I have always been very interested in the environment. Nature teaches us so many lessons, the diversity of trees, birds, flowers and wildlife is breathtaking and I never cease to wonder. It would be a shame to destroy the beauty of it all. Yet we seem to make it worse by concentrating our effort by trying to limit CO2 emissions, rather than tackling the real and more urgent problems.
Let me first explain why I assert that rising CO2 levels, while real is only a minor player in the climate change equation.
The traditional way to approach this scientifically is making climate models. So far, nearly all, except the Russian model have failed to predict future temperature changes. IPCC is still failing.
The other approach is to take measurements, and it so happens that we have really good global data for over 60 years. The Amundsen Scott – South Pole weather station, the average temperature of Winter season 2021 (April 2021 – September 2021) reached only -61,0°C / -78°F, and at this temperature CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas by more than a decade over water vapor. We have reliable measurements for the temperature change at the South Pole since 1957. During this time CO2 gas increased 31% to 413ppm, Methane increased 16% to 1.85 ppm and Nitrous oxide decreased, but this is a gas mostly confined to urban areas, and is now below 0.05 ppm. With CO2 increasing by 31% and water vapor negligible one would expect a temperature rise over 64 years of 0.65 C, or one degree Celsius warmer per century according to extrapolated lab measurements. This is the observed trend:
At the South Pole snowfall is negligible in the winter, and for the whole year it is only 1.3 inches. No model would have predicted the cooling trend, so there must be other factors that are are more important, since real measurements beat models every time.
Ignoring the South Pole, the climate models are from time to time adjusted, and they suddenly showed a much higher rate of future temperature increases, in this case what is supposed to happen to global temperatures for a doubling of CO2 from pre-industrial times, from 270ppm to 540ppm.
There are two ways to approach this problem. The models make certain assumptions about the behavior of the changing atmosphere and model future temperature changes. This is the approach from IPCC for the last 34 years. These models all fail miserably when compared to actual temperature changes.
The other way i to observe what is actually happening to our temperature over time as the CO2 increases. We have over 60 years of excellent global temperature data, so with these we can see where, when and by how much the earth has warmed.
The most drastic temperature rise on earth has been in the Arctic above the 80th latitude. In the winter of 2018 it was 8C above the 50 year average. Since then it has come down to the more normal 4C increase. See charts from the Danish Meteorological Institute:
Note, there are no increase at all in the summer temperatures!
The fall temperature saw an increase of 4C and the spring temperature saw an increase of about 2.5C.
The 2022 winter saw an about 4c increase. The Spring temperatures have from the 10th of March were below or very close to the 1958 – 2002 average. Early Summer temperatures have so far been about 1C below normal. Source: DMI.
There seems to be no cause for immediate panic with the Arctic temperatures. If anything, they seem to moderate. In Antarctic on the other hand the temperatures seem to be decreasing! As we have seen before, the Amundsen Scott – South Pole weather station, the average temperature of Winter season 2021 (April 2021 – September 2021) reached only -61,0°C / -78°F, which is the coldest value in all-time history! This was 2,5°C /4.5°F degrees lower than the most recent 30-year average at this remote station.
Why are the temperatures not behaving like the models predict?
To get the answer we must study molecular absorption spectroscopy. IPCC and most scientists claim that the greenhouse effect is dependent on the gases that are in the atmosphere, and their combined effect is additive according to a logarithmic formula. This is true up to a certain point, but it is not possible to absorb more than 100% of all the energy available in a certain frequency band! For example: If water vapor absorbs 90% of all incoming energy in a certain band, and CO2 absorbs another 50% of the energy in the same band, the result is that 95% is absorbed, (90% + 50% * (100% – 90%)), not 140%, (90% + 50%).
The following chart shows both CO2 and H2O are absorbing greenhouse gases, with H20 being the stronger greenhouse gas, absorbing over a much wider spectrum, and they overlap for the most part. But it also matters in what frequency range s they absorb.
For this we will have to look at the frequency ranges of the incoming solar radiation and the outgoing black body radiation of the earth. It is the latter that causes the greenhouse effect. Take a look at this chart:
The red area represents the observed amount of solar radiation that reaches the earth’s surface. the white area under the red line represents radiation absorbed in the atmosphere. Likewise, the blue area represents the outgoing black body radiation that is re-emitted. The remaining white area under the magenta, blue or black line represents the retained absorbed energy that causes the greenhouse effect.
