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How to Stop Global Warming

September 3, 2012 in Solutions

In the last ten years the world has made it clear that Global Warming isn’t something dreamt up by scientists or politicians in an attempt to control what we buy and make us spend more on things we already have.  Significant changes in weather, long term conditions of polar ice, and changes in plant maturity, have all made this phenomenon not just the subject of speculation but a real and impending issue.

So how do we address this?  Thirty years ago conservation was the watch word that is still basically our only option today.  We’ve failed to develop the new sources of energy that are used on Star Trek and the guys with the perpetual motion generators are still thwarted by the rules of Thermodynamics, leaving us with the same sources we had before and many times the demand.  Rather than reduce our voracious consumption of energy and output of greenhouse gases our society has found even more ability to destroy our habitable lands.

The best solution would be to somehow develop new technology to create limitless, free energy, from nothing, and use part of it to scrub these nasty gases out of the air and bury them back where we got them.  Of course, this isn’t going to happen now, nor does it look good for happening in the foreseeable future.  Ideas like space mirrors and seeding the atmosphere to limit sunlight aren’t feasible with current technology.  If anything our global consumption of energy is continuing to ramp up requiring us to search out and use every form of energy we can.  When we look at what is available, fossil fuels are still the most efficient as they exist with energy already in them, they are safe, easy to transport, and can be used with minimal risk to personnel.  Wind and solar are both varied by nature and time of day not to mention that the best generation points for these energy sources are usually the furthest away from folks who need energy.

Thinking about this problem from a simple perspective might be the place to start.  Imagine you have an empty bucket that represents the capacity of the atmosphere and oceans to absorb CO2, this was our pre-industrial greenhouse gas existence.  At this time we pretty much only used renewable sources of energy for our needs.  Animal and water power provided most of our mechanical force and plant and tree based fuels provided our heat and cooking fuel.  This was a great thing as the world’s plants and forests would re-absorb the gases that were generated in a continuous cycle.

As we began to develop better metals and understood our physical world better we were able to build steam powered equipment and the mining and use of coal in large amounts began.  The big difference being that coal was not the result of current removal of CO2 from the atmosphere but rather the removal of it millions of years before.  Our bucket is starting to fill as we release this stored gas into our atmosphere.

As the industrial revolution continued to grow our bucket filled further, every time we removed coal from the ground we were re-liberating the CO2 and other components that had naturally been stored away for so long.  With the advance to the current era and the use of electricity our consumption of these stored hydrocarbons exploded.  Oil, gas, and coal, suddenly became huge industries and the convenience of the gasoline engine gave rise to energy consumption on a scale never before considered.

Now we flash forward another century to the world today, the bucket is full.  We are rapidly heading toward a population of 9 billion people, all of whom would like to have electricity, transportation, and air conditioning.  We also all want to eat, have shelter, and possibly even some household goods.  Fossil “fuels” have now been used as components to make plastics, fertilizer, foods, and drive industrial processes.  Now the liberation of formerly stored away CO2 and greenhouse gases is no longer just a way to have convenience, it has become a part of our food chain.  Yet the bucket is full.  The oceans are believed to have absorbed as much as they can and the ice caps are melting.

Yet our energy usage continues to grow in industrialized nations as it grows even faster in those that are catching up.  Our bucket is now overflowing.  Conservation is no answer as the bucket is full, not only do we need to stop, we need to find ways to return these materials to storage and while we wait, more of them are coming out of natural storehouses like permafrost and the ice caps.

So what solutions do we have?  We can’t empty the bucket, we can’t make it bigger, and we can’t stop using fossil fuels.  The reality of most alternate energy systems is that they use up as much energy in their creation as they ever generate during their usable life.  The driving force of the world economy requires constant consumption and expansion of markets in search of profit even at the cost of our survival.

The reality with our current technology, world government system, and growing population, is that nothing can be done about global warming that wouldn’t be worse than what it is doing to us today.  We continue to be distracted by daily life and don’t feel the impact of climate change enough to do anything about it.  The solution to global warming will occur when it overwhelms the other problems we are already dealing with, at which point we’ll have to figure out how to create a parachute while in free fall.

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