OOPs. I published this a few days ago, at midnight. Not the best time. Here it is again. I think I also just published part two over the top of part one; I don’t quite have the workings of Daily Kos figured out yet. Sorry.
This essay serves as the introduction to the long one. Hope you found this one first.
Short Essay What We Do About Climate Change
© Copyright 4/8/19
My Republicon-duped, born again brother phoned me in a huff the week of April fools. “I just heard that the Green New Deal is going to cost my family $68,000 a year!” he raged. Of course he hadn’t read the GND-- he watches Fox and gets his “news” from conservative radio talk show hosts. Later in the week I heard the same nonsense on the babble box from a Republiclown congresscritter.
Deliberate ignorance flummoxes me: I had to think about it. I finally realized why the Republiclown must’ve pulled that number straight out of his ass: no one has a clue what fighting climate change will cost because no one has a ghost of a hint of a plan yet what to do about it.
But I might see a glimmer of a glimpse of what it will take.
I’ve been reviewing the technologies that might get us out of this mess, those that are distractions, and those that will make it worse, for years, and intensively for the several months I’ve been writing about it. I have 67 pages so far, including embedded references. Don’t know yet where to post something that long; I’ll try to cut it to the bone, here, for you guys. This is my obsession (OK, one of them), and I’ve actually been studying CC, and working against it, for more than 40 years. I’m going to start by making sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to understanding CC. And I should probably start by telling you why you should give me the time of day.
I started working in energy conservation more than 40 years ago, insulating water heaters. I worked way too many years as a carpenter, so I understand how most buildings go together and how to make them tighter and better insulated, and I taught home weatherization workshops as an ****** State University Extension Service Master Conserver. I studied Energy Management Technician, which included the basic physics behind chemistry, electromagnetism, and nuclear physics, and worked a while as an energy auditor, the guy/gal who comes to your home or business and figures out how you use and waste energy and how you can save some. I love passive solar home design—there is no Seasonal Affective Disorder in a passive solar home, you live in any sunshine there is all winter—I’ve studied structural design, and I’m an SHP, a Sustainable Housing Professional, which means I know a bit about Passive House, the world’s most energy efficient building standard. All of this, a pathological curiosity and (help me!) 24-7 access to the internet, gives me a basic-to-middlin’ understanding of energy producing and using technologies from fire to fusion. And I’m a journalist with, I’ve been told, good research skills. And a fascination with paleontology and paleoclimatology and everything science. And the internet. Help.
And as a result of all that obsessive-compulsive research, Climate Change scares the crap out of me.
We first began to understand the greenhouse effect in 1824 when Joseph Fourier argued that changes in concentrations of gasses in the atmosphere could cause ice ages and thermal maximums. John Tyndall proved several greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide (CO2) in a laboratory in 1859, and Svante Arrhenius did the math in 1896, and got it substantially correct. He did not have our current knowledge of paleoclimatology, however, and did not grok how bad it could get, and how fast.
The surface of the sun is ~6500° C., so its radiation is about ½ visible light, VL; a little less near—close to visible light in frequencies—infrared, IR; enough ultraviolet, UV, to fry anything alive without an ozone layer to absorb some of it; and a scattering of everything from radio to gamma. Clear sky is transparent to near IR, which, along with VL, is absorbed by dark surfaces which both warm, transferring their energy to ground, grass, water, trees, rock…. Which emit their own IR, back to space. Except for the sun, space is near absolute zero; warm emits IR to cold. THAT “cooler” IR, emitted by things closer to 15°C. than 6500, is much lower frequencies, longer wavelengths, than incoming IR from the sun, and carbon monoxide and any gas with three or more atoms in the molecule absorbs and re-emits it, “scatters it,” similar to the way oxygen and nitrogen absorb and re-emit, scatter, the blue frequencies of visible light, so that the sky glows blue, and the sun looks yellow when it is actually hot blue-white shading into ultraviolet outside the atmosphere. If you could see IR, the sky would glow in far IR frequencies, too.
