Wednesday, 25 November 2020

CO2 and the effective emitting altitude

From The Motherlode:

This is how the Greenhouse Effect works. The Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapour absorb most [yes, they say 'most', so let's run with it] of the heat radiation leaving the Earth's surface. Then their concentration determines how much heat escapes from the top of the atmosphere to space. It is the change in what happens at the top of the atmosphere that matters, not what happens down here near the surface.

So how does changing the concentration of a Greenhouse gas change how much heat escapes from the upper atmosphere? As we climb higher in the atmosphere the air gets thinner. There is less of all gases, including the greenhouse gases. Eventually the air becomes thin enough that any heat radiated by the air can escape all the way to Space. How much heat escapes to space from this altitude then depends on how cold the air is at that height. The colder the air, the less heat it radiates.

So if we add more greenhouse gases the air needs to be thinner before heat radiation is able to escape to space. So this can only happen higher in the atmosphere. Where it is colder. So the amount of heat escaping is reduced. By adding greenhouse gases, we force the radiation to space to come from higher, colder air, reducing the flow of radiation to space. And there is still a lot of scope for more greenhouse gases to push 'the action' higher and higher, into colder and colder air, restricting the rate of radiation to space even further.

Let's follow their logic and see where it takes us...

Here's a chart showing approx. current CO2 levels at altitudes up to 12 km (vertical axis) in orange, and what they would be if they went up by 50% in yellow. The current effective emitting altitude is at about 5km, where the average temperature is about 255K and CO2 is about 0.5 grams/m3. So we assume that if there is less than 0.5 grams/m3, the atmosphere is no longer opaque to infra red radiation and radiation emitted at that altitude can escape to space.
According to them, the new effective emitting altitude would be wherever CO2/m3 is 0.5 grams/m3, i.e. at about 9.5 km. The average temperature at that altitude is 226 K. If you calculate the amount of W/m2 radiated, it would go down from 239 W/m2 to 148 W/m2, a complete imbalance and not plausible.

The more sophisticated Alarmists say that the temperature of the new, higher effective emitting layer - and everything beneath it - will increase to whatever it needs to be to emit 239 W/m2 and reinstate the equilibrium between incoming solar and outgoing infra red. Sounds plausible until you realise that would require a temperature increase of nearly 30 degrees all the way up, which is also completely implausible* and ten times as much as the most pessimistic predictions, before we treble it for the 'positive feedback of water vapour' (to the extent it exists, which it doesn't). As a matter of fact, CO2 levels have gone up by about 50% since the end of the Little Ice Age pre-industrial levels and temperatures have gone up by 1.5 degrees at most.

If you get nonsense answers, you can safely assume that the logic is nonsense!

* To make it make sense, you could assume that CO2 only absorbs/re-emits about 5% (one-twentieth) of infra red, very much at the low end of most estimates. In which case, we can divide the 30 degree potential warming by twenty to get 1.5 degrees observed warming (the other 95% is unaffected). If they explained it like that, then I'd have to accept the explanation as plausible and at least internally consistent. There's no such thing as "warm" or "cold" radiation of course, it doesn't have a temperature, it is just a form of energy (like potential energy or electrical energy which don't have a temperature either), so that part of the explanation is still flimsy.

For a more nuanced version of all this, see Clive Best, who thinks there would be a very small increase in temperature of about 0.3 degrees.


Emily said...

I was taught very briefly the process of the greenhouse effect and found it absolutely fascinating, sadly my school studies as far as I ever learned about it which was not much at all. It baffles me that there are many people who dispute its existence despite how warm the Earth is becoming. This post is informative and descriptive, just what we need to convince the non-believers otherwise!

Bayard said...

Hi, Emily, welcome to this blog, where we apply physics to climate science and examine the results.

Mark Wadsworth said...

E, thanks, I'd love to hear your thoughts once you've actually read the post.

B, seconded.

mombers said... - pl discuss. Seems to me a clear demonstration of how CO2 absorbs heat all other things being equal. And are you really saying that the composition of the atmosphere has no effect on heat retained from the sun? As I've said before, if this is so, it's a massive global conspiracy with the entire scientific community involved.

