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Terminal Greenhouse Crisis.



At the present rate of greenhouse gases emissions, within nine years, massively lethal climate and oceanic changes are guaranteed.

Such is the conclusion one can draw from the Inter Governmental Panel On Climate Change of the UN (the IPCC, with its top 300 climate scientists from all over the world). About 78% of the emissions have to do with heating, cooking, and basic, necessary industrial activities, such as making cement. They are not elective.

As Bad As An Asteroid?
As Bad As An Asteroid?

As Bad As An Asteroid?

Notes: CO2 FOLU = CO2 emissions from Forestry and Other Land Use. F-gases = Fluorinated gases covered under the Kyoto Protocol.

At the right side of the figure: Emissions of each greenhouse gas with associated error bars (90% confidence interval).

Only a crash program of construction of several hundreds of new technology nuclear fission plants, an all-out renewable energy program, with massive solar plants all over the American South and the (similar latitude) Sahara desert, plus a massive hydrogen economy to store the wind and solar energy could allow us to mitigate the massive lethal change incoming.

In other words, it is already too late to avoid the massive lethal change.

What’s the problem? Simple mathematics. It’s evaluated that human activities in the last century or so released 515 billion tons of greenhouse gases. The IPCC and the best experts believe that 800 to 1,000 billion tons of such gases would bring a rise of global temperatures of two degrees Celsius.

At the present rate, that’s nine years to reach the upper reaches: one trillion tons of GHG. 

Most of the temperature rise will be in the polar regions, melting those, and inducing worldwide climate catastrophe, especially if emissions of polar methane turn apocalyptic. The polar regions are the Achilles heel of the Earth’s present biosphere. By striking there mostly, enormous changes can be brought to bear, as they would destroy the Earth’s air conditioning and oceanic circulation.

In 2014, trade winds in the Pacific had four times the energy they usually have, creating abnormally intense ocean upwelling off the west coast of North America, thus a high pressure ridge (thus a drought there), causing a world wide oscillation of the jet stream that dragged cold polar air down the east coast of the USA, before rebounding as continual storms and rain on the west coast of Europe, and so forth.

Nobody can say the weather was normal: precipitation in England beat all records, dating 250 years, whereas most of California experienced extreme drought.

At this point, warm water is piling down to 500 meters depth in the western Pacific in what looks like a preparation for a massive El Nino, similar to the one in 1997-98. If this happens, global temperature records will be smashed next year.

Massively lethal means death to the world as we know it, by a thousand cuts. It means cuts to democracy, privacy, life span, food intake. Some of these are already in plain sight: the Ukraine war is already a war about gas, no less an authority as dictator Putin says so.

Tom Friedman in “Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day.” takes the situation lightly. “SO the latest news is that President Vladimir Putin of Russia has threatened to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine if Kiev doesn’t pay its overdue bill, and, by the way, Ukraine’s pipelines are the transit route for 15 percent of gas consumption for Europe. If I’m actually rooting for Putin to go ahead and shut off the gas, does that make me a bad guy?

Because that is what I’m rooting for, and I’d be happy to subsidize Ukraine through the pain. Because such an oil shock, though disruptive in the short run, could have the same long-term impact as the 1973 Arab oil embargo — only more so. That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. A Putin embargo today would be even more valuable because it would happen at a time when the solar, wind, natural gas and energy efficiency industries are all poised to take off and scale. So Vladimir, do us all a favor, get crazy, shut off the oil and gas to Ukraine and, even better, to all of Europe. Embargo! You’ll have a great day, and the rest of the planet will have a great century.”

It’s not so simple. The investments needed are massive, and all the massive investments so far have to do with fracking… Which is, ecologically speaking, a disaster. 3% methane leakage makes fracking worse than burning coal. And this leakage is apparently happening.

Unbelievably, some of the countries with coal beds got the bright idea to burn the coal underground. Australia, about the worst emitter of CO2 per capita, experimented with that. It had to be stopped, because some particularly toxic gases (such as toluene) were coming out, not just the CH4 and CO the apprentice sorcerers were looking for.

Carbon Capture and Storage does not exist (but for very special cases in half a dozen special locations, worldwide, not the thousands of locales needed). And CSS will not exist (profitably).

What technology exist that could be developed (but is not yet)? Not just Thorium reactors. The hydrogen economy is a low key, and indispensable economy. Water can be broken by electricity from wind and sun, and then energy can be stored, under the form of hydrogen. Nothing else can do it: batteries are unable to store energy efficiently (and there is not enough Lithium to make trillions of Lithium batteries).

The hydrogen technology pretty much exist, including for efficient storage under safe form (one thick plate of a material that cannot be set aflame can store 600 liters of hydrogen).

Another advantage of storing hydrogen is that oxygen would be released. Although it may seem absurd to worry about this, too much acidity in the ocean (from absorption of CO2) could lead to phytoplankton die-off, and the removal of half of oxygen production.

In this increasingly weird world, that’s where we are at.

Oh, by the way, how to stop Putin? Europe should tell the dictator he can keep his gaz. Now. As good an occasion to start defending the planet, and not just against fascism.

At the present rate, we will be more than doubling the CO2 equivalent Green House Gases in the next nine years. It’s high treason against the biosphere itself.

Patrice Aymé





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