I’ve been working with climate in politics for quite some time now, and this is maybe one of the ideas that worry me the most, except for sticking to BAU.
I’d like to know what kind of perspective you have on this though, but it sounds somewhat daunting to me. We can see what happens in the atmosphere when we fill it with carbon dioxide too fast, and I’m worried that we won’t know what happens if we suddenly remove it again. Do we know what kind of defense mechanisms the planet uses to mitigate our changes? Do we know that we’re not provoking reactions in a different way by removing CO2 abruptly? (any large amount over a couple of decades is “abruptly” in a planet point of view, in my opinion)
I would be very glad to hear some scientific responses on the matter :)
Comment by Christoffer Torris Olsen — 19 Feb 2007 @ 4:46 PM
I think the link is bad… and as I said earlier I’m not so happy about sulphates in the air, our lakes don’t really like that.
But hopefully some cleaver bloke will solve this, can’t see it happening soon thou.
Caution is always a Very Good Idea with this much at stake, but I’m personally not worried that we’ll suddenly remove too much CO2 from the atmosphere. My biggest concern is that even a very modest effort like this would be used as an excuse to keep burning coal in the filthiest way possible and actually make things worse. After all, there are plenty of hard core deniers out there who will latch onto any excuse to avoid even the tiniest inconvenience or cost associated with the reduction of CO2.
Picking a fight with all the laws of thermodynamics is not a good career move. Better by far to start sequesterization by gathering the CO2 from smokestacks (one of the good things about plug in cars is that even if fossil fuel is used to generate the electricity, it moves CO2 generation to a place where the concentrations are very high and the efficiency is much higher than in a gasoline powered car.)
Isn’t Branson the guy who owns the airlines? Don’t planes burn fuel? Now he wants to award his well earned profits and take the co2 out of the air? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stop flying the planes?
I had a quick look at Juliane’s site and highly recommend a brief tour to all. I suspect anyone outside the field (atmosphere chemistry) has no hope of comprehending the content (although I was able to nicely expand my mental list of nitrogen compounds I know nothing about :)), but it’s nice to be aware of this sort of thing when the usual suspects make the usual point about model uncertainty due to clouds/aerosols. There are a lot of very smart people busting their butts to provide the modelers with the needed physical understanding, and we don’t hear much about their work.
In particular, I want to thank Juliane for going to the trouble of maintaining a web site with linked paper pdfs, and in particular the page describing her research and where it’s headed.
Oh, and welcome to the East Bay! Hopefully the reduction in personal exposure to your subject matter won’t set your research back too much. :)
Here’s my solution: just genetically engineer a plankton that first floats together as a small group in/near the ocean surface and uses solar enegry to break down CO2. The carbon is deposited in the interior of the mass. The plankton reproduce as neccessary to continually cover the surface area of the enlarging carbon ball. When the carbon ball grows to the size of a tennis ball (don’t want to damage ship propellers) the plankton stop making pure carbon and make something heavy. Eventually the mass sinks to the ocean floor. Problem solved.
The most important item overlooked in the discussion of any very long term problem like gloabl warming is this: Knowledge expands exponentially. By 2050 this solution (or 10 others way more creative) will be doable by any high school biology class.
We clearly are beyond the point where there is much hope for cutting emissions to any meaningful degree. Yes, a major concern is that a scheme to take the co2 out of the air will just encourage the proliferation of coal burning. However, I think it is crystal clear that nothing will cause humanity to exercise any restraint anyway. Certainly, the U.S. will not.
The sad part, though, is that we will probably end up with taking no co2 out of the air and we will continue to be profligate in our fossil fuel use.
Re: #1: I think that it is unlikely we will be removing enough CO2 to actually _decrease_ the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Given that we are adding 7 billion tons of carbon a year to the atmosphere (and growing) the removal of a billion tons per year would only slow the CO2 increase…
Re: Original post: Does the Competition actual state a billion tons per year? I can’t find the exact quantity stated anywhere (“significant volume” seems to be the criteria, and the statement seems to be broad enough that removal of methane, N2O, or other GHGs would also qualify).
Coal and energy burning made this country what it is today with the steel and rail era and giving the immigrants jobs back then. Now China wants to follow suit and make their country as prosperous as ours using the same model. Now we want to tell them they can’t? That to me is a slap in the face right there. We won, you lose, now let’s call the whole thing off by blowing eachother to smithereens.
This will be my last post for a while, I apologize for posting three times. My fear is this whole global warming crisis will bring out the worst of us, not the best. can anyone realisticly see humankind working together to kick this thing, or does the crisis have the propensity to bring out the Hitler like traits in us all? Idealistically I would like us all to work this out but realistically I see a horror that I will not spare any words on. May God have mercy on us all.
I have to say that the responses to this commentary so far are very odd. If we could find a way or ways to strip carbon dioxide it would be a great. Why all the misery and gloom at the possibility that someone may come up with a solution.
Re #1: The odds of a mechanism being found whereby we could suddenly remove quantities of CO2 from the atmosphere in quantities large enough to negatively affect the climate is minimal. Once/if solutions are found then we can worry about how fast to implement them.
Re #3: Power stations can be, and in many places are built so as not to be filthy. This is a separate issue to dealing with the CO2. It is nuts to suggest that we shouldn’t solve the CO2 problem because some countries will then continue to build dirty power stations. They will do it anyway.
Re #6: Yes Branson does own Virgin Airlines. He’s also into rail transport in the UK in a big way and has pledged $3 billion for the development of biofuels and in the short term is pushing to improve the air travel CO2 output efficiency by 25%. If he pulled his planes out of the air then other companies would instantly replace the market share. The remarkable thing is that he has pledged all profits from his airline and rail businesses over the next 10 years to address climate change! And he is a mover and shaker in the business world, pushing for other companies to start showing some responsibility for their emissions. Any individual or company making such commitments should be applauded.
Environmentalists can take on a victim mentality, winging and moaning about everything – in which case we become part of the problem, encouraging everyone else to bury their heads in the sand. Or we can be realistic about the problems, but get excited about possible solutions thereby accelerating their uptake.
Having said all that, I am a little disappointed in this commentary because it is really just a news headline. Perhaps someone at RC could write a piece that discusses the science behind the various CO2 sequestration technologies currently on the table – their feasibility, economics and potential environmental impacts.
CO2 credits are selling for about $10/tonne right now.
Whoever invented this method might be able to get paychecks of $10 billion per year compared to “selling” it (I’m sure there is fineprint) to Branson for $25 million.
[Response: I don't think that anyone assumes the process will be cost-free. So the issue is not what the credits are now, but whether any new process can cost less than the credit. And of course, as well as the money economics, this has to make sense in energy economics too. i.e. you can't release more CO2 in emissions producing the energy that is required than you take back. So either you have to use previously unused renewables for your energy source, or you need to be doubly effective. Neither of these hurdles are easy to bridge. - gavin]
Craig, enthusiasm is nice, but you are like a baseball manager trying to rally the team that is down 22-1 in the bottom of the ninth. Instead of encouragement, it further adds to the sick feeling in one’s stomach of the predicament we are in. I applaud your attitude, but still feel it is too little too late.
I did see an Earth Day program last year in which a chemist father & his daughter had developed a “tree” structure (rounded-edge rectangle on a pole). The wind blows through it, and it captures the CO2, turning it into calcium carbonate, I believe. They did show the result….some calcium carbonate. The “tree” requires no energy to run, so it’s only the cost of the structure, plus it’s ugliness factor (maybe they could make it look better).
Every little bit helps, and along with alt. energy, reduce, reuse, recycle, and planting real trees, this type of thing may become a part of the overall solutions package. But it won’t solve the problem; it will only help a little.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 19 Feb 2007 @ 8:13 PM
Thanks for the interesting discussion so far!
The concern that figuring out how to sequester CO2 could act as a “license to burn” more coal is important, since dirty coal has such a negative impact on local air quality and human health, in addition to emitting CO2. However, I doubt any carbon removal solution would be so cheap and so easy that if we get serious about removing CO2 from the atmosphere we would simultaneously continue to burn the most carbon-intense fossil fuel without scrubbing CO2 (and other pollutants) at the smokestack.
Re #4: Eli, I agree that plug-in vehicles provide a great way to sequester vehicle-related CO2 emissions. Sadly, Virgin’s prize applies only to removal of CO2, not avoided emissions.
Re #8: Rick, I’m glad of your optimism that any high school student will be able to sequester CO2 by 2050. But I’m not sure we have that long – if we don’t act quickly, the amount of CO2 we’ll need to remove from the atmosphere might become insurmountable. The spectre of going past climate “tipping points” also looms large if we wait until carbon sequestration becomes cheap & easy.
Re #10: I also couldn’t find the 1 billion tons / year number on the Virgin Earth website – it comes from the press coverage of the announcement of the prize.
Re #15: Craig, I agree that amidst all the gloom and doom about climate change it’s good to get excited about possible solutions, regardless of what spurs their discussion. I also feel much more positively about a “geoengineering” approach that scrubs CO2 from the atmosphere than one that injects sulfate aerosol – the former keeps us much closer to the known world of climate states we can better predict. To your last point – a colleague and I are in the process of writing a short paper on geoengineering options that are being discussed which will include some of the analysis you request of carbon sequestration ideas. I’ll try to post that in some form here once we’re done to add some more scientific “meat” to the discussion of carbon sequestration.
I gave a series of presentations on energy to 10 classes at a local middle school, with some side discussion on the horrors of CO2 pollution and some other related topics.
I intended to do it purely as a way to contribute something to the educational process. What happened surprised me.
First, I found after the first couple of classes that when I got the part about global warming, nuclear waste, etc., that I was spontaneously apologizing for the incredible mess my generation and those that came before it had made for these kids. If you want to get a 7th or 8th grader’s undivided attention, tell him or her, “We screwed up about as badly as someone can screw up. Now it’s up to you to figure out how to fix it. That stinks, a lot, and I apologize.”
Second, I was stunned by how undaunted they were. These kids wanted to charge up the mountain, pass laws, invent technology, do the heavy-lifting science, you name it, whatever it took to remake their world and fix this compound mess. It was more endearing and inspiring than I can express here.
My point in all this? The best thing humanity has going for it right now is the relatively short human lifespan, because that ensures a constant turnover as the old guard shuffles off stage and these kids jump into the fray.
The current situation scares me spitless, but those kids make me keep fighting as hard as I can; there’s no way I’ll let them have all the fun.
Great summary of how global warming is perceived in the world. You are right how most people see global warming as an “environmental issue” and not an energy issue. However, there is one major aspect to global warming that most people also don’t recognize and its the livestock industry. A report by the Food and Agriculture organization from the United Nations says that other more harmful greenhouse gases Nitrous-oxide and methane have a more devestating effect on global warming than the transportation industry worldwide. If you click on my blog, there is more information on that. But just thought I would comment on your blog about that.
Not Until Dead, which body will know that planting tree on all the desert of earth is the best method to solve the climate warming up due to CO2 increasing? Who want to invest so much money in the desert while profit return may take 10 or 20 years which depend the need of the people and the earth?
A pipe line to let the water from sea to transpose to desert and a water filter factory are needed to do these job. A computerise controlled system to distribute the water to every tree planting is also needed like the Israel doing nowaday. Some type of tree which require fewer water and can get large money returned need to be developed through using gene technology nowaday or future. Mixing genetic of oil palm tree and varius economic plant with cactus may produce best result. This method may solve the problem of crisis of energy, hungry in Africa, climate warming up and the possibility of war.
Comment by Chai Ming Toong — 19 Feb 2007 @ 11:03 PM
Well, as Gavin pointed out, the problem might reside in the thermodynamics of CO2 removal. It would have to be examined throughout the entire process of manufacturing, operating and even eventually disposing of both the CO2 and the removal equipment. It’s not a bad idea but must go along with maximizing renewables and conservation.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 19 Feb 2007 @ 11:19 PM
If the contest is not limited to technological solutions, here’s my entry; a political one that will remove far more CO2 than the contest requires:
The time has come to criminalize obstructionism on global warming mitigation. During several talks available through Google Video, (i.e. http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=7482804513318278269 ) Pulitzer prize winning investigative reporter, Ross Gelbspan, quite appropriately referred to energy executives and others deliberately attempting to misinform the public about, and prevent necessary actions to mitigate, global warming as criminals against humanity.
On February 2nd, the IPCC made public what is now universally accepted (not counting the lunatic fringe) as the “smoking gun” report on global warming, thereby “officially” ending even the most remote serious notion that an on-going debate still exists on the matter or its urgency. As such, the stage has been set for a member of Congress to introduce legislation that would propose two specific actions.
First it would call upon Congress to issue a powerful resolution that formally acknowledges the scope and urgency of the global warming threat, and, equally importantly, designates the threat quite clearly and officially a national security threat of the highest magnitude. The bill should propose a law that considers it a felony for anyone,(including our President and other elected officials if such a clause is Constitutionally permissible) to deliberately, or through reckless negligence, attempt to advance the public perception that global warming is not as great a threat, or action on it not as immediately necessary, as Congress has officially resolved.
There are certainly precedents in our legal system for such a curb on First Amendment rights, the most notable having to do with aiding and abetting an enemy during war. I suppose an appropriate exemption from this proposed law would be that ONLY papers in major peer reviewed scientific journals would maintain the right to publish arguments that challenge certain specific findings on global warming, but not it’s basic nature and urgency.
There was a very good article on CO2 sequestration in Science a couple of years ago by Klaus Lackner (Maybe 2003).
A few years earlier (2001), I read about dumping liquid CO2 into the ocean. The thought was that the oceans would have the capacity to absorb whatever carbon we could dump in without problems. It didn’t take long for scientists to realize that if it were all dumped in as dissolved CO2 (carbonic acid) there would be problems with lowering the pH of the oceans. So the idea of dumping sequestered CO2 into the ocean seemed to die off (and alarm over acidifying oceans was born).
Recently I read about the discovery of natural lakes of liquid CO2 at the bottom of the deep ocean. Apparently, at the right pressure and temperature, the CO2 will remain a liquid separated from the water by a layer of solid hydrate. With this information, would CO2 sequestration in the deep ocean be back on the table?
Picking a fight with all the laws of thermodynamics is not a good career move.
A misleading formulation. Capturing a CO2 molecule from its diluteness in air takes much less energy than is yielded by its formation from a CH_x in a fossil fuel.
Better by far to start sequesterization by gathering the CO2 from smokestacks …
Thermodynamics is very much on our side, if we are those who want to pluck out from the air already-dispersed CO2 molecules and those that will soon be dispersed. It is much more on our side than the people who constructed 102 GW of new coal-fired electric powerplant last year in China.
… a chemist father & his daughter had developed a “tree” structure (rounded-edge rectangle on a pole). The wind blows through it, and it captures the CO2, turning it into calcium carbonate, I believe. They did show the result….some calcium carbonate. The “tree” requires no energy to run …
But it won’t solve the problem …
Energy is required to calcine the calcium carbonate and sequester the pure CO2; as noted, this energy is much less than that yielded by the fossil fuels. Google “plumbostatic”.