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, those experiments are complete flummery!

1. CO2 has a lower specific heat capacity than N2/O2, so warms up more quickly. You can substitute Argon for CO2 (similar low specific heat capacity to CO2) and you get the same result. Argon is monatomic and hence can't be a 'greenhouse gas'.

2. They compare normal N2/O2 in one bottle with close to 100% CO2 in the other. Meaningless. What they should use is air with 0.04% CO2 in one bottle and 0.06% CO2 in the other to reflect actual and possible future levels of CO2 in atmosphere.

Lola said...

Next week, when I become Dictator, will you be my SpAd on econ and climate (non) science?

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, thanks. But I have to ask, do I get a golden goodbye after you've been deposed again?

Bayard said...

"it's a massive global conspiracy with the entire scientific community involved."

No it isn't. The "entire scientific community" is not involved, because no scientists excepts climate "scientists" care any more about AGW than do non-scientists. Possibly physicists would realise the physical impossibilities in climate "science", but others have better things to do with their scientific time than meddle in disciplines other than their own. That leaves climate "scientists". They believe in AGW in the way that priests believe in the religion they serve. They are not conspiring, they are, in their own minds, spreading the truth.

Lola said...

MW. Usually, the ex dictator and his crew get done in. You might want to take that into account before agreeing...

A K Haart said...

I worked with professional scientists for the whole of my working life. I never met one who showed any interest in AGW.

Lola said...

B precisely. AGW is parallel to the medieval Roman Catholic church. We are being told that the only way we can be 'saved' is by buying 'indulgences' aka making sacrifices, e.g. by scrapping all our diesel cars.

It's a racket.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, exactly.

L, sod it, count me in. I'll sort myself out with a South American passport when needed.

AKH, ta for back up.

mombers said...

@MW so you acknowledge that the composition of the atmosphere does have a bearing on how much heat is retained, right? But that moving CO2 from 0.04% to 0.06% is just not significant enough in your opinion to cause any significant climate change?

It's a pity that this blog has become such a focus group for climate change denial. The LVT stuff is great and backed up by solid empirical evidence and is not very disputed by the economic academic community, even though it is a lot less science than climate studies. I don't buy that the 'serious' scientists don't want to engage in climate science and it's just filled with numpties who aren't any good. Think of the kudos that a group of 'serious' scientists would get if they came in and crossed out the equations on the board and wrote Q.E.D.

Quite off-putting for young people especially!

mombers said...

@Lola do you really think that diesel cars are a good idea? Forget the CO2, no scientist disputes that the other stuff that comes out the tailpipe is a serious threat to health. Petrol better but still a health hazard. No matter how you power an electric car, any emissions into the atmosphere occur much, much further away from people's lungs

Lola said...

I think you have to keep things in proportion.

Modern diesel are very clean. Ad blu and DPF take the vast bulk of nasties, and diesel has a higher BMEP so less CO2 than petrol. And there are low emmissions fuels like Shell V Power.

For dense cities like London, I fully support electric for high mileage users like taxis (and why would anyone want to drive in central London defeats me. But living like our host does in Greater London the traffic density is lower and the cumulative effect less.

And you handle all that with an 'emmissions charge' as London does.

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, the answer to the first question is "nobody knows" and certainly not me. Maybe AGW is actually quite correct, so why do they keep making up flaky explanations that even I can see through? Like exploiting the fact that CO2 has a lower specific heat capacity, which has fooled a lot of people?

They keep saying "the science is settled" so why don't they just enlighten us instead of making up flimsy and contradictory explanations?

Lots of things are at (actually, 'well beyond') the limit of my understanding or knowledge (relativity, evolution, DNA, nuclear physics, the thermo-gravital effect, CFC and ozone hole, effect of lead on brain development, how vaccines work). But I am happy to accept what the clever scientist saying on all these topics and how they explain it to beginners, they are internally consistent and results match predictions and logic. Ask two different physicists how nuclear power stations work, and they will give fairly similar explanations.

