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20. Negative Emissions

The Ultimate Guide to Negative Emissions Technology

Link: National Climate Change

Climate I ~ Give Up

I have felt for some time that this web site is becoming more and more an obituary for planet earth.

Jonathan Franzen's article on climate change in the September 8, 2019 issue of The New Yorker has to be the most infuriating and stupid piece about life, climate change or almost anything else I have ever read except that his attitude may well reflect reality. He is just saying we should give up.

As an engineer accustomed to thinking about risk and as an artist enamored of the landscape (wawrzonek.com) I find this, as well as all the other analysis effectively pussy footing when the whole damn planet is at stake to be demoralizing in the extreme. We did not pussy foot in World War II or the Apollo program and infinitely more is now at stake. Franzen amounts to "well nobody knows what's going to happen so let’s eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow I die."

From the first day I read about climate change 15 years ago I have been a pessimist, agonizing why we are not fixing it, and my agonizing exploded with the election of Trump and with the naiveté of the Paris Accords and the follow up Katowice meeting. And there have been many arguments trying to get around the human contribution, sun spots amoung many. This seems to have been put to bed well enough: Sun Spots: Scientific American.

I had to make a decision whether to play climate scientist and attempt to follow and understand all the arguments for one cause or another. I chose instead to be myself, which might be called an “engineering assessment.”

Engineers often have to size up complex situations quickly and arrive at a practical plan that minimizes risk and cost but gets the job done as rapidly as practical.

I know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas and my first qualitative impression is that I cannot believe that the amount of CO2 we have put into the air and are adding to every day is not having some effect. A detailed analysis is beyond my capability: I am not a climatologist and I don't have access to much of the data. So what would I like to know: I would like to know if there is a correlation between the earth’s temperature and the total amount of carbon dioxide in the air, and, how close is the correlation. When you cannot do an experiment you look for experiments that have already been done, and where the job is to get data and try to make sense of it.

There is an extraordinarily complete source of data on greenhouse gasses that covers virtually all situations: Our World Data. The curve below is the ”hockey stick” shape made infamous by Al Gore. However, it is exactly what we need to correlate carbon with temperature. To the right of it is my attempt to predict the future based on the hockey puck.

The pink curve is a smoothed version of the actual data and the blue curve is an extrapolation done by ”curve fitting.” It is a simplified look at what the future might be if we kept doing what we did to create the hockey stick. It is based on data going back to 1880 and suggests more of an exponential rise than looking at perhaps just a decade of recent data. So what do we make of this.

When I first read of climate change the issue that hit me was the presence of positive feedback, or self-reinforcing mechanisms such as the melting of the tundra to release methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. And at the time, there were no obvious negative feedback mechanisms that might cool the earth. And finally there was the enormous amount of CO2 already added since the start of the industrial evolution plus the stunning amount being added every year.

21. My attitude continues with an infinite appreciation for what the earth is, how spectacular a gift it is to humanity, followed by anger at the never look out the window attitude of the majority of humanity, an example of which is the joy of some that this is the "end time" and so a fulfillment of scripture. If no one were listening, what would follow would be a string of profanity like you have never heard.

1. The idea that we would risk the planet without an all out effort is morally reprehensible, because it was a gift to us and we are under an irrevocable obligation to care for it.

2. If you don't think the planet is precious enough to give it everything you have then get out of our bloody way.

3. If you don't feel like joining the fight you will be drafted.

4. If you are wealthy as a result of fleecing the poor through tax cuts, open your wallet or we will open it for you.

5. If you are the Walmart family with $124 billion you squeezed from minimum wage workers, open your wallet damn wide.

23.~The Earth Becomes Less

Humanity’s Abuse

Climate change is different from any other phenomenon humanity has ever faced.

It is not one thing, but many things that keep changing. It is eposodic in space and time.

Its science is diffuse so one explanation does not go very far. Its ravages are often isolated and may destroy one place while others have perfect weather.

It is sometimes slow in its encroachment. Homes are moved a few hundred feet, and again a few hundred feet, and perhaps again, until finally the sea has its way.

Suffering, destruction and death may be colossal. Or new warmth may bring new pleasure.

The darkest danger, is that the end of one calamity is just a warning of worse calamities to come, until a town or city disappears or is burned to the ground. Or rain ceases and crops dry and crackle when picked. There is no water to quench thirst and heat is so intense it is deadly.

There is the explanation: ”greenhouse effect,” which by its name tells nothing. Then comes the critical decision time and the question of how to deal with an impossibility that absolutly must be met head on and very soon.

As suffering and destruction became worse the suppliers of the harmless poison that is the bubbles in soda water, knowing precisely what they are doing, lie while they sell and sell and search for more fossl fuel. Few countries take the situation seriously enough. They have neither plans nor resources, and wealthy nations such as the US are under the large thumb of irrational politics.

As time goes on children face worse troubles and suffering and their own children still worse until the unknown future comes to pass. For the needed reduction of emissions is likely to happen far too late and the atmosphere will be filled (and here we must guess) with 600, 700, 800 ppm carbon dioxide plus methane from the Artic. So far into the future, beyond the end of the century, the atmosphere continues to warm and the nuclear power and negative emissions capabilities were not developed soon enough. No one was able to convince the public that nuclear was superior, and besides power, fresh water from the ocean was scarce. Sometimes the difference between two large numbers, the rational for negative emissions, needs capability with long lead times.

Descendents are mystified: ”why did they do this; why did they not care.”

And in the present scientists are the bewildered ones, for the task of stopping climate change seems improble or perhaps impossible*-* while the dream of returning to an earlier climate is beyond imagination.

Those with power and money are comfortable, while the scientists struggle to explain a mixture of phenomena never experienced before. The plague left recovery possible. A melted glacier does not. Shakespeare, I believe, would not be up to the task of capturing the despair. Perhaps the Greeks or philosophers with black holes in their thoughts could communicate to far future generations, should there be any.

And the irony of ironies, the one person we would expect to take charge, as Franklin and Winston once did, is a menace of exponential proportions hiding behind a trail of confusion.

Is there light? Yes there is. But we must lay a bit more groundwork first.

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