This most certainly can solve the problem. So can several other approaches, but they depend on collective restraint; only one bunch of good guys is needed for this one.
The “trees” may be someone’s attempt at popularization through garbling; actually the quicklime would be strewn over fields, somewhat less than 1 m^2 per person with a present-day Western-style fossil fuel habit. One would not use Rhode Island for this purpose, but if I recall correctly, it’s big enough to capture all the world’s CO2.
Can I just say one thing about Branson. If this guy really cared , he could give the money to people who have been working on this for the last ten years. Instead he goes for the photo-op with Gore and Clinton promising a big cash prize that he will never have to pay out. He gets all kinds of press, the Virgin brand is highlighted, he gets to market himself as the green billionaire and what does it cost him? Nothing. He is a marketing genius.
If we do get a sequestration system up and running, the first billion tons removed will be from Branson’s own personal carbon footprint.
re #28, i’ve been thinking something similar, why don’t we go for a class action, rest of the world vs the US govt. It would get an awful lot of publicity, even if it fell at the first hurdle, and americans seem to understand litigation better than science.(thats a AAAS joke!)
It might at least focus a few minds…
re #21 I saw the BBC2 prog, and thought that it just shows how rattled everyone is, that geo-engineering is getting a run out.
Still, if there is a ‘magic bullet’, it would be great to find it before Greenland/WAIS passes the tipping point… oops, looks like we might well be too late! (The Guardian UK Feb 19,’Climate change: Scientists warn it may be to late to save the ice caps)
My favourite was the sea-water yachts, on the basis that if it did work, i couldn’t see any serious side effects.
Finally, could Branson could win his own prize, if he sold his airline. Surely its not a tax dodge! :-)
S’poze you took atmospheric concentrations of co2 at 250 ppm, and spoze you had a filter that was capable of removing all of that carbon in one single pass. You would need to pass the equivalent of three quarters of a billion cubic kilometres of air through your filter per year, for ten years.
Surely there would be a sizeable energy requirement.
In a nutshell, Post 31 is right. Branson is advertising for a janitor. Any scientist up for the challenge? When the problem is solved (in this case it won’t while humans exist) Branson will treat you like a janitor…….By continuing his lifestyle while never speaking to you again.
Re #19 – fully agree. Solutions to excessive emissions require first and foremost changes in behaviour by all of us. The unfortunate desire (which we all share) to rant and rave, to be right at the expense of others, and to keep fighting yesterday’s battles can stop us from achieving our goals. It closes the minds of those we argue with and thus they will not change their behaviour.
This is no longer about whether the science is right or not, it is about how to effect behaviour change in all of us. That requires co-operation, applauding of any initiative that might help or at least does no harm. It requires us to stop being cynical and start being optimistic: optimists and idealists can inspire change, cynics never do…
Comment by Jan-Peter Onstwedder — 20 Feb 2007 @ 3:51 AM
humankind has injected some 200+ billions of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere so far and shows no signs of abating as yet. Humans are increasing their energy use globally as the population is increasing globally, in the west we may be increasing our renewable/sustainable energy sources but we are also using more energy to and due to the way that energy is produced at the present time it is unlikely that fossil fuel usage will drop.
I would imagine that what has happenned here is that someone under Bransons employment has looked at the alternatives available to humankind at the present time and maybe 10 years into the future and had decided that humans are more thanb likely going to continue burning all of the available oil and gas over the next 40 years and that even if alternatives are found (second generation ethenol and other biofuels etc) then at best they will only reduce dependence and not replace it. Ethenol is some 30% less energy dense than Oil and is at least 10 years away from being economically viable (if it all). 10 years before its begine to supplement Oil and another 10 years before it is mitigating oil is any meaningful economic manner, ie 10 mbpd or so.
Wind turbines are showing some very real promise in terms of percentage replacement of coal electricity needs, however it will take very large scale events to replace fossil fuel by a economically viable margin, ie 50%. We would require massive winf turbines and massive amounts of them. Here in the UK a plan has been hatched to build two farms of 100 and 344 turbines that will produce 1% of our electricity requirements.
Who knows about Gas as it is used for heating. I am unsure as how we can produce enough by another means to offset it.
So that leaves two ideas left, energy efficiency and offsetting some other forcing to compensate for the one that we are pushing. Energy efficiency is the way to go. Cars that do 50 mpg are feasible and available now, light bulbs that use 1/5th of the electricity, cavity wall insulataion, all new buildings to pay special attention to energy conservation and use solar power as much as possible etc. Micro wind turbines of some descritpion where possible. And last but not least decelop wave and tidal power for coastal areas where possible.
Energy efficiency sounds like a better option that offsetting another primary forcing or attempting to absorb Co2 from the atmosphere en masse. Anyone heard of conservation laws?
Option 1 was reflecting the Sunlight by launching 000′s of tiny mirrors into space. This project is enourmous and would require so many roacket launches it is a non starter.
Option 2 was seeding the upper atmosphere with SO2 I believe in order again offset sunlight reaching the earth. This sounds like it could get the go ahead when all is lost in some 40 years time.
Option 3 was artificial trees, not sure exactly how this works but I guess that they would scrub CO2 from the atmohphere or turn it into something else via using wind power. One tree can scrub some 90,000 tonnes of CO2 per annum by using filters of sodium hydroxide and the CO2 injected into the earth.
Option 4 was seeding the oceans with additional plankton in order to soak up additional CO2. by seeding the oceans with liquid nitrogen apparantly.
Option 5 is to make clouds apparantly, firing droplets of seawater towards special clouds, marine stratocumulus would make these clouds more dense and more relelective thus mitigating the Sun.
Or maybe all of these. but the real concern here is that scientists and really concerned people who have looked at the worlds population growth and their need for prosperity and progress to continue apace and the solutions available to us now couple with the time lags of the infrastructure and the political will have decided that stopping polluting the atmosphere is unlikely to any significant degree, certainly not the 65% demanded by the experts in order to offset climate change and hence other solutions must be found not matter how unsound they seem.
The prize is not much more than the profit made by Virgin Trains 2005-06 (and is now getting a large subsidy). This is a rail franchise that is not exactly busting a gut to get many more people onto the trains (short trains, expensive tickets, etc.). I hope the prize does result in a good, efficient method, but this does smack of easy publicity.
There’s a fine line between healthy scepticism and downright cynicism. And in my opinion some respondents on this issue are the wrong side of that line. Be that as it may, on the sceptical front it should be remembered that the “fine print” of this announcement indicates that the prize is only open for 5 years; judges (who will include Branson, Hansen and Gore) will meet annually to determine whether any project merits the award. What happens to the prize after 5 years is a matter for future discussion. Since it’s a tall order to get from idea to practical industrial reality in 5 years, then perhaps Richard Branson’s money is safe … and the prize is his money, because the offer is from his personal fortune, not from any one of his companies. And he has asked that governments match his offer. No chance of being killed in the stampede there, then, I’d warrant. (Oops! Careful. Cynicism creeping in.)
What has not been made apparent here or at the recent prize announcement press junket (or perhaps it has been lost amongst the general prize hubbub) is that Branson, last year, committed himself/his (transport) companies over the next 10 years to giving all profits (according to press reports anyway) towards fighting global warming, which should amount to something in the region of US$3 billion. And at the launch of Virgin Fuels last year he committed £214 million (US$400 million) to invest in green energy projects over the next 3 years.
So, yes, the man is a business man, and yes it’s good publicity for him and his companies, but this man is genuine and he has given a serious commitment of serious amounts of spondulicks here. The right time for cynicism is 5 to 10 years down the road if the money committed in 2006-07 has not been forthcoming by ~2016-17, not now. At the very least this has put the subject of amelioration to the fore, as it is as certain as anything can be that air travel is not going to decline anytime in the next 15-20 years, and people are not going to give up their personal transit systems anytime soon either. Now, if only I had a viable idea …
If Mr. Branson’s challenge cannot be met, we can be pretty sure that the Greenland icecap will melt or slide into the Atlantic quickly raising sea levels perhaps 30 feet. The logistics of our modern society depend on the cheap transportation of raw materials, manufactured goods,food, and fuel. Seaports will be unusable with that kind of rise in sea level.
Floating oil terminals and compressed natural gas terminals have been designed and built and are in use. But most manufactured goods and much food is transported in multi modal containers on large ships and loaded and unloaded at huge terminals where these ships can be quickly turned around.
Someone needs to start working on a floating container ship terminal which can unload and reload a container ship with a comparable turn around time as today’s land based terminals. Scores of these terminals will be needed world wide if our civilization is to survive such a quick, catastrophic, and possibly, on going, rise in sea level.
Wouldn’t CH4 or N2O capture be cheaper and more immediately effective? 1 Billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year may even be being done by current Kyoto-funded capture projects. Or what about the invention of an additive to cow-feed that limits or stops their emmissions? That would win the prize hands down.
Two ideas for reclaiming carbon from the atmosphere and locking it away.
I’m afraid they’re both fairly lo-tech, but hey, as long as they work, who cares? It makes them all the more easily implementable.
Here they are:
1. Grow trees, harvest the wood, turn it into charcoal, which is an inert form of carbon and won’t decompose, and sell the charcoal as a soil enhancer/conditioner to farmers and everyone with a garden. This solution is the subject of an article in the Jan/Feb issue of Renew, the publication of the Open University’s NATTA, the independent national UK ‘Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment’ (Though maybe not the online version). The solution is based on research conducted in the Amazon rainforest where charcoal hundreds of years old has been discovered and analysed, and its usefulness as a soil stabiliser revealed. The charcoal, as I say, is a permanent lock-up for the carbon, and by selling the charcoal the scheme becomes self-financing.
2. Grow hemp and use it as a building material, mixed with lime to form ‘hempcrete’. Hemp is fast growing and a very good absorber of atmospheric carbon. Once secure in the lime concrete, it gives the material great strength, and locks the carbon up for as long as the house exists. A conference is being held in April to discuss the technology at the Centre for Alternative Technology.
[[The bill should propose a law that considers it a felony for anyone,(including our President and other elected officials if such a clause is Constitutionally permissible) to deliberately, or through reckless negligence, attempt to advance the public perception that global warming is not as great a threat, or action on it not as immediately necessary, as Congress has officially resolved. ]]
You’re an agent provocateur for the deniers, right?
The solution to the other side arguing against you is to argue better, not to suppress debate. I don’t think fascist solutions to the problem are either needed or morally right.
I am anxious and reluctant about any methods which involve massive and further human manipulation of the “natural” systems of the planet as a means of mitigating CO2, for the basic reason that we do not know what other awful consequences we may thus set in motion.
The comments and reactions by scientists on this site verify for me that the real problem, for human beings, is a social matter: can we formulate a society and way of life in which we live in voluntarily restrictrive circumstances? It’s never happened yet, and it goes against human nature. So, I remain resigned to my own hopelessness on this matter.
I am now reading a popular work, 1491, in which the author, Charles Mann, outlines current anthropological research on the first human inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere, and the current assertions that they, in small numbers and with limited techonolgy (fire, agricultural cultivars, human labor) manipulated vast landscapes which were previously considered virgin and prisitine environments (Eastern N. America, Amazonia, the Patanal). The effects, while large and noticeable, and having some negative consequences, were not overwhelmingly negative due to the relatively low population (I am supposing); forests remained intact as forests, e.g.
In the present day, the sheer numbers of human beings on the planet guarantee that our impact is great, carbon-loading and otherwise (I call this century the Global Era). If such small numbers of people really did have such a large impact on the environment in N. and S. America over one thousand years ago, then how much greater is the present impact worldwide?
All animal populations which exceed the carrying capacity of their environment eventually face a catastrophic collapse in numbers. Our intelligence allows us to jump our niche time and again, leaving me to conclude that the sum of all life on this planet is our “true” niche. When we exceed the carrying capacity of the planet’s life systems to sustain such an artificially high human population, then it will most likely crash down to near-zero. We might limp along for awhile as a species and then flicker out altogether, or be completely extinct before 2100. I term this auto-genocide.
These thoughts are not scientific, surely, and thus inappropriate for this blog. But while the dedicated and concerned (and respected) participants debate molecular minutiae here, I think that the real answer lies in the social realm, with a long-term perspective on human nature. We are what we are, and we shall endure the consequences of that. Mark
Comment by Mark Ritzenhein — 20 Feb 2007 @ 8:28 AM
Re a claim to have done the math. now do the math for how much air flows over Rhode Island, within a reasonably thin turbulent boundary-layer.
It’s clear enough why Branson is doing this: aviation is both a large part of his business and a personal passion, and there’s no short or medium term alternative to kerosene as an aircraft fuel, nor any way of producing it using renewables or nuclear power. While aviation’s share of GHG emissions is currently only a few percent, its growing VERY fast, and will within a few decades, if projected growth occurs, account for essentially all the GHGs we can afford to emit. I imagine Branson has looked at the existing ideas for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and knows they won’t work economically in time to allow this continued growth (see below). So if he wants to keep doing what he’s doing and still feel good about himself, this is the only option.
Re #14 “Dr. David Keith(firstname.lastname@example.org) has been working on sequestration of CO2 from the air for at least 2 years.”, and #30. Keith and colleagues seem to be about the only people currently working on scrubbing CO2 out of the air. In the long term (22nd-23rd centuries) it might be a way of reducing CO2 concentrations, but even though he’s clearly an enthusiast, Keith doesn’t claim the technology is currently anywhere near competitive with other means of mitigation, and notes a possible (socio-political) problem. He says in DAVID W. KEITH, MINH HA-DUONG and JOSHUAH K. STOLAROFF (2006) “CLIMATE STRATEGY WITH CO2 CAPTURE FROM THE AIR” (Climate Change 74(1-3):17-45):
“Because air capture may provide some insurance against climate damages, it presents a risk for public policy: the mere expectation that air capture or similar technologies can be achieved reduces the incentive
to invest in mitigation. Yet, while air capture removes irreversibility in CO2 concentration increases, it does not protects against irreversibilities in the climate systemâ��s response to forcing.”
An editorial in the same issue points out additional problems.
Re #40 “it is as certain as anything can be that air travel is not going to decline anytime in the next 15-20 years, and people are not going to give up their personal transit systems anytime soon either.” Then we’re pretty much toast. Most people, of course, never fly, won’t in the next 15-20 years, and don’t have personal transport systems. If us rich keep on being selfish enough to insist on our “right” to these things and hence screwing up the climate, I can imagine a lot of them getting very angry indeed, and some of those angry people taking extremely violent action.
The prize is actually to be awarded in two installments. $5 million is awarded upon demonstration of the potential of the design to achieve the desired level of GHG removal from ambient air. The remainder is to be disbursed after the technology has been used for 10 years. Given the scale of the effort to actually implement the technology, the operational cost would dwarf $20 million to the extent that the $20 million would almost be irrelevant. However, even millionaires sometimes win the lottery, so if this were to come to fruition, I’m sure the winner would still gladly take the rest of Sir Richard’s money.
