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An umbrella to combat warming

first_img Team plans industrial-scale carbon removal plant Related Aerosols could cool the planet without ozone damage Every morning, the Keutsch Research Group gathers for a meeting. Eight engineers and chemists give updates on their preceding day’s work: ordering parts, transferring software, untangling an administrative snafu. The whole affair usually lasts less than 15 minutes.Scheduling vacations and requisitioning supplies do not scream “high stakes,” but the group’s project could someday have major consequences for global climate change. It is controversial, however. Some even fear it could make things worse. Right now the group is waiting for approval to schedule a new experiment in the stratosphere.Their idea? To shield the Earth with a mist of tiny particles. It sounds like the stuff of sci-fi movies, but since it was first proposed in the 1950s the idea has gained traction among scientists around the world to shield us not from extraterrestrials, as Hollywood might have it, but from the sun. Known as solar geoengineering, the concept is to send planes into the stratosphere — 6 to 31 miles above the Earth — to spray particles that can reflect sunlight back into space and cool the planet.Working in collaboration with colleagues from the Keith Group — more than a dozen environmental scientists, engineers, economists, and political scientists under the leadership of David Keith, Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School — the Keutsch Group is hoping to uncover some answers about the possibilities of such a scheme with a project they call the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment, or SCoPEx.The need for a bold new plan seems clear. Mitigating the risk of geoengineering Keith says new reports will likely boost deeper look at geoengineering concepts Climate engineering: In from the cold Uses existing technology in novel ways to extract it from atmosphere Global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reached an all-time high in 2018. In October, the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) announced that those emissions must drop drastically to limit global warming to acceptable levels. In 2017, according to the IPCC, global warming reached 1 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels. To keep it from going more than half a degree higher, the panel recommends cutting emissions by about 45 percent by 2030 and to “net zero” by 2050. The panel’s website concedes, however, that even these drastic changes would mean that “any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air.”In other words, Professor Frank Keutsch said, “if we do only emissions cuts to reach the panel’s goals, we would need to get them to zero by 2021 or ’22, and that’s clearly never going to happen. It’s a purely utopian idea. Because of this, they include in their models a negative-emissions technology that we don’t have yet. It doesn’t exist.” The amount of land this IPCC-imagined equipment would need if it did exist, he added, is a parcel about the size of India.But as the deadline for reducing emissions approaches, scientists have become more open to engineering solutions. “One thing that we know can cool down the planet quickly is putting particles into the stratosphere,” Keutsch said. Natural events have taught us that: In 1991, the Philippines’ Mount Pinatubo erupted, releasing 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere. Afterward, the entire globe cooled by half a degree Celsius for more than a year.Mimicking that sort of impact could have any number of side effects, including changes in weather patterns. Keutsch doesn’t think the particles would cause haze but said they could give our sunrises more vivid reds. The problem is that it’s hard to judge the odds of what might happen without more data.“If in 20 years climate impact suddenly becomes bad and the public starts demanding fast action,” he said, “my concern is that we could get to a situation where sudden decisions are made, and we don’t have enough information to make them. I see my role as providing information on the risks of various scenarios.”,To start getting more information, the research team wants to send a remote-controlled balloon and gondola into the stratosphere somewhere above the Southwest, where the wide-open spaces and meteorological conditions should be favorable for the launch. Equipment in the gondola will spray an aerosol for a few miles, in a slowly expanding plume perhaps 600 feet in diameter, according to Keutsch. The balloon will then meander back through the spray to measure how the air and aerosol have reacted over time. The date of the test flights will be determined by an independent advisory committee that will consider not just the scientific but also the governance and social science issues involved.The experiment, Keutsch said, is “tiny” and “will cause no climate response.” Only a few hundred grams of material will be sprayed into the stratosphere — much less than the amount a typical airplane flight emits. Despite this, his team has already faced backlash for the potential consequences of their research.Beyond concerns about unintended environmental consequences, some organizations contend that talking about solar engineering disincentivizes people from fixing the problem, said Keutsch, “and there is some truth to that.”And then there are those who think the experiment is just “nuts,” probably owing to its sci-fi feel, Keutsch said. Until, that is, they hear the details. “Quite often they change their opinion and say, ‘Well, I guess it’s more reasonable than I thought.’ That’s actually very common.”The turnaround might be thanks in part to the efforts of the chemists in Keutsch’s lab, who are looking at the question of what exactly they should spray into the sky even as the engineers work out the details of the gondola. The only naturally occurring particles in the stratosphere contain water and sulfuric acid, which is produced from volcanic sulfur dioxide. But sulfuric acid is a problem because it has worrisome side effects: It cools the Earth, but it also destroys the protective ozone layer and warms the stratosphere.The chemists think the solution could be calcium carbonate — the stuff of chalk, limestone, marble, and seashells. It may be less harmful to the ozone, and it’s not a big health concern. The team is studying how the substance affects chlorine and nitrogen oxides, which also exist in the stratosphere — largely due to man-made emissions — and speed ozone destruction. The researchers think the calcium carbonate might help to lower levels of these gases.One thing that Keutsch wants to make clear, though, is this: Even if they are able to resolve the uncertainties and the geoengineering project is a success, it does not mean the climate change problem will have been fixed.The reason is obvious, Keutsch said.“It doesn’t address the cause,” he said. “So when we do this, and we keep on emitting CO2, we would have to put more and more particles in the atmosphere, and at some point that just becomes a crazy scenario, right?”In the end, the only sustainable solution is for people to change their attitudes and behaviors. “What we have to do in any case is reduce remissions,” he said. “I think there’s no question. And that’s the basis, the starting point: We have to reduce emissions.”last_img read more

First female undergraduates recall fall of 1972

first_imgClass of 1976 alumna Diane Bourke didn’t know what to expect when her parents dropped her off at Notre Dame in the fall of 1972. Not only had she enrolled at the University sight-unseen, but she would be a member of the first freshman class to include women. “I was very naïve,” Bourke said. “I was the first person in my family to go to college. I kind of walked in with no preconceived notions and no clue what this was supposed to be.” Bourke arrived on campus in the wake of failed discussions to merge Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, which led to the University’s decision to admit women directly. Adapting campus to house female newcomers did lead to some tension with the male students, Bourke said. “At the beginning it was a little awkward … especially among the men who had been displaced,” she said. Men from Badin and Walsh Halls were required to switch dorms or move off campus to open up campus housing for the newly admitted women, which left some existing male students feeling dejected, she said. “I think for a lot of the men, this is not what they bought into,” she said. “The dorm system at Notre Dame is really important as far as your social network.” Much as it is today, Bourke said eventually groups within certain residence halls developed into social circles. “As it evolved, groups of women became friends with men in different dorms,” she said. “I got connected with Holy Cross Hall because my good friend’s brother was there, so I became friends with the Holy Cross Hogs.” But female students generally tended to keep to themselves in those early years, Bourke said, as a little more than 300 women integrated with approximately 5,000 male students. “There weren’t a lot of women, so I think that kept a lot of the women close,” Bourke said. “For example, no one wanted to go to the dining hall alone. I think everyone thought we were dating every weekend, but in a lot of cases we hung out with each other.” Bourke was a member of the first class of women to attend Notre Dame for four years, but she was not the first female student to receive an undergraduate degree. Under unique circumstances, Mary Davey Bliley was allowed to graduate from Notre Dame in the spring of 1972, the semester prior to the official beginning of coeducation. Bliley, initially a history major at Saint Mary’s, changed to the business program under the pretense of a pending merger between Notre Dame and its sister school. “My junior year was when the merger talks started, and I decided I wanted to be a business major and wanted