Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Sunlight-deflection and/or emissions-cutting: modeling their time-lags and warming consequences

Ira Straus


Humanity is focused on cutting emissions. This is the 5th differential of global warming, which means it will take a long time for it to stop or even slow global warming. It needs to focus more on also cutting the warming itself in this period.


The odds are high that sunlight deflection (SRM) is the only thing that could stop global warming in time to avert severe warming consequences, and that emissions cuts alone could not avert them.

That is the result of the conceptual model used here for comparing the two.


First, clarifying the question

The question is whether a heavier, front-loaded stress at this time on sunlight deflection or on emissions-cutting would have a better chance of “succeeding” in “stopping” global warming. “Stopping” can be defined three ways: as keeping the warming below a target level, or preventing any further warming, or returning it to a past level. “Succeeding” means both stopping it in these ways, and stopping it before the positive effects of these policies could be nullified by the feedback loops from the continued warming during the time-lag.

b. The role of the time factor: Because of the danger of self-nullification of each policy through time-delay in its effects, the time-efficacy of the policy is a critical factor for “success”. Our model for this reason focuses on comparing the two methods in terms of time-efficacy.

c. Mutual comparison for information, not for mutual opposition. The comparison of the two methods against each other does not imply that they are mutually exclusive or mutually opposed, and is not meant to imply this. The opposite is the reality: almost all proponents of sunlight deflection also favor continued effort on emissions-reduction, and a smaller but growing percentage of proponents of emissions-reduction also favor a stepped-up effort on research and preparation of sunlight deflection.

d. Terminology. The model herein uses terms such as feedback loops, negative and positive feedbacks, tipping points, differentials, and integrals. It is helpful to understand the meaning of these terms, although the reader has no need to understand how to calculate feedback effects or how to do differential calculus. For the meanings of the terms, see the “Definitions” inset at the end of this paper.

e. Model. This paper presents a conceptual model and draws basic conclusions from the inherent effects of the workings of the model. It does not attempt to measure the detailed effects of those workings.


How the addition of more differential layers multiplies the time lag


The time a policy requires to affect global temperatures is conditioned by how many "differentials", or layers of curves of input factors, separate it from affecting the warming itself. The more differential layers, the longer the time lag, and the less likely for the policy to succeed before defeated by feedback loops.

How many differential layers of curves lie between reducing emissions and stopping the consequences of the global warming itself? 4-6, as we shall see below.

How many differential curves lie between sunlight deflection and stopping the warming and its consequences? 0-2.

(Why the ranges, 4-6 and 0-2, not just a single number? Because it depends on which consequences we are examining, and whether we are using polar sunlight deflection or whole-earth deflection. For global sunlight deflection, for example, the layers and delays are 0 for surface temperatures, 1 for ocean warming and tundra melting, a combination of 1 and 2 for icecap melting; or somewhat less for the polar melting, 0-1, if the sunlight deflection focuses initially on the polar regions starting at the 60th parallel instead of deflecting light initially for the entire earth starting at the equator.)

The difference is considerable: 4 layers of curves that must be shifted serially from positive to negative. This difference is an indicator of how much longer it will take to achieve results -- and how much greater the likelihood of never making it to the desired results -- by relying primarily on emissions cutting rather than sunlight deflection.

A rule of thumb, in this applied integral calculus, is that the time lag is ordinarily more than doubled when one must move from shifting one layer from positive to negative, by direct efforts at reducing it, to shifting also by these means a second layer that is an integral level above the first. This is because the first (under) layer continues, as long as it is still positive, to increase the quantity on the second (higher) level, and has more to reduce when it later begins to reduce the latter. This means that adding to the process 4 further levels, eached layered atop the other, before getting to the target layers (surface temperatures and ice and tundra melting), means multiplying the time-lag more than four-fold.


The specific differentials of separation from affecting warming: which, and how many, for emissions cutting and for SRM?

Following are the layers of differential curves that must each in succession be turned from positive to negative, between the emissions cutting efforts and the stopping of the consequences of the warming:


main level (0th differential) - icecap melting, tundra melting

 (-) 1st differential - ocean warming. (We put a parenthetical minus sign in front of the differentials, because as negative numbers they indicate, correctly, that this is best understood as a downward chain of differentials, while the usual positive numbers would suggest that they are moving upwards. Moving down the chain of differentials is easy. Climbing up them is the hard part, but it’s what’s needed to stop the warming and melting on the higher levels. More on this later.)

 (-) 2nd differential - atmospheric warming

 (-) 3rd differential - total carbon/greenhouse gases level in atmosphere

 (-) 4th differential - net global emissions (= rise in greenhouse gases level in atmosphere)

(-) 5th differential - rise in annual level of net global emissions.