As to the specifics of the targets, the award website does not spell this out. However, a reading of it clearly suggests it means ambient CO2 and probably quantities (the award refers to volumes, not GtC) on the order of billions of metric tons per year.
This rather quickly reduces the size of the field to almost nothing. Your choices are enhanced biological removal or artificial chemical absorption processes. The various ocean engineering schemes advanced to date, including the one on the BBC all fail due to lack of some limiting nutrient or the energy cost of producing the nutrient.
Add iron to iron deficient southern ocean water and you get plankton growth until silicon, nitrogen and phosphorous become limiting. Add nitrogen where iron isn’t limiting and you either create a big mess and/or the energy cost of generating the nitrogen (burning of natural gas to make ammonia in the production of urea) and GHG emissions wipe out the benefits.
The invite the salps over for dinner idea has yet to be shown doable (100 million plus giant drain pipes in the Gulf of Mexico that somehow utilize wave action to upwell nutrients) and would come close to a billion tons a year if it worked.
Planting trees and other land plants as has been discussed here before is a non starter for a host of reasons (land availability, nutrients, water) and trying to grow them outside of the tropics appears to worsen albedo feedback mechanisms.
This leaves (no pun intended) the artifical tree type ideas to remove CO2 from ambient air using natural draft towers and chemical absorbing solutions. Such ideas to remove CO2 from ambient air have been tossed around for 25 years and unfortunately, the same laws of thermodynamics in place in 1987 apply in 2007. It just takes too much energy to recycle the sorbent. There is no source of a single use sorbent in sufficient quantities to get around this limitation.
Thus, the Keiths and Lackners are faced with as of today, two seemingly insurmountable problems. The inefficiencies (<5% removal efficiency) associated with removing a valueless product (CO2) at dilute concentrations from a gas stream (the ambient air) and the high cost of sorbent regeneration, making the entire process cost more than $1000/ton carbon removed.
Breakthroughs in this area are likely to take a lot longer than the Virgin award period and cost a great deal more than the prize money is worth.
I have no problem at all with prizes as motivations. The site lists several examples of where this worked to move things forward. Lindberg’s flight to Paris (non stop, meal) in 1927 is another one.
But we’re not talking about delivering mail or building a car that drives itself to Las Vegas, parks at the Mirage and orders the buffet without human intervention or test flying a commercial rocket plane.
The funding for the kind of research needed to solve the GHG problem (and I don’t mean the geoengineering solutions that I and others have proposed to buy time) should be in the billions, not millions. If governments, industries and people are depending on the Virgin Earth Challenge to bail them out, they better prepare to do some bailing themselves as the ice sheets retreat.
He repeated the usual fallacies, albeit reluctantly. He seems to think he’s the only one who’s “looked at the data.” In fact he says so. Rose was persistent, and finally asked if he would come back and debate with a scientist. MC asked if he could bring charts with graphs. One of you guys ought to sign up fast. Gavin? Run over there and show him where’s he’s missing the boat. He says Gore is wrong on Kilimanjaro, and the 20 feet of rise in 100 years, and that no one can predict the future with models. Why can’t they predict 10 years if they can with 100? The man needs help.
My concern with these “techno fixes” is two-fold:
1) We won’t come up with any technology better from a thermodynamic standpoint than existing biological systems (i.e. photosynthesis). We’ll put too much energy into removing the carbon. Save the forests!
2) Techno fixes help some people maintain their state of denial — i.e. incorrectly thinking that we can keep growing forever. We should not be delaying the necessary changes in our growth patterns.
Re #32: Since the battle has clearly moved from science to politics, a class action suit against the U.S., and/or the fossil fuel industry, would certainly raise public awareness. I would still prefer to see legislation considering global warming misinformation a threat to national security because it would be far more effective as a mitigation strategy, and it would draw far more controversy (see #44), which would generate wider media coverage.
Man, it seems like every time someone tries to help the situation, everyone yells “NOT ENOUGH!” or “You’re doing it for selfish reasons!” or the like.
All the talk about how this award won’t accomplish anything except advertise Virgin companies is counter-productive. All the talk about how it won’t work is also counter-productive.
To solve this problem we need as many resources and as many ideas on the table as possible. $25 million will help motivate funding for the people already working on the problem, and might get some innovative idea off the drawing board a little faster. Even if atmospheric carbon sequestration isn’t the most efficient solution, it might help, and even if it turns out a complete dud, the global warming fight only lost $25 million. There’ll be plenty more money in the coming years, and in the meantime, this prize has gotten global warming a lot more press. Seems like a good deal to me.
re: 50. The last thing anyone needs is a science *fiction* writer like MC getting more publicity via the media such as Charlie Rose to talk about global warming. Giving his anti-science, completely discredited voice a soapbox just furthers the misguided “balance” that the media fosters on the issue. Which is completely inappropriate to the science involved.
I don’t see how Branson’s offer can hurt. The thing is that people have to realize the realities we’re dealing with here. First, we will not stop climate change with only conservation measures and conventional strategies. Second, we cannot come up with technological fixes instantaneously. The hope is that conservation will buy us sufficient time to come up with technological innovations that will mitigate the problems caused by climate change–and one such technology is carbon sequestration.
Likewise, it is not a question of whether the required conservation, etc. will derail economic growth, since in order to pay for the technological infrastructure to confront climate change, economic growth will have to remain robust.
Richard Branson is doing his part to promote technological progress toward solutions. Millions of individual citizens are now trying to do their part by conserving more energy, planting trees (which can sequester carbon for hundreds of years), etc. It is now time for governments to do their part by funding research and implementing realistic policies that do not subsidize fossil fuels at the expense of cleaner technologies.
One seemingly promising approach I haven’t seen discussed would be to build upon the existing and proven air seperation unit (ASU) technology to develop CO2 extraction plants powered by wind/solar/tidal energy. Picture, if you would, a power plant sized CO2 ‘dehumidifier’.
The basic ASU process is straightforward. Outside air (or flue gas) is compressed and cooled to the point at which water vapor condenses and is removed. The dry gas is further compressed and cooled until the CO2 condenses, at which point it is removed for sequestration. (In industrial ASUs the gas stream is often further processed to extract liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen and argon but the additional processing isn’t necessary for the CO2 extraction application.) As a side benefit the liquid CO2 produced would contain a percentage of the methane and other pollutants present in the input gas. The chilled compressed residual input gas is passed through heat exchangers and expanded through turbines to help power the compressors and to cool the incoming gases, increasing the efficiency of the process.
The key to making this sort of CO2 extraction plant viable would be optimizing the overall efficiency. Not simple, granted, but this is just engineering and wouldn’t require any scientific or technological breakthroughs. It would also make sense to develop a standard modular design to minimize the non-recurring engineering costs of customizing plants. A plus of this cycle is that it produces potable water that can be used for human or agricultural consumption. Using this ‘waste’ water to irrigate tree farms or orchards would increase the net CO2 removal and provide an additional revenue stream.
I envision plants of this type sited in desert areas such as the American west, central Australia, or Saharan Africa . . . anywhere with adequate renewable energy resources. Properly designed they could be ‘off the grid’ and largely self sufficient over their lifecycle.
Re #32, #52, etc: As long as we’re talking about class action suits, why not one against anti-nuclear groups? If it weren’t for their disinformation campaign and obstructive tactics, we’d have far fewer coal-fired power plants to worry about.
Or indeed, why not a class action suit against all the actual end-users of fossil fuels? Except that’d mean some of us would have to move out of our glass houses :-)
This reminds me of the woman who collected ferrets in her house. Eventually there were so many ferrets and cages and cages stacked one on top of eachother, and the rooms held about ten times more ferrets than they should have. After the ferrets got removed, they cleaned the place and a dull stench stayed behind. The earth is like that house. Unfortunately there is no one coming to clean.
I have a great idea for a machine that uses sunlight and water to efficiently convert CO2 into O2 and complex carbohydrates, sugars, and fibers. It only needs some additional nutrients to operate. I call it the TREE. I’ll sell my design along with a bridge and some swamp land I have, too.
I agree with the skeptics here — the only thing that scares me more than geo-engineering atmospheric chemistry is not doing it. BAU is obviously a worse plan, but if we start removing CO2, who decides when to turn the machines off? At what level do we set the CO2 “thermostat”?
As a significant step toward tackling climate change, an unprecedented group of companies and organizations from around the world have endorsed a bold post-Kyoto framework for affecting change at the levels of policy and industry, particularly in regard to creating sustainable energy systems necessary for achieving economic growth.
The statement – endorsed by Allianz, Bayer, Citigroup, DuPont, General Electric, Volvo, and many others – calls on governments to set scientifically informed targets for greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. The agreement also urges governments to place a price on carbon emissions and to set forth policies aimed at addressing energy efficiency and de-carbonization in all sectors. Calling climate change “an urgent problem,” the statement lays out a proactive framework for global action to mitigate risks and impacts while also meeting the global need for energy, economic growth and sustainable development. It outlines cost-effective technologies that exist today and others that could be developed and deployed to improve energy efficiency and help reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases in major sectors of the global economy.
The ability of so many key stakeholders with such diverse views to agree upon the Joint Statement demonstrates the possibility of fostering a global consensus on a positive, proactive approach to meeting the challenge of global climate change. The signatories include Air France, Alcoa, Allianz, American Electric Power, Bayer, China Renewable Energy Industry Association, Citigroup, DuPont, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, ENDESA, Eni, Eskom, FPL Group, General Electric, Iberdrola, ING, Interface, Marsh & McLennan Companies, Munich Re, NRG Energy, Patagonia, Ricoh, Rolls Royce, Stora Enso North America, Suntech Power, Swiss Re, Vattenfall, Volvo, World Council of Churches, World Petroleum Council, and many others.
A number of the corporations mentioned above are also participants in the US Climate Action Partnership, which in January called for urgent action — including mandatory national limits on carbon emissions — in the USA.
Companies like Exxon-Mobil that continue to fund the global-warming deniers, and otherwise resist the urgent necessity of dealing with global warming, are becoming increasingly isolated in the corporate world.
I regard Branson’s announcement as basically a publicity stunt, that is at best unlikely to have any significant impact on anything and at worst diverts attention from where it really needs to be: on reducing carbon emissions.
I totally agree with you. It’s not like we would have a turn on/off machinery and just press a button when the co2 level is not within limits.
The way I see it, it’s not like we can do much to change current situation. But we can do much to evoid future climate changes of such gravity.
History shows us that in the past century, there have been other climate changes, that seem to be linked to certain events that affected the oceans in the same period. Naval wars, as small as they seem compared to the vaste spread of the oceans, are some of the more importants causes of the climate changes in the history
“completely discredited voice.” Crichton isn’t in some circles including the White House. Rose has extensive interviews with scientists, as well as authors of many genres. He was clearly perplexed by MC’s density on this issue. It was very telling and a climate scientist should correct the record in this fashion representing the position of science.
OK, serious idea here: I suppose most of you are familiar with the concept of ocean thermal power, which uses the temperature difference between the surface and cold deep waters to drive a generator. Consider also that warm tropical surface waters are in effect biological deserts because of their lack of nutrients, which are plentiful in the cold deep waters. (That’s why upwelling zones such as the west coast of the Americas were rich fishing grounds…)
So: build ocean thermal plants, designing the plumbing so that it brings cold deep water to the surface. This provides nutrients to the surface life, which absorbs carbon (part of which drops to the bottom and is sequestered), generates electric power, and creates a productive fishery to boot.
All new energy production plants should use nuclear, hydro or clean coal burned fuels. Existing fossil fuel plants should be phased out and replaced. Doing so in China and India alone will reduce emissions by over a billion tons per year. As an incentive to China and India, we should offer them our new clean burning coal technology as soon as it is perfected.
If the rest of the developed world followed, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions would be enormous.
When Richard Branson reads this post he can cut a check for the prize money.
Here’s a “simple”, cheap, and potentially very profitable method for carbon sequestration of gasses from a coal or natural gas plant: (1) extract pure oxygen from the air through liquidification or a membrane, (2) use to burn the coal, (3) compress the resulting gases (CO2, SO2, SO3), (4) sell the sulfur oxides, and pump the liquid CO2 underground.
Why use pure oxygen? The removal of the nitrogen makes the generator a lot more thermodynamically efficient. The increased efficiency creates way more than enough power to run the compressors, and you don’t have to extract the nitrogen from the flue gases.
The catch? A lousy 25 million doesn’t begin to cover the myriad costs involved in setting up a new, albeit improved power generation system. Pure oxygen burns hot. Would you like, as a responsible investor/engineer to be the first to bet your money/reputation that you get everything right? Especially when the popular inclination is to criticize, comment or even sue if perfection is not instantly achieved.
Google “pure oxygen” “power generation” for a sample. I.e: The Gas is Greener…
Also Wiki “MHD”.
The solution to our need to encourage good solutions?
(1) Understand the science, economics and politics involved
(2) Criticize constructively and carefully
(3) Lower entry barriers to good solutions; identify them, then help make them risk-free and profitable.
“One seemingly promising approach I haven’t seen discussed would be to build upon the existing and proven air seperation unit (ASU) technology to develop CO2 extraction plants powered by wind/solar/tidal energy. Picture, if you would, a power plant sized CO2 ‘dehumidifier’.”
I’d be skeptical of this, because of the thermodynamics. You’be be wasting a lot of mechanical energy to condense a small amount of CO2.
By contrast, the power plant CO2 capture schemes don’t use pressure-swing absorption, they use a CO2-absorbing solvent (like an amine) on a temperature-swing. You can use low-grade heat (~120-140 deg C) for the temperature swing. That reduces the loss of possible useful work from the system versus using pressure swing absorption or other such separation systems based on input of mechanical energy.
“Recently I read about the discovery of natural lakes of liquid CO2 at the bottom of the deep ocean. Apparently, at the right pressure and temperature, the CO2 will remain a liquid separated from the water by a layer of solid hydrate. With this information, would CO2 sequestration in the deep ocean be back on the table? ”
IIRC, there was a paper by MBARI a few years back where they looked at how liquid CO2 behaved a great depth in the Monterey Bay. The details escape me, but I remember there was weirdness with the hydrate formation that made me think “well, that screws the deep ocean CO2 lake idea.”
Comment by No Longer a Urinated State of America — 20 Feb 2007 @ 4:49 PM
beat you to it with post #53….
only 666,666,666 more people(out of over 6 billion) need to become vegetarians, mission accomplished….
I know, it is a scary number, but so are the consequences….
please contact me and I will give you my swiss bank account number.
W F Lenihan wrote: “As an incentive to China and India, we should offer them our new clean burning coal technology as soon as it is perfected.”
According to WorldWatch Insitute there are more than 150 coal-fired electrical generation plants already planned to be built in the USA. As I understand it, not a single one of them is anything resembling a “clean coal” power plant, and not a single one of them incorporates any form of carbon sequestration technology. The builders are going for cheap, conventional, 80-year old pulverized coal technology and hoping that these power plants will be “grandfathered” out of any new legislation mandating so-called “clean coal” and/or sequestration. That’s a gamble on their part — if such legislation is passed and the plants are not “grandfathered” out of it, then they will require very costly retrofits.
