Doing Well by Doing Good by the Planet
Joe Romm aptly described his 2006 book on the subject of global warming, Hell and High Water.
The Hell we are already seeing in the form of droughts, water shortages, insect infestations, famine, heat waves, forest fires and desertification.
High water too has caused extensive damage globally since the book was published.
Where Mr. Romm thinks however existing technologies are adequate to resolving the problem, I concur with Matthew Stepp’s analysis that existing clean technologies are largely not cost-competitive with fossil fuels and instead energy policy should emphasize aggressive R&D.
Mr. Stepp says, “We need entirely new clean technology learning curves to make clean competitive with dirty.”
It is doubtful though that clean energy alone is adequate when we have accumulated already sufficient heat in the oceans to prolong the consequences of global warming for a 1000 years.
When it comes to learning curves there is no better tutor than nature. Subsequent to the publication of Mr. Romm’s book she has demonstrated how high water can be lowered and the Hell of global warming lessened.
From March 2010 to March 2011 NASA reports that sea levels declined by about 6 mm as water was transferred from the oceans to the land.
From 1998 to the present there was a perceived decline in the increase in recorded world temperatures compared to the 15 year period from 1990-2005, which was attributed mainly to an increase in uptake of heat by deeper ocean waters.
Another study however suggests we simply weren’t taking measurements where the heat was going, which was towards the poles and Africa, as well as into the deep ocean. With the extrapolation of this data, the actual warming was two and a half times greater than had been measured. The implication being, previous attempts at explaining the so called “global warming hiatus” in terms of heat uptake by the deep oceans, the cooling effect of smog over China and India, or natural fluctuations like El Nino are likely still valid and therefore the planet is probably warming faster than had been anticipated.
The dataset that measured the decline in warming subsequent to 1998 came from instrumentation that covered about 84% of the planet. Since that data showed a slowdown of warming by about 60 percent over the previous 15 year period, and that slowdown was attributed principally to movement of heat into the deep ocean, it is reasonable to conclude such movements can lessen atmospheric warming, at least in the interim, until atmospheric CO2 concentrations are reduced by the replacement of fossil fuels with zero emissions energy.
The fastest and most efficient way to dissipate heat from a location where it is potentially damaging into a benign heat sink, like the deep ocean, is the same way PCs, tablets, and smart phones do it, with a heat pipe.
As Wikipedia describes them, heat pipes are thermal superconductors, due to the very high heat transfer coefficients for boiling and condensing working fluids.
If you insert a turbine into the vapour flow of such a pipe and attach that turbine to a generator you can produce electricity. The ocean’s potential for such power is at least as great as all of the energy we currently derive from fossil fuels. Whereas fossil fuels are finite though, solar power stored in the oceans will be available for as long as the sun shines.
When you convert electricity via electrolysis to the energy carrier hydrogen, which is necessary to bring offshore produced power to market, and then recombine that hydrogen with oxygen on land you are combating high water, drought, water shortage and desertification concurrently to producing zero emissions energy.
Another way to do this would be to capture the water being deposited in excess in one part of the planet and then relocating it to another where there are shortages; producing hydro power en route. A case in point is British Columbia and California, where the distance between them and the technical impediments are small but the political obstacles are great.
In the process of producing ocean power you drain the fuel from tropical storms that in turn move heat towards the poles, where it melts icecaps that are the primary driver of significant sea level rise. Further much of this heat is relocated to a level in the ocean where its coefficient of expansion is half that of the surface.
In his post, The Sociology of Climate Change, Lou Grinzo breaks up the citizenry of the “developed” countries, on whose shoulders the climate problem rests, into three categories: the tiny portion of the public already engaged with the topic and attempting to do something about it; the even tinier segment called “deniers” and the vast majority who are aware of climate change but don’t feel the level of urgency necessary to motivate them to alter their consumption or voting patterns.
Uptown Sinclair wrote 70 years ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
He might well have been a climate visionary.
He was certainly describing the climate deniers and the vast majority.
The climate problem is real however and a huge economic opportunity for those ready and willing to engage in the effort. The deniers and the public are leaving the door wide open. Unfortunately however so too are a large segment of the otherwise engaged who couch the issue in terms of social justice rather than the technical challenge that it is.
With very few R&D dollars we can learn how to solve global warming. All we have to do is follow the blueprint nature has provided.
Once those lessons are learned the remedy will be self sustaining from revenues and more and more salaries will be dependant on an accelerate and aggressive progression up the global warming learning curve.