Golden Bullets: Slaying the Climate Change Beast

Humanities continuous rise to superiority has been accomplished due to technology.  Technology or rather technology advances should now lead us away from our biggest challenge, climate change.  However the reality is that we may have to just dig in and work with the tools we have.  Here are some of the Golden Bullets that have yet to be fired.

1) Fusion Power

If man can harness nuclear fusion he will have an almost everlasting source of power.  Using deuterium, which is readily winnable from the Oceans and Lithium which is also abundant means there would be no problems with fuelling the plants (unlike nuclear power).  Radiation is caused but the half-life of the waste products are a couple of hundred years (compared to nuclear’s waste of tens of thousands of year).

Man has had problems getting the reaction working however; this technology has now been in development since the 1950s.  In the 70s it was predicted that the commercial plants would be running by 2000; the prediction today put it at around 2050 at the earliest.  If we wait for this technology many devastating impacts will be occurring on our planet

2) Electric Cars

Cars are seen by many environmentalists as the Four Horses of the Apocalypse.  Electric car travel is supposed to change this.   The first electric car was developed in 1897!  Unfortunately the flexibility of the electric car could not match that given by their petrol driven cousins.  Since the 1990s with climate change and probably more importantly the rise of oil prices, new life has been breathed into the electric car.  Advances in battery technology are largely crucial to their further development.    Investment is however now pouring into their further development.

Electric Cars are greener, however how green is dependent on the energy mix of the country.  Implementation in the USA would result in a 30% reduction of the carbon dioxide emissions, but in Germany, due to differences in the energy mix, this would be as little as 1%.  Therefore their effectiveness is largely dependent on whether renewable energy is extended.  Clean energy’s extension will probably not be far enough advanced until 2050 to have a large impact in many countries.  Also electric cars are not more energy efficient currently than small cars.  The question is whether the individual will change their habits rather than waiting for that golden bullet.

3) Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS)

Rather than a Golden Bullet this technology is a white elephant.  The coal and unfortunately many governments are banking on this technology so that we can carry on using coal, a dirty but cheap form of energy.

The idea is to first separate the carbon dioxide from the waste products and then pump it into geological formations, thus locking away our waste.  Early test plants are operational to see whether the carbon dioxide stays underground.  What is already clear is that the technology is not very adaptable for old plants meaning old coal plants will probably need to be replaced.  It also uses a lot of energy thus releasing more carbon dioxide that needs to be buried.  Currently many governments are approving coal plants on the assumption that CCS will become viable in the near future.  However if it does not, then we are locking our energy system into dirty coal instead of renewable energies that are clean from the outset.  There is also likely to be massive local opposition to such plants as carbon dioxide is deadly.

4) Desertec- Solar Plants in the Sahara

Massive power plants erected on the Sahara will probably be powering part of Europe by 2015 and by 2050 possibly 15% of Europe’s energy.  Although this is a rather pessimistic prediction.  If 5% of the Sahara desert was covered with Solar panels then that would be enough to power the entire World!

A consortium of companies is already planning the first plants and it has the support of the German Government.  The idea, if realised, would dramatically change the energy mix of Europe and possibly the world.  The only real question that remains to be answered is whether the governments of Europe will fully support the idea and realise its potential.

Outlined above are some of the ideas that may rescue humanity, or may lead them to distraction.  We are pursuing several major bullets and they will probably have major effects on our CO2 levels.  They are all at different levels of development and their realisation is dependent on either technology or investment.  In the case of CCS and fusion the investment is not lacking but the technology is still in its infancy.  In the other cases it is the opposite, the investment is lacking to realise the potential.

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4 Responses to “Golden Bullets: Slaying the Climate Change Beast”

  1. Global warming is a major matter that simply ignoring is NOT going to resolve! Thanks for the explanatory blog post. Thanks for spreading the message. This blog is for sure bookmarked! If you need more info on global warming, or the carbon tax, take a look at Carbonizm.com it genuinely helped me interpret it more.

  2. Val says:

    From what I read last summer by Russian scientists in both Alaska and Russian tundras, CO2 by humans warming had reached a point of methane release where it was at the tipping point of the tundra methane releases going self-sustaining. It was also pointed out that the warming potential of the remaining methane there was well over the human CO2 and other HGHGs. What wasn’t pointed out is the amount of oceanic methane hydrate and clathrate deposits there are, and that the lag between atmosphere and the ocean will lead to progressive explosive releases. The Norwegians reported last summer that off their continental shelf down to 400 meters the temperature was up 1*F and methane was bubbling out to mostly, so far, dissolve in the ocean water. At only a +2*F rise it explosively releases!! It was also pointed out several years ago that even with the 90% reduction in CO2 by human causes, there would still be a temperature rise of 1*F.
    Some gave humanity’s ability to stop this mess at 50-50. Others have pointed out the inevitable ELE from Eocene Max conditions happening too quickly, by 2300, for most life to adapt (87% extinction rate). Professor Richard Leakey pointed out that we are actually in the midst of the 6th Great Extinction (1996).
    Some have said that our only hope is to reduce HGHGs by 80-90% within a decade, and that was in 2006!
    We went totally solar and hybrid, had only one child, but the vast majority of humanity has acted like dumb animals breeding themselves to death in their own waste products. Now we are in a geologic age where humans are a strong geologic force, the Anthropogenic Epoch.
    I teach my son to be strong, be able to grow his own food, survive the coming crash. But how about beyond the inevitable crash of the human population in the 2040s when climate change causes crop failures once every three years per location, most aquifers are dry, and peak oil effects are massive? How about when the biosphere is uninhabitable for support ecosystems in 2300?
    This is assuming that with the ozone layer at only half strength, and during the magnetic reversal’s weakened magnetosphere, Earth does not get sterilized by a coronal mass discharge hit.
    Humans have blown a good deal….

  3. [...] technological advances are only small and golden bullets will not change this anytime [...]

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