And if the clever scientists say temperatures have been going up, I'm happy to accept that as a fact, we all know there are warmer periods and Little Ice Ages. And CO2 levels are clearly also going up, and mankind is almost certainly responsible for most of it. So what? I'm just far from convinced that there is any link between the two.

mombers said...

@L we have the technology to eliminate harmful non-CO2 tailpipe emissions, so why not just do it? No need for low emissions zones, or an acceptance that anyone will suffer an early death (even if only measured in days) from completely unnecessary pollution. Electric cars have a lower (and shrinking) TCO than ICE now anyway, so it's not good economics to keep producing inferior technology.

Petrol and/or diesel fans can maybe do races or whatever on private property if they really want to

Bayard said...

Lola, it is precisely "modern", i.e. high-speed, diesels that are dirty? Diesel is a slow-burning fuel and thus it is very difficult to make a clean-burning fast-running diesel engine unless you have cylinders the size of egg cups. All the things you mention are basically patches on a system that is doing something it was never designed to do. Diesel should be restricted to driving generators, where the engine can run slowly, at a constant speed, efficiently and cleanly.

M, the future for mobile power is not batteries. Batteries will never have the power density required without consuming insane amounts of energy and resources in their manufacture. The future is synthetic liquid fuels.
Please don't use phrases like "climate change denial" without thinking what you are saying. When has anyone on this blog denied that the climate is changing? All Mark is doing is pointing out where someone has got their physics wrong on a publicly available website. Would it still bother you if the website in question was talking about astrophysics, not the climate, and if not, why not? it's still the same physics. There are only two reasons why anyone could object to what Mark is doing here, either he is wrong, i.e the maths or physics he uses in his arguments contains mistakes, or the message in whose supporting arguments he is pointing out the flaws is so vital that it is more important that people believe in it than it has any substance in fact, logic or science, in which case we are not talking about a science, but a religion.

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, car fumes in cities are clearly bad for you. That's a separate question to whether CO2 causes Global Warming.

B, thanks for explaining. By the way, my physics probably is wrong a lot of the time because I am following THEIR constants and THEIR rules of the game and seeing where it takes us.

Lola said...

B. I am aware of that. That's why i added the bit about special fuels. And i agree accelerating and decelerating cause pollution. If you can run the ICE at a set speed it's less polluting and more efficient. Which brings us to hybrids.

Bayard said...

L, talking of "special fuels", apparently Dr Diesel designed his engine to run on vegetable oil. All of which emphasises the point that fossil diesel fuel is unsuited to being burned in high-speed engines.

Bayard said...

Talking of hybrids, I have never understood the resistance by the motor industry to producing a series hybrid along the lines of a diesel railway engine, combining, as it does, the performance of the electric engine with the range of the ICE, the fuel economy of regenerative braking and the clean burning of a constant engine speed.

Lola said...

B. I think that diesel comes out of a different level on the fractionating column at the refinery. That is diesel is a byproduct of petrol. I am not sure of that tho'. 'High speed' diesel is relative. IMHO there is a marked improvement in diesel engines cars if you use say V Power.

On to hybrids. Exactly, or nearly exactly. I think that the more frequent stop start of a car makes the ICE/Electric more tricky than in a railway engine. My view is plug in hybrid is good for cars. You get electric to go 5 miles to and from work. And you have an ICE for longer trips where it can run at a constant speed and exploit the excellent energy density of petrol / diesel. My Disco Sport gets about 34 mpg in normal daily use. But about 44+ when on a run and driven smoothly at a reasonable speed - indicated 77 (real world circa 70) or otherwise just dodging along on give and take A and B roads. The 'not stopping and starting' is key.

Mark Wadsworth said...

L, I once did a post on the assumption that diesel was a by-product of petrol (or vice versa). People in the comments pointed out that oil refineries can choose pretty much whatever ratio they want, so while sound on the economics, my post was an epic fail on the science!

Lola said...