How the differentials translate into time lags for policy effectiveness


The difference between 4 and 0 intervening differentials makes a major difference in the timeframe for the policy to have its desired effect. This in turn makes much worse the prospect for the warming feedback loops to outpace the effects of the emissions cuts.

It is not just that each level of differentials creates its own additional time lag. It is that their values on each level are all are present positive, and they need to be all negative. It is that this means that each level continues to increase the excess in the levels above it, in the interim time while it is gradually being brought down from positive to zero. The next higher level will thus take even longer to turn negative. And they all have to be brought down to zero and negative, before we get in the clear.

Emissions cuts thus take considerable time before they can begin to slow the increase in global warming, much less stop and reverse it.

SRM, by contrast, acts directly on the atmospheric warming; there are no intervening differential curves to turn from positive to negative. There is only an intervening time period for the start-up time for implementing the measures to block the requisite amount of sunlight – an important consideration also, to be sure, in conditions when ideological interests have been striving in effect to delay it until too late. However, there could be a single differential between the policy and the polar melting if the blocking is done globally without special polar emphasis.


Differential time lags tend to trigger the tipping points


Policy does not proceed against a stable natural background. The feedback loops are a dynamic damaging factor. They do not allow us unlimited time. The longer they are allowed to operate, the more they counteract the effectiveness of our emissions-cutting policies, potentially rendering them nul in effect.


The time lag, compounded by the temperature excess, determines how much harm the feedback loops can do. Until the basic curve of the warming itself not only sinks below zero value but turns negative, and until it then brings the global temperature back to a stable one, the feedback loops will continue operating. They will operate most of that time unabated, and in fact worsened by the cumulative positive value of the warming curve until the moment it is finally brought down to 0 value.


With a considerable total time lag, the growing feedback loops would present an increased risk of spinning out of control, or turning into what are called “tipping points”, meaning that the positive feedback cycles become so rapid and intense that they drive the climate into a phase shift that would be hard if not impossible to reverse.


A recent study finds the danger of the tipping points already greater than usually stated, even without taking into account the risks added by the time lag for the differentials (, “Exceeding 1.5°C global warming could trigger multiple climate tipping points”, SCIENCE, 9 Sep 2022, Vol 377, Issue 6611). 


Current UN IPCC projections are for a 2.5°C global warming, indicating a still greater risk of tipping the climate overboard than discussed in the above study.


The longer the interval before the warming itself is reversed, the greater these risks will grow.


If the feedback loops operate strongly enough in this time interval, they will nullify the effectiveness of the lower-differential reductions for reducing the higher-differential curves. The entire policy would be rendered futile.


The risks to policy efficacy from accident and feedback alike increase as a function of the policy’s time lag. A headline in The Economist captures this point: “One year of wildfires undid decades of California’s emissions policy”.




Is the time lag too great to bear?


How long a time lag would be required for emissions-focused policies to have sufficient effect to end the warming? Would it be long enough to let the warming meanwhile trigger some of the feedback loops to tip over, and therefore never reach the point of ending the warming?


I must for now disappoint the reader here. My answer is “a strong probability of yes”, but it would require an enormous research project to demonstrate this and find a tolerably accurate range of time lags for each differential level, for their combination, and for tipping points for all the known feedback loops, and indeed for unknown ones.


Even for the first part of that, we would have to do integration over a series of five layers of consecutively interrelated curves. That would give us the time lag for getting from our policies on emissions to ending the change in the relevant temperatures on earth. It requires not just summing up the results of a changing pace of emissions reductions; it requires also considering other factors that will affect the higher level curve. Actually estimating these time lags requires a large amount of empirical data, and multivariate integration, that is beyond the scope of this paper.


My estimate, based on the evidence I have seen of the factors at play, is that they would add up to a considerable lag, and that the risk of tipping points would be too great. It would be helpful to know this more precisely, but better to know this than the know nothing.


Our purpose here is more modest than to make this calculation. It is to give a model for the reader to be able to conceptualize the sequence of lags that would have to be overcome, and the sequence of calculations of the lags that would have to be made; and also, to indicate the number of differentiated curves, which is approximately 5 or 6, depending on what we are counting as our end goal (to stop air temperature rise, sea temperature rise, or icecap melt).


Each differential layer presents a time lag we have to get past before the emissions cuts can begin to slow the actual physical warming. During each of the time lags, feedback loops would continue growing, attenuating the efficacy of the policy and with the risk or potential or nullifying its efficacy altogether.


When we integrate over a lengthy enough span of time for any one of these differentials of change, we climb a kind of ladder from one differential to the next. Eventually, after five of these, we get to the thing whose quantity itself needs changed: global temperatures.


