Transcript: Podship Earth Episode 42: ARCTIC DUST


JARED BLUMENFELD: Welcome to Podship Earth. This is your host Jared Blumenfeld. This week, we find out that the going really is getting tougher, and that fortunately the tougher are there to get going. In the space of three weeks, we had the United Nations international panel on climate change warn that conditions are more dire than predicted. 

 

NEWSCAST: A dire warning this morning from climate experts. A UN panel says governments around the world must take rapid action to curb rising temperatures or else millions around the world face future disaster.  Well, they're basically saying that the very livability of our planet is at stake, not in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, but right now. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Then against all odds, the federal government in Washington, DC, released a 1600-page report detailing the impacts of climate change on the nation. 

NEWSCAST: Brand new report on climate change released by the Trump administration on a busy black Friday. The 1600-page report painting a dire picture if nothing is done. The assessment from 13 federal agencies asking the administration to take urgent action against dire threats and curb climate change to avoid substantial damages to the US economy, environment and human health. Among the report’s predictions in worst case scenarios, America's GDP dropping by 10% by the end of the century, hundreds of billions of dollars lost. For the southeast, stronger hurricanes and more frequent flooding. For the Midwest, agricultural catastrophe, extreme heat destroying crops, and in the West, increased fire danger. The president recently touring a California fire zone. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: And if that weren't enough, this week, we reached a new milestone for greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. The last time we had 400 parts per million of CO2 in our air was 3.6 million years ago. 

NEWSCAST: As politicians and scientists continue the negotiations at the UN climate change conference in Poland, a new study has concluded that global carbon dioxide emissions will reach a record high this year. Research by the Global Carbon Project groups says the main factor is the burning of coal in China, but emissions from cars, trucks, and airplanes are also on the rise. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Suffice it to say that going is getting tougher. As a result, we may need to start implementing some large-scale solutions for the few years ago I would have thought were best left in the realm of science fiction, namely geoengineering. Geoengineering is defined as the deliberate large-scale manipulation of an environmental process that affects the Earth’s climate in attempt to counteract the effects of climate change. These fall into two categories. The first is called Carbon Geo-engineering, which includes everything from adding nutrients to the ocean to draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to engaging in global scale tree planting efforts. The second group is called solar geoengineering which includes increasing the reflectiveness of clouds or the land surface so that more of the sun’s heat is reflected back into space or even launching space reflectors to block a small portion of sunlight before it reaches Earth. I traveled to Stanford University to meet Ice 911, a cutting-edge solar geoengineering project that's focused on the Arctic. I start by meeting up with Podship Earth collaborator, Eden Stiffman, who is with the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Okay. So, Eden, we're here at Stanford. Pretty cool. I got completely lost. 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: It's totally is. And I'm glad you didn't get hit by a bike on the way over because that happens to me almost daily. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, this is kind of a cool partnership with Stanford Social Innovation Review. That's you. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Yes, that's me. I'm an associate editor there and we're a magazine based on campus, but our readers and the people who write for us are all over the world and we like to think of them as leaders of social change. They work at all kinds of organizations on all kinds of issues. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, one of the cool things about having Stanford so close by is you’ve got all these kinds of brainiac people. Do you meet all these people all the time? 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Absolutely. We interact with them on campus and then we're always in touch with them about articles that they want to write for our audience. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, I'm always slightly intimidated by academia. 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: It can be very humbling to talking to some of these people.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So Literally on the way in, they had the achievement board. And you know, normally it's like the McDonald's employee of the month, but here the only people on the achievement board are people who've won Nobel laureates.  So, what other cool stuff you're doing at the innovation review, what things excite you at the moment?

