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CLIMATE CHANGE ACTION FOR 2012
By Dr. Thomas B. Reed
(Response by Brian Nugent)
This is my copy of the world's temperature, CO2 and dust levels for the last 400,000 years. It shows a very exact correlation between temperature and CO2 level, with dust concentration having lesser correlation.
It also shows a very sharp spike in temperature for the three earlier warming periods, but a plateau of 10,000 years today, corresponding to the growth of Human population.
Unfortunately it does NOT show whether climate change causes CO2 change, or whether CO2 change caused the climate change.
And no one in the global warming debate seems to be aware of these much larger changes in recent times!
A more fundamental understanding is necessary.
Fortunately, this is provided by the Malenkovitch cycles, which are the principal cause of the variations above. They show major climate change of 8 degrees C (15 F) every 110,000 years, driven by various interactions of the solar system, primarily earth axis tilt, earth orbit ellipticity, caused primarily by the relative positions of Earth and Jupiter.
Unfortunately, no one i know of (except myself) is paying any attention to the Malenkovitch cycles.
In particular, the current data for the last 10,000 years suggest that we may be escaping from the ice ages that have dominated the last three million years of Earth's history, and it could be that Humans are causing this. Note the plateau top left.
There is no doubt from the data that the level of CO2 in the atmosphere is very important in the functioning of the Earth. After all, we animal species depend on oxygen for our survival, and oxygen is a synthetic molecule made from CO2 by the plant kingdom as a waste product. It is astounding to me that the CO2 level today of ~ 0.04% can support the plant kingdom's prolific growth. It is accomplished by the large leaves on plants which collect sunlight and CO2.
And it is more astounding that 100 years ago the level Was 0.028%! , and plants grew as adequately for our grandparents as they do for us. There must be some lower level of CO2 below which plants cant function, but it must be below 0.01%! At that point, all vegetation would stop growing,mand that would be the end of the animal kingdom and us.
Enhanced CO2 levels, as found in a greenhouse, significantly improve plant growth- and oxygen production.
Two years ago there was a scandal in the climate community when someone leaked a number of Emails at The East Anglia University Climate Change Center. The leaked letters seemed to show that some scientists had an agenda to prove that CO2 was drastically changing our climate, AND that they were manipulating the data to make sure it did. I was horrified.
Today in the news the same hacker has unleashed another spate of Emails showing similar dishonesty in the East Anglia Center.
CLIMATE CHANGE WORRY IS A BIG INDUSTRY
BUT CLIMATE CHANGE FIXING HASN'T BEGUN
We are making everyone nervous about something which can only be solved by a few in the government making unpopular decisions, possibly amounting to political suicide. ( Al Gore for instance).
While there is a lot of handwringing about climate change, there is NO suggestion of what we can do about it, and well organized resistance to doing anything from entrenched power centers.
There are two ways to counteract it:
1). We can reduce CO2 emissions by driving our cars less, (switching to electric cars) and heating our homes more efficiently. Why are electric cars lower in CO2 emissions? It takes the same amount of power at the drive shaft to move a electric car as it does with gasoline or diesel.
Gasoline cars are typically less than 20% efficient in converting gasoline Btus to power. Diesel engines are closer to 30%. But a modern power plant converts natural gas or coal to electric power with efficiencies exceeding 60%, and hydroelectric or wind power produce NO CO2. Further, the cost and availability of electric power charging electric vehicles at night benefit both the power company and the commuter. A win-win situation.
2). We can begin sequestering CO2 in the form of Biochar and Biocoal.
Charcoal is an excellent permanent soil amendment. If farmers had Pyrolysers they could put all waste biomass into them, convert the waste to Biochar, and double the productivity of their soil.
Biodegradable biomass is converted back to CO2 and H2O or CO2 and CH4 (methane) by aerobic and anaerobic digestion. Alternatively, it can be converted to BioCoal, a non biodegradable product made by heating biomass only up to 300C with a yield of 70% vs the typical 20% for Biochar made at 400-800C. Again, each ton of BIOCOAL produced and used replaces a ton of polluting coal.
Our energy and environmental future is either bleaker or brighter than it has been for fifty years. It's up to us to choose.
Dr Thomas B Reed
The Biomass Energy Foundation
RESPONSE TO DR. REED'S COMMENTARY
By Brian Nugent
I know Dr. Reeds meticulous work in gasification quite well and am not aurprised by this initiative.
I generally agree with his statements about climate change but I differ on nuance, and very much on solutions.
My understanding is that the Malenkovitch cycles are very well understood and incorporated in the field of climate science. They act as a very slow initial trigger forcing on the climate that eventually gets later amplified then dominated by multiple feedbacks whether triggering the climate towards ice ages or out of them. The multiple feedbacks themselves become the dominant drivers for the bulk of the subsequent temperature change be it rising or cooling respectively.