To be precise: After one climbs all the preliminary ladders and gets back to something like a first differential -- the total quantity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- one finally arrives at the real issues: stopping the rise in global temperatures, first air, then sea, then rolling these back, then refreezing icecaps and tundra and glaciers.


As we have indicated, it is a choice as to which curve to count as the base level or 0th differential. Icecap melting, one of the targets for a 0 level, is accelerated both by atmospheric warming and by oceanic warming, and is thus an differential level below the latter two; yet the ocean warming is also a differential level below (after) the atmospheric warming. This is an example of the ambiguities created by the interrelation of warming consequences and the feedback loops. It does not however change the main thing shown herein: that these curves must all be turned negative, and that they must pass through a sequence of integrals, each with its own time delay, for that to be achieved.


In the meantime, while a higher differential curve is being pushed down from positive to negative, all the feedback loops from the warming continue to operate, and indeed to grown more dangerous. Tipping points can be reached; some mild ones in fact have been reached, more are certainly going to be reached, and the most radical ones will run an increased risk of tipping over, so to speak. Given the time lag, there is a high probability that these feedbacks and tippings would outweigh the effects of the emissions cuts, preventing the benefits of them from ever being achieved; the actual time lag would become infinite.




The far lesser but also real time lags in SRM


Global sunlight deflection is different. It directly reduces the global air temperature. It is still one differential removed from ocean temperature, which would continue warming as long as the air remains above traditional temperature, and the same for tundra melting; and two differentials from icecap melting, which is accelerated by ocean temperatures. These differentials leave some risk, although far less than five differentials of delays for emissions programs. Recent research provides a potential solution to eliminate these smaller intervening differentials: SRM that is locally focused on dimming the sun in the polar areas, meaning above 60 degrees latitude. This would directly stop the rise in tundra temperatures. It also in some respects would directly stop the rise in icecap temperatures; in other respects (via the sea temperature) it would remain one differential removed from that.





From modeling to policy


This is primarily a mathematical modeling article for conceptualizing our public policy problem. It is not primarily a policy prescription article. It does however tell us about the difference in the delays in the two policy approaches, and these delays have policy implications.


A policy direction is indicated by what we have said. It indicates that we should be pursuing SRM research and preparation far more intensively, because the delays in emissions-only policy are excessive, and SRM is likely to be far more timely, effective, and reliable than emissions reductions in overcoming global warming and its risks.


This means that research, development, testing, material preparations, and governance preparations for SRM need to be greatly accelerated, both in its global deflection variant and in its more local polar deflection variant.


It also means that our societies and our knowledge industries should hope for the research to find that SRM would be a sufficiently safe and sound policy; should direct their efforts to finding out about that objectively and promptly, putting aside the prejudices that sometimes obstruct it; and should organize governance of it to make an optimal policy effective and well-governed, rather than to fall into the default tendency of obstruction in international governance and a least common denominator approach.


How would success with SRM affect emissions-cutting policies? That, again, is outside the scope of this article, but a few observations may be helpful here.


Emissions cuts would remain a valid goal, even if SRM were fully successful, but the schedule on them would be altered. With runaway warming averted, cuts would remain useful both for long-term climate stabilization, and for overcoming other consequences of greenhouse emissions such ocean de-alkalization (or acidification). It is the urgency and time frame that would be changed.


At present and for the last several decades, emissions cuts have been described, in both informal and official statements, as necessary at ever faster paces in order to avoid great risk of catastrophe, and as being likely to be ineffective at any of these paces and so requiring even greater severity.  With a successful SRM program, the catastrophic nature of the discussion of emissions cuts would cease; cuts could be paced in a manner that would be manageable, and the policies could be continued cumulatively without running quickly into costs that bring about policy reversals and can bring about severe socio-political destabilization as well.


SRM is probably the only thing that can tide us over from the present to the still somewhat distant future when emissions policies will have made their way through the chain of differentials to the base level temperatures that really matter to us. It is the only thing that can plausibly be expected to stop the exacerbation of feedback loops and tipping points that will otherwise intervene before the emissions work can have a positive effect.


Even sunlight deflection will face a sequence of time delays before implementation: research, development, testing, preparation of material instruments, use of the instruments to place the deflection particles where they are needed. These delays do not have to be lengthy; but they could easily be made lengthy, by the simple method of obstructing them politically, or by proceeding in a too leisurely way on them. This has in fact happened for some decades. The goal must be to make these delays as short as possible. There is no space, from a humanity point of view, to afford adding unnecessarily to the time delays. The risks of the delays, indicated in recent studies of tipping points, are too great.