Some of that GHG-absorbed IR is re-emitted to space; some of it may be re-absorbed and re-emitted many times before it strikes a surface and is absorbed, warming the surface and the air above it. It’s a “blanket” that traps IR instead of warm air. And we’ve thickened it from ~270ppm (parts per million) “pre-industrial”—before we started burning lots of coal in the 1860s--to 407ppm earlier this year. The result is already a worsening of the world’s weather, more, and more-destructive, hurricanes, bomb cyclones, Arctic vortex events, killer heat waves, flood here, drought there—and some of that “drought” is actually some of the world’s arable lands turning to desert. That permadrought is driving a lot of the world’s refugee crisis, both in the Middle East and from Central America to the U.S. It’s already costing us billions of dollars every year, and lives and misery as it helps drive a mass extinction crisis that’s been on for a while now and is only accelerating.
Much of the world’s arable lands will turn to desert. Much of the U.S. will get dryer, while parts prone to flood will flood worse and more often. We’re already seeing that. Acidifying oceans are dissolving the shells of the tiny creatures at the bottom of the food chain, and our seafood supplies will plummet or go extinct. We may not be able to feed ourselves, and lack of water will become a problem for many people. And hungry people tend to go to war over other people’s resources. Canada, be afraid.
THEN THERE’S SEA-LEVEL RISE. It’s already ~ten inches worldwide, more on the Eastern Seaboard where currents pile it up, and it’s already causing king-tide sunny-day flooding of low-lying coastal areas from Miami to the Hampton Roads Naval Yards and beyond, while it drowns Oceania and Bangladesh. It will rise farther; depending on what we do about it, maybe a meter by end century, and maybe five or six, as the temperature climbs 3 or 4°C. That might make the difference between more domestic climate refugees than we can handle, and a Mad-Max-starving-desert-world apocalyptic crash-of-civilization for your children and grandchildren. Millions of domestic climate refugees, the Hungry Homeless, roving in packs? Think The Walking Dead.
Or we can try to head it off.
It used to worry me that we are trying to recreate the PETM, Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum mass extinction. ~56 million years ago (myago), volcanic eruption of the Mid-Atlantic Rift (East Greenland) and (I think) of the Siletzia (now Yellowstone) supervolcano, then under the coast of now Oregon and Washington, dumped CO2 into the atmosphere, possibly triggering a methane excursion. Earth’s temperature increased 5-8°C in a couple thousand years. A lot of species went extinct, especially in the deep oceans, while many that survived, especially on land, diversified into new species. Rapid speciation is a sign of extreme environmental stress. It wasn’t a happy 200,000 years for anybody.
But we are dumping CO2 into the atmosphere 50 times as fast as the Siberian Traps, a half-million-year volcanic eruption the size of the U.S., did 250 myago, when they precipitated the End Permian mass extinction, the world’s worst. 90 percent of everything died out when temperatures slowly rose about 5°C., then spiked another 5° overnight. The most likely cause of that spike is a methane “burp”; destabilized methane hydrates or melting-rotting permafrost or both dumped a few tens of gigatons of methane into the atmosphere all at once. Methane captures ~100 times as much heat initially as CO2, then ~86 times over 20 years, ~27 times over a century, while it decays into CO2 that will stick around trapping heat for centuries. We’re also emitting megatons of nitrous oxides, 265 times as bad as CO2 (or 320 x, depending on whom you read), refrigerants that can be 32,000 times as bad, and a bunch of other greenhouse gasses as we use the air we breathe as a sewer. And we are trying to recreate the worst mass extinction the world has ever seen.
The End Permian may have ended in a Hydrogen Sulfide event. A really good one could sterilize the planet. And it’s a nasty way to die.
The end of the 1300-year-long Younger Dryas cold snap, 11,800 yago, was incredibly sudden; the planet warmed 8 or 10° in only 40 or 50 years; parts of Greenland warmed 10° in a decade. The likely cause of warming that fast is a massive methane excursion. The Arctic is melting and rotting and it stinks all summer long, now; the sea boils with melting methane clathrates off Eastern Siberia and other places around the Arctic Ocean. If we trigger a big methane burp, there won’t be any way to stop it, there won’t be any adapting to it, and things could go from bad enough to hell on earth almost overnight. And it might already be too late; this is a self-reinforcing feedback loop, and such things grow exponentially.