The oceans and particularly buried sediments hold most of the available carbon in carbonates (terra tons?). The ability for weatherisation process to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere over millenia is substantially governed by ocean temps.
The climate system is a very complex meta-stable system.
The major unknown component that I'm aware of as not yet being incorporated into climate models are the vast amounts of carbon presently held in frozen permafrost and in methane ice / clathrates buried in arctic seabed sediments. The impact of these levels of to be unsequestered carbon are comparable to that of the fossil fuels we still have access to burn. However its expected the release will be generally as methane rather than CO2 thus making it 25x worse molecule for molecule over centuries.
Paradoxically, our present day global aerosol and particulates emissions roughly halves the warming effect presently locked into the already increased CO2 levels. That alone is a rather disturbing damned if we, damned if we don't clean up aerosols.
In a recent presentation by Dr. James Hansen, he explained how the polar ice cap's very long term existence depends on CO2 levels remaining below 500ppm. Apparently another huge but very slow force to raise CO2 levels has been past tectonic plate movements that disturbed ocean floor sediments. Only when the Indian plate finally collided with the Himalayan range did CO2 levels stabilize at around 900ppm about 65 million years ago when there could be no polar ice caps. Only after many millions of years of weatherization process' dropped CO2 levels back below 500ppm (around 35 million years ago), were polar ice caps able to form again.
Hansen said that we don't know what level of absolute or even a temporary blip (ie centuries) excess level CO2 would lock in an eventual total loss of the ices caps. The hysteresis nature of this is simply not understood. Hansen is emphatic that we must get down to 350ppm. All the current day talk of safely limiting CO2 to a mere doubling of pre industrial levels to ~560ppm may be rather too much by a very long shot. In reality with business as usual, we are heading for much more than 500ppm and potentially 1000ppm if we get the chance to burn every last fossil fuel available like tar sands, ANWAR & now the new Greenland shelf drilling.
I don't see how electric cars, driving a little less, improved home heating efficiency can make didly squat difference as ever more of the worlds population seeks western style levels of economic activity. China and India are building coal fired plants many times faster than all combined global low carbon alternatives for electricity (renewables & nuclear).
The other elephant in the room is the fully 2/3 of global primary energy that is not for electricity production but includes any carbon fuel (biomass or fossil) combustion to provide heat for homes, industrial process heat, internal combustion engines, basic materials for manufacturing everything, fertilizers, etc, etc. This 2/3 is never discussed in the green blogosphere at all because there are no new options that are renewable!
Renewable electricity is itself fundamentally constrained by land use power density, front-ended capital costs and ever scarcer mineral resources and raw embodied energy (mostly from Chinese brown coal!). Copper, zinc, indium, lithium, precious metals (gold & platinum), rare earths (neodium especially) are depleting apace, yet may only meet a few percent of global electricity requirements.
Also when we build out any renewable energy farm systems, each sq meter of ground only provides 5W ave continuous power 24/7/365 whether its is PV, wind, airborne wind, geothermal, ocean wave. The reason is that most renewables are ultimately derivatives of solar which although plentiful is very very diffused (<250W/m^2 24/7/365). Bio fuels are very much less energetic again atleast 10x less!. Geothermal though its not solar derived, it is constrained because we have to reach for it by drilling in every direction several miles deep down at incredible cost. Even if possible, when a nation seeks to provide 100% renewable energy, each citizens footprint becomes several acres of land and many 100s of $K.
Europe, Japan and most of Asia simply don't have the land area or capital to make a difference.
According to IEA and Lawrence Livermore National Labs the "energy flow" diagram for the total US economy requires ~100 quadrillion Btu of primary energy annually. About 85% is from fossil fuels to supply 313 million of us our total energy footprint.
Converted into a more meaningful pseudo gallons of any hydro carbon fuel, we each need 6.5 US gals every day.
Represented as kWh of electricity or any other arbitrary form of energy we each need 262kWh every day.
The best representation is to just equate every American's energy 24/7/365 footprint as 11KW. Thats 110x our metabolic rate of about 100W!. Europeans are in the same logarithmic scale ballpark at 50% that.
Humanity globally draws about 15 Terra Watts of which ~85% is fossil fuel. That compares with 80 Terra Watts drawn by all nature which is 99% solar and some hydrothermal. Humanity is truly a very sudden collective planetary scale force.
"Sustainable Energy - without the hot air" by physics Prof David Mackay of Cambridge University & Science advisor to UK government. The book is free to download as pdf from http://www.withouthotair.com either in parts, whole or synopses.
Lawrence Livermore National Labs has very concise diagram for US and individual states at https://flowcharts.llnl.gov/ that shows the real extent of our shared energy footprints. The US energy footprint is about 20% of the world and China will quickly surpass that %.
"Beyond the Limits to Growth" Richard Heinberg
conversations with David Murphy PhD expert on EROI embodied energy return on energy invested
Alas I really don't think humanity can understand let alone solve the sheer scale of our dilemma, but nature sure will.