At any rate, the USA doesn’t really have any “clean coal” technology to offer India or China.
Both of those countries, on the other hand, are huge markets for wind turbines and photovoltaics, which are much more appropriate and cost-effective technologies for rural electrification in developing countries that don’t have and can’t afford to deploy the large power grids needed for distributing centrally-generated electricity to rural populations.
[Response: Actually this isn't quite fair. There are plenty of ideas and technology developments in the US that could be utilised elsewhere - particularly in China. But the utilization of the technology even in the US is restricted because of multiple regulatory hurdles that do not rank reducing CO2 emissions as a priority. Thus even if utilities wanted to build lower emissions plants now, they cannot unless it is cheaper than any alternative (which it isn't). This came up at the GROCC press conference this morning. Without a price for carbon emissions, state regulations preclude almost all experimentation with new carbon-capture related technology. -gavin]
“Why use pure oxygen? The removal of the nitrogen makes the generator a lot more thermodynamically efficient. The increased efficiency creates way more than enough power to run the compressors, and you don’t have to extract the nitrogen from the flue gases.”
Problem is that the temperature gets too hot if you just burn fuel & oxygen – you end up having to use a working fluid, and there’s issues with using a triatomic gas like CO2 as the working fluid versus a diatomic gas like N2 – different gamma, lower efficiency. Also, you’ve got a shedload of mechanical energy losses in compressing and condensing air for distillation.
In general, separation of O2 pre-combustion loses out thermodynamically to post-combustion capture of CO2 in air, or reforming of the fuel to hydrogen and CO2 and then capturing the CO2 pre-combustion. The post-combustion and pre-combustion capture of CO2 work out roughly equal in terms of economics.
There’s been work on ceramic oxygen-conducting membranes, but the materials issues in terms of materials and degradation of the membrane from higher carbon chains are practical problems when you scale up.
Comment by No Longer a Urinated State of America — 20 Feb 2007 @ 5:22 PM
How about artificially increasing the pH of the ocean? This will naturally cause more CO2 to be absorbed into it. Indeed, isn’t dissolution of calcium carbonate the natural mechanism by which most of the current anthropogenic CO2 pulse would be absorbed into the oceans over the next few thousand years?
Also: the concentration (in moles/volume) of inorganic carbon is higher in the ocean than it is in the atmosphere, by a considerable factor. So instead of extracting CO2 from air, it might make more sense to extract inorganic carbon from seawater, convert it to CO2, and dispose of that CO2 somehow (underground? mineral carbonation?). The ocean would then pull more CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate.
ASU systems are like any other thermodynamic system based on a cycle. Such processes are not 100 percent efficient, i.e., the compression/decompression process and the heat transfer processes return less energy than added to make the cycle work. As you point out, such systems are available now. The energy to run them can be calculated. The idea of using renewable systems as a power source sounds great, but there is a cost of the electric power from these systems, even though the primary energy source may be free. Most of the cost is for the capital to build these machines and they have a limited life time.
The electricity from the renewable sources would be useful no matter where is is eventually consumed or what it’s source. The ultimate question is, who would pay for any of these sequestration approaches, even if the latest techno gadget can actually be made to work. How large a carbon tax would be required to remove a ton of CO2 from free air vs. the cost of removal from a waste stream, such as that from a coal fired electric power plant? Those ASU devices would likely be much more cost effective if they used a high CO2 content, therefore, what’s the incentive for building them out in the middle of some desert no where?
That’s a gamble on their part — if such legislation is passed and the plants are not “grandfathered” out of it, then they will require very costly retrofits.
Perhaps not surprisingly, EPRI and Alstom have an effort to demonstrate a technology that could considerably reduce the operating cost of such retrofits. This technology would absorb CO2 from flue gas using a chilled ammonia solution, rather than the amines used in current solvent-based approaches.
The Earth Sciences Education Project (ESEP) presents its design of a carbon capture strategy for effectively reducing anthropogenic carbon emissions within the framework of climate change policy. ESEP is dedicated to the geophysical 3-state and 4-state modeling of planet Earth (http://www.EarthSciencesEducationProject.org). The ESEP Earth model transforms Earth’s atmosphere into an integral part of the planet.
The ESEP Earth model is based upon the deduction that the radius of Earth extends to the exobase at the top of the atmosphere. This far-reaching deduction derives from the definition of ‘planet’ and from the fundamental, but overlooked, geophysical fact that planet Earth exists under hydrostatic equilibrium conditions in all four states of matter. (See Definition of â��Planet,â�� http://www.EarthSciencesEducationProject.org/id32.html.)
Global solutions to global warming entail a sea change in our understanding of planet Earth. In 1988, while conducting rainforest canopy research in the headwaters of Borneo, I concluded that global biogeochemical cycles–including the global hydrologic and carbon dioxide cycles–physically couple the lower atmosphere to the land masses, ocean and biosphere.
This discovery, I realized at the time, is equivalent to assuming that the atmospheric gas-phase components of the global cycles are an integral part of Earth. This means, in the instance of the global hydrologic cycle, that Arctic jet streams and ITCZ cloud formations are integral parts of the planet and are not located, as conventional science holds, outside the surface boundary of the planet in the troposphere.
In the instance of the global carbon dioxide cycle, this means that the increasing parts-per-million concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide is an integral part of planet Earth and is not concentrated, as conventional science assumes, outside the surface boundary of the planet.
In the ESEP Earth model, climate and weather are recognized, for the first time, as taking place within the interior of planet Earth. The net result of analyzing climate change within the ESEP Earth model is that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are no longer viewed as being emitted into an ‘atmospheric dumping ground’ that lies outside the surface boundary of the planet and beyond the purview of policy makers.
The ESEP Earth model effectively captures and sequesters the entire volume of atmospheric carbon dioxide under the surface boundary of planet Earth. As a consequence, the anthropogenic sink concentration, in the atmosphere, and source emissions, near ground level, of the gas species carbon dioxide become amenable to the charter powers, governance, and stewardship of the international communityâ��s institutions.
From source to sink, the atmospheric pathway of anthropogenic carbon becomes subject to transnational law and sound science policy. The carbon capture strategy and design of the ESEP Earth model leads directly to the language of an international declaration that recognizes the atmosphere as forming an integral part of Earth. The declaration would reach, a fortiori, to the anthropogenic parts-per-million concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Along with continued IPCC assessments and protocols recognizing the transnational status of the atmosphere, the international declaration could form the basis for an international, UN-sponsored atmospheric treaty on global climate change. This treaty would be the authorizing power for the source-to-sink green capture of carbon under mandated rates of reduction–initially of second-order magnitude–in anthropogenic carbon emissions.
#53, Lars has a good point. In my every effort to reduce my GHGs, I became a vegan (though I’ve backslid somewhat in recent years). If people could just cut their meat consumption in half, that would help, not only reduce environmental harms, but also improve health, and spare more food for the poor. Considerations include not only the methane emitted from livestock, but also the fossil fuel & water-intensive agriculture for growing grain for livestock; a much larger area of arable land for meat-eaters; and a host of other issues.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 20 Feb 2007 @ 6:04 PM
Those who commented on my suggestion regarding clean burning coal technology seem to ignore the fact that China has enough very dirty coal with which generate a significant portion of its energy requirements for several hundred years. Limiting China to nuclear and hydro power sources will not do. China will surpass our total CO2 emissions within a year or two. China will use its coal regardless of the consequences so long as it is cheaper than other fuels.
We have a lot of coal too. It is politically unacceptable for us to use it until the clean burning technology is perfected.
hey, can a country win the prize, maybe Australia ought to get it! Am i right in thinking that i can sleep a tiny bit easier tonight, knowing that some of the ‘low hanging fruit’ ie inefficient light bulbs, are being plucked, at last.
I wish the UK had been the first, because i hate to see the Aussies get the glory (its a cricket thing)!
Bless em tho, they are looking a bit like canaries, at this point.
“China will use its coal regardless of the consequences so long as it is cheaper than other fuels.”
Or not. China has much less coal than the US and much of it is low-grade and high-sulfur. Their air quality problems are a major development barrier as it’s killing the workforce. Sooner or later something has to give.
[China has much less coal than the US and much of it is low-grade and high-sulfur. Their air quality problems are a major development barrier as it's killing the workforce. Sooner or later something has to give. ]
That is only your uninformed opinion.
China’s coal demand will rise, in 2007, to 2.5 billion tons. China’s coal capacity stands at 2.35 billion tons with 800 million tons of capacity under development.
China’s power generation capacity rose by 20.3 percent to reach 622 GW at the end of 2006; 484 GW of which is thermal power plants (virtually all coal-fired) Coal fired capacity is projected to rise to 557 GW in 2010 and 798 GW in 2020.
Sasol, S. Africa’s coal-to-liquids energy firm, signed agreements with China to build two coal liquefaction plants each having an 80,000 bpd capacity and costing $5 to $6 billion each.
The recoverable coal reserves in China are 114.5 billion tons; albeit at 30 percent recovery factor. Known deposits are estimated to exceed a trillion tons. Half the coal reserve has sulfur content average of .5; 30% has sulfur content between .51 and 2.0% and the remainder has over 2.0% sulfur. And, the majority of the coal deposits are bituminous rank (steam coal).
Finally, Australia is a ready source of coal to meet Chinaâ??s tight supply.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 20 Feb 2007 @ 8:59 PM
The notion that China is incapable of taking a positive position with regard to dealing with its CO2 emissions makes little sense. They’re not idiots.
Rose gave Crichton a roughing up (politely) over his denial of the scientific consensus on global warming. And Crichton pretty much agreed to most of the premises on anthropogenic global warming but refused to accept that the implications are likely to be as problematic as generally feared and therefore warrant urgent action. (Mind you he continues to pretend that his own ‘calculations’ of the predicted degree of warming are more accurate.
I really do hope that a climatologist with good speaking skills takes up the challenge to debate him. Rose clearly accepts that the the consensus is likely to be right and should be taken seriously. And I suspect that he would want the point to be made that the one-to-one interview gives a grossly misleading impression of the true weight of expert opinion. It would be great to see Crichton have to face the facts and it is important the climatologists take up such opportunities to present their case.
If we are adding 24 billion tonnes of CO2 (6 billion tonnes of carbon) to the atmosphere each year and the most efficient methods of CO2 reduction we have now are $10 per tonne per year (many of the above proposals would cost $100s per tonne), then the cost of stopping CO2 rise is $2.4 trillion per year.
That is a lot of money and people should understand that this is not an easy uncostly fix. You will have to pay much more for electricity and reduce your usage. You will have to pay much more for gasoline and reduce your usage. You will have to stop using plastic products. If you are a farmer you have to adopt Zero till techniques and cut your fertilizer usage considerably. Some mentioned going vegan (not required, methane levels have stabilized.)
You cannot ask Exxon to make all the changes. You have to reduce your demand of Exxon’s products so that less gasoline is used and Exxon’s emissions come down. It is not Exxon’s fault or your local electrical utility’s fault; it is yours; for using all that electricity and all that oil that your computer requires when you are reading this board.
You will pay much more and you will use much less.
[Response: Some arithmetic errors there. If we add about 9 gigatons of carbon to the atmosphere each year, then an abatement cost of $100 per ton is 900 billion per, or just short of a trillion. That's an over-estimate of the cost, since that's gross cost, not net. Carbon taxes can be plowed back into the productive economy, and there are jobs (and GDP) in building carbon sequestration plants or wind farms. Also, note we're not talking about instantly decarbonizing the whole economy. The object is to first stabilize then ramp down emissions, to delay the atmospheric CO2 rise and buy time for emergence of technologies that could completely decarbonize the economy. --raypierre]
You do have to wonder though why it takes so long for such simple decisions to be made. The government here is starting to feel pressured by public opinion and the opposition party over it’s lack of serious action on climate, so it’s stating to cast around for minimal effort responses. At least it’s a start.
And yes Oz is starting to feel like a giant sunburnt canary. Flick through the other articles on the environment section on the ABC news website to get a feel for how things are going here in the parched Antipodes. Take note particularly of the fierce debates over water management.
Re #77: “China will use its coal regardless of the consequences so long as it is cheaper than other fuels.”
Why should this be any more or less true of China than of any other country, or indeed, of any group or individual?
Now rephrasing that to “group X will continue to use coal as long as those making the decisions perceive a net benefit in doing so” would be closer to the mark, and also gives ideas on how to change that behavior. In the case of China, there are plenty of options, such as selling them cheaper alternative energy technologies or imposing excess CO2 tariffs on imports.
Seems like the “China card” has become the last resort of the denialists. If they can’t convince people that AGW doesn’t exist, they claim that it’s futile for the rest of the world to try doing anything because China won’t. Which, of course, is silly: why should the Chinese be less amenable to education & persuasion than anyone else?
The only way I can see that is even remotely feasible to actually remove CO2 from the air, is to plant trees. There are vast areas of arid or semi-arid land, some of which was probably forested at one time, that could be planted in trees. These would be irrigated by a sustainable irrigation system, with water coming from solar powered distillation plants. It is even possible that large scale reforestation like this will in turn affect the climate in the local area, as the atmosphere cools and water vapour is released into the air, so that after 50-100 years, or maybe even sooner, the forest will become self perpetuating. Tourist trips in renewable fuelled aircraft, the fuel being derived from the cellulose of these forests, would be very popular, with brochures tempting customers to visit the wonders of the Saharan jungles or the Gobi forests.
Of course, none of this would be worth attempting until we reduce our global CO2 emissions by 80-90%
I know that non-scientists like Michael Crichton really aren’t credible about global warming, but I have a question about a statement he made. He said that there should be “double-blind” studies fo all environmental research. I’m not a scientist, but I know double-blind research is what medical doctors and medical researchers use, because of the placebo effect in patients receiving drugs or other medical treatments.
Now I realize Crichton doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he speaks out on climate science, but is that statement about double-blind research in environmental/climate studies as nutty or ignorant as it sounds?
I mean, how would you use double-blind studies when it comes to studying the planet? Wouldn’t that mean we need two earths?
I apologize if I’m missing something. Thanks for taking the time for this neat web site.
I’m not a scientist, so hopefully someone who knows about this will soon reply, but in magazines like Scientific America they’ve had articles about how new technology might “scrub” C02 from the air. Basically it would involve some kind of filter that captures C02 particles and store it (usually underground, or perhaps the sea). I mayb be wrong but it’s my understanding, that while plants play a big role in cleaning the air, it’s unlikely they would be the solution to solving the carbon problem because once a particular tree or plant dies the carbon it stored up is released back into the ecosystem. Of course things like deforestation should be stopped, but apparently just planting a lot of trees or artificial forests wouldn’t stop global warming. The technology for the CO2 scrubbers also would be extremely expensive and it would take a large number of them to even have a miniscule effect on overal C02, so pretty much the only reliable “cure” is to massivel reduce CO2 emissions. Some people have proposed science-fiction like solutions such as a solar shade that blocks out some of the sunlight, but of course many scientists doubt things like that would be a good idea, and they don’t solve the underlying problem, and there are other problems with oil use like carbon acidification of the oceans and peak oil. Apparently there’s no quick fix or simply free lunch for this. Again, I’m not an expert just someone who’s read about this (mainly science magazines for a lay audience), so hopefully one will answer your question soon.
