone who reads such a publication gets what they deserve. But they were passed along by MSN which is certainly a major mainstream news provider whether it should be or not. It’s suddenly trendy. And it’s not a new or fringe idea. Back in September 2022 Newsweek asked “Could Refreezing North and South Poles Reverse Global Warming?”

That nobody on staff asked whether they had actually been unfrozen is beside the point. Or not, because actually Antarctic ice has not melted and Arctic ice is rebounding. The big question is: What if it works… too well?

Nobody seems to be raising that question. Instead something called The National News asked this Friday the 13th “Should we refreeze the Arctic to help combat climate change?” and adds “Proposal from the Centre for Climate Repair in the UK envisages having hundreds of ships in the Arctic to create mist that strengthens cloud cover”.

Of course in such situations the front line of hope is that if it were attempted it would fail to have any effect. Where we would even get these “hundreds or even thousands of ships to the Arctic to create a seawater mist, which would improve cloud cover and deflect more sunlight” is unclear, and if we did find them and they went and sprayed mist it might just dissipate. Nature is full of feedback mechanisms and many of them actually stabilize rather than destabilizing.

Still, it’s important that most alarmists don’t think so. They’re forever panicking about tipping points and runaway this and that, suggesting that if we get out of a pretty narrow band of conditions “compatible with the permanence of genuine human life” we’ll be boiled, desiccated, drowned, roasted or all of the above. And since we do know that, for the last 2.8 million years or so, brief periods of warmth have repeatedly been wiped away by rapid lethal cooling and the coming of the glaciers in a relentless cycle, it seems incredibly reckless to risk triggering such a thing by messing around with processes we do not understand. Yet none of these articles seem to contemplate either that the effort might flop totally or might work too well.

True, the National News story adds that “Dr Shaun Fitzgerald, director of the centre, says that if geoengineering can be shown to work without unacceptable adverse effects then it could buy the world time to get greenhouse gas levels down while preserving Arctic ecosystems”. Yes, if. But how would you demonstrate such a thing? Do it on Earth 2? As the “Manhattan Contrarian” Francis Menton has complained on several occasions, climate alarmists haven’t even done demonstration projects to run one small economy on hydrogen energy. One on refreezing the Arctic to change the weather on a global scale isn’t on their radar.

So where’s the precautionary principle in all of this? Where’s the humble recognition that we don’t know enough to be confident that we could alter the climate at all, let alone that if we did it would change in the way we wanted, but only to the degree that we wanted? What if there were unanticipated consequences? Don’t those arise surprisingly often in human affairs? Back in 2014 world-famous-in-Canada environmentalist David Suzuki warned that “Because nature doesn’t always behave the same in a lab, test tube or computer program as it does in the real world, scientists and engineers have come up with ideas that didn’t turn out as expected” and that “we don’t fully understand climate and weather systems and their interactions”. But even then he added “That doesn’t mean we should rule out geoengineering” although it sure sounds like it does.

Luckily if it’s news it’s old news. As far back as September 2019 CNN said “Scientists and designers are proposing radical ways to ‘refreeze’ the Arctic”. Back then it was “a team of Indonesian designers with an eye-catching response to the climate crisis: iceberg-making submarines.” And we were saved from this Promethian, even Faustian folly by the fact that there is, of course, no such thing.

So the reason we say “luckily” is because we very much doubt anyone will ever actually try any of this stuff. So far all these schemes have not reached even the demonstration stage. And they’d better not, because all these proposals incorporate massive hubris, starting with a conviction that we actually have a detailed understanding of the precise mechanisms that drive weather and connect it to climate. Which again we obviously don’t; the computer models are infamous for their inability to predict weather, even past weather, while the IPCC insists that we do not have much certainty even about what is happening let alone why.

StarInsider says “It sounds like a crazy idea straight out of science fiction, but researchers believe the concept is feasible and have even published a white paper outlining the methodology such a project would entail. So, how exactly do you refreeze the poles? Click through and find out how cool these proposals are.”

If you do, and persevere through endless clickbait banality interspersed with ads, you’re told “It would involve a possible future geoengineering program whereby high-flying jets would spray microscopic aerosol particles into the atmosphere. These aerosols would be delivered by military air-to-air refueling tankers.” Which at least do exist.

They also mention the submarine one:

“Indonesian architect Faris Rajak Kotahatuhaha won an award for his project Refreeze the Arctic, which consists of collecting water from melted glaciers, desalinating it, and refreezing it to create large hexagonal ice blocks.”

One wonders if they know how big the planet is. Or how fragile the climate is meant to be according to the theory that prompts their wacky projecting.

7 comments on “Precautionary principle, RIP”

  1. Have the alarmists ponder the irony of using large numbers of 'fossil fuelled, Co2 producing' aircraft to counteract the effects of all the other miltary/commercial aircraft releasing Co2 into the atmosphere? A Newsweek article in 1975 stated that experts were considering coating the Artic Ice Cap with 'black soot' to counteract the effects of the coming new Ice Age because of 'climate change'. Now they want to do the exact opposite because 'climate change'... How's that for a 'precautionary principle'?
    Book source 'THERE IS NO CLIMATE CRISIS' by David Craig.

  2. If geoengineering in any one of its various manifestations ever catches on, by which I mean if the general public becomes so enthused with the idea that politicians consider it to be a vote-catching idea, then vast amount of taxpayers' money will be spent on it. In situations like this a lot of the people involved will get very rich and will consequently spend some of those riches in ensuring that the idea doesn't die out too quickly by, for example, describing their opponents as climate deniers. (See wind and solar for an illustrative example.) Thus does the world work.

  3. This reminded of the incident a few years ago where a ship with alarmists aboard(scientists?) sailed to Antartica to show evidence of melting sea ice there.They got stuck in more ice than they had bargained for,and had to be rescued!Presumably not by a wind or solar powered vessel.

  4. Personally I think such projects should be encouraged but only if funded by all those NGOs and Bloomberg clones with an endless agenda. The energy costs alone should eat up hundreds of millions that would otherwise be invested in schemes to impoverish western civilization.

  5. Hundreds or maybe thousands of ships? All burning diesel and filled with generators to create wast amounts of energy this project will (Hopefully) would need? I would say the heat from the ships, probably cancel any cooling (thankfully)

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