MW. Thanks for the update. I could not remember the science. However 'they' now have plant that turns gas into oil and can make synthetic petrol from CO2 in the atmosphere - F1 are looking into that - which are therefore by definition carbon neutral. But I do take B's point - cities and lots of ICE are not that nice.
FWIW I used to go from Enfield to Barts in the City a lot when I was a kid. Trolley bus to Wood Green and tube to Holborn and shanks pony to Barts by the Old Bailey. Electric or walking. Very Green. Mind you I can also remember smogs wen you could not see your hand in front of your face.

Dinero said...

> Bayard

They have looked at it , but found that if an I.C. engine is in the car it is more efficient overall to have it connected to the drive train according to this article

George Carty said...


The term "climate change denial" is clearly intended to evoke parallels with Holocaust denial.

The Holocaust is an extremely well-documented historical fact, and Holocaust deniers are liars who almost invariably are aiming to rehabilitate the Third Reich. Note that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn't a Holocaust denier strictly speaking: when he referred to "the myth of the Holocaust" he meant not the Holocaust itself, but the notion that the Holocaust justifies Zionism.

The use of the term "climate change denial" is thus clearly intended by those who use it to insinuate that those thus targeted are also liars, who know full well that man-made climate change is happening and is a serious threat, but are unwilling to admit this because they personally feel threatened by climate action (presumably because they are are attached to a way of life dependent on heavy usage of fossil fuels, and aren't willing to give up that way of life for the sake of the third world populations who would be the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change).

I'm also thinking about the increasing usage of the term "Covid deniers" which increasingly seems to be used not merely to refer to the tiny minority who believe that Covid-19 doesn't exist, but rather to the much larger number of people who oppose lockdowns and other measures designed to suppress the epidemic.

I also see parallels between the climate change and Covid-19 issues in that Western politicians advocating action tend to be fixated on ineffective solutions, because the effective solutions are seen as unthinkable. (Naturally this gives ammunition to those who believe the problem itself has been exaggerated.)

In the case of climate change the promoted ineffective solutions are wind and solar power, while the rejected effective solution is nuclear power.

In the case of Covid-19 the promoted ineffective solutions are forced business closures and stay-at-home orders (the measures collectively described as "lockdown") while the effective solution (used by most Asia/Pacific countries but not in Europe or the Americas) is centralized quarantine.

Mark Wadsworth said...

GC, you are falling into the black/white, them/us mentality.

Leavers v Remainers
Alarmists v Deniers
Lock-downers v Herd Immunists
Evolutionists v Creationists
etc etc
Apart from the actual scientific fact of evolution, everything else is a lot more nuanced than people think.

But I agree with this: "The promoted ineffective solutions are wind and solar power, while the rejected effective solution is nuclear power"

mombers said...

@MW agreed it is nuanced - models are estimates. But a great deal of research by very talented scientists has gone into this and I simply don't buy that this work has such simple mistakes that a relative layman can pick it apart.

Re renewables, offshore wind is heading towards being cheaper (subsidy free) than gas by 2023 ( What's not to like? The externalities caused by offshore wind are tiny compared to the 100% undisputed pollution problems caused by fossil fuels, i.e. non CO2. Lots needs to be done on the storage front but it's not insurmountable. A family member has two super capacitors in South Africa that power the home from solar at night, they are virtually off grid.

Nuclear - my concern with this is how do you put a NPV on storing stuff for hundreds of thousands of years? It's certainly killed far, far fewer people and ruined the environment much less than say coal mining (~3000 deaths/year in china I think?) or oil/gas extraction, but if there's an energy solution that does not involve creating such a long term problem, I'd go for that. While the numbers of deaths and environmental destruction of the tech is in aggregate much, much less than fossil fuels, when an accident does happen, it is catastrophic and long lasting

Oh and also avoid the inevitable hop to nuclear weapons that civilian nuclear often entails.

George Carty said...

Mark Wadsworth,

I'm not equally happy with all those dichotomies you name.

"Evolutionists v Creationists" is a perfectly good way to describe a difference in belief.