“Isn’t Branson the guy who owns the airlines? Don’t planes burn fuel?…”
No offense, but deniers use some excuse like that all the time, “Doesn’t Al Gore own a plane, etc..” Well first just because someone’s a hypocrite does not mean the science is wrong. And you might want to be sure before you charge someone with it. For example, Al Gore uses carbon offsetting to neutralize the carbon he puts out. Branson only recently became a “believer” in global warming, I seriously doubt he’s going to bulldoze his hotels and sell his business and airplanes (even then, people wanting to fly would just use a different airline.)
China actually may soon actually be making more progress in this than the US, for example it’s proposing efficiency rules for its auto industry that are actually more stringent than ours. So one of the few remaining exuses “but, but China!” might not be viable anymore. China’s a totalitarian dictatorship that treats its citizens like crap, so I don’t think we should emulate them anyway. Also when the US was industrialized, fossil fuel was the only viable fuel source, there were no alternatives like there was today, and we didn’t realize the effects of all this then. Finally, virtually none of the measures proposed would “deny” China/India prosperity, such as transferring oil company subsidies to renewable energy to spur regulation, encouraging efficiencey in our own country, reseach prizes like this, etc. Despite what all the shills and deniers say, ther is NO reasonable justification, morally or economically for doing nothing. I also, personally find it a little humorous when the same people who otherwise don’t give a care about anyone else in the world suddenly are “concerned” when they realize their own lifestyle might be threatened (I’m not saying you’re like this, but many are). Kind of like when con-servatives who think all poor people are lazy bums who need to work harder, and oppose minimum wages, and any measures to help them, suddenly are “concerned” action on global warming might hurt the poor.
Global warming certainly has, and is, bringing out the absolute ugliest in human nature, and shown a lot of people for what they really are. Like when greedy already wealthy businessmen care so little about human life, even their children’s, they’re willing to lie and spread propaganda to prevent any action on this so they can make more money than they ever need. Certain people on the right have shown (not just in this matter) in the last few years they’ll put ideology over facts no matter what the cost. So while anyone who’s not biased and has been paying attentino knows, there certainly is a lot of ugliness but it’s certainly not coming from the scientists and people trying to solve global warming.
Re: #9 – Rick, weren’t we told that robots would be running our households by the late 20th century? We can hope that technology will eventually make a big dent in this issue via such things as carbon sequestration, but it seems unwise to bet the farm on it. Especially when the laws of physics still have some say in the matter. We should be doing what we can now, and then transition to new technologies as they become feasible and reasonable in the real world.
I do not know much about science, I will state that first off. And most of the ideas I throw out are completely stupid. Anyhow can’t CO2 be removed the an alkaline metal solution? instead of SO2 can’t you use calcium or potassium? both of those can be used to filter CO2. I know it’s not a device or method I am stating. I am just trying to give an idea of a filtering solution. I am not an engineer.
Comment by Aaron D. Holder — 21 Feb 2007 @ 2:35 AM
While we’re waiting for that $25 mill…
Here’s a click-to-donate site that appears kosher. Check it out on Wikipedia if doubtful. One mere daily click of your mouse saves over 11 square feet of rainforest and of course helps the CO2 imbalance.
Re 83, Raypierre, is that possible what you suggest? Can we stabalise our CO2 output when China and the USA plan or are designing and building new coal fired power stations during this decade? And then can we make it fall when no agreements or finance are yet available to do so and when the technology is not currently developed to assist in this?
I have read this morning that the EU 27 states have agreed 30 % cuts relative to 1990 levels by 2020 but I am doubtful that this can be achieved without large scale spending by the states themselves and that means diverting money other good causes such as health, roads, schools etc. In fact the only way to achieve this is to use energy conservation techniques that will have to be paid for by the state, ie lagging peoples houses and cavity wall insulation.
Surely any demonstration of cuts of this magnitude are more ideology than fact? Sustainable energy aside (germany has plenty of wind turbines and solar) can we really do it ?
I’ve been shopping around the concept of constructing a GMO and seeding it into the ocean to improve nature’s ability to fix carbon. The reactions I’ve gotten back from governments and scientists is that it is a risky scheme.
Therefore, I think people need to first percieve how close we are to triggering a catastrophic runaway global warming chain reaction where mankind’s emissions rapidly melt the permafrost which cause the oceanic methane hydrate to melt.
Furthermore, I think people need to percieve that it is unlikely (and unrealistic) that mankind will cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions so deeply, so fast, as to avoid runaway global warming. Therefore, cutting anthropic GHG is a poor mitigation strategy.
When people realize how serious global warming is, and that trying to cut their GHG emissions is failing to solve the problem, they will come to the realization that only removing the GHG from the environment after it has been emitted is the solution.
This may sound too good to be true, but nature already removes about half of the carbon dioxide mankind emits each year (although that is expected to decrease 30% by 2030). We need to improve nature’s ability to fix carbon, and in my opinion the best way to do that is by seeding a GMO into the ocean (i.e. biosequestration).
Re #84 Re #78: Yep it’s official; Australia is set to ban the incandescent light bulb!
First of all one has to note that Australia has no incandescent light bulb manufacturers to complain. Secondly, Energy efficient lightbulbs were likely to be switched to in large numbers anyway. How many more with the policy change? Just the ones which had less reason to and very few more (most people are less lazy when it is about saving money). Wrongly, the government gets credit for an accelerating process of conversion that was happening anyway. Great politics, So-so environmental credentials.
Phillip — I think you have an interesting idea with the carbon sequestration plants working on the surrounding air. I don’t know whether it’s practical in energy terms or not, but if it is it might well be the way to go (aside, of course, from conservation and developing renewable energy sources). For sequestering the carbon, I’m wondering if it can’t be combined with some other substance to make a solid, which could then just be stacked or buried somewhere. If you could make bricks out of it it might be very useful.
[[History shows us that in the past century, there have been other climate changes, that seem to be linked to certain events that affected the oceans in the same period. Naval wars, as small as they seem compared to the vaste spread of the oceans, are some of the more importants causes of the climate changes in the history ]]
How? By what mechanism do naval wars change the climate?
[[ In 1988, while conducting rainforest canopy research in the headwaters of Borneo, I concluded that global biogeochemical cycles--including the global hydrologic and carbon dioxide cycles--physically couple the lower atmosphere to the land masses, ocean and biosphere. ]]
Good realization. I think Walker et al. demonstrated one aspect of that back in 1981 (the carbonate-silicate cycle), and of course Urey was thinking about in in 1952 (think “Urey reaction”), and the basic realization that the atmosphere and oceans are coupled to the solid planet goes back way before that. Like to the 18th century or so.
I don’t understand the objection to use of Aerosols to counteract global warming. If the model is good for prediction, it is good for control. Why should there be more uncertainty in putting aerosols into the atmosphere than there is in putting CO2? We have results from several volcanic “experiments” on the effect of aerosols..
It is important to remember also, that there are many environmental benefits to cheap energy (more water treatment, for example.)
Re #97 “I’ve been shopping around the concept of constructing a GMO and seeding it into the ocean to improve nature’s ability to fix carbon. The reactions I’ve gotten back from governments and scientists is that it is a risky scheme.”
They are right. Supposing you could design organisms that could fix more carbon than current phytoplankton and compete successfully with the latter (which I doubt), you would be fundamentally disrupting marine ecosystems, with completely unknown and probably unknowable (in advance) consequences. One possibility is that your engineered organisms would drive most other phytoplankton to extinction, then fall victim to a virus mutated to infect them, leaving the sea largely devoid of life, and unable to fix much carbon at all.
Re #102 “I don’t understand the objection to use of Aerosols to counteract global warming.”
1) Environmental effects (acid rain).
2) Possibly, health effects, although these might be avoidable if injection is high enough in the atmosphere.
3) Does nothing to counteract ocean acidification, the other serious effect of increased CO2 levels.
4) Who decides how much, of what aerosols, and where to release them? If there are negative effects, who pays?
All of the Branson/Virgin bashing reminds me that “No good deed goes unpunished”.
My mom often said, usually to me, “If I gave you the moon, you’d want a red ribbon around it”. I’m thinking some of you with nothing good to say about Branson would benefit from her wisdom.
Just to provide some perspective here, this isn’t Branson’s only effort to provide some help in solving the problem.
I’d refer you to: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/6203636.stm
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic is to conduct a trial using 13 of its planes which could cut aviation fuel use and slash carbon dioxide emissions.
By towing its Boeing 747-400 aircraft to take-off areas at London airports during December it said it could save up to two tonnes of fuel per flight.
Aircraft will be towed to Heathrow and Gatwick runways to cut fuel burning.
Virgin said a reduction of 120,000 tonnes in carbon emissions a year could be made if extended across its fleet.
and to: http://news.cheapflights.com/airlines/2006/12/virgin_atlantic.html
Passengers on Virgin Atlantic flights will be able to offset the carbon emissions from their journey from next year by paying a little extra toward green initiatives that absorb carbon dioxide, lower fuel usage, or provide fuel from green sources.
Branson recently committed the profits from his transport companies for the next ten years â�� approximately $3 billion â�� to the development of sustainable aviation fuels (see Virgin to energize the environment, plans to cut carbon)
Branson’s putting his money where his mouth is. Good for him. If he wasn’t an expert at self-promotion, there wouldn’t be any money for any of his activities.
Re #91: Alex, thanks for noticing my comment (#9). I’m not a scientist – are there any specific laws of physics you believe my idea (carbon-ball-making GMOs floating on the ocean, then sinking) would violate ? I don’t mean ‘we do not have the technology to do do that now’, I mean a reason that idea violates, say, the second law of thermodynamics. After all, if a tree can make a grapefruit, how dissimilar is this idea ?
Re #97: Brad, you seem to thinking along similar lines. What did the governments and scientists tell you was ‘risky’ ? Just the whole idea of a genetically modified organism, or something else ? (Seems like the ‘riskiness’ of a solution should be evaluated against failure to solve the problem).
“The only way I can see that is even remotely feasible to actually remove CO2 from the air, is to plant trees.”
Err, no. Reforestation, no-till farming, etc. are only very partial solutions in terms of the mass of CO2 we’re projected to emit by burning fossil fuel. IIRC, we’re talking about maybe 3% of emissions to the year 2100 being able to be off-set by reforestation and no-till farming.
I have the feeling people don’t have a good sense of the scale of the emissions. Google Socolow’s “stabilization wedges” article to get a decent background on the issue.
“For sequestering the carbon, I’m wondering if it can’t be combined with some other substance to make a solid, which could then just be stacked or buried somewhere. If you could make bricks out of it it might be very useful. ”
There’s been work on accelerating the weathering of serpentine (Mg/Ca silicates) to carbonates as a method of sequestering, but again, this is an awkward and expensive technology compared to other alternatives.
“Perhaps not surprisingly, EPRI and Alstom have an effort to demonstrate a technology that could considerably reduce the operating cost of such retrofits. This technology would absorb CO2 from flue gas using a chilled ammonia solution, rather than the amines used in current solvent-based approaches.”
Hmmm, that’s puzzling: the hindered amines developed by e.g. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries regenerate at pretty low temperatures, so that the actual mechanical efficiency loss is quite a bit lower than that protrayed in the flyer. Ammonia absorption chillers operate real cheaply though. It may be that the use of chilled ammonia solution obviates the compression energy needed to chill and liquify the CO2 for sequestration.
Comment by No Longer a Urinated State of America — 21 Feb 2007 @ 10:34 AM
Hmmm, that’s puzzling: the hindered amines developed by e.g. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries regenerate at pretty low temperatures, so that the actual mechanical efficiency loss is quite a bit lower than that protrayed in the flyer.
I understand the amine approaches suffer from chemical degradation problems; ammonia is cheaper and more robust. Degradation would be particularly problematic as the amine molecules used become more complex and expensive.
Unlike their beautiful $92,000 electric sports car, this one will cost about $50,00 and seat 5. It’s beginning to come within my reach. Just slash that price in half & I’ll be ready (tho I’ll still have to extremely convince my husband with a cost/benefit chart).
The price per mile is about 2 cents, I think, and the lithium ion batteries give full performance for the first 100,000 miles, then diminish (with our under 4,000 per year driving, it would be a long time before replacement, and the price should go down).
The range, I think, is 250 miles on a charge, with a 4-hour complete charge time. (Hint: It’s like plugging in your cell phone at night.)
Most of all, since my electricity is 100% wind generated from GreenMountain.com we’d be driving on the wind.
And BTW, electric cars were one of the 1st cars to be made; ladies preferred them bec they didn’t have to be cranked to start. But the automatic ignition (& better range) made ICE cars a better deal….and the rest is history.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 21 Feb 2007 @ 12:27 PM
There’s been work on accelerating the weathering of serpentine (Mg/Ca silicates) to carbonates as a method of sequestering, but again, this is an awkward and expensive technology compared to other alternatives.
Does anyone happen to know the delta ‘G’ for this, the magnesium-serpentinite process?
MgSiO3 + CO2 —> MgCO3 + SiO2
“Accelerating the weathering” is an odd way of saying “run the serpentinite through an ore crusher”. Per tonne CO2 made solid in the above process there needs to be crushed 2.28 tonnes of MgSiO3 serpentinite; if the degree of comminution must be such that 80 percent of the fragments’ sizes are 0.025 mm or less, this takes 114 kWh of electricity, 14 percent of the amount that a power station burning pure carbon would produce per tonne of CO2 emitted, or a smaller fraction if the fuel is a hydrocarbon.
I see the NIST database has the carbonate and the silicate, allowing a delta ‘G’ to be calculated: -28.15 kJ/mol.
Awkward though this may be, the minus sign means it is final. The CO2 is down to stay; -28 is enough to work even with atmospherically dilute CO2. Has crushing serpentinite and then just blowing it out a tall stack
on a windy day been looked at?
Re:#65 by James. He is on the right track, but ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) has been under development for more that 100 years and still no real operating plants. These were all efforts to export electric power or ammonia etc. By putting all the power into pumping cold bottom water and warm surface water, and pumping all this water through the condenser and evaporator heat exchangers, we can increase the thermal efficiency enough to make OTEC work. Just export cold water and nutrients.
The solution to reinvigorating our atmosphere is twofold and involves seldomly used thinking called common sense. The first is to eliminate automobile oil comsumption and use farmland materials as derivatives for fuel. The second is to create a global imperative to plant trees and shrubs in massive quantities. The planet will be saved (for now), humankind’s overall health will improve, American farmers will get their just due, Terror states will hate you, and animals will love you! Now where’s that $25 million?