Moral hazards of delaying SRM research and preparations


If research, testing, preparation of materials, and preparation of governance for SRM are delayed too long, it becomes a kind of surrogate extra “differential” between SRM and the stopping of the warming. Creating this differential is a moral hazard that we face.


There is a need for greater awareness of the moral hazards of exclusive reliance on emissions cutting, and of continued delay on SRM research and preparation. There is considerable misunderstanding of this, even an inversion of understanding of it in some venues.


The hazards are considerable. They include: incapacity ever to achieve the goal, no matter how greatly the present policy approach is ramped up; runaway warming feedback loops or tipping points; fostering a sense of desperation and hysteria; extremist and dictatorial tendencies; pushing societies beyond their limits; destabilization of societies (seen in the Yellow Vest movement in France; and a factor in similar populist movements elsewhere, and in the meltdown of the regime in Sri Lanka); becoming counterproductive to the policy’s own purpose; increasingly extreme policies, potentially doing considerable damage to societies; disabling and disallowing the exercise of prudence and the balancing of priorities; demonization and obstruction of thinking about alternative policies that might work better (seen in papers in major journals calling for preventing and “delegitimizing” the discussion of SRM); obstruction and sometimes literal canceling of research on alternatives (seen in the cancelation of a preliminary test of polar SRM in Sweden  (Test Flight for Sunlight-Blocking Research Is Canceled), using the unusual argument that the test might succeed and that would be a bad thing, in turn relying on the circular argument that success and knowledge of workability of SRM should itself be considered a moral hazard because it undermines the preference for exclusive reliance on emissions cuts and on an ever faster pace of emissions cutting); polarization of society in the Western democracies (seen today in half of society defining the vulnerability to Russian and Saudi oil and gas policies as consequence of Western policies’ failing to go to complete reliance on renewables, the other half defining it as a consequence of the excessive nature of those policies and their hindering of domestic and allied production and delivery of carbon fuels and of nuclear energy); and other societies proceeding on SRM anyway without sufficient research, preparation, and precautions (desperately flooded low-lying countries might see themselves as compelled to do this; Russia or China might do it as a way of seizing the global lead; and private actors concerned about the warming, such as a Gates or a Musk, might do it).


Delays on stopping the warming are themselves a kind of moral hazard. Each delay increases the risk of the feedback loops growing out of hand until they rise to the level of tipping points.








What emergence theory can tell us about how we might save ourselves from global warming in our time - and entropy at the end of time.


Integral calculus can’t save us from global warming, much less from entropy. But, through its relation to synthesis and systems emergence, it can help us identify our best shot at saving ourselves.



Setting our differential language right-side up and perceiving emergence


Rational scientific language should translate directly into public language, not inversely. But sometimes scientists talk as if we were going up the down staircase. It confounds communications with the public, and can obstruct their own intuitive grasp of the implications of what they’re saying. We will find striking implications in differentiation, if we set its numerical tagging right-side up.


In a right-side-up mathematical language, our tag-numbers would go up as we move up the chain of integrals. Negative numbers would be used for moving down the chain of differentials. Going up in levels, we would speak of the 1st integral, 2nd integral, 3rd integral; going down, we’d say the -1st integral (or -1st differential), -2nd, etc. -- instead of the usual 1st, 2nd and 3rd differentials. (A compromise symbolic language, (-) 1st, (-) 2nd, (-) 3rd differential, might mollify mathematicians, but gets us only partway there to intuitive reality.)


This change from + to - signs has implications that do much to clarify our problem of global warming.


In systems theory and emergence theory, one moves up a chain of emergent systems, or down a chain of reductions to their constituent elements. Integration is akin to climbing to the higher levels of organization of reality. Differentiation is akin to the going into lower levels of analysis of reality.


“Integration” relates to “synthesis”, “emergence”, “meta”, and “system level”.


“Differentiation” relates to “analysis”, “reduction”, “unit level”.


We operate daily on a fairly high system level or synthesis level.


It can often be enormously helpful to analyze a problem down to a unit level, where precise explanations are sometimes possible. But even more often, the higher, systems levels of integration are more meaningful and relevant for what is important to us; analysis downward is only used as an aid to this.


“Emergence” is a phenomenon that affects the operationally relevant level of analysis. This is true no matter even if it is only the weak form of emergence. Strong emergence means the hypothetical development of a system level whose behaviors are even in theory irreducible to the unit-level behaviors, or, in its maximal form, the system provides a vehicle sufficiently complex for a spirit-consciousness to emerge from or enter into it and have a free will that transcends all material reductions. Meanwhile emergence is demonstrably observed all over the place in weak form; it is the emergence of a system level whose rules are very different from those on the unit level, and that it is a waste of time to reduce to calculation of the unit level motions, as those calculations would sometimes require almost infinite computer space and time before they could describe or predict phenomena or describe how interventions into them would function, while predictions can instead be made and proposed interventions analyzed, fruitfully and in real time, by thinking in terms of the system-level patterns of interaction.


