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Lewis Cleverdon

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Reply with quote  #1 
The real budgetary emergency and the myth of "burnable carbon"

by David Spratt at Climate Code Red
http://www.climatecodered.org/2014/05/the-real-budgetary-emergency-burnable.html

”We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a "carbon budget" for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.”

Spratt’s article is exceptional in collating some very basic numbers on our climate predicament – and as far as it goes it is highly informative, particularly via two excellent graphs. Yet his prognosis for mitigation reverts to the norm of policy-making by wishful thinking. Specifically, he overlooks the ongoing impact of the eight major interactive feedbacks when he states:
” we can conceive of a safe-climate emergency-action approach which would aim to reduce global warming back to the range of conditions experienced during the last 10,000 years, the period of human civilisation and fixed settlement. This would involve fast and large emissions reduction through radical energy demand reductions, whilst a vast scaling-up of clean energy production was organised, together with the remaking of many of our essential systems such as transport and food production, with the target being zero net emissions. In addition, there would need to be a major commitment to atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown measures. This would need to be done at a speed and scale more akin to the "war economy", where social and economic priority is given to what is perceived to be an overwhelming existential threat.” [My bold].

The need for massive Carbon Recovery (aka atmospheric carbon dioxide drawdown, aka carbon dioxide removal or CDR) is very clear, but there are a chain of limitations to it in practice. As such its addition to an Emissions Control treaty is entirely necessary but plainly insufficient to be commensurate with the predicament.

Actual Carbon Recovery (as distinct from merely ‘offsetting’ new emissions) acting in tandem with Emissions Control could make achieving a 450ppm CO2 peak readily feasible. The task of eventually restoring 280ppm of CO2 is then of recovering 170ppm from that peak plus around 50ppm re-emitted by the oceans, and so is of managing around 220ppm of CO2. At 2.1 gigatonnes of carbon [GtsC] per ppm of CO2 this is about 460GtsC, or by contrast about 1,685Gts of CO2 (on a C : CO2 ratio of 3.664). Recovering this amount within the relevant 21st century timeframe will require a new global sequestration industry, but it exceeds the practical capacity of the two inherently inefficient industrial technologies for CO2-capture and geological storage (aka CCS) that are now being researched, namely:-
BECCS (Biomass Energy with CO2 Capture and Storage) – that has been shown to require > 30% of its energy output to run the fuel transport and process, and to require new infrastructure equivalent to the global oil industry's total heritage of infrastructure just to capture, liquefy, pipe and sequester 10% of the present annual anthro-emissions of ~35GtsCO2 /yr, while using around 2.5Gts of wood felled, dried and transported to power stations each year. Allowing an 80% sequestration factor, that scale of infrastructure and fuel supply would give a potential recovery of just 0.45 CO2ppm per year.
DACCS (Direct Air Capture of CO2 and Storage) – which, by reacting air with CO2-absorbing chemicals, could produce a flow of CO2 directly over geology thought suitable for its sequestration and thus avoid myriad pipelines. Yet its costs of at least $600/T of CO2 or $600Bn per GtCO2 (i.e. $2.20Tn /GtC or $4.62Tn per ppm of CO2) alongside the issues of its massive energy requirements, of the geology’s uncertain retention of the CO2 and of the impossibility of its post-insertion verification, means that it is highly unlikely to prove financially viable even for use in enhanced oil extraction operations, let alone proving economically and politically feasible for actual Carbon Recovery.

