Global Warming is the “Devil in the Details”

by S. Tom Bond on August 28, 2012

Global warming is the “devil in the details” of the energy plans now being worked out for the future. With all the statements such as “we have enough gas to last 100 years” and “there is enough coal to last 200 years at the present rate of use” there is a gleeful avoidance of the harsh reality of this global warming devil.

Recently a beautiful little graph (see below) came to my desk projecting world energy demand, based on long term energy sources. It was taken from Lynn Orr’s book, Changing the World’s Energy Systems, in turn based on an American Association of Petroleum Geologists publication.

It shows crude oil at the bottom, tar sands, natural gas, and coal. each rising until 2030, then slowly sinking, but providing about 60% of the energy in 2050, down from 85% in 2030. Above it is nuclear in purple, solar, wind and geothermal in yellow which expands rapidly after 2030, and hydroelectric and bio fuels which expand more slowly.

From looking at the graph and checking the area under the top of the carbon curve it becomes obvious that the equation

C + O2 = CO2

is pretty much the whole story for the petroleum geologists, and doubtless for energy companies producing carbon fuel.

The area under the carbon curve shows two times as much energy generated carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere in the next 35 years as has ever gone before! This will not work! Even if the carbon dioxide was to stop going into the atmosphere now, global warming would coast on up for a long time, experts say.

At the beginning of the summer about half of Americans were still global warming deniers, despite of the fact the thousands of scientists studying the phenomenon are now speaking with one voice. There is no one with credentials in the community of fact-based thinkers still an unbeliever. Only the carbon burning industry hacks, the captive politicians and the uninformed remain global warming deniers.

The effects are everywhere. The retreating ice pack at the north pole, the shrinking ice mass on Greenland and Antarctica, the United States has a two week longer growing season, many species are moving north, and thawing tundra. Changes in rainfall are the result of shifting the great currents of the oceans north. This causes drought problems in the Southwest and the Midwest. It also causes colder winters in Europe, since the Gulf Current, which brings warmth to Europe from the East Indies is slowed down by the increased fresh water from melting ice in the Arctic. Satellites are capable of measuring temperatures world wide by measuring infrared radiation.

The global emissions of carbon dioxide in 2011 amounted to 34 billion Tonnes (metric or long tons), an increase of 3% compared with last year – and an all time high. This is the result of a study by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center, reported in the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science , one of the top two science journals in the world.

For some persons living indoors, particularly those with a financial ax to grind, as long as there heat in winter, air conditioning in winter, and transportation from point A to point B, and they can buy food at some price, all is well. Remember the little guy from Mad Comics, now Mad Magazine? Alfred E. Neuman? He is the patron saint of these folks, with his now world famous “What, me worry?” No vision beyond their own personal interest perimeter.

For those of us who produce crops, those who have to work outside, and those thoughtful enough to consider the present seven billion world population rising to nine billion in 2050, the prospects for the future are not very encouraging. At 78, I will not see it. But a lifetime of observing human nature and study 6 to 8 hours a day leads me to see a serious – what the geologist call “discontinuity” – in the way the world “works.” A baby born today with the prospect of 78 years life span (with reasonable good luck), into a world where most of the people, even at the top of the social scale, have no regard for a future beyond four to six years is starting on a most uncertain venture.

The human race needs to be conscious, to conserve, and we need to plan. Importantly, we need to decarbonize, a term used by Chris Rowland of Ecofin, a British-based investment manager. This means to phase out over-invested carbon energy. The revolution needs to be in energy production, not in social structure.

>>>S. Thomas Bond, Jane Lew, WV. Tom Bond is a retired teacher with a Ph. D. in Inorganic Chemistry. He is a member of the Guardians of the West Fork and the Monongahela Area Watersheds Compact. He lives on and maintains a 500 acre farm near Jane Lew. <<<

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