EDEN STIFFMAN: So I get to edit a section of the magazine called the “What’s  Next?” and  so for that section, we look at new and innovative solutions to different social problems. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Today, Eden and I meet up with Leslie Field and Dr. Stephen Zornetzer. Leslie's been working to save polar ice since 2006. She's an inventor with 54 US patents who's worked at Hewlett Packard labs. Leslie earned her BS and MS in chemical engineering from MIT and her PHD in electrical engineering from UC Berkeley. She's now a lecturer at Stanford University and runs Ice 911 research. Ice 911 is a Silicon Valley moonshot aiming to mitigate climate change by restoring ice in the Arctic. Steve's Zornetzer formerly served as the associate director of NASA Ames and the director of research. Before joining NASA in 1997, Steve headed the life sciences directorate for the Office of Naval Research. Steve is a board member of Leslie's organization Ice 911. I start by asking Leslie just how bad are things right now in the arctic?

LESLIE FIELD: Arctic ice and snow has been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last few decades and we're at a point where 75 to 80% of arctic ice volume has disappeared since 1979. And that's a big deal because for planet earth, bright reflective ice in the Arctic has been like having that area of the earth wearing a bright white tee shirt in the hot summer sun, the 24 hour a day summer sun and we don't have that anymore. And that means that the absence of that bright reflective ice is leading to a lot of global temperature rise. At this point, if you're counting all the ice and snow that have disappeared in the Arctic, we're contributing something like half of global temperature rise. So, the estimates go from a quarter to a half of all global temperature rise is coming from this one effect. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So just to be clear, are you talking about just sea ice in the arctic or are you also concerned about what happens in the winter as well? 

LESLIE FIELD: Well, yeah, they both play together. So, in the summer when the ice is gone, we're absorbing far more energy from that 24 hour a day sunlight. In the winter, you don't have sunlight up there. So that part isn't such a big deal. In the winter, we're still fortunate enough to be regrowing ice every winter. So, this is good. But what we're regrowing, because so much multiyear ice has gone, we're regrowing first year ice. Because that's all we can, right? First year ice is what grows in the first year. And what that means is that when the sun comes back, when the sun is shining again, that ice is both more perfect so it has fewer spots to reflect incoming sunlight, but it's also thinner and so it disappears more quickly. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: What's the name for what's going on up in the Arctic?

LESLIE FIELD: I'll called the Ice Albedo feedback effect. But what it means is that what you regrow even is going to disappear more quickly than what used to be there. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: What does Albedo mean? 

 

LESLIE FIELD: Brightness basically. And so, we've lost the bright reflective ice. You can see over the last several decades, the age of sea ice as reported by satellite imagery. You can see that you regrow first year ice every winter to over much of the Arctic, but there’s a relentless decline of any multiyear ice over time. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: That seems like a huge deal. 

 

LESLIE FIELD: That's a big deal for the planet. At this point, this effect, the heating that we're getting from the ice that isn't there, from the multiyear ice that isn't there, is giving us so much of global temperature rise and the estimates we're hearing are that all of the forcings we have on climate from CO2, having too much CO2 in the atmosphere, about half again as much is from sea ice. That is of all the problems we have from CO2, add another 50% to that is from sea ice. This is the largest safely addressable lever on climate change there is. What started out as as an impact from heating, from climate change, has now become a lever for further climate change effects. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, when we think of sea ice, does that include Greenland and Antarctica or is it just the Arctic? Like give us a global sense of what sea ice means.

LESLIE FIELD: So, in the Arctic, most of the ice that we're talking about has been sea-based ice. And that means that when that melts, what's left is open ocean. On Greenland, that's land based ice. When that melts, that not only eventually will expose, if it goes all the way down to rock, will expose darker rock, but it also contributes more to sea level rise. When you're melting an ice cube in a glass of water, you're not raising your water level by anything except maybe that you've heated at some so you've got thermal expansion, so that's not really a big sea level push. But from Greenland, you're melting ice that's now running into the ocean as water. Now you've got sea level rise. Antarctica, similar issues. There is some sea ice that's around Antarctica, but the bulk of it is land based ice. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: You get more melt in Greenland and Antarctica, the less summer sea ice you have in the Arctic. 

