The 'Risk' of Implementing New Regulations on Game-Changing Technology: Sequestering CO2 in the Built Environment.
Land Development Caused the Observed Climate Warming Over the Last 200 Years
There are many processes that influence the heat budget at the earth's surface. In most locations, the temperature at the earth's surface is the upper boundary condition for conductive heat flow in the solid earth. Underground temperatures record past changes in the surface temperature, and show that it has changed locally, due to land development. Where forests were removed and not replaced, the ground surface has warmed by 1 to 2 K. The amount of water evaporated/ transpired near the surface is reduced by the deforestation, reducing the upward transport of heat. For coastal forests in British Columbia, the maximum change in upward heat flux above ground is 2.5 Wm-2, averaged over a year. This is similar to the change attributed to so-called greenhouse gases, and should be considered in climate models. Changing the surface albedo and the amount of heat absorbed by greenhouse gases can produce the same effects as land development: increased surface temperatures and heat released into the atmosphere. However, warming produced by land development is very localized, producing abrupt changes in ground surface temperatures and, on a regional scale, differences in onset times of some warm periods. The increase in runoff from deforested areas also is in agreement with this process. Similarly, other types of land development reduce the amount of water at the ground surface, causing a permanent warming of the ground surface temperature. The total amount of warming caused by stopping all evaporation/transpiration on land is limited to 3 K.
A Comprehensive Plan for Global Energy Revolution
There is no dearth of information regarding the grave crises faced by humanity in the 21st century. There is also growing consensus that the wholesale burning of fossil fuels must come to an end, either because of climate change or other still-salient reasons such as air pollution or major conflicts over dwindling reserves of cheaply recoverable oil and gas resources. At the same time, global demographics predict with disquieting certainty a world with up to 9 or 10 billion souls by mid-century. The vast expansion of energy consumption that this population represents, along with further increases in already-unacceptable levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning, demands that we quickly develop almost limitless sources of clean, economical power. What is sorely lacking in the public debate are realistic solutions. Expanding wind and solar generating capacity is an important near-term goal, but neither of these technologies represents a viable solution for generating base load power at the vast scales that will be required. Energy efficiency measures are likewise well-directed, but the combination of rising population along with increasingly energy-intensive economic activity by the large fraction of Earth's current population residing in developing nations suggests that absolute energy demand will continue to rise even with radically improved energy efficiency. Fortunately we have the technologies available to provide virtually unlimited clean energy, and to utilize and recycle our resources so that everyone can improve their standard of living. The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), developed at the Argonne National Laboratory in the 80's and 90's and currently championed by General Electric, is a technology that fills the bill on every count, and then some. IFRs are safe, environmentally clean, economical, and free of conflict over fuel supply. IFRs can safely consume as fuel the nuclear waste from the current installed base of light-water reactors, as well as utilize the world's prodigious stockpiles of depleted uranium to supply all of humanity's energy needs for hundreds of years. Not only will IFR operations produce no greenhouse gas emissions, but even their construction will create several times less emissions per megawatt than wind and solar projects. Commercial development of zero-emission energy carriers for vehicle transport (such as hydrogen or boron) can assure that we efficiently translate IFR- generated power to our transportation infrastructure while eliminating the choking pollution of the world's ever- expanding vehicle fleet. If we make the decisions that must be made to deploy these new technologies, we stand at the threshhold of a post-scarcity era even as the starkness of our population dilemma would seem to indicate the opposite. Here is the blueprint for that new era, a comprehensive plan to provide limitless clean energy that can be implemented at less expense than taking a business-as-usual approach.