IPPC Special Report 15 said that we have ~12 years left to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent, and to zero by 2050, to stop at “only” 1.5 °C. temperature rise, with the loss of “only” 75 to 90 percent of the world’s coral reefs, and four inches off the top of a meter or six of sea-level rise. Except they’re way conservative; climatologist James Hansen says that staying where we are right now, 407 ppm atmo CO2, will eventually increase temperatures 3.6°, and that the last time Earth was as warm as it is now, the Eemian period 120,000 yago, sea level was 20 feet higher (it takes a while to melt that much ice).We need a moon-shot, WWII-level effort to adopt clean technologies and pull a lot of carbon back out of the atmosphere afap, and the unhinged mango moron Mussolini-wannabe systematically dismantling our future wants to waste that money on a repeat of the 1960s moon shot moon shot.
The first thing we need is a political revolution. Let’s talk about that next.
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Putting the brakes on climate change before it is too late starts with (gag) politics. We do not stand a chance of saving civilization or the species as long as pathologically selfish libertarian oligarchs like the Koch brothers can outvote millions of us just by writing a check to the right congresscreep. We need an end—with prejudice--to the Electoral College, Citizens United, corporate personhood, big/dark-money politics, gerrymandering, electioneering Rep and Dem, the filibuster…. We the people also need to be able to recall judges and justices appointed by presidents and senates that have the oligarchy’s best interests, and not ours, at heart; we need proportional representation so that all good ideas are heard; and we need the right to declare “no confidence” in an administration and call for the re-election of anybody or everybody. And we need to be able to indict sitting presidents. No one is above the law!
Those might mean a constitutional amendment or three, and to have a hope of that we need not just a blue wave across the Senate and Presidency, and to pick up any more House seats we can, in 2020; we need those people to be progressives who understand climate change and the urgency of dealing with it. You want my vote in 2020? That is your first litmus test. It is a huge problem that climate change was not even on Nancy Pelosi’s agenda (is it yet?) until the Sunrise Movement occupied her office, and only when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stopped by did that even make the news. Wall-Street/fossil-fuel-industry (hereinafter just, “the fossils”) compromised old-dog Dems do not get it and will not wake up in time to fix CC. We need a strategic energy plan, we need to pick and choose the technologies that will get us out of this mess, and we need to avoid technologies that will make it worse whether or not vested interests call that socialism. We need the next blue wave to be Justice Democrats, and we need climate change and the Green New Deal to be the first item on their agenda. Check out the Sunrise Movement Plan at https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lcpb6Tuyh4-mEjGV7aO8b8Hq9zkQ782w/view . AOC and friends’ Green New Deal is just an outline, so far, but it is a good one. https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109/text . And google up Justice Democrats.
I think we need something else, both to save the future for our children and to leave them a real democracy that works for everyone, not just the rich: direct democracy, the national citizen’s initiative. I hope for enough progressives in the new blue-green wave to kick climate change’ ass, but we can’t leave it to congress to fix this: congress is too broken, too bought, too corrupt, we might not get enough fresh, uncontaminated new blood in 2020, the courts are being corrupted and the fossil fuel monster will block us at every turn, we are talking about the survival of the species, and we are out of time. We the people have every right to make our own laws; we only need the mechanism. And, I suppose, that, too, will require an amendment to the Constitution. This will require a revolution: hopefully a peaceful one. Unfortunately we’re a long way from that and we need it now.