Which is fundamental, the higher or the lower? Does the gene exist to generate and reproduce the sentient organism, or does the organism exist and learn to think and become skillful in order to reproduce the gene?


It is an eternal philosophical debate. The advances of science provide reasons to think of the lower level as fundamental, but there can be no proof. It could be the ultimate task of humanity to find a way to make the higher level fundamental, by saving the universe with it. And it can be argued that only on the highest level can we find intrinsic value.


Mathematical integration rises in levels in a precisely calculable manner, but only within a limited abstracted context. It requires isolating a variable so one can integrate over it without interference from extraneous factors. Differentiation does likewise. Between the two, differentiation more easily isolates its variable: it works on an instantaneous, infinitesimal level. By contrast, integration expands the time and space over which it operates, letting in more opportunities for interference. As a further confounding factor, the provision of time for interaction of the units often creates an emergent system level that is not predictable from the unit level. It might be predictable that some unspecified new kind of system might probably come into being, given enough time, but it is usually through experience and observation, or running simulations, that one learns what specific kind of emergent systems to predict. Chaos science adds to the complexity and difficulty of meta level prediction through unit level analysis.


In other words, the real world is prone to introduce complications into integration. For integration over time in the real external world, as distinct from on paper, additional variables keep protruding into the picture -- the more the time, the more the intrusions. Differentiation over infinitessimals of time can often easily ignore other real world variables. Integration for calculating emergent phenomena would have to add a vast array of multivariate complications to the calculation. Further, the variables might interact in new system-forming ways that we fail to anticipate at all.



That is the underlying reason why, as we integrate upward toward climate consequences over the several differentials from emissions cutting to the warming itself -- from slowing the rate of increase in global emissions, to ceasing that increase and moving toward fewer emissions (= slowing the increase in atmospheric carbon and the acceleration of global warming), to ending emissions and turning emissions-negative (= lowering atmospheric carbon and slowing the warming) to reaching an atmospheric carbon level that ceases warming and begins de-warming (= slowing the icecap and tundra melting) to cooling the atmosphere enough to cease and even reverse the melting -- the accumulated time interval can enable other external factors to enter the picture and upset the effects on higher integrals that are the things we truly care about: the warming and melting.


And in fact, given time, the feedback loops of the warming will inevitably kick in. Given enough time, they will nullify the effects of the anti-emissions policy: they will actually add to warming, by reducing the earth’s ice-based albedo (reflectivity) and by releasing new masses of greenhouse gases (methane). This would render the entire anti-emissions effort futile and indeed, a distraction from actually dealing with the real-life problem.


This indicates again how important it is to deal with the warming and melting on their own levels -- meta-levels several steps above current emissions -- in the immediate future, and not rely solely or even primarily on current programs on reducing emissions. It is the only way to have the time to make the anti-emissions programs work.


And what about the levels of social organization? Or the levels of research? Are they also a chain of integrals or differentials?


No, not literally, with precise integration from lower to upper levels. But yes, approximately and metaphorically. Social organization has meta levels and lower unit levels. Their interrelated higher and lower levels could be imagined as integrals and derivatives of each other. To be sure, we would have to become infinitely multivariate in our calculus here, in order to capture anything close to the complexity of reality. But, as long as we are talking metaphor not precise mathematical integration, we can continue with the thought experiment.


Everything is a part of a global system encompassing multiple levels, which in our metaphor are levels of integration and differentiation. Mutual organization is an integral of individual human beings; multi-group societies are integrations of their groups, a matter much discussed in theories of ethnic integration and theories of international integration. Education and research systems are integrals of individual human intelligences. Research and science are derivatives of overall societal capacity and accrued learning. Biology is an integral of chemistry, chemistry is an integral of physics, physics is an integral of mathematics; mathematics is akin to an integral of logic.


Frege in fact tried to reduce our human arithmetic to a precise outcome of formal logic; that is, to show it is just a meta level reducible to formal logic. Russell found a paradox in Frege’s system, and tried to do the reduction again, in a more sophisticated manner that would avoid all paradoxes, by making a clear division between unit levels and meta levels. Godel threw a monkey wrench into the project, by generating true propositions in Russell’s formal system, and in any extension of it, that were not finitistically resolvable or provable -- except that they could be known to be true on a very different kind of meta level, that of human understanding outside of the formal logic system.