"Leavers v Remainers" is also pretty good to describe a difference in policy, and you'd expect that to be the case since it's based on the actual words used in the referendum ballot, which wouldn't have passed if obviously biased. Not that this has stopped a few Remainers from arguing that the Anglo-Saxon "Leave" was subtly more compelling than the Romance "Remain", and the referendum have gone differently if it have been "Stay" versus "Exit".

"Lock-downers v Herd Immunists" isn't so good: I'd prefer "Suppressionists v Herd Immunists" as lockdown is just one tactic for suppression (and probably not the most effective one, as I pointed out upthread!)

"Alarmists v Deniers" is the one I'm least happy with though, as both terms sound like pejoratives that would be used mainly by their opponents. Although that was also of course the case with the terms used for the original British political parties: the "Whigs" were named after Scottish bandits while the "Tories" were named after Irish bandits! Not sure which morally-neutral terms could be substituted though...

As for correlations between the stances, it does seem to me that (to use your terms) Remainers tend to be lock-downers and alarmists while Leavers tend to be herd immunists and deniers. This isn't universal though: the Marxist blogger Arthur Bough which I follow is an extremist Remainer (to the point that I'm the relative Eurosceptic when commenting on his blog, even though I'm also a Remainer who still thinks Brexit was a terribly idea) while at the same time also being a Herd Immunist.

George Carty said...

mombers: "Oh and also avoid the inevitable hop to nuclear weapons that civilian nuclear often entails."

Not inevitable at all: there are a lot more countries that built nuclear weapons first then nuclear power, than the other way around. And the PWR reactors used for nuclear power in most countries have no applications connected to nuclear weapons (although they were originally developed for the military application of submarine propulsion).

Producing atomic bombs fuelled with uranium doesn't involve nuclear reactors at all, only enrichment plants. And while you do need a reactor to produce plutonium for bombs, light-water reactors are exceptionally inconvenient for plutonium production. Their uranium fuel must be enriched before it can be used, and (because they operate at high pressure) they must be shut down in order to recover the plutonium (which is quite frequently when making weapons-grade plutonium, as otherwise too much Pu-239 would become Pu-240 and make the plutonium useless for bombs).

PWRs thus can't be used to make both power and weapons-grade plutonium at the same time, so a country that is already using PWRs for power but wanted to build nuclear weapons would therefore have to build new reactors anyway for this purpose, and given that they might as well build ones specifically suited to plutonium production. This means reactors that can run on natural uranium at atmospheric pressure (allowing the fuel to be removed while running) and on unenriched uranium (which means greater neutron economy than is possible with a light-water reactor). Canada's heavy-water moderated CANDU reactor, or Britain's graphite moderated Magnox reactor would both fit the bill.

Mark Wadsworth said...

GC, good point about "stay" v "exit"!

"Evolutionists v Creationists" is a perfectly good way to describe a difference in belief.

Creationism is a 'belief', based on no scientific evidence. Evolution is with 99% certainty a correct explanation of how things work and so most people assume it to be correct. It is far from a complete theory, but that's not my problem, it'll do for now. I don't want it to be true or untrue, it just seems very likely true.

Bayard said...

"I think that the more frequent stop start of a car makes the ICE/Electric more tricky than in a railway engine."

The ICE in a series hybrid starts when the battery is drained to a particular point and stops when the battery is full to a particular point, regardless of whether the vehicle is in motion or not, therefore is ideally suited to stop-start driving.

Din, I assume you mean this: "Today, the thing that has driven most automakers to series-parallel hybrids rather than pure series hybrids is a common scenario in U.S. driving: high-speed freeway driving. In such environments, multiple engineering teams over multiple decades have concluded that a mechanical connection to the engine offers better efficiency."

That's the US. We, or at least I, live in Europe, which has plenty of car manufacturers and where the majority of use is stop start or short journeys, for which the series hybrid is ideally suited.

"But a great deal of research by very talented scientists has gone into this and I simply don't buy that this work has such simple mistakes that a relative layman can pick it apart."