Let us now take a look at the Carbon Dioxide bands of absorption, at 2.7, 4.3 and 15 microns. Of them the 2.7 and 4.3 micron bands absorb where there is little black body radiation, the only band that counts is at 15 microns, and that is in a band where the black body radiation has its maximum. However it is also in a band where water vapor also absorb, not as much as CO2,only about 20% to 70% as much. The important thing is that in the frequency band of 14.5 to 15.5 micron CO2 absorbs all the energy available in that spectral range, and it also did it before industrialization when CO2 levels were one third less than today!
From this we can see that increasing CO2 levels is not the cause of climate change, only a very minor player. How about Methane?
Methane has only two major absorption bands, one at 3.3 microns, and the other at 8 microns. The 3,3 micron band is where incoming radiation is negligible, and so is outgoing black-body radiation. The 8 micron band is where water vapor is dominant, so Methane turns out to be the don’t care gas.
Water vapor or absolute humidity is highly dependent on the temperature of the air, so at 30C there may be 50 times as much water vapor, at 0C there may be ten times as much water vapor, and at -25C there is more CO2 than water vapor. At those low temperatures the gases are mostly additive. In the tropics with fifty times more water vapor than CO2, increased CO2 has no influence on the temperature whatsoever. Temperature charts confirm this assertion:
Here the temperature in the tropics displays no trend whatsoever. It follows the temperature of the oceans, goes up in an el niño and down in a la niña. The temperature in the southern hemisphere shows no trend. In the northern temperate region there is a slight increase, but the great increase is occurring in the Arctic. There is no increase in the Antarctic yet even though the increase in CO2 is as great in the Antarctic and the winter temperature in the Antarctic is even lower than in the Arctic. So CO2 increase cannot be the answer to the winter temperature increase in the Arctic.
There is an obvious answer. When temperatures increase the air can and will contain more moisture and transport this moisture from the tropics all the way to the arctic, where it ends up as snow. Is the snow increasing in the Arctic?
Let us see what the snow statistics show. These are from the Rutgers snow lab.
The fall snow extent is increasing, and has increased by more than 2 percent per year.
The winter snowfall has also increased but only by 0.04 percent per year. The snow covers all of Russia, Northern China, Mongolia, Tibet, Kashmir and northern Pakistan, Northern Afghanistan, Northern Iran, Turkey, most of Eastern Europe, Scandinavia, Canada, Alaska, Greenland and part of Western, Eastern and Northern United States.
In the spring on the other hand the snow pack is melting faster, about 1.6 percent less spring snow per year. One of the major reasons for an earlier snow melt is that the air is getting dirtier, especially over China, and to some extent Russia. The soot from burning coal, wood and peat, and from mining dust changes the albedo of the snow. The soot is visible on old snow all the way up to the North Pole. The other reason is that the North Pole is getting warmer. In the fall and winter it is mostly due to increased snowfall, but in the spring, as soon as the temperatures rise over the freezing point, melting occurs earlier. But it takes longer time to melt the increasing snow, so the Summer temperatures remain unchanged or lower.
So the warming of the poles, far from being an impending end of mankind as we know it, may even be beneficial. Warmer poles in the winter means less temperature gradient between the poles and the tropics, leading to less severe storms. They will still be there, but less severe.
There is one great benefit of increased CO2, the greening of the earth.
Thanks to this greening, done with only the fertilizer of CO2, the earth can now keep another 2 billion people from starvation, not to mention what good it does for plants and wildlife.
So CO2 is not the cause for climate change.
we face enormous environmental challenges. The American Southwest is slowly becoming a desert, the aquifers are being depleted, Lake Mead and Lake Powell will be empty in a few years if nothing is done. Our total energy use is increasing:
In 2021 solar energy amounted to 1,44% and wind power another 3.24% of total energy production. Hydroelectric power is declining because of the drought in the American Southwest. It used to be of great use for peak power generation. Lake Mead and Lake Powell are for all practical purposes unusable for more peak power generation. Biomass is pretty much peaked out. The use of of some of our best agricultural soil to grow corn and make ethanol is folly. When corn sugar is made into ethanol 48% of its weight is fermented as CO2, and one third of the total energy is gone. Maize growing is one of the most demanding crops, depleting the soil of more nutrition than other grains, needing the most fertilizer, which is made from petroleum products and other energy. It has been called “the syphilis of the soil” because of erosion problems.
The electricity production is but a subset of total energy consumption.
