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So it turns out that all of the people claiming global cooling were right. Our earth is heading towards freezing temperatures, and we need to raise our earth's temperature by 1°C as fast as possible.

We would like to minimize the damage to our environment (except for the effects caused by the temperature change).

Assuming current technology levels, what are our best options in terms of speed, energy efficiency, and environmental friendliness?

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    $\begingroup$ Keep burning coal. $\endgroup$ – Jason Patterson Nov 9 '15 at 6:04
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    $\begingroup$ what kind of evident are pointing toward global cooling? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Nov 9 '15 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ @user6760 : I think we've got to assume this is a worldbuilding exercise that doesn't exactly reflect our world. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 9 '15 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ What is the process which leads to global cooling ? If the answer is "science is broken", you can definitively not expect any answer to be really science based. $\endgroup$ – Kolaru Nov 9 '15 at 20:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Kolaru There are lots of reasons as to why global cooling could exist, and my question isn't about identifying or removing the cause, so I'm not sure why its relevant. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Merrill Nov 9 '15 at 20:48
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Continue burning coal and other fossil fuels (filtering out the particulates) and to speed it up more release large amounts of Methane into the atmosphere. CO2 and Methane are two of the more potent green house gases. There are huge deposits of Methane under the Oceans

These are the gases that are currently causing the warming trend and adding more will do more warming.

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  • $\begingroup$ While this is the most obvious answer, I'm not convinced this is the most energy-efficient way to do it. We've spent over the last 100 years burning fossil fuels, and we haven't even hit an increase of 1 degree yet. $\endgroup$ – Nathan Merrill Nov 9 '15 at 16:42
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    $\begingroup$ @NathanMerrill releasing some of the methane stores under the ocean would make a difference. methane is roughly 30 times more potent. sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111724.htm $\endgroup$ – bowlturner Nov 9 '15 at 16:52
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You do it with mirrors.

Large, if ephemeral foil mirrors are launched into orbit and reflect extra sunlight on the Earth. Mirrors reflecting sunlight on croplands will assist in maintaining agricultural output, but much more efficient would be to use the mirrors to put extra energy into the oceans.

The extra heat will do two things: increase the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, trapping solar radiation. Water is by far the most efficient "greenhouse gas", so extra water vapour will hold both the normal sunlight and the augmented heat from the mirrors.

The second effect is the oceans are hugely efficient reservoirs of heat and transfer heat across the globe through current flows like the Gulf stream. Pumping heat into the oceanic systems will diffuse the hotspots the mirrors create, while ensuring the heat is transported from the tropics to the rest of the planet. Since we are talking about the real world, we can ignore alarmist predictions of the heat going into the depths of the oceans (simple thermodynamics shows this is an impossible idea anyway).

How much heat you want and how fast you want to increase the heat energy input will be determined by the size and numbers of the mirrors. Remember the Earth is a massive system, and climate is a complex adaptive system, so you cannot expect linear outputs from the heat inputs. Careful observation and tweaking of the system will need to be constantly done so long as the mirrors are in orbit.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nother currently feasible using cutting edge technology; I'm not sure if Nathan requires it to be. $\endgroup$ – FraserOfSmeg Nov 9 '15 at 6:08
  • $\begingroup$ I did say current technology levels. While we haven't done this, I don't see why we couldn't do this $\endgroup$ – Nathan Merrill Nov 9 '15 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ The size of the mirrors required and the related systems for keeping the system cool would far outweigh any space mission to date. The required attitude control system would far surpass that of the largest satellites (including the ISS) and the risk of failure (the system pointing somewhere undesirable) could cause significant detrimental effects to ecosystems. We are also extremely bad at deploying large flat structures in orbit, it's more difficult than you might think. $\endgroup$ – FraserOfSmeg Nov 11 '15 at 20:53
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The obvious answer is 'chuck out more C02'

HOWEVER:

This is an insanely dangerous thing to do. The issue with C02 as a global warming gas is not how much heat it traps, it's how long it sticks around for and the fact that it's much harder to put 'back in the box' than it is to let it out. The carbon cycle is a very slow moving process when you look at the average atmospheric lifetimes of various gases. I'm not going to put down any numbers here, because they vary wildly depending on which research paper you get them from and the starting assumptions used, but it's safe to say that if you're pumping out C02 you aren't really going to feel the effects, but your great grandchildren certainly will.

As a result: Using C02 to rapidly raise the earth's temperature is a very bad idea. A C02 output that raises the temperature by 1 degree quickly is going to have a lot of very long term consequences that you can't predict (and would almost certainly be Bad). It's also worth pointing out that some of the sulphuric compounds released by burning fossil fuels can cause global cooling over short periods of time, but they leave the atmosphere much faster. If you increase your coal burning fast enough, however, you're going to drop the temperature first!

As Bowlturner has already noted, Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas, with a much shorter lifespan than C02. Production of methane is also relatively simple: get biomass and let it decompose in an anaerobic situation. Marshes and creeks do this naturally already, but you can quickly get a public awareness campaign together to get everyone doing this 'for the good of the world'.

Another powerful (but often overlooked) greenhouse gas is water. If you couple large scale nuclear power generation (cooled by water towers or by having a heat exchanger under a lake) with distributed water heaters (powered by the power stations) you can literally pump heat into the air at the same time as raising the global humidity. I have no idea what havoc that might wreak on the climate, it would take a long time to build, and it's really not very efficient given that you've got to constantly pump in energy, but it might help raise the temperature in a way that won't cook the planet once you're done. Plus I like the idea of going for a swim in a nuclear powered lake.

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I wonder if it mightn't help to melt the polar ice caps. All that blinding white is just bouncing a lot of our precious, precious sunlight back off into space. Assuming the lack of a sufficient orbital laser (sigh), we could try cropdusting the icecaps with dark-colored powder, to lower the albedo.

We could try breaking up the Ross Ice Shelf with explosives and let the icebergs whirl away and melt in kinder latitudes. This might be a heartbreaking task, however. I haven't done the calculations, but fear it would take impractical amounts of explosives. I hate to nuke Antarctica -- it has never offered us any insult -- but needs must.

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