[Discussion] Climate Change

This thread is just to post interesting news, thoughts, opinions about climate change.

kazar wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:

We are so boned.

If only we took some of the money spent on alternative energy and spend it on technology to reverse the damage, we might not be so boned.

There is currently little difference between the two of those. If humanity is producing 10 more CO2 than equilibrium then methods to lower CO2 production by 2 a year are equivalent to methods that remove 2 CO2 a year from the atmosphere. If the former is 50 times less expensive it's better to do that.

There is also modeling of things like introducing dust and whatnot at high altitudes to reflect light before it hits Earth, but those are hacky methods that get around the actual main cause, and are thus going to have a lot of their own additional ripple effects.

OG wrote:

China's primary reason for canceling those coal plants wasn't the environment.

It had massively over invested in energy production, building 900GW of coal-fired capacity alone. China was still building two coal-fired plants a week last year--another 200GW of production capacity--even though demand for energy dropped by the same amount. And it had another 150GW of coal plants on the planning books, just waiting for permits (or to weasel through the loopholes of the central government's policy to decrease electrical production capacity).

Put that way - remarkably high level - the question becomes, why did they pick *coal* plants as the target for reduction? I believe that the answers relate directly to their environmental issues (air pollution being a huge one, part of their overall fight on pollution, but also their actual commitment to CO2 reduction). They can't keep cities operating when citizens are packing their lungs with particulates, and climatic changes that could accompany global warming have to scare the heck out of their long-term planners, since agriculture is very important to them.

There are also economic reasons. Their regulatory regime supported a "coal bubble", which misdirected development, and they are working to deflate that and redirect efforts away from high CO2 power sources.

I'm not sure you can reasonably disentangle the two, since their massive industrial growth has been tied to particulate pollution as well as CO2 pollution, and they are now trying to deal with both issues.

My impression of China's economic and environmental policy (from what News makes its way out here, maybe it's not the most accurate) is that they are very pragmatic realists. They are and especially were sh*tting up the environment not because they convinced themselves humans couldn't effect the environment, or that it wasn't happening, or whatever bullsh*t science denial the lead/mercury/NO/CO2 producers used at the time, but because they were consciously making the judgement that their industrialization was more important than those downsides.

It's all well and good for all of us industrialized nations that already made that point to say "ok, now that we have a modern economy and everyone has plenty of electricity and can drive or fly anywhere in the country and ship goods across it and there is a McDonalds and Starbucks and Wal-Mart in every town we need to protect the environment, and that goes double for all you countries that don't have that yet!"... it's hard to argue that that's not hypocritical as hell.

But while they are and have polluted a lot, it's hard not to see their pro-environment side as well, or at least their "pro economics of greener energy" side, which is still a plus compared to the American "blah blah blah blah I can't hear you oil and coal best energy" approach.

There rhetoric on whether climate change exists and whether we should actually change habits to stop it is stronger than the US approach, and they are also pushing a lot more of their economy into solar, wind, and fusion research and construction. It's also worth noting that even with how much they pollute per capita it's still less than the US (at least for CO2).

I think that its especially worth noting that their most signature pollution, the dense, dense, dangerous air pollution, is very quick to fix. Water and especially ground pollution stays and stays and stays, but air pollution falls out as one of those two right away. If China continues their aggressive infrastructure development and improvement with replacement of coal power with greener sources, as well as factory modernizations, I think a lot of people would be surprised at how quickly those problems will disperse.

The ground and water pollution, those are problems for generations, but it's not like the US doesn't have Superfund sites scattered across the country to hold the relics of our industrialization era.

And Russians have some of those issues too.

I think also the Chinese (rightly) believe that the more of these energy sources they develop, the more they will become the world leader in energy technologies, at a time when those technologies are seeing their first real advance since the '50's (with nuclear power). It's a genius move from the perspective of making money off of every other country in the world, if they can secure the patents and de facto control of emerging technology markets.

Meanwhile, we seem to be on the verge of *suppressing* development of alternative energy technologies, which strikes me as, well, not-so-genius.

Robear wrote:

Put that way - remarkably high level - the question becomes, why did they pick *coal* plants as the target for reduction?