- CRFS (Carbon Recovery for Food Security) is the one option now being widely researched that could potentially meet the necessary scale of operation. It means using biomass for Biochar production sourced from urban, farm and forestry wastes and also from very widespread native afforestation of non-farmland, for sequestration as a valuable soil fertility enhancer and soil moisture regulator. This entails the collection of feedstock for minimal haulage to local village-scale charcoal retorts, which need no external energy as the process is exothermic. The charcoal (carbon) output is milled, charged with a small percentage of organic fertilizer (giving it the name ‘Biochar’) and transported to farms for plowing in as part of normal cultivation. To meet a 2100 deadline this would need to be done at an average rate of around 9.2GtsC /yr, less the sinks’ net intake. Charcoal is currently traded by ‘Less Developed Countries’ at around $300/T f.o.b., but it is often sourced from unsustainable forest clearances. Using efficient retorts fed by sundry biomass wastes and new native coppice forestry could raise the cost to around $400 per tonne of carbon, which would equate to around $0.84Tn per ppm of CO2 recovered, which is less than 20% of the DACCS cost. This option offers further benefits including :- raised farm yields and drought resistance; major new rural employment globally; potentially huge areas of additional high-biodiversity native forest habitat; a coproduct output of methanol [CH3OH] from waste gasses of over 150 litres of petrol-equivalent liquid fuel per tonne of charcoal produced; - and, crucially, the benefit of potentially being largely self-funding from its two revenue streams.

Yet while a Carbon Recovery program is necessary, its cooling effect in reducing CO2 at best from a 450ppm peak in 2050 to 280ppm in 2100 would be timelagged to the 2080s by the 30 to 40 years of the oceans’ thermal inertia, and so would not affect the seven decades of intensifying warming and climate destabilization of a best-case Emissions Control regime. Such a program would thus predictably fail for one or more of three reasons, being:
- rising feedback emissions offsetting the maximum carbon recovery capacity;
- the crucial afforestation being degraded by intensifying climate impacts;
- and a foreseeable societal collapse under intensifying serial global crop failures.


Thus for a mitigation strategy of Emissions Control plus Carbon Recovery to be made commensurate with the problem, the necessary and sufficient complement is the R,D&D of a reliably benign form of Albedo Restoration (aka ‘SRM’ – solar radiation management). This second mode of geo-engineering [Geo-E] would need to restore a previous natural level of albedo sufficient to regain the pre-industrial global temperature, thereby decelerating the feedbacks on warming as soon as possible and halting the climate destabilization that imposes the rising disruption of global agriculture and that would degrade the necessary global afforestation. This second program would need to operate throughout the Carbon Recovery program and until the oceans’ excess heat has mostly re-emerged, meaning that it cannot prudently rely on introducing exotic materials to the biosphere. Accentuating a natural benign dynamic - such as lofting extra saltwater spray to brighten clouds over carefully chosen ocean areas - looks the most appropriate approach in offering the fewest novel interactions with the biosphere. Clearly much stringently supervised research will be needed before any option could be considered for deployment.

Given the potential for any nation’s unilateral use of the Albedo Restoration mode of Geo-E to act as a 'causus belli', no unilateral initiative can offer the prospect of a successful outcome as it would collapse the international co-operation essential for effective Emissions Control and Carbon Recovery, without which ongoing free-market emissions commit society to terminal ocean acidification and serial global crop failures. With many nations reliant on the seas for much of their protein and already facing sporadic crop failures, this prospect would further raise the risk of a slide into global conflict. Thus the effective deployment of both modes of Geo-E flanking an Emissions Control regime in a ‘trefoil’ mitigation strategy would require a UN decision from the outset, with a UN scientific agency being mandated to supervise techniques' research with the aim of eventually accrediting viable options for the member states’ collective decision on deployment.

It is against this background that I’ve run a monitor via Google of the word ‘geo-engineering’ which reports a steady two or three articles posted or reposted per week, almost without exception slamming the Geo-E option and using a neocon level of dishonest arguments to do so. Quite who is driving this level of propaganda effort (on a critical but quite arcane aspect of mitigation), and for what motivation, is a matter of keen interest. I observe that as climate impacts intensify, public opposition to Geo-E could buy more time for the US policy of letting AGW destabilize its rival’s food security and terminate its bid for global economic dominance – but I’d be very glad of other peoples’ thoughts on this issue.

Regards,

Lewis
20170523yuanyuan

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Reply with quote  #2 

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20170523yuanyuan

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Reply with quote  #3 

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