WE NEED TO STOP BURNING ALL FOSSIL FUELS, and making plastics and fabrics and fertilizer and everything else from them, afap. Leave them in the ground. That needn’t mean freezing to death in the dark while we starve. We lost a crucial decade or four because the fossils lied to us, withholding what they knew about CC, for forty or fifty years, and they are still lying; but dedicated people have been working overtime to develop clean, carbon free/neutral technologies. Some are already on line (wind, solar, storage, geothermal, biogas), or at least understood (molten salt fission), and we only need to invest in them, not the technologies of the past. Other technologies (algae for all the myriad things we can do with it including biodiesel, fusion other than deliberate-distraction/obfuscation, waste-of-time-and-money ITER and NIF), are close and need only the last bit of investment in research. There are several things we could be doing right now to draw carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it, that should cost little, would improve our soils just as agriculture vs. population gets critical, and that could make the infrastructure we have to rebuild, that is crumbling because we built it out of the wrong materials, last far longer, and sequester carbon instead of emitting megatons of it.
Do we have to “nationalize” the fossils to stop them exporting gas/oil/coal, make them use carbon capture and storage while their plants are still operating, reinvest their assets in clean energy, and phase out fossil fuels afap? They should do it themselves but won’t. Most fossil fuels come from public lands, so we already own them; and they pay us 1/8 of the actual value by law which they wrote. We’ve subsidized them to the tune of $70 billion/year while they were gluttonously profitable, gouging us, and lying to us about climate change while they sold off our future. We bought them out long ago.
Like utilities across the country, PGE, Portland (Oregon) General Electric, is closing its coal-fired power plant near Boardman, less because it is concerned with carbon than because carbon-capture and clean air requirements make coal unprofitable. They wanted to replace it with more gas-fired plants—they already own a couple—but ratepayers handed them their asses over that, so now they are going with wind, solar, and lithium-ion battery storage (when better is available). That will require back-up for when there is no wind or sun, and they will probably buy that power from some gas or coal plant several states away. They could continue to use the expensive, already-paid-for turbines and generators and condensers at Boardman,
trash recycle the coal boilers, and replace them with molten salt fission reactors, MSRs. That should save their ratepayers money and it solves multiple problems.
I will resist anyone trying to build a new pressurized water fission reactor, PWR, anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. PWRs are just as abysmally inefficient and dangerous as they were when Three Mile Island nearly took out Pennsylvania. MSRs are twice as efficient and far safer: loss of power causes a shutdown, not a meltdown, and they operate at atmospheric pressure, and so are not a steam explosion waiting to happen. They can continuously reprocess their fuel, and so burn all of it; PWRs only use about four percent. MSRs can happily burn spent PWR fuel, reducing its volume ~20-fold, and turning it into useful non-radioactive elements and a small amount of radionuclides with much shorter half-lives than PWR wastes. This is how we clean up our high-level radioactive waste disposal problem. And we already have fuel in storage for thousands of years--no more excuse to dig up national monuments for uranium.
ThorCon, bad idea to put these at sea level, and to reprocess fuel off site. Otherwise go for it. You can move those huge components wherever you need and lower them precisely into place with Lockheed-Martin or Aeroscraft big lifters soon. 250/500 tons, way more possible. Talk to them.
ITER, the huge, $50 billion Tokamak being built in France, is still 30 or 35 years from proving that Tokamaks make lousy power plants. It is already obsolete; advances in superconductors mean that it could be half its size. Meanwhile if they can get funding LPP (Lawrenceville Plasma Physics), Helion Energy and others are five or seven years away from giving us aneutronic fusion that will not destroy the reactor with 164 billion degree neutrons impacting at 52,000 kilometers per second (the problem with most deuterium-tritium fusion schemes—General Fusion’s might work), with direct energy conversion, and so no need of turbines and generators and all those expensive bits. LPP thinks they can give us spherical 5MW reactors (5000 efficient homes) ~2 meters in diameter, weighing only a couple of tons, most of which is water, for ~$500,000 each, and ½ cent per kwh. Helion projects 50 MW in a reactor the size of a school bus, and power at four to six cents /kwh. Either of those saves the world—unless the coal/gas/PWR industries and their lobbyists get in the way. They WILL try. You watch. Please be prepared to help stop them.
