Written By: - Date published: 1:53 pm, October 21st, 2018 - 59 comments
Categories: Environment, global warming, infrastructure, International, science, sustainability, useless - Tags: hopeless, politics, science
I was talking to friend last night (he’s a scientist) and he was telling me how there’s an idea within some quarters of the scientific community to take CO2 from the atmosphere and ‘chuck it’ down into the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
Which is great! AGW stopped.
Briefly, at given temperatures and at given depths, CO2 will remain sealed beneath thousands of metres of ocean. Here’s a paper on it. Knock yourself out with the theory behind it.
A few problems.
Well actually, lets take a step back first. The IPCC report released a few weeks back (IPCC Special Report 15) has charts for economic growth going out to 2100. How many of them do you think incorporated any ‘steady state’ economy or degrowth? Yup. None.
— Glen Peters (@Peters_Glen) October 18, 2018
Economic growth is tied to increased energy use which in turn is wedded to fossil use. And so if we’re currently spewing about 40 billion tonnes of CO2 into the air every year and increasing those emissions by about 2% every year (that’s conservative), then that’s a huge amount of zero carbon free energy that has to get up and running every year for us just to stand still in terms of emissions.
Lets imagine we did that – laid in the huge amount of new infrastructure required to provide zero carbon energy such that we could chase economic growth without putting anything above the current 40 billion tonnes of CO2 into the air every year.
Obviously global temperatures keep rising in that scenario. And if we cut those yearly emissions to 30 billion tonnes or to 5 billion tonnes or to 500 million tonnes, average global temperature will keep going up (albeit slower) because it’s not the emissions from one year that determines global temperatures, but the sum total from all years (about 2 trillion tonnes since 1850).
— Robbie Andrew (@robbie_andrew) October 19, 2018
So that brings us back to the Mariana Trench and somehow chucking all the carbon from the atmosphere down into the bottom of it so that global temperatures stop going up and begin to fall back.
If we were to take half of what we throw into the air, we’d be looking at 20 billion tonnes a year. And we’d have to do it year after year after year.
So assuming carbon capture works, what scale of infrastructure are we looking at, and what does 20 billion tonnes of CO2 look like? Well, if we look at the scale of infrastructure required for other stuff we produce, and the amount of other stuff we produce, we might begin to get a bit of a handle on the scale of things.
So being very rough and ready about it –
We produce about 4 billion tonnes of cement every year. That’s a good start. Yearly cement production gets us about 1/5th of the way to 20 billion.
We produce about 1.7 billion tonnes of crude steel every year. That figure was getting too low for comparative purposes, and so I turned my mind to food thinking there must be a huge amount of rice produced every year – 0.7 billion tonnes. Wheat? 0.7 billion tonnes. Sugar cane 2 billion tonnes. Maize about 1 billion tonnes. Wood pulp is around 0.3 billion tonnes.
I gave up at that. So I got up to about 10 billion tonnes on “big stuff”.
It seems that on very rough and ready measures that the amount of CO2 we’d be looking to draw out of the atmosphere is possibly quite a bit more than the combined total of everything else we produce in the world.
The amount of infrastructure we have built and that we maintain to produce and transport everything we produce is ‘quite a lot’ – meaning, I guess, that the infrastructure required to snaffle 20 billion tonnes of CO2 from the air and transport it off to some (I don’t know) huge set of injection facilities straddling the Mariana Trench would also be ‘quite a lot’…and then some.
It’s…look. Why isn’t government taking our current fossil use and subjecting it to a hard sinking cap so that we are not burning fossil, or using any other carbon emitting source of energy before 1.5 degrees C becomes 2 degrees C, becomes 3 degrees C…?
There must be a very good reason for that. A compelling one. Now obviously I missed it, so if anyone would be kind enough to point me in the right direction…