There is a great push to make all new cars, pick ups, delivery trucks, city buses and local trains electric by the year 2030. This does not seem to be incorporated into the eia plans. The “new green energy” plan is to have us carbon neutral by 2050. I don’t see how it can be done unless we take a radically different approach. Texas and California already has all the wind and solar power they can handle. To build it up further it must be complemented with energy batteries to store enough energy for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. These energy batteries require an enormous amount of mining to extract the Lithium needed to make them. Lithium is already in high demand as batteries for vehicles. However, battery technology is rapidly developing, so it may still be possible to expand battery power for the grid. For now, most peak power and reserve power is supplied by natural gas.
A proposal to develop the electric grid, our nation’s transportation needs and reversing the desertification of the American Southwest.
Build a TransContinental Aqueduct. This will solve the water needs for the upper Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, lower California, Mexico and the Lower Colorado River basin.
Build a Trans-Rocky Mountain aqueduct. This will solve some of the water needs for Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, upper New Mexico and the Upper Colorado river basin.
Build a South Platte River aqueduct. This will solve the water needs for the greater Denver ares and help preserve the noorthern Ogallala aquifer.
This cannot be solved unless there will be a deep commitment to Nuclear power, streamline government permit processes and let private industry find the best solutions without government playing favorites and slowing down the process. Regular U235 power is not sufficient for this, Only Thorium power will do, and there are many reasons for it. Here are 30 of them:
1. A million year supply of Thorium available worldwide.
2. Thorium already mined, ready to be extracted.
3. Thorium based nuclear power produces 0.012 percent as much TRansUranium waste products as traditional nuclear power.
4. Thorium based nuclear power will produce Plutonium-238, needed for space exploration.
5. Thorium nuclear power is only realistic solution to power space colonies.
6. Radioactive waste from an Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor decays down to background radiation in 300 years compared to a million years for U-235 based reactors. A Limerick.
7. Thorium based nuclear power is not suited for making nuclear bombs.
8. Produces isotopes that helps treat and maybe cure certain cancers.
9. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors are earthquake safe, only gravity needed for safe shutdown.
10. Molten Salt Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors cannot have a meltdown, the fuel is already molten, and it is a continuous process. No need for refueling shutdowns.
11. Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors have a very high negative temperature coefficient leading to a safe and stable control.
12. Atmospheric pressure operating conditions, no risk for explosions. Much safer and simpler design.
13. Virtually no spent fuel problem, very little on site storage or transport.
14. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Nuclear reactors scale beautifully from small portable generators to full size power plants.
15. No need for evacuation zones, Liquid Fuel Thorium Reactors can be placed near urban areas.
16. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will work both as Base Load and Load Following power plants.
17. Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors will lessen the need for an expanded national grid.
18. Russia has an active Thorium program.
19. India is having an ambitious Thorium program, planning to meet 30% of its electricity demand via Thorium based reactors by 2050.
20. China is having a massive Thorium program.
21. United States used to be the leader in Thorium usage. What happened?
22. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like the Three Mile Island disaster will not happen.
23. With a Molten Salt Reactor, accidents like Chernobyl are impossible.
24. With Molten Salt Reactors, a catastrophe like Fukushima cannot happen.
25. Will produce electrical energy at about 4 cents per kWh.
26. Can deplete most of the existing radioactive waste and nuclear weapons stockpiles.
27. With electric cars and trucks replacing combustion engine cars, only Thorium Nuclear power is the rational solution to provide the extra electric power needed.
28. The race for space colonies is on. Only Molten Salt Thorium Nuclear reactors can fit the bill.
29. President Donald J. Trump on Jan. 5 2021 issued an Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration. Only Liquid fluoride thorium reactors can meet all the needs.
30. We have to switch from Uranium to Thorium as nuclear feed-stock. We are running out of domestic Uranium.
My favorite Thorium power plant would be a 100 MW Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR). It is also called a Small Modular Reactor (SMR). It is small enough that all core elements will fit in three standard truck containers, made on an assembly line. It can came in many forms, one is a normal fast breeder reactor, another is adapted to burn nuclear waste. The cost for these reactors, when built on an assembly line will be less than $2 per Watt. They can be placed anywhere, since they are inherently safe, no need for an evacuation zone. Since they are operating at 500C temperature with either gas or liquid lead as heat transfer media there is no need for water as a cooling medium. The only thing better would be fusion power, but that is at least 20 years away, but it is coming. These are exciting times!