Jeffrey: serpentine is actually usually fairly soft (hardness 2.4-4) as rocks go. Crushing it isn’t the biggest problem; reacting it with CO2 sufficiently quickly is. As far as I know, noone has yet fully solved that problem.
Has crushing serpentinite and then just blowing it out a tall stack on a windy day been looked at?
I suspect dispersing it in the ocean would be a better bet, if the particles are sufficiently small. Even so, the dissolution rate at ocean pH wouldn’t be very high. You’d also have to worry about heavy metal pollution — ultramafic minerals like this often have high levels of nickel (in the rough neighborhood of 0.1%, IIRC). All that iron would also have its effect.
One might also consider using electrodialysis to break salt into alkali and acid, then neutralize the acid on the mineral. Less crushing would be required with strong acid. Release the alkali into ocean surface waters to increase pH, drawing down CO2 from the air. I suspect this uses too much energy, though.
Isn’t serpentine a fancy-schmancy building stone? the kind of thing you build banks with? Crushing a couple billion tons of serpentine to sequester CO2 just doesn’t sound like it’s gonna happen.
One can say that about any CO2-precipitating scheme. This one is much, much easier than the grow-plants-and-bury-them one.
As it has come to me, the mineral name is serpentin-ite; there are adequately many cubic leagues of it. Or if not, I suppose the whole deal could be financed with the money found within the banks after they are crushed.
92: Anyhow can’t CO2 be removed the an alkaline metal solution?
Presumably you mean removed with a solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide.
This would indeed remove CO2. The problem is: where did the alkali come from? Making these hydroxides is expensive (currently it’s done as a byproduct of electrochemical chlorine manufacture, very energy intensive.)
The basic problem is to find a cheap source of alkalinity.
Robert Bell commented that one way to get excess carbon out of the atmosphere is to create a global imperative to plant trees and shrubs in massive quantities. Well hey, why not wrap that up and submit it? Sounds just fine to me!
re #53 (Lars: Save the planet, become a weedeater…..) and #76 (Lynn: If people could just cut their meat consumption in half, that would help,……) Boggles the mind. Sure seems like a stretch to help justify a life style….
Speaking of conservation of energy/thermodynamics etc #120, is it possible that the predicted future population of 9 billion will actually require the consequences of CO2 production and GW to survive.
If our population growth is directly and indirectly attributable to the use of fossil fuels what will happen when our readily obtainable supplies of these fuels run short.
Will we require this additional carbon to increase plant productivity (whilst using less water) to convert to energy as well as food production. Agriculture/forestry may prove to be the most effective solarpower capturer though not necessarily the most efficient. For an expanding population GW may be needed to create productivity from land currently too cold. It is said large parts of alaska could come under wheat production on fertile soils if temp increases to the upper end of IPCC prediction.
Simplistic yes, but nature tends to have checks and balances. A conservation of energy in that to get to current population large amounts of stored enengy were released, those stores will soon be exhausted(realative to the amount of time it took to make) yet a population approaching 50% more has to be maintained. We can only guess for how long.
No, Mark A York, I have no credentials so no point looking. Just go ahead and label me some sort of climate change criminal and continue to proffer no ideas of your own.
Comment by Jonathan Mulligan — 21 Feb 2007 @ 7:09 PM
re #90 I’m a skeptic (different from a denier, btw…) but agree totally that retorts about Branson’s airline or Gore’s use of private jets and limos is playground silly.
[It is said large parts of alaska could come under wheat production on fertile soils if temp increases to the upper end of IPCC prediction.]
Finally, you said [ nature tends to have checks and balances]
Would that some of us had some of that.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 21 Feb 2007 @ 9:44 PM
Re #125: I think hopes of increased agricultural production due to GW are pretty much wishful thinking. Though I’m no expert (just a gardener), your first clue would be to look at a globe rather than a Mercator projection. The land area that could come under cultivation due to warming is less than what would probably go out of production due to heat & drought.
Second is that land that is cultivated (at least by conventional methods) stores quite a bit less carbon than if left with natural vegetation. If the land is currently forested this seems obvious, but even the mass of plants & sod in a prairie/grassland contains quite a bit of carbon.
So the bottom line is that you have some part of current agricultural lands turning to desert, while converting northern forest & tundra to cropland would likely release more CO2, and make the problem worse.
I would tend to agree with post# 128. Also to be considered are the geopolitical implications. Russia is not going to gracefully lease large swats of land to China just because the Yellow River is running low. Whatever advantage countries of a geographic region would gain over others because of GW changes are liable to bring tremendous tensions and few solutions. Given the fact that the global population will increase and the largest increases will take place in regions likely to be adversely affected, I would not rely on a nice hypothetical “check and balance” system.
Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 22 Feb 2007 @ 12:08 AM
Data on changes in plant productivity from warming so far:
I figured out how to reverse “Global Warming” and want Richard Branson/AlGore to hear and enter my idea for his prize. The idea can control the weather and weaken any landfalling hurricane prior to landfall. The idea protects the environment and will not harm it in any way. I worked as a control room operator in a fossil fuel plant for 20+ years at Florida Power and Light Corp. and now I work in the control room for the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama destroying Weapons of Mass destruction ( Mustard Gas, VX / GB nerve agents).
During my time in these positions I have learned alot about
the byproducts ( Stack Emissions ) the plants produce and the effects they have on the envirionment. My plan is a simple transfer of energy already stored in our Earths oceans which we are heating up. My idea restores those temperatures back to pre-industrial revolution temperatures.
My biggest problem thus far is getting the idea computer modeled. Only a few computers can do it in three dimentions and I can not get access to them.
Many scientist including hurricane specialists at the Hurricane Research and developement (HRD) think the idea is valid and needs futher study.
Anyways, can you get this information out to Al Gore/Richard Branson to enter the contest???
Here are some interesting comments from some very famous scientists on the idea!
[edited--this isn't the place for a long transcript of private email exchanges. If you wish, you may link to a another site where those are available]
It seems as though Pascal and Bernoulli were on the right track with their theories. If only they met each other they may have come up with this idea. It took me ten years to figure this out and as sure as their principles work on airplanes it will also work on these tunnels I propose!
Comment by Patrick McNulty — 22 Feb 2007 @ 2:07 AM
Recently, a European chemical research team (Elcat project*) found a way to convert directly carbon dioxide in hydrocarbon chains of 8 or 9 carbon through a catalytic reaction. They achieve the conversion in 15% yield and they hope to obtain higher yield by changing the reaction conditions and the nature of the catalyst and eventually an industrial process to produce fuel at a competitive price in a decade. For the moment, this would be difficult due to the low yield of the reaction and the cost of the catalysts (titanium, palladium, platinum).
Secondly, an American team found a way to lengthen hydrocarbon chains by metathesis reactions. This could enable us to produce, with hydrocarbon chains produced by the first method, hydrocarbons such as kerosene.
Preferably, these discoveries could enable us to remove the excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by changing it into hydrocarbons. The best way to store this huge amount of hydrocarbons could be to put it into the empty oil reservoirs (globally, itâ??s rather stupidâ?¦) or into other geological traps. Of course, this would be possible only if there is a political will and a parallel effort to reduce the emissions and therefore the consumption of fossil fuels, especially coal consumption. As there are so many million dollars available, I think the prize or part of the prize should be given not after the presentation of a reliable project but before, to finance the research in this subject area. Indeed, the global budget of the four research teams involved in the Elcat project is relatively small. To achieve the goal of sequestration of carbon dioxide, the Elcat teams should be associated with the American chemistry team** which worked on the lengthening of hydrocarbons chains and with the engineers who can adapt the ASU to conceive the system which could remove the dioxide carbon, which is exposed in comment 57 (by Philippe Shaw). What do you think of the idea? At which level should the carbon dioxide concentration be lowered to retrieve rapidly the past climatic condition of the 20th century?
I thank you for the attention you will give my comment and for your answer.
Dip. di Chimica Industriale ed Ingeneria dei Materiali,
UniversitÃ di Messina, Salita Sperone 31, Messina, Italy.
: +39-090-676.5609 (NEW DIRECT), fax: +39-090-391518
(**) If you are interested, I can find the address of the American chemical research team.
Comment by Jean-Francois Fleury — 22 Feb 2007 @ 6:12 AM
RE: 119 A Cheap Source of Alkalinity
Several years ago, Livermore researchers were investigating the use of limestone for this purpose. CO2 from power plant flue gas would be bubbled through the limestone bed and the resulting dissolved calcium carbonate pumped into seawater. This would not result in an acidification of the ocean water and would be an environmentally friendly way, more or less to store carbon from fossil fuels in the oceans.
Since the limestone is in abundant supply, there would be no need to manufacture more or to regenerate it. Problems with this include the slow dissolution of the limestone. I don’t know what the status of this research is now.
Applying this concept to ambient air would be even less likely to succeed, since there the CO2 concentration is around 0.04% vs. around 10% in the flue gas.
i recently read an idea that suggested “subliming” co2 from the atmosphere in siberia and storing it there in either liquid or solid form. the basic premise being that given the average temperature in siberia the cost to do this would be significantly reduced.
can someone do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation of the energy required?
Their missive or missile titled “Gambling with Gaia,” paints a rather distressing and highly exaggerated picture of geoengineering efforts past, present and future, some of which would be candidates for the $5 million Virgin award.
Much of the document obsesses on various field trials involving ocean fertilization, but also touches on genetic engineering and scattering of solar radiation.
Several examples suffice to illustrate the unreality of their concerns. On page 2, they show a quote from president Bush in which he says that we should focus on technologies that deal with the issue of global warming. They then take this to mean that Bush is talking about geoengineering.
On page 4, the Bush Administration’s two or three lines of comments suggesting that geoengineering ought to be considered among the technologies for addressing global warming in the third of this year’s IPCC reports is turned into “pushing for techno-fix strategies.” Given the level of interest the Administration has paid since 2001 to geoengineering, I would say they haven’t been pushing all that hard.
On page 6, they conclude that stratospheric sulfate aerosol enhancement would result in massive particle pollution, failing to recognize that most of the tropospheric sulfate distribution occurs over about 5-10% of the Earth’s surface, while the stratospheric aerosol would be over 100% and in much lower quantities.
On page 12, they manage to conflate the NASA meeting held last fall to discuss geoengineering technologies with the Bush Administration’s decision in 2005 to delete “to understand and protect our home planet” from its mission statement. The real reason that was done was to try to get back at James Hansen et al., by removing the need for funding climate monitoring satellites.
Although it probably won’t help allay their concerns, tonight at 9pm and 1am and on March 4 at 4pm, the Discovery Channel’s Best Evidence series will include some discussion about the likelihood of geoengineering. Individuals of varying degrees of relevance and credibility will appear. You may even be familiar with some of them.
I don’t know what the status of this research is now.
IIRC, they have patents on it. One idea was to mix water, liquid CO2, and powdered limestone into a pressurized emulsion, and pump that into the deep ocean. The bulk density of the mixture is higher than that of liquid CO2 itself, so it can be released at shallower depth than pure liquid CO2.
Comment by Patrick McNulty — 22 Feb 2007 @ 11:34 AM
“No, Mark A York, I have no credentials so no point looking. Just go ahead and label me some sort of climate change criminal and continue to proffer no ideas of your own.”
What prompted this taunt?
“It is said large parts of alaska could come under wheat production on fertile soils if temp increases to the upper end of IPCC prediction.”
Who says this? Have you seen Alaska? Because turning a Boreal forest and thousands of square miles of muskeag, and swamp, which will stay swamp longer in warmer temps, to a midwesterm wheat field is quite a stretch to this former Alaskan. There are nice vegetable gardens grown in the long summer nights in minute areas like the Matanuska Valley, but no one will feed the planet from them. Ever.
I suggest reducing CO2 output starting with the biggest violators: power generation. Install scrubbers. If cheap hybrids were around, used, I’d own one, but they’re exotic, expensive and generally not available. Make them so. Until then, I’ll drive my little Ford Ranger that gets 29 mpg. This is the best I can do at the moment.
Here’s a twist for those who want to jump the gun and charge folks with criminal negligence. What if global warming ended up not being as catastrophic as the extreme alarmists claim. What if it turned out to be an overall benefit to the planet and mankind because no one can definitely predict all of the consequenses or benefits for the next 1000 years. Do the skeptics then get to launch a class action suite against the alarmists?
Be very careful how you want to accelerate finger pointing about a scenario that has not been fully understood and can change scientific consensus with one massive solar annomoly or a new discovery. Look through history and you will find that consensus is really only the opinion of the day.
Interesting topic, but keep in mind we don’t really know where the future CO2 emissions are going – expectations are for carbon-cycle feedbacks to reduce the amount of CO2 absorbed by the biosphere and the oceans, resulting in faster rates of CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere even if fossil fuel emissions don’t increase.
The only long-term solution is to stop buring fossil fuels. Carbon capture and sequestration (two different stages) is certainly highly energy intensive – how much of the energy in the coal would be used to condense the CO2 to liquid state? Or even to separate it from the air and water? Imagine trying to capture all the CO2 that comes out of the tailpipe of your car…without plugging the thing or reducing flowrates. Imagine some device that produces black carbon pellets and doesn’t consume much energy – it’s just not too likely, and there is no technological fix in sight. The energy costs of carbon capture are unavoidable (30% of the total, or 50% ? I’ve seen no numbers, but since there’s no viable technology in place to test, that’s not surprising – and coal is already the most energy-poor fossil fuel).
Apparently, the plan is to burn coal in air, use the energy, then use some of that energy to capture the CO2 produced – but to make it stable and storable, you’d have to use energy to convert it back to something rather like coal. You can’t pump CO2 into the oceans and it leaks out of old oil fields. Given these basic inescapable energy thermodynamics, I’d be very surprised to ever see a single coal-fired power plant that captured and sequestered its carbon output being built. There are those who disagree ( http://www.geotimes.org/mar03/feature_demonstrating.html ) but they have nothing very plausible to show for their efforts. “Clean coal” is just not possible.
The entire planet is going to have to voluntarily stop burning coal and oil as energy supplies, and use the solar resource base for energy generation. There’s no shortage of potential; see http://www.solartoday.org/2006/mar_apr06/wake_up.htm for example. The only barriers are political and economic in nature (unlike the case for carbon sequestration).
As far as the $25 million prize, the low tech version is to encourage reforestation over say, a thousand year period, and keep cutting down mature trees and burying them in airless bogs, deep stratified lakes, and other low-oxygen basins. This is simply reversing the process – a new round of organic carbon burial to make up for all the buried carbon we’ve pumped into the atmosphere. Maybe using some fast-growing plant species like sugarcane would be the best route.
The high tech version would also be based on photosynthesis, and would involve making methane using water, sunlight and air (with ambient carbon dioxide) – but you’d probably want to store the methane and use it as fuel after going to all that trouble. It would at least be a carbon-neutral fuel, like other biofuels.
