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A Climate Mitigating Energy Strategy

natural gas bridge and climate mitigation

Belaboring the obvious, Haewon McJeon, an economist with the U.S. energy department and lead author of a new report in the journal Nature, Climate change: A crack in the natural-gas bridge (behind a pay wall) says in a Scientific American article,   “The climate change problem requires a climate change solution.”

The article points to the fact that abundant natural gas is not that solution because as well as coal it replaces renewables and nuclear energy and its low cost means more of this carbon dioxide emitting fuel will be used.

It seems to me the missing takeaway from this piece is climate change is essentially a zero sum game. Global budgets for energy and mitigation of the damage they do are finite.

Money invested in ineffective energy transitions, adaptations to one meter of sea level rise when as much as twenty meters may be built in or feel good exercises like the People’s Climate March are little more than money down the drain and takeaways from real solutions that would remedy the damage that has been done, remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, avoid adding more carbon to the system and produce at least as much energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels.

It beggars belief that 10 billion people on this planet could require less energy than is currently being produced. It will take time however to replace what we have so the first requirement has to be to try to remedy the damage that has been done by buring fossil fuels as we transition away from them.

Nature has afforded two analogies for how this can be accomplished.

First sea levels declined in 2010-11 because more precipitation fell and was retained on land than evaporated from the ocean’s surface. As pointed out here and here we can amplify this benefit by damming up water in regions expected to receive more precipitation due to climate change and moving some of the excess to drying regions; producing hydro power in the transition.

Second atmospheric temperature measurements have remained relatively constant this century even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have increased because of increased heat uptake by the oceans. As has been noted in this forum on many occasions this outcome can be replicated with heat pipes that overcome the natural tendency for heat to remain near the ocean’s surface.

Movement of surface ocean heat to deep water is an opportunity to produce at least as much energy as is currently derived from fossil fuels while avoiding the worst consequences of climate change.

To get this offshore generated energy to market electricity has to be converted to an energy carrier like hydrogen and in this regard the electrolysis process developed by the Lawrence Livermore team lead by Greg Rau not only takes carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and ocean, it neutralizes the acidification of the seas that is currently threatening marine life.

Every watt of power produced by this method is a step down the road to climate recovery and avoids exacerbating the problem.

As the benefits of this solution begin to be realized more and more pressure will be brought to bear for an accelerated movement away from fossil fuels.      

A hedge is an investment intended to offset potential losses/gains that may be incurred by a companion investment.

Trillions have been invested in fossil fuels and increasingly the sanity of these bets is being called into question. The rational approach would be to hedge the climate and economic consequences of these fossil fuel positions.

Failure to hedge these bets could well lead to economic as well as environmental collapse in the near future.

“The climate change problem requires a climate change solution.”

It’s just sound economics.

Photo Credit: Climate Change Mitigation and Natural Gas/shutterstock

Jim Baird's picture

Thank Jim for the Post!

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