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We need to electrify every type of motor vehicle on the market. I’m ready to buy an EV; no one makes anything I want. Give me a two-tiered welded tubular alloy truss “skateboard” frame, with room to slide four or six one-man-carryable, owner-serviceable batteries in between the frame tiers to a central buss bar from either side; a welded roll cage, and a sustainable-polymer body, the size and shape of a Ford Transport-Connect microvan but hundreds of pounds lighter. I need 4WD—easy with multiple electric motors (axial flux motors produce five HP per pound)—and I want the batteries to be SolidEnergy Hermes lithium-metal cells, more power in ½ the size and weight of Li-ion. Cover the vehicle with PV cells not paint.
Another MIT/Donald Sadoway spinoff has solved the problem with aluminum-air batteries continuing to discharge after the electrolyte is removed, by flooding the cells with oil between uses. I want those for range extenders; but I want to remove and replace the entire battery, not just its aluminum plates, as Nissan intends, when it is discharged, and I want the vehicle to run just fine on its rechargeables without an Al-air on board. This tech is available now—get busy, Ford. I will plug mine into several $125, ~6.2 amp ~20.8 volt thin-film PV panels, ganged together to produce the right voltage, so I want the vehicle to charge on DC as well as 120 or 240 VAC, and to fast charge, please.
The same batteries will make short and mid-range electric aircraft work. Israeli Eviation Aircraft is introducing a nine-passenger, 276 mph, 625-mile-range commuter this year, “Alice,” that they say will cost 1/10 as much to fly as a bizjet. Easy Jet is working on a 335 mile commuter. And for cargo, several entities including Aeroscraft and Lockheed-Martin are working on 250 and 500 ton “big lifters,” dirigibles, lighter-than-air craft. If those are electric you could extend the range by covering them in PV; or an LPP fusion reactor would be a great power source for one, which would only have to land for food and water.
Where we still need jet fuel we can make it out of garbage. Fulcrum BioEnergy will be on line next year with a pilot plant that will turn 175,000 tons of municipal garbage a year into 11 million gallons of fuel; they are planning plants up to 700,000 tons a year elsewhere. I wonder if they use a new process, used by several other start-ups, that bombards biomass with electrons to break it into its constituent molecules with far less heat energy than traditional pyrolysis? Lots of amazing new tech coming on line.
We should stop making gasoline engines right now. We could drive the existing stock into the ground on biogasoline or “aerogas”; Carbon Engineering has developed a way to make motor fuels from CO2 drawn directly from atmosphere. It’s still expensive, but high-schooler Ethan Novek and a prof and lab at Yale have discovered a new chemistry that can pull CO2 out of exhausts, where it’s concentrated, for ~$10/ton instead of $80 or $100. If that can be made to work with atmosphere, gasoline literally made of air and water might become affordable. I’d feel a lot better about what driving I still do if the gas were carbon neutral.
We can do so much with algae besides biodiesel. We can make biodegradable plastics, fabrics, paints, alcohol, food supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids that don’t require overfishing krill and starving penguins and whales toward extinction, health food—and in a world with four, then five times too many people, we will eat algae or starve—and a host of other goodies, far more than you can do with toxic petroleum. If we find the gene in a seaweed called Asparagopsis taxiformis that makes it produce bromoform, which inhibits the bacteria that make methane in cattle’s rumens, and insert it into our fuel algae, we can feed the remnant after the oils are extracted to livestock. Two percent of Asparagopsis added to cow/sheep/ goat/bisons’ diet makes them grow 15 percent faster, and might cut their methane production by 99 percent, stopping that six percent of greenhouse gas emissions without making people give up meat—though we should all eat less, me included. Pork and especially poultry produce far less CH4 than ruminants. Bison is the worst.
Getting actual Asparagopsis to the world’s cattle would burn a lot of transportation energy. But we will grow algae for fuel etc. near where we need it, where we have wastes to clean up fertilizing it, a lot closer to the cattle.