But to make it stable and storable, you’d have to use energy to convert it back to something rather like coal
This would be foolish, since you’d end up giving back all the combustion energy. The less impractical approach would be to fix it in a still-oxidized form, such as a mineral carbonate. That approach is potentially exothermic, so, in theory, there’s no reason it would require extra energy. In practice…
[[For an expanding population GW may be needed to create productivity from land currently too cold. It is said large parts of alaska could come under wheat production on fertile soils if temp increases to the upper end of IPCC prediction.]]
As the world warms agricultural belts move toward the poles, which makes them smaller (area on a sphere is a 1 – sin theta curve where theta is latitude). Plus the expected droughts and violent weather along coasts will hurt agriculture as well. Agricultural production is expected to drop under global warming, not increase.
Are we talking the geobiophysical index, Net Primary Production, or agricultural production? Growing more plant life might help a bit, but our agriculture is still going to take a major hit due to droughts and violent weather.
[[Here's a twist for those who want to jump the gun and charge folks with criminal negligence. What if global warming ended up not being as catastrophic as the extreme alarmists claim. What if it turned out to be an overall benefit to the planet and mankind because no one can definitely predict all of the consequenses or benefits for the next 1000 years. Do the skeptics then get to launch a class action suite against the alarmists?
Be very careful how you want to accelerate finger pointing about a scenario that has not been fully understood and can change scientific consensus with one massive solar annomoly or a new discovery. Look through history and you will find that consensus is really only the opinion of the day. ]]
Darn right! And if gravity some day turns out not to be true, I think we should be able to sue somebody when we all float out into space.
The word “thermodynamic” in these comment threads seems usually to be part of a bluff; it means the writer wants to say that atmospheric CO2 capture won’t work but has no idea why it might not.
Presumably a dramatic use of the word “entropy”, perhaps accompanied by a whipping-off of eyeglasses and a nailing of the monitor with an intent gaze, is the weapon still kept in reserve if tiresome people like me continue to point out that the delta ‘G’ of atmospheric CO2 capture is negative.
If CO2-hungry mineral dust is dispersed from a tall stack, the reactor is all that part of the atmosphere in which the downwind plume is suspended, and maybe some desert ground on which it settles; this suggests quickness of reaction is not all that important.
Re #150: “If CO2-hungry mineral dust is dispersed from a tall stack…”
But of course questions arise: Do the necessary quantities of such minerals exist in a form that’s “CO2-hungry” without the input of a lot of energy? How much energy does it take to mine such minerals, grind them to powder, & disperse them? What are the effects on health &c of the dust plumes? (Remember asbestos, and black lung disease?) And so on…
Seems to me that anything that does a decent job of mitigating the effects of coal burning is so costly, one way or another, as to make almost any alternate energy source cheaper.
Please give serious consideration to #65 and #114. We all need to learn more about the ocean food chain and how to enhance it. Google sea butterflies (sea angels, pteropods), for example. They are beautiful.
RE 125, 128, 129, 147 & “For an expanding population GW may be needed to create productivity from land currently too cold”: There are other problems for agri in a GW world, aside from less arable land area & geopolitical issues, as well, such as:
1. greater droughts & floods, even floods during drought times.
2. greater brush fires whipped by greater wind, on top of greater storm damage (it’s that extra marginal umph of GW-enhanced storm intensity or last few inches of flood water breaching the levee that can really destroy crops, not to mention towns and cities).
3. CO2 may be good for C4 crop plants (to an extent), but it’s even better for C3 weeds to overtake the crops; plus the crops, pound for pound, would be less nutritious — which means greater damage from insects, who need to get their nutrients, too. (This is from actual experiments with increased CO2.)
4. And, I’d guess there could even be too much of a good thing: CO2 in sufficiently great quantities could perhaps even harm plants. (Well, if the denialists are talking about atmospheric CO2 reaching saturations points, I can imagine plants being too saturated with CO2.)
Re #141, hope you’re right JD (that GW turns out to be a good thing), but I’m not stopping my efforts to reduce GHGs. Just call me selfish, but, hey, I’m saving money here, and I’ll be long gone before anyone can sue me for refusing to contribute to GW.
Re #145, I think the Flat Earth Society finally went defunct — I heard on the radio some 5 years ago that the last member had just died. Now that society took, what, 300+ years to die out. Maybe that’s how long it’ll take for the “GW Denialist Society” to go defunct.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2007 @ 5:00 PM
RE # 155
Lynn RE#145, I am saddened to hear the Flat Earth Society is now defunct.
It might be time to regenerate it. I have driven across Kansas and I know what I know.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 23 Feb 2007 @ 5:46 PM
Every thing that we do today can change with the blink of an eye. I never said that we should not stop moving forward on solutions. Open discussion does not make one a skeptic. Not looking at both sides of the coin, gives you tunnel vision. At this moment, there is a scenario being cultivated about what is to come, because of the evidence that we have with the limitations of today’s science. Tomorrows science or a natural occurance may bring about a different observation which will undoubtedly change the direction of how we deal with it.
It does not mean that we should all go to sleep and hope it never happens. Selling your property in the Bahamas would be a very good move right about now, if todays near future scenario does not change.
Gee, Barton. Gravity. Out of the millions of discoveries and theories over the last 500 years, that have been proven, changed, tweeked, disproven and re-worded, that one never came to mind. I’m sorry, I should have consulted you first. Let’s move on.
Hi, once when I asked about scrubbing on a thread here, the boron burner fellow gave a link that I found interesting. However, I have had trouble finding out where the research went after 2002.
My understanding is, even if the process is still crude, and/or expensive, a 120 sq km facility could be built in any country with a sizable desert, for example in Australia in the Simpson Desert. And as far as I can see so far, the real roadblock isn’t technology or will per se, but the threat this facility would be to the planned global carbon economy i.e. it wouldn’t be required as such. Also that related things (eg general pollution and other environmental issues) wouldn’t get addressed under the GW banner as many people are hoping they will. To me the question is, do people want the CO2 level problem addressed or not?
There’s a hundred billion dollar space station being assembled in orbit overhead as we speak. I don’t see a large-scale scrubbing facility as fantasy or impractical in that light.
[Tomorrows science or a natural occurrence may bring about a different observation which will undoubtedly change the direction of how we deal with it.]
Contributors to RC have a wide range of knowledge (from reader to researcher) regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). Their backgrounds and present day experiences range from: high school science students; college professors of all types of sciences; journalists steadily writing on the topic; climate modelers, lead authors of chapters of the IPCC Assessment Report and avid readers of the science of AGW with no science expertise (that would include me).
I can say with some assurance that nothing I have ever read or heard comes close to your comment that I interpret asâ?¦â?¦..some new information or natural occurrence [one massive solar anomaly] will change the direction of how we deal with it.
The [ it ] to which you refer is (my assumption) a global warming world. Since CO2 concentrations have risen from 280 ppm to a bit more than 382 ppm (highest level in 650,000 years and that should tell you something) in about 110 years and economic growth projections for fossil fuel dependent economies point upward, my NOAA graph tells me a safe assumption would be 403 ppm by 2020. Add the other greenhouse gases and the CO2 equivalent is much higher.
Scientists who have invested most (all) of their professional lives in the study of AGW project this greater concentration of climate-forcing gases will add more heat to the earthâ??s land, oceans and air. You have to accept that or you do not.
The burden of accepting the data of observed rising temperatures is becoming mind-bending for some of us because the trend lines point to more heat, more sea level rise, more drought, more more.
I am old enough that I might just duck under the fence and miss the misery. My son and daughter will have to face the consequences of previous generations life styles without me.
There is absolutely no comfort in your comment and I plead with you to spend a bit more time reading some very comprehensive and intelligible books and articles regarding the science of AGW.
Another John D. had the world to play with about a century ago and did all right for himself. You, John D. and the rest of us are rapidly approaching a time when we have to eat the seed corn. There is no little ice age coming to cool our planet down and if [some massive solar anomaly] does come our way, that will not help matters, will it?
Try again to talk about where your REALLY see this global discussion going with regard to AGW and offer us something we can chew on. Or, move on to a topic that does not threaten you so.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 24 Feb 2007 @ 8:15 AM
# 127, thankyou for your kind words, but outed myself from what? being simple?
#128, Yes quite right about mercator, I’m not referring to overall area but to production. Longer days. Canada will have longer growing seasons. For hotter areas GM crops are in the pipeline that have the ability to totally shut down between drinks and restart when the rains occur. Crops grow through temperatures well over 40C here so I don’t see too much hassle when most world Ag production is grown in temperatures well below this. You are assuming (probably correctly) that current farming land will go out of production. Maybe a change of use to grazing. No-till will certainly be required.
#129 , it’s solved by trade, you know where people swap things for other things.
#138, The CIMMTY in Mexico were quoted in a farming journal suggesting how wheat in Central and southern Alaska would be viable with increased temp. I cannot confirm so I used “it is said..”.
“Agricultural production is expected to drop under global warming, not increase.” From current areas maybe.
#155, No 2 is the scary prospect, how do we know our levees are high enough and we can’t levee too large an area or they become self defeating. I depend on no.1 (flood during drought)and cope with no.3. I’m not a denier so don’t know about 4.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t curb GHG emitting practises, it’s just how far do we go if some form of CO2 removal is viable?
Comment by Jonathan Mulligan — 24 Feb 2007 @ 11:24 AM
John, I sure wish I could tell you more, but I can’t. I must choose my words carefully so as not to compromise my position. You stated “scientists who have invested most of their professional lives in the study of AGW projects”, well I have spent a good deal of mine involved in a different area and I can tell you this, you are not that old that you will miss what’s coming and climate change will certainly be placed on the back-burner as the least of your problems. Keep an eye on the color of the horizon. Good day to all.
I think there’s merit both to the concern that such a techno-fix could be just the license corporations are looking for to continue with business as usual, and the point that removing CO2 would, after all, be a good thing (if approached with care concerning the effects of doing so…). Perhaps the way to look at it is that we need a two-pronged approach whereby we (a) encourage development of technologies to do this, while (b) we simultaneously develop programs to address the behaviors that got us into this mess to begin with. (e.g., the drive for ceaseless economic growth rather than a seeking of some form of steady state)
Really!? Since when is half a solution worse than no solution at all? I don’t understand the logic here. Is it truly better to do nothing at all, waiting for the perfect solution which may or may not materialize, rather than to do at least as much as we know how? One would think that strategies could be shifted in time if better ones are developed, after all; and to those who say that passive remediation alone (i.e. merely curtaliling future emissions) can solve the problem, I reply that such a view is looking less and less plausible the more we know.
While we are pottering about with solutions, why are we stressing about dealing with CO2 post-combustion? Wouldn’t it make far more sense to get the H out of the hydrocarbon before it gets near the burner? There MUST be a sensible way to extract the H from the raw hydrocarbon (coal, oil) and leave the C+(something inert) behind so we only burn H, and sequester the inert C+muck someplace. Even if the process was a tad inefficient, it would get us away from handling gaseous CO2 with all its impossibilities and provide the ‘ideal’ fuel – at least for the intermediate term.
It would also let the ‘big boys’ still play the oil game, and they could feel good about it too, while we sort out a more sustainable solution. Gaia would be pleased.
Nigel, getting the hydrogen out of the coal before it reaches the boiler sounds like a winner except for the fact there aint much H there.
A ton of Pittsburgh coal from the large, Pittsburgh #8 seam contains 73.8 percent carbon, 2.13 percent suflur, 7.1 percent ash and only 4.9 percent hydrogen. And hydrogen content of Wyoming Powder River Basin coal is 3.31 percent; Texas lignite, 2.68 percent.
US power plant boilers consume about 900 million tons of coal. Using average of 4 percent hydrogen content, the coal would yield about 40 million tons of H….not enough to keep the economy humming.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 26 Feb 2007 @ 9:21 AM
The usual approaches for making hydrogen from coal get most of the hydrogen from steam that reacts with the carbon in the coal. The CO2 gets separated before combustion and would have to be sequestered to avoid CO2 emission.
Extracting hydrogen from methane, on the other hand, could make sense; the energy required to separate 1 mole of hydrogen from methane is much less than that required to separate 1 mole from water, and the energy can be provided as heat. I vaguely recall an international study that concluded the best way to use nuclear energy to make hydrogen was by thermal decomposition of methane. Of course you get even more hydrogen if you do steam reforming, but that makes CO2.
I wonder if a geothermochemical energy system could be designed to make hydrogen by exploiting hot reduced rocks and magmas, reacting steam with reduced transition metals and sulfides.
#161, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t curb GHG emitting practises, it’s just how far do we go if some form of CO2 removal is viable?”
This is how far we should go (at the very least): to the extent that it’s saving us money without reducing our living standards or productivity. That probably means about 75% or more here in the U.S., given current technology, and who knows how much further, given future tech advances. (See http://www.natcap.org for insights into this.)
I think it was Amory Lovins who said that running out of rocks was not the cause of us giving up making and using rock tools, and running out of fossil fuels will not be the cause of us ceasing to use them.
Other considerations would be how our reductions also reduce a lot of other harms, aside from the negative GW effects.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Feb 2007 @ 6:09 PM
There is a good fix to Branson’s request already- it’s called nuclear energy. The GE-AP1000 is the latest released design and it’s a big improvement over 3-mile island.
And the series IV will be even more efficient producing much less waste with half lives of only several hundred years. By the time they come out the waste problem could very well be minuscule.
And the series IV will be even more efficient producing much less waste with half lives of only several hundred years.
The only way a nuclear reactor can produce only shortlived wastes is by essentially complete recycling and destruction of actinides. Attempts to do this so far have been dismal economic failures. Which Gen IV design do you think will change this? Molten salt reactors? Yes indeed, reactor operators will just love a reactor in which the entire primary loop is contaminated with fission products, and they get to operate an online radiochemical processing plant at each reactor facility. Utility execs are going to be all excited about added functions they have to be reponsible for.
Re #170: Quite aside from arguments on the merits of nuclear power, unless I’ve badly misread something, it wouldn’t qualify to be considered for Branson’s prize. That’s for a method of removing CO2 that’s already in the atmosphere, which is quite a different, and more difficult, goal that simply finding an energy source that doesn’t add more.
Oh, alright then! I appreciate that this isnâ??t an alternative energy site, but anyway: Letâ??s chuck some bits and a box in a room with a thousand monkeys for a while and see if we can reconstruct Teslaâ??s car!
Supported by the Pierce-Arrow Co. and General Electric in 1931, [Nikola Tesla] took the gasoline engine from a new Pierce-Arrow and replaced it with an 80-horsepower alternating-current electric motor with no external power source.
At a local radio shop he bought 12 vacuum tubes, some wires and assorted resistors, and assembled them in a circuit box 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 6 inches high, with a pair of 3-inch rods sticking out. Getting into the car with the circuit box in the front seat beside him, he pushed the rods in, announced, â??We now have powerâ??, and proceeded to test drive the car for a week, often at speeds of up to 90 mph.