to get a Notre Dame degree,” she said. When the two schools called off the merger, the Saint Mary’s administration told her she could not graduate, as the College did not offer the degree she had been qualified to receive at Notre Dame. While she had completed all her major courses at Notre Dame, the University would not be accepting female students in time for her to transfer. “I was basically a day student, I went to Notre Dame all day and came back to Saint Mary’s at night,” she said. “In April, [Dean Vincent Raymond of the College of Business] called me into his office and said, ‘Mary, we’re going to let you graduate from Notre Dame. You’ll be the first female and the only one in the class.’” Bliley never lived on campus and had a different Notre Dame experience than the women to follow in her path, but she said she never had a negative vibe from male students or professors due to her gender. “I didn’t feel animosity,” she said. “All my friends were dying to have the school merge. They wanted more girls to choose from.” Bliley, who went on to a career in investment banking in New York and Europe, said the willingness of the University to confer her degree before officially going coed was essential to her success. “I’m really fortunate to be the first one, that I got a Notre Dame degree,” she said. “Coming from Columbus, Mont., I never thought I’d be working in London.” Like Bliley, Ann Cisle Murray started her college career at Saint Mary’s but today holds a Notre Dame degree. While Murray was also pursuing a business degree under the planned merger, she was only a sophomore when it fell through. She was given a choice. “I could apply to Notre Dame and keep my major, I could stay at Saint Mary’s or I could transfer out,” Murray said. With many Belles facing this decision at the time, Murray said this was the most difficult part of the transfer process. “The hardest part was leaving most of my friends back at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “It split our class. Most of my friends didn’t even apply [to transfer]. They were happy in their majors and I think they were, truth be told, probably a little disappointed [the merger failed].” Once she transferred, Murray coincidentally followed in the footsteps of her father, a former resident in her new home, Walsh Hall. Due to the rushed transition, the building had not changed much since her father’s time there, and the new residents didn’t do much to modify it. “They didn’t really have a whole lot of time to modify the dorms,” she said. “As I recall they just boarded up the urinals. Not much else changed. The women when we arrived would put up curtains and that sort of thing.” While the female residents displace the men formerly living in Walsh Hall, Murray said their resentment was minimal. “I thought they were very gracious about it,” she said. “When we arrived the first there, there were a lot of them who helped up move in. To this day I’m still in contact with some of those guys from Walsh Hall. They welcomed us as the first women.” Murray quickly engaged the Notre Dame tradition, joining the cheerleading squad in time for the Irish’s defeat of Alabama at the Orange Bowl and the men’s basketball team ending UCLA’s 88-game winning streak. “It was kind of a charmed year,” she said. Traveling to away games gave Murray the opportunity to meet a number of alumni, many of whom were opposed to the idea of coeducation at Notre Dame. “There were a few people who weren’t really happy about it and they let me know it,” she said. “I felt it was sort of my job to be a good representative of the University.” Alumna Betsy Brosnan, a member of the Class of 1976, said the experience of being a woman at Notre Dame changed substantially over her four years. “When we came as freshmen, we had never experienced college life before, so as it might have been awkward sometimes, that seemed normal,” Brosnan said. “Certainly by the time I got to senior year, I would expect there might have been 1,000 or 1,200 women by that time. Looking back, we kind of laugh. We thought freshman year was normal … but things were different back then. So often we were the only female in class.” While the women of the first classes at Notre Dame had different experiences along their paths to graduation, their stories bore one common thread – gratitude to University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, the impetus of coeducation. “It was his vision that brought coeducation to Notre Dame,” Brosnan said. “The Air Force Academy went coed a few years after us. … This was an era when a lot of this was happening, but we owe him a great debt.” Bliley, who was the first graduate to receive a kiss from Hesburgh at graduation, said the entire Notre Dame community owes the former president for his transformative decision. “Every student ought to thank Fr. Ted for not only the vision he had, but when he had it,” she said. “I walk around today, and campus is vibrant and exciting. … The school’s a better place for it.”last_img read more