The upshot of this noble yet depressing labor of mathematical love: Unless and until we find all the connecting links from the base level of logic through all the levels of mathematics and science to the level of human intelligence, the idea of a meta level being reducible will be debatable, and the treatment of it as “like an integral calculus level” will remain an imperfect metaphor. But we will continue to use the metaphor here.


The sphere of knowledge -- the “noosphere”, first understood by the biochemist Vernadsky and by the theologian Teilhard de Chardin -- encompasses the self-organization and integration of the knowledge we have found, together with its knowledge-bearing entities. It is a high-level integral, perhaps the highest. Mathematics and logic are bottommost derivatives.


Our task is to preserve our noosphere -- our highest integral -- undamaged as we work our way upward out of global warming. We may fail if we work steps by step from the lowest differentiated levels of the problem of global warming to the warming itself. SRM, if it comes into being as a way of making it in time to overcome the higher integrals of the warming problem, will operate on the main level itself; it will be an evolution within the noosphere, a part of its self-organization for regulation of its own consequences.


In logic, we should have always been seeking the answer primarily on this higher system level of the warming itself, not primarily, much less exclusively, on the lower differential level of its unit causes. It is one of the basic tenets of systems theory that the meta or emergent level has its own rules for prediction, analysis, and management, rules that bear no resemblance to the rules of interaction and analysis on the unit level. The main operationally workable cure for a problem on a meta level is generally to be found on that level itself, or an even higher meta level, rather than on the lower or reductive levels.


Applying this to the cure for global warming, one would have to conclude that the first and best place to look for the cure is on a level similar to the warming itself, by means such as solar radiation management. One should also look at lower reductive levels such as the unit carbon inputs into the system and ways for reducing them, but one should expect this to be a secondary approach and not the main cure, nor even the optimal one.



The injection of energy into a group of units enables them to interact and develop into complex systems. Life and thought emerge on planets infused with heat. Great infusions of energy can however lead to a phase shift; and while this can be a shift into a higher system, a phase shift can more easily be a collapse to a less complex system, by erasing essential components of the existing systems. This is the danger from global warming: failure to manage the energy use, to keep its growth from producing destructive phase shifts. Rising waters create floods that destroy sophisticated things in flooded areas. Feedback loops can create chaotically ill-predictable (not predictable by calculations that can be made in time to be relevant) accelerations of rise in water or in temperature. Change is not good. It is also not bad. It is indifferent. But it can more easily destroy than create.


Society is a complex meta-system of humans. Energy inputs -- the human harnessing of energy -- enable it to grow ever more complex, starting with the harnessing of diffuse sunlight and growing more concentrated and sophisticated with time, getting to windmills and watermills, biomass, fossil fuels, and nuclear; and in the future, potentially, fusion and antimatter. Sharp reduction in society’s energy level would bring a collapse of complexity, down to a lower level of society, with fewer amenities and cruder, more brutal behaviors.


Today’s complex society can be collapsed both by too much and too little energy: too much absorption of diffuse energy for the climate to stabilize, too little use of concentrated energy for the society to function. It is a dilemma. Is there a way through? Reversion to more harnessing of diffuse energy is being tried, requires harvesting it over vast natural spaces and creates other environmental risks, and is proving insufficient to solve the problem. Nuclear energy was a way through that was refused after the 1960s, carries political risks, and takes time to revive. Carbon capture and storage may work in a future when fusion energy is available to fuel it. Solar radiation management is the way through that is most available at this time, and is insufficiently researched. If it proves too risky after honest research, or continues to be delayed and rejected on political grounds, we will be in trouble.


The ways we know for destroying the universe -- vacuum decay of the Higgs boson, which would collapse the universe (or at least all parts of it reachable at the speed of light) into an undifferentiated, uninteresting mass; possibly strange matter could destroy it too -- are on the lowest differentiated microscopic scale, even if we figured out about them on a high mental synthesis level. This is a cause for caution about whether we will save ourselves or destroy ourselves through differentiation and reductive learning.


It is nevertheless possible that the ultimate salvation of the universe from entropy could be found in this way, by differentiations that figure out the lowest level of elementary particles -- figuring them out by using the highest level of mind, to be sure -- and discover how to re-organize them to avert entropy. However, this would have a hard time avoiding the problem of New Genesis: that it overlays the existing universe with a new one, destroying all the information in the existing universe, rather than perpetuating its existence.