We need a Remediation Fund, made up of carbon-tax* monies and monies and assets confiscated from the fossils after we prosecute them for their crime against humanity, lying to us for 40 years about the worst existential crisis in humanity’s long sad history of shooting ourselves in the foot. We lend affordable money for energy upgrades and clean energy projects to homeowners and businesses and clean energy researchers out of it, including farmers. We lend/incentivize/mandate that animal farmers and cities install anaerobic digesters to make methane from their manures/sewage. Manures in piles emit methane anyway (it’s much better to burn it to CO2), and worse nitrous oxides, and ammonia and other nasties, and nitrates to pollute groundwater and fertilize algae blooms in rivers and oceans that cause dead zones and kill off our seafood supply. Cleaning that up makes biogas that can go into the gas grid, or otherwise offset fossil gas—and we now know that the frackers lose so much fossil gas to atmo that overall it is as bad as coal. The remnants are clean, sterile fertilizer, or you can grow algae in them, make your own biodiesel to run your tractors and trucks, and feed the bromoform-containing “squeezin’s” to the cows to stop them burping ~55 gallons of methane/cow/day and make them grow faster. How many wins in a row do you need? Pattern solved.
*Government, you may carbon tax me just as soon as you end all taxpayer subsidies to the fossils and put those monies in the Remediation Fund. If you tax me first, I will consider you to be punishing me for burning carbon when you afford me no alternatives and I’ve already made my home as green as I know how, and giving my money to the fossils to reward them for producing it. I will take that as Intolerable Tyranny and as fascism. Carbon tax me. End those obscene subsidies first.
Farming emits ~25 percent of GHGs, more than transportation, almost as much as power generation. Farmers and foresters can not only stop most of that, they can sequester carbon while improving soils they’re now strip mining, that their children will need healthy. Use biofuels in your machinery, buildings, and processes, lease roofs for PV and pads for wind turbines, go no-till all you can—tilling releases carbon—only use as much fertilizer as you need, and sweeten your soils with crushed silicates like basalt instead of lime. Lime releases carbon. Silicates combine with it and sequester it. Some mine tailings might work, and they’re already crushed, saving energy and money and making a waste product valuable. It’s called Enhanced Weathering, and it might sequester lots and lots of carbon for us.
There are machines already on the market that can be towed to woods or farm behind a truck, that cook woody biomass into pyrolysis oils, charcoal, and enough synthesis gas to run the process. Pyrolysis oils have too much oxygen to make good motor fuels economically, but they are fine for fuel oils, and might be ideal for biodegradable plastics. Putting the char on/in the soil sequesters its carbon, stores nutrients and water, and promotes beneficial organisms; making Terra Preta can triple the productivity of depleted soils, and we can do this while cleaning up slash and thinning overgrown forests before they burn. Another pattern solved?
The other thing we can do right now is to use the right cements to repair our infrastructure, which is crumbling because we used the wrong cement, and steel, to build it. Portland cement, PC, cracks and admits water that rusts its rebar; rust expands and blows the concrete apart, often in only 40-60 years. Some unreinforced Roman lime-pozzolana cements have lasted 2000 years, e.g., the Pantheon. PC production is six or eight percent of GHGs; making steel is twice as bad, per pound.
We have gigatons of coal fly ash in piles and ponds around the country, polluting groundwater in at least 22 states. It can be used in cements that are stronger than PC, and the coal is already burnt; those cements need add little/no more carbon to the atmo. For some applications, if you add the right reactants—magnesium oxide extracted from seawater might work (and PNNL has a new, energy efficient process for that)—it will pull some carbon out of the atmo as it cures, and store it away forever. We can prevent steel reinforcing rusting by trickling a small electric current through it, and there is now rebar made of molten basalt spun into glass fibers and glued together with polymers. No idea of the carbon footprint of that…. And the right cements, including magnesium oxide cements, bond to and protect vegetable fiber reinforcing from rot—PC doesn’t—so that bamboo is fine for reinforcing structures at least two or three stories tall, if not more. Steel is overkill, and it rusts, and its carbon footprint is huge. Bamboo sequesters carbon. Unfortunately the best magnesium cement uses phosphates, which are essential nutrients for all living things and in short supply. Suicidal to use them in construction. But other magnesium cements work well enough for many applications.