LESLIE FIELD: What we have come to realize is that what's causing Greenland to melt is the warmer temperatures of the air over the Greenland ice that's happening because we've melted the nearby sea ice. So that rebuilding nearby sea ice could be a really good lever on rebuilding Greenland ice to at least at least stopping the loss so much. And we had this wonderful mentor who kept telling us, you know, if not me, who? If not now, when? And I must say that that gets in your heart after awhile. What I am is a career engineer, PHD engineer, been through a couple of fields of engineering and I'm an inventor and this was a problem that, you know, the choices were to become enormously depressed and stay depressed or to say no, the really good stories you read are about where people say, I don't care if it's hard, let's just see if we can do something. That's a much more exciting way to live. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: There are a lot of different ways you could go about addressing climate change. Can you kind of walk us through how you landed on this project? 

LESLIE FIELD: It was just clear at that point in 2006 the Ice Albedo feedback effect was already, so the disappearing ice that was already gone was already accounting for about a fifth of global temperature rise. I said, well, you know, I'm one of billions of people and you know, I have the luxury of a great education. And you know, I like to invent stuff. It's like, well, that's a single thing that may be one person quietly thinking about it and starting something could get somewhere on that, looks like a key effect. So that's what got me interested. I've always loved the snow, but I can't say I'd ever been to the Arctic or thought I'd get there. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: But this idea that you're working on now, were there other ways that you thought you could do something about polar ice melt before you landed on this particular?

LESLIE FIELD: Oh, I've tried a whole bunch. So, the question I asked myself that made it something I could address, got it into the wheelhouse of things I know about was, what if the disappearance of this reflective ice, this highly reflective ice, could be thought of as a materials problem? And that leads then to some really, you know, assiduous research on what's out there, what could work and then trying things out. You know, and they were perhaps embarrassing array of things to try out - daisies, hay, you know, whatever, and floating buckets on our deck to see, what keeps things cooler? So, you really just start with what would be harmless, what could work? And I went through a large number of options and before I started narrowing in on ones that looked really nicely workable, I also got permission to work on a lake up in the Sierras. I got permission from the water district up there to test various things. And that, you know, that really starts to inform what you're doing. Highly educational. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So how long did it take before between getting from daisies to straw to where are you now? Like, so 12 years. That's a long journey. 

LESLIE FIELD: It's a long journey. Takes a lot of persistence at times. I've said many times I've said, I'm just too stupid to quit, but, you know, we've been up in the Arctic for three seasons now, and that's been really great to be testing up there. It's still let's be clear, lake ice that we're testing on. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us a little bit about geoengineering in general because you, you read about these technical fixes. And I think as a society kind of, we have a proclivity towards let's just have it fixed by someone else and you know, whether it was putting iron filings in the ocean or you know, seeding clouds or you hear about people talking about things as crazy as putting aerosols into the atmosphere to reduce the amount of sunlight coming in. All these things, like when I hear about them, I'm like, wow, Leslie, these, these are crazy, but yours, kind of emerged as slightly less crazy than the average crazy geoengineering. 

LESLIE FIELD: When I wanted to develop a solution, I took a class from Steve Schneider. One of the things that he said, which stuck with me, was that you want to make sure if you're trying to fix something that you're not making it worse. You know, what if you're wrong? That has stuck with me. First do no harm. It is the Hippocratic oath. First do no harm is really what I'm doing because what I'm trying to do is make this better for my kids. And I've also noticed how it's so simple to do something and think this is going to be completely good and there's nothing that could possibly go wrong. That's not the way the history of humanity has gone, right? There's always some unintended consequence. So, I want things to be localized, reversible, you know, have a backup plan, be able to pivot quickly if you find that you have some problem and be able to undo or at least prevent propagating more harm. So, if you're changing the chemistry of the atmosphere, for instance, is that really a good idea? You know, maybe something could go wrong. So, II think of this as a more humble and mom-like way to approach things. I've just tried, why don't we just reboot things in as gentle a way as we can. We put as small amount as we can, as natural of material as we can that we've evolved with. Hence, we're working with silica, which is basically in everything.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: How did you come up with sand, Leslie? How was that of all these tests that you did, how did you finally arrive at sand and what, what particular facets does the sand that you use have? 