I wouldn't quite call it a reduction. China simply decided not to build additional excess coal plants because it already had more coal-fired production than it needed.

It was a decision that both made practical sense (canceling plants that would add to already excess generation capacity) and that was symbolic (it "eliminated" a dirty energy source).

A reduction would be China shutting down existing coal plants and replacing their production with cleaner technologies or requiring existing coal plants to reduce emissions with scrubbers, etc..

Robear wrote:

I believe that the answers relate directly to their environmental issues (air pollution being a huge one, part of their overall fight on pollution, but also their actual commitment to CO2 reduction).

My feeling is that the Chinese government cares more about reducing the very visible air pollution in its cities than it does about global CO2 commitments (though it's happy that the two intersect). It has to meet the growing expectations of more than 150 million middle class citizens (and hundreds of millions more urban dwellers) who don't like the fact that the air they breath is brown, much like the citizens of Los Angeles during the 60s and 70s.

OG_Slinger wrote:

A reduction would be China shutting down existing coal plants and replacing their production with cleaner technologies or requiring existing coal plants to reduce emissions with scrubbers, etc..

They already are. They closed over 2000 coal mines between 2013 and 2015, and closed the last four of their biggest coal plants (nearly a gigawatt each) in the last two years. They replaced them with gas plants.

I believe that even in China current trends should favor nat gas over coal for non nuclear fuel based plants.

I also believe in China, much as the US, the practical limitation on utility scale electricity is transmission.

Robear wrote:

They already are. They closed over 2000 coal mines between 2013 and 2015, and closed the last four of their biggest coal plants (nearly a gigawatt each) in the last two years. They replaced them with gas plants.

Those four plants were in Beijing and were shut down primarily because of their contribution to the city's tremendous pollution problem. Nationwide, though, China *added* 200GW of coal plants last year.

China's slowly changing its energy mix, but the vast majority of its production comes from cheap, dirty coal and will be so for years.

Yonder wrote:
kazar wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:

We are so boned.

If only we took some of the money spent on alternative energy and spend it on technology to reverse the damage, we might not be so boned.

There is currently little difference between the two of those. If humanity is producing 10 more CO2 than equilibrium then methods to lower CO2 production by 2 a year are equivalent to methods that remove 2 CO2 a year from the atmosphere. If the former is 50 times less expensive it's better to do that.

There is also modeling of things like introducing dust and whatnot at high altitudes to reflect light before it hits Earth, but those are hacky methods that get around the actual main cause, and are thus going to have a lot of their own additional ripple effects.

The problem is the population of the planet is still growing. We pollute in just living on this planet. Reducing pollution is good, but I don't see the damage fixing itself just because we reduce, at least not in a reasonable time frame. It is also hard to get everyone to reduce. If you reduce your CO2 production by 10 but your neighbour increases his by 100, your efforts will yield no benefit. But if you created a machine that can remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere by 200, we can start to return to levels that we should be at.

I am not suggesting we don't find alternative energy (which many still produce heat), I would just like some of that money to go towards fixing the problem. It is like a guy that ate poorly all his life and smoked a pack a day. When he turns 50 he finds out his arteries are clogged. He can start eating well and stop smoking which are both great, but you still need to go in an clean out those arteries.

kazar wrote:
Yonder wrote:
kazar wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:

We are so boned.

If only we took some of the money spent on alternative energy and spend it on technology to reverse the damage, we might not be so boned.

There is currently little difference between the two of those. If humanity is producing 10 more CO2 than equilibrium then methods to lower CO2 production by 2 a year are equivalent to methods that remove 2 CO2 a year from the atmosphere. If the former is 50 times less expensive it's better to do that.

There is also modeling of things like introducing dust and whatnot at high altitudes to reflect light before it hits Earth, but those are hacky methods that get around the actual main cause, and are thus going to have a lot of their own additional ripple effects.

The problem is the population of the planet is still growing. We pollute in just living on this planet. Reducing pollution is good, but I don't see the damage fixing itself just because we reduce, at least not in a reasonable time frame. It is also hard to get everyone to reduce. If you reduce your CO2 production by 10 but your neighbour increases his by 100, your efforts will yield no benefit. But if you created a machine that can remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere by 200, we can start to return to levels that we should be at.