Timber bamboo grows faster than anything but kelp, up to 70 feet in one summer; it’s ready for use in three to seven years, it replants itself, and excess shoots are a fresh veggie in early spring when there’s not much locally grown. It’s as strong as mild steel, you can make fine cloth from it; the only plant more useful is hemp. We need to be growing it all over the country and we’re not; shipping it here from China burns bunker oil. Self-defeating.
I see an inexpensive way to build a house with bamboo, burlap, and a new cement, Blue World Crete. BWC should be in the big-box building-stuff store near you soon. It has 1/10 the carbon footprint of PC, is waterproof, fireproof, bonds with cellulose and protects it from rot and fire, costs less to make—a plant to make it is portable and 1/10 to 1/20th the cost of a PC plant—it’s much stronger and more flexible than PC, and it insulates—they claim R17.5 per inch almost irrespective of aggregate. That’s huge. Good conventional insulation is R7 per inch. PC is a super-conductive heat sink, so you have to fur out and insulate, sheetrock and paint a concrete/block/brick exterior wall. With BWC the structure is the superinsulation, fireproofing, and finish; I doubt it even needs paint, though a brush or skim coat of Magnesium chloride cement (inside) would make it look like marble. It will make building Passive House, a home that needs little/no outside energy to heat/cool itself, easier and much more affordable.
Passive House needs to be our building-code standard now, not in another 12 years.
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Air conditioning causes five or six percent of climate change. It takes a lot of energy when the rivers are low, so you’re probably burning coal or gas to power it; and refrigerants are horrible GHGs, up to 32,000 times as bad as CO2. If you have to have AC, put PV (photovoltaics, solar electricity) on your roof to run it, if you can. Have it serviced by competent people to prevent the refrigerants escaping. Avoid the need for it by insulating and weatherizing, replacing old doors and windows with insulated, and using light-colored IR-reflective “cool roof” type coatings on roof and (at least) south and west walls. Keep doors and windows closed during the day, but open windows and use fans to cool the house at night. Some mass (masonry) inside the house stores coolth/warmth and evens out temperatures.
GE has a new kind of refrigeration that uses—I kid you not—magnets, and no refrigerants, and ~1/4 less energy. And another new way of producing “coolth” uses sound waves. We need these new technologies right now*, along with the new non-GHG refrigerants the rest of the world is developing; the Mango Moron threw out the regulations that were our incentive. That will make our refrigerators and air conditioners even less competitive on the world market. Way to go, Donny Dumbass.
*I wouldn’t even be adverse to lending big corps like GE money out of the Remediation Fund to bring promising new technologies on line faster, as long as the taxpayers own that fund and we are paid interest, on friendly terms, perhaps the prime rate? It will all happen faster if no one gets greedy.
If your furnace and water heater are old or electric, you’ll save money and carbon replacing them with modern heat pump or gas appliances that are 90-95 percent efficient. You are a third more efficient burning gas in a state-of-the-art furnace/WH than in a power plant, and you can burn biogas in it if/when your utility makes it available.
Replanting forests will help. We gotta hope Brazil does something about its D.T clone, while there is still an Amazon rain forest, and we should boycott palm-oil products while there are still orangutans. We have a lot of beetle-killed trees, whole swaths of forest, from So Cal right up into B.C., millions of acres. We should salvage that—it’s an extreme fire hazard and a lot of carbon that will escape back to atmosphere whether it burns or rots—everywhere we can, including otherwise protected lands. Use it to offset harvest of other forest lands for a while, let them soak up more carbon; make pyrolysis oils and Terra Preta with the wastes, and spread crushed silicates and organic soil nutrients while we’re there. Get it replanted—with a diverse community of beetle-resistant, native plants, where we want it to go back to wilderness or park or monument—and sequestering carbon again. Use the carbon in the dead wood instead of letting it go back to atmosphere uselessly, sequester some of it, and care for the soil, before it all goes up in smoke and takes homes and towns with it.
Growing bamboo for timber and fiber will absorb and sequester a lot of carbon in a hurry.