LESLIE FIELD: One of the things I wanted is that I wanted it not to be something that would pick up oil-based pollutants, which there were plenty of in the ocean and I didn't want plastic. So, then it's like, what's the opposite of plastic? What's hydrophilic? Glass! I mean, one of the first ridiculous ideas I had, why don't we paint all these plastic Calistoga bottles, raft them together and ship them up to the Arctic. It'll be a cottage industry. What could possibly go wrong, right? And so much can go wrong, right? I mean, it's just a terrible idea. Not to mention it, it acts like your pool cover. It's basically preventing evaporative cooling. Your water will get warmer. Tell me how that's going to help prevent snow and ice melt. Not very well. So, if you want the anti-plastic, you start thinking bottles. Glass I think is probably the path I went there. But at any rate, glass is the anti-plastic really, it's far more sustainable in so many ways. And then you start searching what kind of glass? You know those Japanese fishing floats I had in a very early presentation of mine. They're pretty, that's just like, that would be great, but I want a lot smaller. And then you just start searching, searching, searching. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: And what did you end up with? Where are you now? What's the latest iteration? 

LESLIE FIELD: Here's, here's a kind. There are many manufacturers that make these things called hollow glass microspheres. And what's nice about these guys is they are wettable. When the wind blows, once they've hit the water, the ice, the snow, they want to stay there. And what's nice about that is that if you're on melt ponds and such, or if you're going through freeze thaw cycles like we've had for years when we were working on a small pond in Minnesota, a homeowner pond there, as you go through freeze thaw cycles, they keep going to the top of the water column or the ice column. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, they’ve actually got air in them?

 

LESLIE FIELD: They've got gas in there. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Can I see one while you keep talking? 

 

LESLIE FIELD: Open it gently, because these do not have water on them, so they are dusty, but we choose a size range that's large enough. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Oh my god, they are tiny.

 

 

LESLIE FIELD: Yeah, they are. They are less than your hair's width. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: It’s like dust.

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: It looks like powdered sugar.

 

LESLIE FIELD: It does.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Did you try some Eden yet? 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Not yet.

 

LESLIE FIELD: I will tell you that silica is what my vitamins are bound with. If I look at my vitamin bottle, you know, Silica is a binder and I think that's for reassuring. We've had eco-toxicological testing done on these. They are not harmful to the representative species of fish and birds that we've had him tested on. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: So how would you apply this? Like it's dusty, like I mean here, I mean it's really, really, really dusty, teeny. 

LESLIE FIELD: So, what we've done on lake ice is we've put them in an agricultural drop spreader that was altered to be able to handle these materials and get them close to the ice. That thing was behind a snowmobile. Now that's pretty impractical for large areas, but it's good for a small field testing. What we think we would like to do when the ocean is get a very large ship with a big air blower on it and have it blow out, you know, with the prevailing wind, right in the direction we want over ice in the ocean and get it there at the right season. We don't want a carpet the Arctic. What we really want to do is have this over small leverage, key leverage areas.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: It would prevent the ice from flowing out by having that blockage there? It would be like a bottle stopper?


LESLIE FIELD: Well, there were people who think about making actual walls and things and that seems again, pretty invasive and very costly. And I don't think you want to make it like a cork. I mean a cork is such a good example because you don't want it to suddenly pop out. A whole lot would change, right? Just want to make it harder for stuff to flow through. Think of it as a flow restrictor. Think of it like if you're driving on the freeway and you're at a five-lane freeway and suddenly it's one. You haven't stopped the flow, but you’ve slowed it. And that seems to be making a really big difference. 
 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, you've got this great idea, you've got something which seems fairly benign. What are the obstacles that you're hitting in terms of the challenge of making this happen, scaling it?

