A Greenprint for Survival
It is 2022 as I write this and the world as I have known it for over 70 years is in a parlous state.
Everything is being stolen. The war in the Ukraine rages and peoples families, homes and workplaces are being stolen. The COVID-19 pandemic has stolen even more people.
Atmospheric CO2 is now over 400 ppm, a level I read that I should fear 15 years ago. Climate change is bringing fires, torrential rains, cyclones (call them whatever you like) and floods. Floods and fires steal flora and fauna, property and people. We will steal our planet from ourselves if we don't get serious about doing something about climate change.
The prevailing view is that climate action costs too much money and too many votes are controlled by too few people.
It's time for new thinking. Carbon capture and burying it underground is only safe if the CO2 reacts with country rock to produce thermodynamically stable carbonate as supposedly is happening at the Orca plant near Reyjkavik in Iceland. Pumping it underground to push up oil is not necessarily safe and into old aquifers is misguided because of legacy issues. See CO2 Legacy Issues
CO2 is a valuable resource with a large number of markets and we should be recycling it. If you, our reader, value our planet as it was a few years ago we suggest you invest in grabbing it out of the air and turning it into product. At least make a donation of your time or money to the cause.
When I was writing about sequestration using brines 20 years ago there were very few papers on the subject. These days there are literally thousands. Few think outside the fishbowl and consider the moleconomics of their processes. We are now advising sequestering using calcium, magnesium and sodium ions, not just magnesium and using green Ammonia, preferably from poo as a base. These are our ideas we give the world to make it the process work profitably and therefore commercially. I explain how we can reverse global warming making a profit recycling CO2 Syncarb and Carbonsafe on this website. We have talked about recycling in relation to aggregates and other composites from many years. See Composite Materials of the Future. Do it with profit and I can guarantee you it will happen and others will do the same which is what we need.
The plants in my garden struggle for sunlight, nutrients and water. Animals of all kinds have similar survival battles. If they succeed they profit, if unsuccessful they all die. You will read me using the word recycle on this web site in relation to carbon dioxide and that is because if we recycle the gas into thermodynamically stable products that have a value and make a profit doing so then we have a much greater chance of surviving climate change. We need to struggle to do
Some processes I suggest require more work on them than others. All could be profitable and internalise the problem addressing the tragedy of the commons to greater or lesser extent. See Economics
Under the Carbonsafe menu item on this web site we talk about some other technologies that capture carbon or are good for the planet that I have worked on and describe products from the output of Syncarb. Under the menu item Gaia Engineering we have added some new technology ideas to address common environmental and sustainability problems.
It is important to get the CO2 we have put in the air, out of the air and we have made it clear that the gas, like many other wastes can be recycled into useful product and have shown how.
Also important is reducing emissions in the first place. The most important thing we can do is drop the fossil fuel habit. A move to electric vehicles is not only going to go a long way towards achieving this but help power economies around the world. According to the IEA in its Global EV Outlook 2021 report, consumer spending on electric cars rose to $120 billion in 2020, and that's a jump of 50% on 2019's figures. The IEA also said that, governments across the world spent $14 billion to support electric car sales, up 25% from 2019, mostly from stronger incentives in Europe. New Zealand is the latest country to offer cash rebates for switching to electric vehicles. I live in Australia and we should wake up and do the same. The biggest impediment to adoption of electric vehicles is lack of access to cheap power and governments should consider direct pricing to the user and perhaps then during the night when power is not being used, it would be cheaper.
We can find new, better ways of manufacturing and close loops in the supply chain TecEcology. For example, according to the IEA Ammonia production accounts for around 2% of total final energy consumption and 1.3% of CO2 emissions from the energy system. Most ammonia is made using the Born -Haber process and it would be better to make it electrolytically or better still using enhanced bacteria to efficiently convert human faeces (poo!) to the gas. Currently the vast quantities of faeces we excrete decomposes giving off ammonia gases that are wastefully converted to nitrogen rather than captured for substitutive use.
As well as pricing to the user, governments should encourage distributed energy production and flexible processes on the demand side. We should flexibly use power to create value when it is available more! Besides it should be cheaper at times when in oversupply, especially now we are moving to solar. See my lecture in Xi'an China in 2015. Examples of flexible distributed production include rooftop solar panels, solar water heating, small-scale wind or water generation, fuel cells and geothermal energy. Bigger, better, cheaper batteries will also help!
If we have not already reached a tipping point then we are not far off one. The earth has experienced a number of extinctions before, too depressing to list here as I try to remain positive. What should worry us a lot is that methane and nitrous oxide levels are going up in the atmosphere as well as CO2. Methane (CH4) is at least 34 times worse than CO2 as a global warming gas. Nitrous oxide (N2O) is around 300 times worse. Methane has an atmospheric life of around 10 years whereas nitrous oxide has an atmospheric life of 114 years This figures vary slightly depending on the source but no sources reduce the Ouch! Methane is mostly produced in anaerobic conditions including the guts of ruminants like cows that burp, fart and poo a lot of methane which is arguably a major problem. It also comes from landfills, the oil and gas industry and other sources. There are also a number of sources of Nitrous oxides including nitrogen fertilizers and burying fossil fuel. We can manager fertilizer additions better to reduce emissions of nitrous oxide..
A much more worrying source are the vast deposits of methane clathrates which are melting at an ever increasing rate further accelerating temperature rises which in turn cause more methane clathrates to evaporate. If you do not want to sleep well read about methane climate forcing.. It's short term and disastrous.
I used to think that we did not need carbon taxes as profit would drive the changes necessary. See Economics. I am now with people like Elon Musk about who thinks carbon taxes are necessary. If the objective is to un - bundle the Tragedy of the Commons, in their present form carbon and other global warming taxes are "doomed to fail because they do little to drive what is needed most: innovation ....." To make carbon taxes more politically acceptable, with the money raised governments should subsidise technological change and the development of green supply chains. Without doing so global warming taxes are seen as having a lot of problems including being discriminatory. Taxes and subsidies are economic tools to drive innovation and change market behaviours and should be used in that manner. Carbon taxes should not be used alone like fire blankets. Most people think we have to do something about global warming and other related problems facing the planet and would probably accept taxes coupled with subsidies.  Green energy and electric vehicles should be subsidised as their adoption would have a strong impact on emissions.
The objective of any government should be to reduce consumption of fossil fuels for power generation. This type of generation should be taxed. At the same time, the money raised should be spent on subsidies to drive innovation and/or better alternatives. The only way forward is to in this manner focus on changing the technology platform as it defines resource use. We have to modify global supply and waste chains to correct underlying damaging moleconomic flows. See Pilzer First Law Substitution