So will growing hemp, especially if we build houses with hempcrete. Hemp is the most useful plant on the planet, and it was ridiculously illegal for the last 90 years due largely to the greed and hatreds of a single man, William Randolph Hearst. http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/why-is-marijuana-illegal/
Growing cannabis indoors, otoh, can cost 1¼ tons of CO2 per pound, and at 14.1 cents/kwh, the lights will cost you ~$175/lb. Please grow outdoors or buy “Sun Grown” weed. You won’t be smokin’ dead spider mites, if you do. They don’t like it outdoors.
Smelting steel from ore emits 1.8 or 1.9 tons of CO2/ton of steel. They burn coal/coke to melt it, and blow oxygen through it to burn carbon impurities out. But Donald Sadoway‘s team at MIT has a new way of smelting that produces only oxygen, using electricity instead of fire, that should work for most metals. It produces better steel, for less energy, and lending steel mfrs the money to retool for it would be a better way to revitalize the U.S. steel industry than honking off our allies with tariffs actually paid by American consumers. This is much the way aluminum is made, but the carbon electrodes burn up and still make lots of CO2, smelting aluminum. Canada, Alcoa and Rio Tinto are developing a new electrode that again should produce only oxygen. This is huge. We need it right now. And all we need is lots of clean, carbon-free electricity to make it work. Get busy, LPP, General Fusion, TerraPower….
We’ve understood and used high-temperature geothermal energy for more than a century. It’s expensive up front, but you don’t have to buy fuel, so over time it is supposed to be competitive with gas and coal. You have to do it right, which costs more, to prevent any pollution from it, but it’s doable; ask Iceland. I live on the Pacific Ring of Fire, 46 miles from two volcanoes, but the closest geothermal plant is 1000 miles away in Southern California. That’s nutz.
Hydrogen fuels are attractive because when you burn H2, all you get is water vapor and a very hot flame. I was hooked for a long time. But most hydrogen yet available is reformed from fossil fuels, there’s a 20 percent energy penalty making it with electricity, we don’t have the infrastructure to use it as a fuel, and that infrastructure will be expensive, as, still, are fuel cells. Fuel cells are ~60 percent efficient. If making H2 with electricity is 80 percent, .8 x .6 is .48, and now the best (clean, bio) diesel engines are as efficient, liquid fuels are far easier to deal with, and our entire existing expensive fuel-supply infrastructure will still work fine with biodiesel. I no longer see the advantage to hydrogen. If private investment wants to pursue it, that’s fine; but taxpayer/remediation fund money should subsidize those technologies that have the best chance pf paying off the fastest, and this ain’t it.
If you still have CFLs, compact fluorescents, use them up before you switch to LEDs. They’re almost as efficient, some are more, and you don’t want to waste the embodied energy that went into making them. And T-5 fluorescents are still more efficient than most LEDs. Compare the Lumens per Watt ratings on the packaging and you’ll see.
Philips developed super-efficient LEDs for Dubai some time ago. Why can’t we have them?
BECCS, Bio energy with carbon capture and storage, is a very bad idea. Yes, we want to make fuels from all biological wastes we can, and choose processes that leave char to sequester—easily, because it is solid. But BECCS grows energy crops on arable land that could grow food, burns them, then expensively captures and sequesters the CO2; it’s “clean coal” without the coal. And in a world where ¼ of everybody is already hungry, headed for a population bomb, it is psychopathy.
If we don’t get our population growth under control, nothing else will matter. World population broke seven billion in March 2012; five years later there are 7.695 billion of us (4/5/19), we add two more every second, there will be nine billion by 2040 or so, and maybe 11 billion by 2100. Again, ¼ of us are already hungry, we’re depleting our soils, our crop lands are drying out, and we are only able to feed 7.7 billion now with petroleum-dependent, Green Revolution farming practices. We have to stop burning oil. We might get hungry. And there are a slew of resources people need besides food, and we have always killed each other over scarce resources. Deliberately having more than two kids is selfish, and you may not be doing those kids a favor. One might be better, for a few generations. It’s hard. It’s reality, forced upon us by past generations being irresponsible. Deal with it.