LESLIE FIELD: I started out actually not saying much about this at all while I was doing my homework because of this whole moral hazard thing. You want to say I've got the solution, so nobody has to change a thing. But over the last few years we've been getting the word out more and that is growing. But we have to find more of the right people to help us get the scaled up. The UN or governments really need to be involved for the funding and for the permissions. You know, it's a worldwide good you prevent with a few billion dollars trillions of dollars worth of damage and misery worldwide. But it's difficult to make that direct link on the funding. 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: How much would this cost to do at the scale that you think is necessary? 

 

LESLIE FIELD: So, we're looking at areas of something like 25,000 to 100,000 square kilometers and that's something like one to maybe as much as $4 billion per year to do that depending how big an area is required. We're having that kind of damage. $1 billion worth of damage from just cleaning up debris from big wildfires, from one wildfire. And so, the scale here is not outrageous to be asking to invest in preventing these simultaneous harms all over the world. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: And what about governors, Steve? What governance issues are we finding? 

STEPHEN ZORNETZER: Well, you know, as you well know, Jared, bureaucracies can be very lethargic when it comes to dramatic change. There's continuous uphill battle dealing with large bureaucracies often that have different interests. So, think of the United Nations and the different vested interests that are required to come together on a topic like this. So, for example, some countries, let's say Russia, may have an interest in and seeing the Arctic more ice free rather than less ice free. Would a country like that be supportive of an issue like this? And would they, even if it came to a Security Council vote, would it even sustain, you know, would they put in their veto to prevent this from happening? 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, Steve, just on that, what would rush Russia gain from having less sea ice in the summer? 

STEPHEN ZORNETZER: Well, there's both economic issues as well as military issues that people have discussed. There apparently is quite a bit of oil up there and I think the Russians would love to be able to drill more for more oil in the Arctic, which would just exacerbate the existing problems that we have. That's just exactly the wrong thing to do. But nonetheless, if they're taking a short-term economic benefit view of the world, you can see the motivation for that. And very few countries are at this point in time are taking the long-term view. They come out with wonderful pronouncements, but how many countries have actually delivered on what they've promised to do? So, this is a difficult set of problems to navigate going forward. And unfortunately, given the nature of our species, I'm afraid until things get very bad, palpably bad around the world, people are not going to take action. 

 

LESLIE FIELD: It's time to speak out now and get this implemented as quickly as we can because predictions are the ice in the Arctic could all be gone by 2030 plus or minus 10 years. That's a consensus of the best experts I know. And that 2030 minus 10 years is, oh, wait, that's 2020, and after that there is some really much larger risks that starts surfacing quickly. So, it's something that needs to be done quickly, but it doesn't solve all the rest of it. If we do this, if we implement Ice 911 solution at scale, even immediately, it won't fix the problem long term because we've still got all that CO2 forcing. We still got all these other risks. There's going to be a time when you can't refreeze it all up there because it will have gotten so hot, right? And so, we're not going to fix a long-term problem like that. So, it became clear that A, it's high time to get this out there and B, hopefully nobody misses that really important point that even if you're doing this and making things much more habitable in the meantime and preventing some enormous harms, you've still got to do all that other hard work. We've got to change our fuel mix. We've got to get CO2 out of the atmosphere. I mean these things just have to happen or we're cooked. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us a little bit about the climate modeling because when you see climate models, it's always a lot hotter, quicker in the Arctic. And tell us just a little bit about why that is. 

LESLIE FIELD: So, that's called the Arctic amplification. Things heat up there, two to three to six times faster than anywhere else in the world. It might be that this feedback loop is a large part of it, right? The ice Albedo feedback effect. We've also shifted the jet stream and that's a big effect that is affecting the whole world as far as severity of storms, droughts, wildfires, you know, things that are happening differently than they used to. And to my not climate modelers mind, what this is, is it's a temperature differential between- we used to have a heat sink in the Arctic. We had a reliably cold spot. The rest of the world was warmer, or you know, at least down through the equator warmer. Okay, great. That's pretty stable. I've heard stated by climate scientists years ago and it's really stuck that over the entire course of human civilization we've had an exceptionally stable jet stream pattern. Things stayed this way. What we have now is we don't have that, that stability. So, there isn't much temperature differential or not as much between the North Pole in the equator for instance. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us a little bit about next steps. What's the coalition of the willing to make it happen? 