I am not suggesting we don't find alternative energy (which many still produce heat), I would just like some of that money to go towards fixing the problem. It is like a guy that ate poorly all his life and smoked a pack a day. When he turns 50 he finds out his arteries are clogged. He can start eating well and stop smoking which are both great, but you still need to go in an clean out those arteries.

The issue is that because of the laws of thermodynamics, until we are getting our energy from clean sources you will increase CO2 by 250 in order to remove it by 200, and you just spent enough money and resources to have reduced by 800 instead. With CO2 you just have to reduce before you can remove.

kazar wrote:

The problem is the population of the planet is still growing. We pollute in just living on this planet. Reducing pollution is good, but I don't see the damage fixing itself just because we reduce, at least not in a reasonable time frame. It is also hard to get everyone to reduce. If you reduce your CO2 production by 10 but your neighbour increases his by 100, your efforts will yield no benefit. But if you created a machine that can remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere by 200, we can start to return to levels that we should be at.

The first point is off a bit, because we can control the level of CO2 we put out, to a great degree. It's not inevitable and immutable. So reduction of CO2 output is in fact the *only* practical tool we have today, and it happens to both reduce future risk and also can turn around changes that occur, to a point. (After that point, natural effects become larger than ours again, but not in a way we'd enjoy).

The effects of the Paris Agreement and expected future agreements mitigates your second point; the largest producers and much of the developing world are included. That's kind of an old concern; we are now the laggards in the world, especially given the impact we have.

The third point is correct, absolutely. But absent the political will to do point 1 and include all the large emitters (point 2), there's no economic incentive for point 3 to even come into play. It's all tied together...

kazar wrote:
Yonder wrote:
kazar wrote:
Mixolyde wrote:

We are so boned.

If only we took some of the money spent on alternative energy and spend it on technology to reverse the damage, we might not be so boned.

There is currently little difference between the two of those. If humanity is producing 10 more CO2 than equilibrium then methods to lower CO2 production by 2 a year are equivalent to methods that remove 2 CO2 a year from the atmosphere. If the former is 50 times less expensive it's better to do that.

There is also modeling of things like introducing dust and whatnot at high altitudes to reflect light before it hits Earth, but those are hacky methods that get around the actual main cause, and are thus going to have a lot of their own additional ripple effects.

The problem is the population of the planet is still growing. We pollute in just living on this planet. Reducing pollution is good, but I don't see the damage fixing itself just because we reduce, at least not in a reasonable time frame. It is also hard to get everyone to reduce. If you reduce your CO2 production by 10 but your neighbour increases his by 100, your efforts will yield no benefit. But if you created a machine that can remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere by 200, we can start to return to levels that we should be at.

I am not suggesting we don't find alternative energy (which many still produce heat), I would just like some of that money to go towards fixing the problem. It is like a guy that ate poorly all his life and smoked a pack a day. When he turns 50 he finds out his arteries are clogged. He can start eating well and stop smoking which are both great, but you still need to go in an clean out those arteries.

Are you suggesting that money should be directed at things like non generation point carbon capture or premptively building things to mitigate potential climate relate problems (eg build a sea wall around New York city now).

There is also modeling of things like introducing dust and whatnot at high altitudes to reflect light before it hits Earth, but those are hacky methods that get around the actual main cause, and are thus going to have a lot of their own additional ripple effects.

Like the Matrix

Garrcia wrote:

Are you suggesting that money should be directed at things like non generation point carbon capture or premptively building things to mitigate potential climate relate problems (eg build a sea wall around New York city now).

That last one would be ignoring the problem. While one day we may have to address that, I am saying I believe we are at a point where we can create technology to fix/reverse the problem. Create something that remove CO2 from the air. Build something that can vent excess heat into space, etc.... Yonder says that we would create more CO2 in the removal process of CO2, but I believe that if we spent the time and money we could figure it out. I agree that using coal to power a machine to remove CO2 won't be productive which is why it needs to be a combination of investing in clean energy and fixing the environment. I feel that we are spending all of our time and money on prevention. Prevention is good, but we are passing the point of no return where prevention won't help. We should be ready with solutions to reverse the damage.