It is also possible, and more promising, that salvation could come on the highest meta level; that is, by processing, on the highest mental level, our information about the universe, and figuring out all the many potential emergent levels this information can be organized to generate. Mind generates syntropy (negentropy), i.e. self-regenerating organization, but within a limited space thus far, at a cost of increasing the entropy elsewhere. It is possible that mind could figure out how to overcome this limitation. After all, we’ve only known about entropy for a brief time, a couple centuries out of our long span of history, and have already redefined it to save the concept from its original defects. We have trillions of years to come, in which we will surely refine the concept further and maybe figure out ways around it.


Already there are some promising beginnings. There is the theory that it could be possible to generate successor universes, mini-universes, and sub-universes. This would put us in the position of the Creator, or the simulator in the Simulation Hypothesis. And it is of course entirely possible that this universe had such a creator-simulator, an “extra universial” being so to speak, and could be saved by its creator intervening to modify the program. Several religions offer versions of this.


We will stick here to salvations that we ourselves could generate, without relying on an extra-universial savior to interpose. Perhaps we could suck the dark energy out of the universe -- the energy that is driving the universe to faster and faster red shift and entropy -- just as we will someday be able to suck the carbon out of the atmosphere. But the universe is a big place. Maybe we could save our local universe that way. Maybe another intelligent life in other local universes might figure out how to do the same in their sector of the universe.


But for now, we haven’t figured out yet how to save the universe. We might someday. We’re faster on finding ways to destroy it. Not because we are trying to, but because it’s easier.


It’s always easier to destroy than to create. Looking for ways to create always leads also to ways to destroy -- usually to ways that can destroy faster and on a more massive level than the ways we find to create. It is the curse of mind.  We have not figured out how it would be possible to regulate research so that its creative potentials outweigh its destructive ones.


Possibly the generation of mini-universes and sub-universes will lead to to the creative outweighing the destructive anyway. For, while destruction has always been much easier than creation, the far more widespread will to help each other and create has outweighed this most of the time. Perhaps it will continue to do so, with us creating new universes. Perhaps we’ll blow up this one, but have left a lot of legacies this way; and they’ll be fruitful and multiply, too. Saved by our own version of the principle of fecundity!


“The principle of fecundity”? It is a theological principle, derived from the infinity of the potency contained in God: in his plenitude of love and creative will, God must of necessity create everything he is capable of creating. Or perhaps it is we who have the irrepressible compulsion to create: if it is possible for us, then it is inevitable -- both the construction and the destruction, but with the fecundity outpacing the ruin. Eros beats Thanatos, not because Eros is easier – on the contrary, destruction is much easier -- but because there is so much more of it: it reaches to the core of our will, as in The Will of Schopenhauer. If fecundity prevails, curiosity will save the cat: it goes ahead with its exploratory hopes and figures it will have eight more lives left over anyway. We must hope so.


I give the last word to Isaac Asimov. In a sense he was just carrying the management of solar radiation to its logical conclusion in his essay, “The Final Question”. That question was: Could entropy be reversed? Or is it all in the end futile? He peered into the bleak time trillions of years hence, when the stars and black holes all peter out in entropy. If salvation for the universe could still come, it would be on the highest meta level of integration of knowledge. The noosphere had long since become embedded in a global supercomputer, then an interplanetary mind as we harnessed all the energy coming from the sun, then a galactic mind, finally a universe-spanning supermind. It kept wondering whether entropy can be reversed and the universe saved. It kept finding the data insufficient to answer the question. Entropy marched on. The last sentient beings expired, merging without loss -- somehow swallowed up federatively -- into the superintelligence. The universe-mind had gathered all the possible information of the universe and still lacked sufficient data. There was no more differentiated information being generated by the universe. Mind was alone in hyperspace, alone with an infinity of time to examine all combinations of all possible information bits, all the ways of integrating it, every possible level of emergence atop it. At last it found the answer, the way to reverse entropy, and said: “let there be light”.


And there was light.









Sunlight deflection. Its formal name is solar radiation management, or SRM. It means reflecting and blocking some -- usually proposed at 1%-2% -- of the incoming sunlight.  SRM can be done by several methods, most prominently at this time SAI or stratospheric atmospheric injections of deflecting particles. In the future, more precise methods, such as adjustable blocking mirrors placed at the Lagrange points between earth and sun, are likely to become feasible, but probably not in the relevant timeframe.

Positive and negative feedback loops. A positive feedback loop is a causal chain that creates a new input that increases the original cause. A negative feedback, one that decreases that cause. Positive feedbacks are destabilizing and unbalancing; negative ones, stabilizing and rebalancing.

Warming feedback loops. Ecologies are generally tending toward self-stabilization, but far from always. Global warming has strong positive feedback loops, which seem to outweigh the negative ones, although warming minimizers argue that the negative ones will work better than the warming maximizers expect. A relevant positive loop: warming increases icecap melting, this decreases planetary albedo (reflectivity), this further increases warming. Another: tundra warming releases methane gases which increase warming.