Tesla was very aware of the natural harmonic frequencies of the earth. That would do nicely, wouldnâ??t it?
re 98. It’s a bit nit picky to argue that becuase Australia doesn’t manufacture incandescent light bulbs that it has taken an easy option. Yes, there is a lot more the current administration could do…
You could equally have argued that over time there will be less energy expended in transporting the lights from the point of manufacture; a bonus?
It’s a start, and it’s also interesting that a Government that generally toes the line on “free markets” being the only possible means of implementing “solutions” has adopted a regulatory approach.
More generally, there is some “magical thinking” in some of the more naive (meant gently) “solutions” proposed… like the idea of just making the oceans more alkaline. Where do people think that Sodium Hydroxide comes from? OR Using CaO “trees”… where did this CaO come from?
Asimov once stated words to the effect that any technology, sufficiently advanced would appear to be magical. Well, there is a flip side to that, and it doesn’t involve the technology, rather the perceptions/(miss)understanding of the generally science/technology illiterate public. In this consumeristic globalised world is there a potentially fatal disconnect between products/manufacturing and the consumers understanding of the processes involved? When people believe that money is more real than real things?
Another commenter here noted the fierce debate on water management in Australia. The “drought” (in an arid continent how is that defined?) here has probably had a large part in changing the public perception on the climate change issue. The “technical solution” proposed by many a pundit has been to ‘build more dams’, as it is well known that mystical magical dam energy induces the clouds to rain.
And now a poor joke.
How many economists does it take to change a light bulb?
Well, in theory, if the light bulb is offered enough money, it will change itself!
[[Supported by the Pierce-Arrow Co. and General Electric in 1931, [Nikola Tesla] took the gasoline engine from a new Pierce-Arrow and replaced it with an 80-horsepower alternating-current electric motor with no external power source.
At a local radio shop he bought 12 vacuum tubes, some wires and assorted resistors, and assembled them in a circuit box 24 inches long, 12 inches wide and 6 inches high, with a pair of 3-inch rods sticking out. Getting into the car with the circuit box in the front seat beside him, he pushed the rods in, announced, “We now have power”, and proceeded to test drive the car for a week, often at speeds of up to 90 mph.
Tesla was very aware of the natural harmonic frequencies of the earth. That would do nicely, wouldn’t it? ]]
I suspect he had a powerful electric generator somewhere nearby, and the car was picking up the electric field from that. He commonly worked with potential drops of millions of volts. Did anyone recall how far the miracle car got from his lab?
Re #176: “I suspect he had a powerful electric generator somewhere nearby, and the car was picking up the electric field from that.”
Reminds me of the (possibly apocryphal) story of the Vermont farmer who invented a free electric generator after the power company routed a transmission line through his cow pasture. Just a properly-aligned roll of barbed wire, a couple of leads, and no more power bills :-)
benm parlak bi fikrim yok ama bi derdim var…yaw ben hayatim boyunca bi araba sahibi olamicam ama dunyada 600 milyon araba varmis bunun küresel ısınmadaki etkisi tartisilmicak derecede byk…yani bnm hic bi zaman sahip olamicam bi sey bnm dunyamı mahfediyorr.yazik bana ve bnm gibilere!!!!!!
[Response: I fixed some characters, but possibly erroneously - this is a bug in how the comments get entered into the database which needs to be fixed (anyone know what I should be looking for?) - gavin]
like the idea of just making the oceans more alkaline. Where do people think that Sodium Hydroxide comes from?
That’s not magical thinking, that’s a statement of a subproblem. And you’re right, where does the sodium hydroxide (or whatever source of positive ions) come from? It’s quite possible there will be no feasible solution to this subproblem, in which case that approach is a dead end.
re#169, you miss my point it seems. If some form of CO2 removal is feasible ie cost effective, where is the cut of point at which we say we have done enough and we should stop removing any more.Pre-industrial levels of atmosprheric CO2? 50 years ago levels?
Comment by Jonathan Mulligan — 1 Mar 2007 @ 7:29 PM
Because gasoline is such an excellent energy carrier it may remain the dominant transportation fuel (think coal+fischer tropsch+scrubber). This depends on which is cheaper in terms of energy, money, and infrastructure, gasoline or a non-carbon energy carrier/storage such as hydrogen or electricity. The issue is whether it is better to scrub the air from distributed co2 sources or if it is better to use an awkward energy carrier.
Regarding the scrubber design, yes sodium hydroxide is the plan. And yes, it continues to be worked on.
It is correct that the $25 million is perhaps trivial and the strings attached may be more annoying than its worth if the prize is in fact contingent on 1 billion tons having been sequestered. At $1/ton the $1 billion would dwarf the prize. Yes Klaus Lackner is still working on this.
Trees do fix co2 from the air but then must not be allowed to decompose otherwise they are neutral. Reforestation would be great but even if all the forests were regrown they could never fix enough co2 to balance anthropogenic output. Details are in the IPCC report from 2001 on this subject.
Coal plants can be legislated to scrub sulfur, nitrogen, particulates, etc. The air at a modern facility can leave cleaner than when it went in. Can being the operative word regarding coal. Waste to energy plants have numbers to prove that they really do this. The ZECA plant would have zero emissions altogether (another idea largely by Klaus Lackner).
Mineralization of serpentine, olivine, and other silicates is also being pursued at several labs around the US and europe. The energy and money costs are still at issue. The kinetics of both dissolution and precipitation must be improved and presently represents a large energy penalty, though the reaction is exothermic and happens naturally in large amounts over geologic time.
Ocean sequestration is largely dead because of the pH issue though some are still investigating with hydrate formation as a barrier to diffusion very much the intention. The Japanese really liked it and studied it intensively in the 90′s and are still investigating it. Some still thinks it is viable if the co2 is reacted with alkaline seafloor.
Details on each of these subjects can be found in Science as well as other journals. Except for the scrubber all of the previously mentioned are in the IPCC report on carbon capture and sequestration. There are other forms of carbon sequestration as well. At the moment geologic sequestration (injection into deep saline aquifers or other permeable strata) is the primary method in part because it is technologically mature and in part because it is cheapest. It is however risky over land (think leakage in a populated area) not to mention that the volumes involved imply raising the earth which has tectonic implications on a large enough scale. Other research is on CO2 injection into deep marine sediments. The Sleipner project injects CO2 into an aquifer under the North Sea which is probably the safest method of geological sequestration since leakage would be diluted by the ocean preventing catastrophe – as long as it is a slow leak. Another idea is to inject co2 into cold pressurized sediments to form a hydrate.
The Branson prize is excellent for the publicity it generates and the role it is serving in educating the public and getting the public thinking and talking about the issue. Carbon sequestration is necessary because people will use carbon based fuels until solar/wind/nuclear become cheap enough to compete (or politically acceptable in the case of nuclear). This means that a tax on carbon is imperative. But even with a carbon tax the time necessary for the infrastructure changes is approximately a generation, 30-40 years (think of how long your typical coal plant, car, etc lasts). Its unfortunate but scrubbers and carbon sequestration are necessary.
When zero emission power plants were first proposed in the 1990s it was a radical idea that people thought impractical and unnecessary. Now it is has become a standard idea that is part of any discussion. Perhaps scrubbers will become ubiquitous and “standard” in a couple decades.
It’s true that plants that decompose again release as much CO2 as they fixed, but if the size of the Earth’s plant biomass can be increased, more of the carbon will still be in plants and not in the air. The reverse of this is why deforestation is contributing to CO2 buildup.
Wow! Amidst this plethora of posts, just wanted to respond to #46, which asked, “Can we formulate a society and way of life in which we live in voluntarily restrictrive circumstances? It’s never happened yet, and it goes against human nature.”
I may be responding to something you didn’t actually say, but the thought that comes to me is when conditions become sufficiently uncomfortable, people do indeed adopt voluntarily restrictive behavior. For example, when gas goes over $3 a gallon, they start doing all the things they’ve been told to do for years: Take fewer trips, carpool, use public transportation. It’s a cost/benefit thing and I think that with all the attention to energy issues these days, people are becoming more aware of the benefits of voluntarily changing their behavior.
[For example, when gas goes over $3 a gallon, they start doing all the things they've been told to do for years: Take fewer trips, carpool, use public transportation.]
I thought the same until I checked the US monthly gasoline consumption totals against the price during that month. Would that we were smarter or more prudent…sorry. The price spike seems to have made nary a dent in consumption.
Price in Sept. 2004 for a gallon of conventional gasoline was $1.93; consumption that month was 181,323,000 barrels. In Sept 2005, price jumped to $3.08 and consumption diminished to 176,382,000 or a 2.72 percent drop. Maybe it was a bigger percentage drop from potential – given growth in demand year-to-year. It seems a few of us did the right thing.
Price in Sept. 2006 averaged $2.36 and consumption was 184,185,000 bbl. or about 4.25 percent increase over the Sept 2005 demand. Back to our bad, old habits.
What this tells me is the carbon tax (it has my vote) will have to kick gasoline prices way above $3 per gallon to get our heads on straight.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 2 Mar 2007 @ 3:35 PM
And how much more per kilowatt hour is all this carbon capture going to cost us on our elecric bill? Then what is next? All these nice little nasties?
I hope McCormick will consider the possibility that the coincidence of past increases in gasoline tax and increases in usage is not by chance.
To some, an increase in the size of the public purse, due to increased gasoline taxation, means greater security and privilege. To others, it just means paying more money. If the former group is more influential than those from whom the extra money is taken, then more tax is exactly the wrong way to go.
Let those who doubt this explain why speed limits are laxly enforced and why public servants routinely lead us by example in flouting them; and why AC Propulsion, maker of desirable electric vehicles, sprang up in the USA and not in a high-fuel-tax European country.
I will consider, if you will explain what you mean by
[the possibility that the coincidence of past increases in gasoline tax and increases in usage is not by chance.]
The comment makes no sense to me. What State tax increase (how much?) caused what increased usage (of what?)
Comment by John L. McCormick — 3 Mar 2007 @ 2:16 PM
although I consider my economic development proposal for north east ohio
(The Pheonix project) to be the most dynamic and aggressive idea for the stabilization of the enviroment,(As far as the great lakes are concerned)and the revitalization of industry for the state of Ohio,
I have developed a new proposal to reverse the emmision of carbon dioxide that I will call the “Green machine”, cause 25 million would
surely help me get the Pheonix Phlying.
To find out about this “new industry” contact me (Mr.Branson/Gore.)
at email@example.com the s-hepherd b-ryan c-ure global network.
Comment by Bryan L Shepherd — 16 Mar 2007 @ 5:35 PM
“Given that it is possible to extract CO2 rapidly from the atmosphere in a relatively small area, we may be concerned that the process would be limited by local atmospheric transport of CO2. Johnston et al. (2003) have studied this problem with global atmospheric and chemical transport modeling. They conclude that the transport and circulation of CO2 is such that the entire flow of anthropogenic CO2 could be offset by a single global sink of no more than 75,000 km2 in area, and with intelligent placement of sinks, a small fraction of that area would be needed.”
I wonder if the 75,000 km2 is a misprint? I interpret it as 75 X 103 km2 – larger than or comparable to the area of quite a few countries. If it’s not a misprint, why so much “glee” which is what I intimate from the use of the words “no more than”.
That’s twenty-nine-thousand square miles. Somewhat less than half the area of the UK. Easy peasy.
(Note to self: garage later to work on the next square mile)
More seriously: that 75,000 km2 figure comes from a reference in the thesis: “Johnston, N., Blake, D., Rowland, F., Elliott, S., Lackner, K., Ziock, H., Dubey,M., Hanson, H., and Barr, S. (2003). Chemical transport modeling of potential atmospheric CO2 sinks. Energy Conversion and Management, 44(5):681â��689.”
Anybody know where I can get a look/explanation for it – I mean without having to pay? Poor old, oh I dunno, and can’t be bothered looking it up, but t’was Pythagoras or Aristotle said: “Give him a penny, he wants to profit from knowledge”. Reagan and the current bunch of Reagan re-tread fascists currently running the US would have hated him, and probably approved the Roman soldier who ran whichever one of them through with his sword. Thumbs down.
How do you get an article/paper published here? I found this site as I saw Richard Somerville giving a pretty good lecture on UCTV, and he recommended this site. He did, however give a warning that “thar bloggers lurk”, but not to worry too much as only “real climate scientists” were allowed to post articles/papers. OK, my next question, what’s a “real” climate scientist, and is there a register of them somewhere, and if so, how do I get my name on it?
Obvious corollary, is there also or otherwise a register of fake climate scientists? I wouldn’t want to get my name on the wrong list by mistake.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pleased as punch that there are hundreds or thousands of real climate scientists working in the US and elsewhere, and phew, hasn’t it been an uphill struggle somewhat to only just now apparently having got the message across to the majority of mainstream media mislead American people? But, well, you know, except tangentially – confirmatory measurements via satellite – and good job on the Ozone layer thing and all that, but, well, this climate stuff isn’t rocket science, is it?
It it helps at all I worked in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern until 1905, ooops,,, sorry ,,, misprint: 2005.
Just kidding in the last para.*
Final enquiry (unless I think of something else), has anyone here entered, or know anyone who has entered, R. Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge (VEC), and if so has any reply been received? I figured out most of this excess anthropogenic CO2 stuff back in 1998, and pretty much, for various reasons, some good some not so good, just sat on it since then. Now R. Branson has spurred me to download the VEC Entry Form and send if off, but so far, nary a peep. Anyone else?
Can’t remember what spurred me into action back in 1998, perhaps there was something in the news about it then, perhaps even Al Gore remembered he’d once written a book about it, and said something – after many years of voluntary self-gagging. Sorry for that Inconvenient Truth, Mr. Gore – there goes my steel trap long term memory again.
Anyways, I figured out then that it’s a big job, even as big a job implied by one of the first thoughts that came to mind when I heard of R. Branson’s Virgin Earth Challenge, which was that Mr. Branson, entirely for vicarious purposes, of course, and out of concern for general moral welfare, with mainland Britain having run out of virgins (no surprise there) was offering a reward if anyone could find the last British one – anywhere on Planet Earth.
Yes, a big job – but certainly not 29,000 square miles big.
Thanks in advance for any/all answers to queries received.
Oh, yea, what was I doing. That’s right, forgot to mention: the short term memory on the other hand is crap, so if it takes me a while to respond, it’s because it took me a while to remember what I was doing.
75 billion square metres probably is an upper bound. This Dubey-mentioning page says less than 1 m^2 per person, i.e. less than 7,000 km^2 for the whole planetary population if they all become non-boron-burning motorists.
The comments above include some talk of digging up and comminution of CO2-hungry minerals and dispersing them, so that a large part of the lower atmosphere becomes the reaction vessel. Quicklime, CaO, is not such a mineral — it has such a strong CO2 affinity that there is none to dig up, and you have to make it in the first place, although the energy cost of this is not prohibitive — so maybe that explains the area discrepancy. 7,000 km^2 if quicklime is used and then calcined to feed pure CO2 to a mineral, 75,000 km^2 if the mineral is used directly.