LESLIE FIELD: We've had indications that environmental groups have gotten more interested in this, you know, originally, or at least a decade ago, basically you'd be hearing a lot of, we really don't want to interfere, I mean people mess things up, so why would we want to have another intervention? And they seem to be more and more speaking out of, hey, we got to do something. So, I think we're having the potential for some alignment of efforts in those kinds of directions. 

STEPHEN ZORNETZER: I also think that the publication of peer reviewed papers, which Leslie and her team have been doing, is an indication that the broader scientific community is accepting the results and they believe that this is valid research and the results are important and valid and therefore, these papers are being published. And I think the, the broader scientific community is being exposed to this now and accepting it. 


LESLIE FIELD: That's such a good point. We know we're getting invitations to submit further journal papers and we've got a fairly big role at the American Geophysical Union annual fall meeting. And so that's a really key indicator. Yes. 

STEPHEN ZORNETZER: One of the things we're looking at now is the wine industry. If climate change continues to accelerate and produce significant fluctuations from year to year and the stability of the climate and becomes difficult for grape growers for example, to grow high quality grapes. Uh, and if in fact the industry has to move north to more northern latitudes and or change all the varietals that they currently plant in California, this is an enormous expense and we'll tell you it takes decades. If they could avoid that kind of expense in those extreme measures, it's worth an investment in something like Ice 911 as a strategic partner to slow down that progression of climate change and thereby sustain their economic self-interest. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Tell us about what you're finding on the tests that you've currently done. And then tell us about kind of what it would take to do a larger test on sea ice in the Arctic. 


LESLIE FIELD: So, what we find is that we do delay the melt by putting out a few layers of these hollow glass spheres. And it's interesting in a lake because you have a lot of variability, you have inflows and outflows of water as soon as a melt starts. It's interesting, the best we can tell it's at least the 20% delay of ice melt that we see in the laboratory. So at least 20% delay in melt. And that is enough, you know, that according to the climate modeling and according to, you know, just what we're seeing should be able to restore ice over time. So that's nice. What would it take? We're looking for $5 to $10 million a year over the next two or three years to get the sea ice tests out there deployed, get the permits in place so we can do that. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Who would even permit that? 

LESLIE FIELD: Yeah, that's such an interesting question. Right? So, if we're in US waters, we need to go through the EPA and we've got an application in, a very thorough application. And from the level of questions that we got, we found that the people who reviewed our permit application really care.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD:  Oh good. A

 

LESLIE FIELD: And they had really great expertise in it. And so, it was, I mean it's painful to turn a 20-page application into 160 plus page application. Yes. But what they were asking were the right things to ask.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: What other countries?

 

LESLIE FIELD: Well, the ones that we want to get the right connections to are Norway, Denmark, we even found Iceland on their glaciers might be interesting to work, so those kinds, right? We've talked with Canada a fair amount as well. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, Leslie, if you get the necessary permissions, what will be the logistics of your deployment in the Arctic? 

LESLIE FIELD: We're talking about 25,000 to a hundred thousand square kilometers of material at about 350 micron thickness of a very low density. The density of this stuff is about 0.1 gram per cc. So, it could be backed out, but I don't have, and about on the low end there, the 25,000 square kilometers, it's about $300 million worth of material. We think. And we're talking about covering something like half a percent of the area of the Arctic for a full-scale deployment. What we would do to start, so do us full scale is rather teeny compared to the Arctic. But for a start, I'd love to see us go at it 1% of that, you know, because you really want to test and make sure you've got your procedures right and that you're causing no harm anywhere else. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: And what does it say about the state of where we are as a planet, that we need to engineer our way out of problems that we created?