It's just a limitation of physics. Our energy production ends with CO2 in the air because that's the lowest energy state for the carbon after its burned, so the most effective thing to do with your carbon is process energy out of it until it gets to that form.

That means that we are going to have to spend energy to get that CO2 into another form, whatever form it is. Then you have to deal with the fact that whatever you are spending that energy in a not 100% efficient manner. Lets say we figure out some really sweet way to... I don't know, print graphene sheets out of the CO2, and we do that instead, and we did a really badass job at it too, maybe it only takes 2x the theoretical minimum energy to do this process.

Even with that magical sci-fi technology we are nowhere near being ready for that as an effective solution. If we have 2 extra units of green energy available it's better to remove 2 more carbon units from the grid, rather than using our magical 50% efficient machine to remove one unit's worth of CO2 from the air.* Transmission costs are such that even if you have to send that power hundreds and hundreds of miles you are still better off doing that.

It's a cold thermodynamic truth that you will need to have (at that instant in time) removed all carbon power generation from your grid before carbon removal methods become a net gain. And depending on the technologies at that point it still may be more optimal to store that green surplus for later in the day when your green energy falls below requirements.

* It's actually worse than that, because carbon energy generation is also not 100% efficient, and it gets worse the higher energy the replacement carbon storage is. Graphene sheets would burn really nicely, for example.

kazar wrote:
Garrcia wrote:

Are you suggesting that money should be directed at things like non generation point carbon capture or premptively building things to mitigate potential climate relate problems (eg build a sea wall around New York city now).

That last one would be ignoring the problem. While one day we may have to address that, I am saying I believe we are at a point where we can create technology to fix/reverse the problem. Create something that remove CO2 from the air. Build something that can vent excess heat into space, etc.... Yonder says that we would create more CO2 in the removal process of CO2, but I believe that if we spent the time and money we could figure it out. I agree that using coal to power a machine to remove CO2 won't be productive which is why it needs to be a combination of investing in clean energy and fixing the environment. I feel that we are spending all of our time and money on prevention. Prevention is good, but we are passing the point of no return where prevention won't help. We should be ready with solutions to reverse the damage.

Those solutions do not exist today, won't exist in 10 years, might not exist in 50 years, and might never exist.

This is why prevention is good, because it's the only known solution. Ignoring it in the hope that "we'll figure something out" is exactly how we got here in the first place.

Of course, we should continue working full-tilt on the research side in the hope of developing a workable technology to undo the damage that's already been done. But banking on it is myopic in the extreme.

Jonman wrote:

Those solutions do not exist today, won't exist in 10 years, might not exist in 50 years, and might never exist.

This is why prevention is good, because it's the only known solution. Ignoring it in the hope that "we'll figure something out" is exactly how we got here in the first place.

Of course, we should continue working full-tilt on the research side in the hope of developing a workable technology to undo the damage that's already been done. But banking on it is myopic in the extreme.

You basically are saying the same thing. I am saying we should be spending time and money researching these solutions. Not that we should stop the prevention but also include coming up with solutions. If you go back 150 years, the idea of replacing a human heart was considered impossible.

kazar wrote:
Jonman wrote:

Those solutions do not exist today, won't exist in 10 years, might not exist in 50 years, and might never exist.

This is why prevention is good, because it's the only known solution. Ignoring it in the hope that "we'll figure something out" is exactly how we got here in the first place.

Of course, we should continue working full-tilt on the research side in the hope of developing a workable technology to undo the damage that's already been done. But banking on it is myopic in the extreme.

You basically are saying the same thing. I am saying we should be spending time and money researching these solutions. Not that we should stop the prevention but also include coming up with solutions. If you go back 150 years, the idea of replacing a human heart was considered impossible.

You're confusing two different definitions of impossible:
1) Really hard. As in "Man, this level is impossible!"
2) Impossible. As in "It is impossible to go convert atmospheric CO2 to another form without the expenditure of energy."

We use the word impossible pretty loosely, and what is impossible at the time changes a lot, but it's important to note that occasionally while moving around the land of figuratively possible you run against objectively possible. We don't have a lot of those rules (I'm talking Conservation of Matter, Conservation of Entropy, speed of light, Entropy can't be reduced in a closed system stuff here) and I don't want any of our climate change mitigation strategies to rely on figuring out a way to break one of them.

kazar wrote:

You basically are saying the same thing. I am saying we should be spending time and money researching these solutions. Not that we should stop the prevention but also include coming up with solutions. If you go back 150 years, the idea of replacing a human heart was considered impossible.

