Humanity has put over a trillion tons of excess CO2 into the air… and people think one of 4 things:
1, That there’s no consequence and global warming is not real.
2, That there’s nothing we can do about it.
3, That all we have to do is use less fossil fuel energy.
4, We must engineer our way to meet the excess CO2 challenge.
One, it has been proven since the late 1800’s that CO2 is an infrared absorber. The more GHGs, the more certain infrared photons are re-emitted, causing more heat. There is NO denying that. Either you believe the scientists or you learn why the scientists are in agreement! Evidence isn’t only in chemistry and physics, but it is also surfacing in the form of accelerating sea level rise, more ice melt and more warm record temps than cold record temps.
Two, it’s almost like there’s nothing we can do about it, because it seems that political persuasion is greater than science itself, actually, the great engineering projects that science makes possible. People think that they have to be negative because that’s mostly what sci-fi and the news is about, and so, project that “learned” negativity from within to others. Some, more accurately, realize that since this is a big planet, global warming is like a freight train that can’t be stopped, once started. They just don’t realize that as humanity grows, we’ll also have more power to nudge it back before it really gets a mov’n!
Three, There is no possible way that global warming will magically stop on its own. Even if we all quit using fossil fuels. Why? Because we’ve already passed the “do nothing” tipping point. Already, our trillion or so tons of excess CO2 has begun its process of obeying the laws of physics. The slightly warmer air melting ice has lowered the albedo of the planet, meaning that less sunlight is reflected into space, and our biosphere warms a little more. A slightly warmer biosphere will cause more methane release (itself a more powerful GHG until broken down into CO2 by UV in a decades type timescale). A slightly warmer air will hold more water vapor before it rains, (also a greater GHG). Together, these compounding feedback effects are surely able to cancel whatever negative feedback effects caused by excess CO2 (such as the possibility of more clouds reflecting more sunlight). Thus, if we all did nothing, we’re still in trouble, just not as fast as if we continue BAU. We can all do our part to reduce emissions, and sure, that will add up to some hefty emissions savings, however, that alone can only prolong global warming damage for a little while longer.
And four, There’s actually a lot of people who optimistically believe we can engineer our way out of it. Theses can be subdivided into “A and B”. A, some underestimate the amount of large projects needed to solve the problem. And B, some of us realize that it will require the greatest amount of engineering surpassing that of anything ever done before, perhaps equalling everything we’ve done before added together!
ONE CUBIC MILE OF OIL
How much is the total amount of energy garnered by use of hydrocarbons? They say that we literally consume about a cubic mile of oil (CMO) every year and that, with all other sources (mostly coal and NG) we consume about 3 CMO equivalent. That would be about 5 terawatts continuously per CMO being burned every year.
APPROXIMATELY ONE CUBIC MILE OF OIL
1 CMO is equal to about 45 trillion kWh. Granted, about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of that is wasted as heat in the conversion to useful energy (which also degrades back to heat). So, If using nuclear, chances are, we wouldn’t get much more efficiency. However, if using wind or solar, since they already generate electricity, we would only need about a third of that, in order to provide the same amount of electricity. And, it’s still about the same with coal.
YEARLY COAL CONSUMPTION, TRAIN CARS TO THE MOON AND HALFWAY BACK
Note, that solar creates its own heat, depending upon the difference in the darkness of the panel and the land it covers. Sand has an albedo (reflectivity) of about 60%, whereas a PV farm’s panels has an albedo of about 5%, meaning that if the world was covered with panels, we’d be in a lot of trouble! However, only a few percent of the land needs to be covered, to do the job of powering FUTUREWORLD and excess CO2 removal, and it’s own overall intensive energy inputs.
How much extra heat can the planet handle? The sun delivers all the energy we need in an entire year in just over an hour. Thus, we heat up the planet to the tune of about 1/8,000ths as much as the sun does. If we get it all from solar, the albedo of solar might heat it up by double (unless future panels could be made lighter in color and still efficiently convert light into electricity). The world will, most definitely need at least twice the amount of energy, and I would almost say, “double that!”. So, in the future, we can say that we’ll add no more than about 1/10th of 1% of what the sun gives to the planet.
The average watts/sq m, across the entire planet, during 24 hours, is 164 watts. Thus, we’d be adding only about 0.016 watts to that. However, with solar and wind, if we could cover the vast amounts of land needed without environmental decay, we would cut that by at least half (not by two thirds because we still have to contend with devise heating). Also, certain types of nuclear reactor designs are designed to operate at higher temps, and thus, are more efficient (and require less water for cooling).
The heating we are concerned about is that caused from excess CO2 induced infrared radiative forcing. That is said to already be around a whole watt/sq m! Actually, according to the IPCC, between 1.5 and almost 3.5 W/m^2, hundreds of times the decay heat from future energy demands!