Global Warming, Future of Mankind, Energy, Innovation, Scarcity, Plenty

I don’t mean to be disrespectful to those who think they are environmentalists and trying to save the planet, but I do at times have difficulty controlling my anger because they know not what they are doing.

First, let’s consider the history of the Earth. It started with hardly any atmosphere, and then at the crust formed and volcanoes vented CO2, SO2, and H20 an atmosphere formed, a rather hellish atmosphere similar to that of Venus. During that early time of the Earth, the Sun’s output was about 15% less the current, or about 1350 watts / square meter verses 1500 of today (by contrast Venus receives around 2350 watts / meter). Because of that lower output, even though the Earth had a CO2 atmosphere with a lot of water and sulfer dioxide (and as a result sulfurous and sulfuric acid) the temperatures were still low enough that liquid water could form.

Over time the weathering of rock thinned the largely CO2 atmosphere, nitrogen gradually became a larger share of the atmosphere largely owing to it’s much lower reactivity with the surface minerals, and as the atmosphere thinned, the heating caused by CO2 declined, but the solar output increased, still not as fast as the atmosphere thinned so there was a period of at least 100 million years, perhaps several hundred million where the Earth was entirely frozen pole to pole, not great for life.

Eventually this thawed, and scientists still today do not totally understand why, but at some point enough water accumulated and enough crust thickness accumulated that we began to have plate tectonics. This was crucial, because now CO2 taken out of the atmosphere was taken back into the Earth as the plates subducted under one another and the rate of decline in the atmospheric pressure increased.

Around 500 million years maybe sooner some ancient forms of bacteria emerged but they did not use oxygen in their metabolism, in fact oxygen was highly toxic to them, instead they mostly received their energy by reacting sulfur with hydrogen. If humans could have survived, the atmosphere would have smelt like a giant fart because it would be full of hydrogen sulfide, one of the primary stinky components of farts.

Around two billion years ago some bacteria developed a primitive form of photosynthesis, this gave it essentially an infinite food source, solar energy, and so it thrived. Over time it released oxygen into the atmosphere and aided in the removal of carbon dioxide. By this time the solar output had increased maybe 7-8% and somewhat compensated for the reduction in the thickness of the atmosphere and in it’s carbon dioxide content.

By around 300 million years ago, the CO2 levels had dropped to somewhere around 1000-3000 ppm, depending upon which model you use, there are at least a dozen with a fairly wide error bar, and with this CO2 rich atmosphere relative to today there was really an ideal atmosphere for life. There was enough oxygen in the atmosphere for a robust ozone layer and at the same time enough CO2 for robust plant growth, perfect conditions for dinosaurs to thrive. But as the time of the asteroid impact that finished most of the non-avian dinosaurs off, the CO2 levels had fallen to levels approximating those of today. Plant growth had become much less robust and already dinosaurs where dying off, especially the larger species.

One of the things that began to contribute to further reductions in CO2 were not just the weathering of rocks, but now marine organisms that incorporated calcium carbonate into their shells. These organisms then died and were swept under the crust at subduction zones. The asteroid was really just the final blow, the dinosaurs would have starved to death soon anyway.

By 20,000 years ago, the Earth reached it’s minimal CO2 level of about 200ppm, this level only C4 plants could really do well and these are the minority of species today. C4 plants can tolerate levels down to about 150ppm though their growth at that rate is greatly reduced, C3 plants require more CO2 because they lack the cellular CO2 concentration mechanism of C4 plants. Reducing our atmospheric CO2 concentration back to 180PPM would leave us basically with two food crops, sugarcane and corn and neither would be abundant enough to feed today’s population.

None the less, without human intervention, CO2 would in a relatively short time frame, fall below those levels and life on Earth would cease to exist, save for some hydrogen-sulfur reacting bacteria near hydrothermal vents in the ocean.

Crop production has increased significantly as CO2 levels have risen from around 240 ppm to todays 420 ppm. Given the population today this is NOT a bad thing. Further, plants use water more efficiently when higher CO2 levels exist because they do not have to open their stomata, tiny poors through which they acquire CO2 from the atmosphere, as far, their opening also looses water through evaporation. This is why increased CO2 levels have caused extensive greening of the Earth.

So for the sake of ALL higher life forms on Earth, it actually behooves us not to allow nature to take the CO2 level down to pre-industrial levels. Also, as the Sun continues to increase it’s output, the Earth will get warmer and it’s natural response would be to reduce CO2 but that WILL extinguish all life if allowed to happen. If we do not allow it to happen, then in about half a billion years, the Earth will boil away the oceans and life will become impossible anyway.

Given that global warming is inevitable for the next half billion years (and beyond for that matter because the Sun will continue to expand until it eventually envelopes the orbit of the Earth), we best find ways to deal with it in the short term and develop the ability to travel to distant solar systems in the meantime because that is the only hope for long term survival of man.