I'm not saying the same thing, because what you said was "I believe we are at a point where we can create technology to fix/reverse the problem", and I'm saying "no we're bloody not, we're a long way from that, and by the time we get to the point of being able to create that technology, most of the world's coastal cities will be underwater, so that's not a practicable solution."

We should be operating on the assumption that "fix" technologies do not, and will never exist. Otherwise we're just wing-and-a-prayer-ing it.

In that we do disagree. We are more advanced then you think. We just need to focus on the problems. I don't believe that any amount of prevention will solve our problems, only delay them. There are too many people and people pollute. We cut down forests to put up cities. We produce garbage at an alarming rate, even with recycling programs. And I fear if we spend all of our time just trying to come up with better ways to not pollute as much it might not be enough. But if we are working towards a fixing the problems we are causing, maybe we won't be "boned"

Prevention? So... Let's say you're feeding a fire, but it starts to get too big for the fireplace. What do you do? You know it's still going to get somewhat bigger even if you stop feeding it. But that's the smart thing to do, if you don't have a bucket of sand nearby. That's not prevention, that's *mitigation*. You're not preventing a future fire, as you would be with, I dunno, clearing brush or keeping your lawn watered. You're mitigating an existing problem by removing the fuel.

The language is part of the issue. Cutting back is not prevention; it's not something that takes cycles and money from research. We already know how to do it, so its expenditures are in implementation. (New tech, yes, we should research that, but mitigation technology has many different aspects and reducing CO2 output is a valid one.) It's a necessary step in mitigation, and since it's the *first* and easiest way to address the problem, it's the one we stated with and should continue no matter what.

Also, a key thing here is: we are in big trouble unless we apply every possible solution to this problem. We need to move to alternative energy. We also need to decrease the output from existing greenhouse gas sources that continue to run. We also need to attempt to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it (modulo the problem where this takes energy to do, so we need the combination of carbon cost in energy to do this to be less than the carbon removed--which only works if we have increasing amounts of non-carbon energy sources.)

Honestly, I don't see much way forward without a drastic increase in nuclear energy production--but new clean energy sources are looking really good and are a big step in the right direction.

Will it cost to do this? Yes. But it has to be done, or we're in huge huge trouble. And the difficulty is always that monetary cost now is obvious, but environmental cost is always a decade or more down the road. Even if we poured all the resources we need to at the problem now, things will keep getting worse for a long time.

But the longer we wait, the worse the peak will be. And if we just keep putting it off... well, the world is going to be drastically re-shaped.

kazar wrote:

If you reduce your CO2 production by 10 but your neighbour increases his by 100, your efforts will yield no benefit.

This is simply not the case, and this kind of thinking holds back people in developed country from action and contributes to the (convenient) feeling of helplessness. Decreasing your CO2 production by 10 decreases the rate of increase in CO2 concentrations by 10 from what it would've been if you'd done nothing. While it's true that it doesn't flip it from an increase to a decrease as long as others continue to increase their CO2 production, it is completely untrue that it will yield no benefit.

Yonder wrote:

It's just a limitation of physics. Our energy production ends with CO2 in the air because that's the lowest energy state for the carbon after its burned, so the most effective thing to do with your carbon is process energy out of it until it gets to that form.

That means that we are going to have to spend energy to get that CO2 into another form, whatever form it is. Then you have to deal with the fact that whatever you are spending that energy in a not 100% efficient manner. Lets say we figure out some really sweet way to... I don't know, print graphene sheets out of the CO2, and we do that instead, and we did a really badass job at it too, maybe it only takes 2x the theoretical minimum energy to do this process.

There may be solutions that are a little less technological in nature that could have an impact. I'm not engineer, but using a non-carbon-based power source to run the technology would work right? Say using a solar plant to power our CO2 removal machine? Of course, this only works if we also stop producing CO2 to generate power, otherwise our solar plants would probably be better used to replace other generating methods. Technology aside, solar power already converts atmospheric CO2 into another form that isn't a greenhouse gas - plant biomass. Couldn't a potential solution be to take some of that biomass and ensure that it doesn't decompose to release CO2. Say, putting a bunch of corn cobs into a container and sinking it in the ocean?