LESLIE FIELD: We've done accidental geoengineering of our planet. And some of that has definitely been in the interest of humanity. You know, farming. I mean, that's so you can feed your people, right? That's a kind of geoengineering. So, it depends, how are you going to do it. But people, it's so hard to see the long-term consequences of your actions. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, what do you think five or ten years from now, Leslie, with Ice 911 on the current trajectory? Like what do you hope we'll have in place? 


LESLIE FIELD: Get moms involved. This mama bear refuses to quit. Five to ten years from now, we’re a determined lot here. What I expect to see is to be out on sea ice, to be getting to a scale where we can make a difference out there, where it will be big enough that NASA satellites, whoever wants to observe is going to be able to see, wow, where are they treated, we have more ice. We're rebuilding it. Where after a while, I don't know how many years that is, we actually start to restabilize the weather patterns.

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Before I leave the Stanford campus, I say goodbye to Eden's Stiffman from the Stanford Social Innovation Review. So, Eden, that was pretty cool. I mean, I didn't know, I was a little bit blown away by the magnitude of what they were suggesting. 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: It seems kind of audacious it seems, but also the way they laid it out, it seems very doable and very approachable. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: I mean it does. I know when she opened the little canister of the silicon, I mean I thought it would be visible to the human eye and it's like dust. I mean it's just dust and they want to apply. It just seems kind of bizarre that this application of dust could save the planet. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: It absolutely does. And I loved hearing about how she experimented with so many other things before landing on this material that's really ubiquitous and we just don't notice it. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: Yeah. And I also like kind of approach of just being a mom. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Yeah, absolutely. She was so transparent about how she wanted to do something for her children. I thought it was interesting the way she addressed the moral hazard question. Cause I feel like when people talk about geoengineering, people are often critical because I think it's going to make us complacent. And if we find some big shiny solution, then people aren't going to feel that they need to change their behavior. But she made it very clear that when they're out talking about this solution, that they're also saying that this is only a tiny fix and that we all have to contribute if things are going to change. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: I agree. I mean I was very reticent going in just thinking, I don't know. They always, it seems like we screwed up the planet so much that to reengineer it and unscrew the planet doesn't seem like something we're going to be able to do. But she kind of convinced me that we should look at this. It's worth looking at. I mean it seems like we're at such a dire level in terms of where the planet is, that this seemed like a solution that whose time has come. 

EDEN STIFFMAN: I think so. And I'm excited to see where it goes in the next few years. 


JARED BLUMENFELD: And you're going to write an article for it in your journal. 

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Absolutely. 

JARED BLUMENFELD: So, we can read that as well. We'll post that on our website.

 

EDEN STIFFMAN: Great. 

 

JARED BLUMENFELD: Well thank you for doing this collaboration and inviting me down to Stanford. It was fun. Thanks to Leslie Field, Steve Zornetzer, and Eden Stiffman for blinding me with science. Given the severity of the impacts of climate change today, it really is time to seriously consider and move forward with proposals that help reduce climate impacts while following the guidelines that Leslie outlined - the materials must be benign, the process must be reversible, it should be started small and the results must be demonstrated and based on peer reviewed science. Next week, I meet with Kim Chambers who swam from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, from New Zealand's North to South Island, from the Hawaiian island of Oahu to Molokai, from Catalina Island to Los Angeles, from Honshu to Hokkaido in Northern Japan, from Gibraltar to Morocco and from Dover to France in the English Channel. These marathons swims known are known as the Ocean Seven, but Kim decided that wasn't enough. Maybe because Ocean's Eight was about to be released, she took on the toughest swim yet from San Francisco to the Farallon Islands. Thank you so much for being part of the Podship Earth journey. From the entire Podship Earth crew, sound engineer Rob Speight, producer Nancy Ferranti, executive producer David Kahn, and me, Jared Blumenfeld, have a great week.