Tipping points. When a positive climate feedback loop grows strong enough to feed rapidly on itself and change the climate in effect irreversibly, a “tipping point” has been reached. More technically, the climate has several separate equilibria levels, that is, it has multiple relatively self-stabilizing systems, each within its own temperature range. A tipping point is a dividing line between any two of those ranges.

Differentials and integrals. Differentiation gives the rate of change of a curve; integration gives the summation of the area under a curve across a span of time (or some other variable). A differential curve, called simply a “differential” for convenience, is the curve generated by differentiating another curve; an “integral” is the curve generated by integrating another curve.

Inverse functions. Two functions, such as multiplication and division,  are inverse when each undoes what the other one does. Differentials and integrals are mutually inverse functions. Both relate curves on a higher level and a lower level. The higher level integral curve, differentiated, become the lower differential curve; the lower differential curve, integrated, becomes the higher integral curve.

Why the time lag in the physical world, when getting from a differential curve to a higher level curve. One must integrate over a variable -- time, in the case of what we are discussing here -- for each intervening lower differential level. One must do this sequentially, in order to get through several levels of differentials to the target higher level curve (stopping global warming).  The differentials compound sequentially on one another; their time lags add up cumulatively, and moreover compound on each other for reasons explained below.

Renumbering the differentials negatively, to show the rising levels of integration. An implied negative (-) is used herein, in front of the number rankings of differentials, to avoid the impression given by the usual language of rising from one differential level to the next when in fact we are differentiating to a lower level of integration. It is the integral levels that rise; we should speak of the  -1st integral, -2nd integral, etc., instead of 1st differential, 2nd, etc. But we don’t in the established mathematical language, which is misleading for lay discussion, where people are rightly concerned about affecting things on the higher levels of societal significance, and intuitively these are indeed “higher” levels. The language would do better to fit this natural perspective. The solution  here, placing a parenthetical minus (-) in front of the number name of the differential level, is meant to enable the lay reader to understand its practical meaning, without excessively confusing the mathematically trained reader.


More on differentials; why, when starting from the lowest, most differentiated level, it takes a long time to change differentials from positive to negative over an entire series of levels


Remember those pesky differential equations, dy/dt, from your high school Calculus? If not, here are the basics.


Differentials tell you the slope of a curve C, i.e. its rate of change, at any given time A. They seem so small-minded, making us pay so much attention to infinitesimal details! Yet they turn out to be very powerful. If you reverse the operation, you get integration, showing how small things add up. This was what enabled Newton to explain the orbits of the planets from Kepler’s laws and his own law of gravity. Integration sums up the area under the curve from time A to time B. Draw a curve D to show the integral of curve C, and the height of curve C at any given point in time equals the slope (or differential) of curve D at that time, that is, the rate of increase of the area under curve C.


Reduce a positive slope of a curve, and you don’t reduce the height or value of the curve; rather, you slow the rate of increase in the curve’s height. You have to reduce the curve’s slope to 0 and then reverse it to negative, if you want to eventually stop and reverse, not just slow, the growth in the value (height) of the curve.


In the next higher differential, the value of that slope is used as a new curve itself. As long as that “higher” (meaning lower, intuitively) differential curve has a positive value, even if its value is being decreased with time, the area under the curve keeps growing over time; only when the curve’s value is decreased to zero and then turned negative does the total area under it begin shrinking, and the slope (rate of increase) of the original (“lower”-differential) curve go down somewhat. After a long time for the higher-differential curve in the negative, the total area under it goes down to 0, meaning that the slope of that original curve gets down to 0, and subsequently turns negative. But that’s just its slope. Its negative slope in turn finally begins to reduce the value of that curve. For the next curve down, at a lower level of differentiation (or higher level of integration), its slope goes down with the reduction in value of the original curve; but it still continues to increase in value, just at a slower pace, until the integrated area of curve above it comes down to 0 and turns negative. And so on and so forth.


As long as the (-) 4th differential curve is still positive, the (-) 3rd differential curve not only remains positive but keeps increasing in its positive value. After the (-) 4th differential turns negative, its cumulative negativity begins with time to eat away at the preceding increases in the (-) 3rd differential curve, and eventually finally turn that curve’s value to negative. Same lengthy sequence from the moment of turning the (-) 3rd negative to that’s turning the (-) 2nd differential negative; and again from (-) 2nd to (-) 1st. At each stage there is a time lag, which can be a considerable one. And the same thing applies from the (-) 1st differential to the original base-level curve -- the one that this is all supposed to be about turning negative, whether it be the warming itself or the consequences of the warming in icecap and tundra melting.




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