Edit: Now that I think about that a little more, it's a terrible solution that leaves our soils devoid of nutrients in the long run, and we would be just as screwed. That's definitely something I should've thought of before I posted.

Hypatian wrote:

Also, a key thing here is: we are in big trouble unless we apply every possible solution to this problem. We need to move to alternative energy. We also need to decrease the output from existing greenhouse gas sources that continue to run. We also need to attempt to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it (modulo the problem where this takes energy to do, so we need the combination of carbon cost in energy to do this to be less than the carbon removed--which only works if we have increasing amounts of non-carbon energy sources.)

Honestly, I don't see much way forward without a drastic increase in nuclear energy production--but new clean energy sources are looking really good and are a big step in the right direction.

Will it cost to do this? Yes. But it has to be done, or we're in huge huge trouble. And the difficulty is always that monetary cost now is obvious, but environmental cost is always a decade or more down the road. Even if we poured all the resources we need to at the problem now, things will keep getting worse for a long time.

But the longer we wait, the worse the peak will be. And if we just keep putting it off... well, the world is going to be drastically re-shaped.

"See that, son?" said the boy's father as he moved away to let the child peer into the telescope. On the other end was a yellow-green blob of a planet, migrating across the telescope's narrow field of vision. His father continued, "You know why it looks like poison? Because it is. Thick sulfuric gases that have suffocated the planet, trapping the sun's energy so efficiently that temperatures reach 800 degrees, and 250 mile per hour winds rush across the long lost landscape, destroying any chance of life."

The boy stepped back, raising his head to the endless dark sky. His father gave him a minute, folding the telescope's legs and hoisting it on his shoulder. The boy shivered and took his father's hand.

As they trekked back to their domicile nestled in the Liu Hsin Crater, the boy looked for the yellow-green dot and wondered if all those stories he'd heard about Earth's beauty had ever been true.

Hypatian wrote:

Also, a key thing here is: we are in big trouble unless we apply every possible solution to this problem.

You can frame the problem in two ways: (1) the citizens of earth produce too much CO2 per capita, so we must reduce our CO2 production per capita to sustainable levels; or (2) there are too many individuals on earth producing CO2, so we must reduce the number of people to sustainable levels.

Of course, I don't actually advocate removing people from our planet, but I think it's instructive to think about the problem in terms of (2). We can make great efforts to reduce our per capita CO2 production to address (1), but if we can't force our CO2 production to zero or negative then so long as our population continues to grow we will eventually run up against (2) again.

This is not a new set of constraints, generally speaking. There was a time when humans lived largely as hunter-gatherers, but no matter how much people reduced their consumption the planet simply can't support 2 billion people without agriculture and populations run up against constraints of type (2). So early agricultural technology extended the earth's carrying capacity and the population continued to grow. Eventually we near the limits again, as earth simply can't support anywhere close to 6 or 7 billion people with basic farming. Luckily, we developed synthetic nitrogen fertilizer and dramatically extended the carrying capacity of earth. Even so, we will eventually run up against constraint (2) again as long as population continues to grow. So far, technology has always rescued us, and perhaps it will again. Incidentally, both of these technological advancements have come at the expense of huge release of CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere.

So, thinking of the atmosphere's ability to hold CO2 without catastrophic consequences as a resource, efforts at reduction of our CO2 emission will buy us time, to be sure. But until we can live extremely economically with respect to CO2, or perhaps CO2 free, we will always again run up against the problem where there are too many people for this resource to sustain. The most effective solution we could implement right now might actually be to arrest or reverse world population growth (combined with reduced per capita CO2 production). This is, of course, extremely offensive to our ideas about reproductive freedom, and is almost certainly a non-starter until things get really bad - at which time our overpopulation problem might be taking care of itself whether we like it or not, disproportionately affecting the poorest people of the world.

Efforts at reduction of our consumption of the atmospheric CO2 reservoir resource are the only current solution that people have any serious appetite for, but unless we want to see a fundamental change in our reproductive ethics, we'd better hope for a technological solution that can be rapidly deployed to most of the world, and we'd better hope for it soon.