Now that said, at some point hydrocarbons, be they of fossil or mineralogical origin, those that we can economically recover will exhaust, and besides, our need for denser energy sources for a robust and prosperous future require greater (not lesser as the greenies would have it) energy sources.

Right now we have two possibilities for much more robust energy sources, nuclear fission and fusion. Conventional boiling or pressurized water reactors have several substantial problems. First, at best they use only about half a percentage of natural Uraniums energy potential in one pass. Two they create very long term radioactive waste. Third, because fission products aren’t continuously removed during their operation, a shutdown does not stop heat production immediately, that continues for a long time as fission products decay to more stable isoptopes. So they require active cooling. Further, operating at pressures of several hundred atmospheres, they are prone to failures in which these fission products are spread over large areas.

But there is another type of reactor called a molten salt reactor, and a close cousin, liquid metal cooled reactors in which the coolant is either sodium or lead, that are much safer because they do not operate under significant pressure, thus if a plumbing problem occurs pressure isn’t instantly released resulting in a huge steam explosion dispersing highly radioactive fission products.

Of these two I favor molten salt reactors because the salts are not reactive in air and thus do not start fires if you have a plumbing leak, unfortunately this IS a problem with sodium cooled reactors. The reason some designs favor sodium is that it is easier to find container materials that are corrosion resistant to sodium verses salt, but corrosion with the wrong choice of materials can be a problem in either case. Still, the Soviets have been operating a 800 mw sodium cooled breeder reactor for many years successfully and an experimental liquid metal fast flux reactor ran successfully for ten years at Oak Ridge and was even run 24 hours control rods out and cooling systems shut off to demonstrate the self-regulating inherent safety of these reactors. These reactors have the fuel dissolved in the liquid metal or salt coolant, and as a result, as the temperature increases the medium expands reducing reaction rates, thus causing them to be self-controlled and limited.

Because these reactors can “burn” the actinides (the products that result when a uranium or plutonium atom capture a neutron rather than fissioning become a yet heavier nucleus) these reactors produce no long term nuclear waste. The fission products decay back to radioactivity levels equal or less than the ores that were mined within 300 years. This can transform a million year storage issue into a much more manageable 300 year problem and even many of these fission products have uses like medical isotopes for cancer treatment or imaging.

So for the short term (and estimates of how long the Earth’s Uranium and Thorium plus existing actinide nuclear waste could provide our energy needs vary from 10,000 to a million years depending upon our rate of energy use growth), this is a viable option for electrical and process heat energy needs.

In the longer term fusion is our next go to, this has seemed like an impossibility for years but two recent developments have changed this immensely, first is the invention of RebCO, Rare-Earth Barium Copper-Oxide ribbon super conductors. Superconductor magnets are necessary for sustained controlled nuclear fusion because the currents required to produce the necessary magnetic fields would melt conventional conductors after anywhere from 15-300 seconds of operation. But superconductors don’t have resistance and thus do not heat up. However, superconductors lose their superconductivity above some magnetic threshold, the old style ceramic superconductors lost their superconductivity at around 8-10 Tesla, but these new RebCO superconductive ribbons can produce fields up to 40 Tesla, and in addition lend themselves to being wound into complex shaped coils much better than the old ceramics. Because confinement of hot plasmas scales with the cube of the magnetic field strength, 40 tesla can confine plasma 64 times better than 10 tesla can. So right there is a 64x improvement. Then add to that the way a plasma wiggles makes it prone to escape but recent advancements in computer neural network AI has allowed the magnetic fields to be adjusted in real time to counter this wiggling tendency. Between these two things I think we will see fusion as a power source sooner than later.

Now both of these sources are good for generating electricity or process heat, but not so much for liquid fuels like gasoline or aviation fuel, however, recently the US Navy has invented a process where by they can take carbonic acid from ocean water (dissolved CO2) and water and combine them with the use of electricity and some catalysts to produce O2 and hydrocarbons of any desired length, they invented this technology to allow aircraft carriers to have a supply of jet fuel without having to put tankers at risk in a war zone. But with adequate supplies of energy from nuclear fission or fusion, we can produce these fuels in abundance and they are carbon neutral because they are taking carbon from the air.

I am concerned that the direction that Bill Gates, Klaus Schwab, and other psychopathic globalists are taking us is in the wrong direction. It’s going to lead to the death of already impoverished people, impoverishment of the middle class, and a great reduction in exactly the innovation we need to succeed as a species long term. This is why I get angry at the greenies who believe we can subsist on solar and wind. It is not a viable path long or short term, but especially long term.

As a people, as a species, we need to innovate as much and as fast as we can to allow us to meet our energy needs and adapt to a naturally changing environment over the long term, and eventually to migrate on interstellar terms in the long term because that is the only viable path for our long term survival as a species.