Edit to add: I just re-read my post: man I am one depressing person, aren't I?

Nah, it is a depressing topic, and an important one.

I'll just point out that most estimates indicate that world population growth is already tapering off. Over the long term, granted, so it won't help this year, but the demographic transition has already happened across much of the world.

kazar wrote:

In that we do disagree. We are more advanced then you think.

Money ---> Mouth.

Citation needed.

Show me a shred of evidence that we could make the slightest impact in the next, oooh, let's say, 30 years, because I'm putting my wallet in my mouth and saying you can't find any that isn't hand-wavey pie-in-the-sky.

Declining growth rate is far from negative growth. It is true that the population growth rate has been decreasing since the 1960s, but since then the world population has grown from around 4 to around 7.5 billion people. Even a small growth rate on a base population of 7.5 billion people is a large absolute growth, and low and moderate fertility projections still indicate a population of about 8.3 and 9.6 billion people by 2050 (less than 35 years from now), or 11% and 28% more people than today, respectively. Dismissing solutions involving the number of people producing CO2 is not a reasonable thing to do, especially when (it's my impression that) the demographic shift has typically involved increasing CO2 emission per capita, not decreasing.

Not to mention that despite our declining growth rate has so far been completely insufficient to make a dent in CO2 emissions. The level of atmospheric CO2 continues to increase. Indeed we haven't yet been able to consistently eliminate the increase in the rate of increase of CO2 - if we can't even stop our acceleration of CO2 levels with 7.5 billion people, how likely are we to be able to decrease CO2 levels with 8.3 or 9.6 billion people? Relying on a demographic shift to take care of the climate problem rooted in exceeding carrying capacity would seem to be a poor solution. Again, we'd better hope we get technology figured out fast, because the population problem isn't likely to go away on timescales that will prevent significant climate change, and I have serious doubts that we can promote a really carbon-clean demographic shift in areas still to transition to low growth when those in developed countries aren't living a particularly economical life with respect to carbon.

BushPilot wrote:

There may be solutions that are a little less technological in nature that could have an impact. I'm not engineer, but using a non-carbon-based power source to run the technology would work right? Say using a solar plant to power our CO2 removal machine? Of course, this only works if we also stop producing CO2 to generate power, otherwise our solar plants would probably be better used to replace other generating methods.

That's perfectly correct, and is what I was trying to convey. Using green energy to remove CO2 from the atmosphere is fine, but it is only a net positive if all (or almost all perhaps, once you account for more complex factors like transmission cost, or the fact that some carbon plants can't be shut completely off even if you don't need their power for 2 hours) of your carbon energy has already been removed. If you haven't removed all the possible carbon-based MW from the grid at that time then any MW you spend directly removing CO2 from the atmosphere is bad, you should be using those MW to shut down more carbon generation instead.

So in a system where we have enough solar/wind/nuclear capacity to provide for the needs in the morning and afternoon, but for two hours in the middle of the day there is EXTRA solar power, sure, running the removal machines is great! But in a system where we have a bunch of oil, gas, and coal powerplants, any and all extra solar power has to go to the grid so the carbon users can cycle down usage by whatever amount possible.

Chairman_Mao wrote:

Thick sulfuric gases that have suffocated the planet, trapping the sun's energy so efficiently that temperatures reach 800 degrees, and 250 mile per hour winds rush across the long lost landscape, destroying any chance of life."

You're probably not seriously stating that this is the culmination of global warming on Earth, but still, there is so much misinformation about global warming out there that I prefer to clamp down even on rhetorical examples. While Venus is the result of a runaway green house gas cycle, that does NOT imply that all green house gas feedback loops end at Venus. Venus gets 92% more sunlight than Earth does, and has three hundred thousand times more CO2 than Earth does (96.5% of a 92 atm atmosphere, compared to 0.03% of a 1 atm atmosphere).

Earth's climate trajectory does not, and cannot, lead to Venus. If humanity made it their crusade to burn every non-human atom of carbon on the planet we would not get to Venus levels of heat. Although the lack of oxygen would be a major issue for us in that last scenario.