Nearly all that "research" has actually been modelling from the same relatively limited sets of historic data on the climate. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with the models, what they are doing is not science in that it is not the Scientific Method. The Scientific Method consists of examining data, producing a theory and then trying to disprove that theory. I have never seen a climate science paper that attempts to disprove the theory of AGW, only ones that attempt to prove it. All the theories start with the given that AGW is a thing, variations on the theme of "man is causing the Earth to warm up, this is how and why".

mombers said...

Go on B and MW, get your boots on and take the establishment down. Or are you part of the missing scientists conundrum?

mombers said...

A bit harsh above I think, sorry :-) An interesting question for you both though. Can you give examples of recent scientific consensus that has been overturned to the degree that you are proposing?

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, sorry, I overlooked your comment about nuclear. IMHO it is the least worst option. I don't like it, but there it is. Agreed on weapons.

On windmills, I read things that say it will save us and other things that say it is totally impractical. Can we just do offshore, or would European countries have to cover half their surface area with windmills to replace all existing energy sources? It's either getting cheaper by the day; or it only seems cheap because they ignore short life span and huge replacement costs. Maybe they're both hamming it up, maybe they both seem plausible, but one side is clearly wronger than the other.

AGW is not 'scientific consensus', it is political consensus. There are plenty of things they are still arguing about, like Dark Matter v MOND, or whether there was even a Big Bang. It's all very arcane, good natured and of no interest to everyday life, so we don't notice.

Lola said...

B I was differentiating between (say) diesel electric locomotives - no battery, and hybrid car - with a battery.

It seems to me that hybrids (save for their weight) are a good solution. High energy density small ICE for long journeys and motorway and an shortish range (say 50 miles ish) low energy density electric for 'clean' city commuting.

The electric can also be deployed to aid acceleration and can use regenerative braking.

Once you have the car to cruising speed then you can throttle back and the ICE can easily maintain a speed with a bit extra throttle / electric on hills or overtaking. This should keep the ICE at peak fuel efficiency.

Bayard said...

M, it's only a scientific "consensus" because scientists who are not climate scientists can't be bothered to publish papers on the climate and the famous statistic that 99% of scientists agree with AGW is actually 99% of those scientists who published papers on the climate, i.e climate scientists. Similarly, neither Mark nor I are interested in going to the faff of publishing papers on the subject either. Unlike people who believe in AGW, who tend to be filled with an evangelical zeal to spread what they see as the truth, most people who don't believe don't see the point of sharing their unbelief with the world.

Bayard said...

"I was differentiating between (say) diesel electric locomotives - no battery, and hybrid car - with a battery."

I wonder if the latest diesel-electric trains are now fitted with a battery, to take advantage of regenerative braking and for load smoothing.

Lola said...

Well. Well. See this:-
'ultra low revving'...

Mark Wadsworth said...

B "most people who don't believe don't see the point of sharing their unbelief with the world."

Well I do. If AGW theory is correct, then fine, windmills, solar, blah blah blah. But what if it is wrong and we are doing untold damage to our economy for absolutely no reason?

What if the explanation is something else, and we could mitigate that something else much more effectively or cheaply?

Bayard said...

Mark, but you do believe. You believe that we might be doing untold damage to our economy for absolutely no reason.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, you say "believe" and I say "assume". I don't 'believe' anything, I just work on the basis of most plausible explanations and most likely outcomes.

Bayard said...

Mark, belief is, generally, an active thing, not believing is a passive thing. The opposite to a Christian is not an atheist, because atheists believe there is no god, but an agnostic.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, returning to the subject in hand, I don't like all these half hearted and contradictory AGW theories based on cherry-picked evidence. I don't like being lied to.

We don't tell children that the stork brings babies any more, why do the AGW people keep making things up? If there is a good explanation and evidence, I am happy to accept it and go marching for Greta.

mombers said...

MW, B, L, etc. Let's say that there are indeed no decent scientists studying climate change, and the low hanging fruit of their mistakes have not piqued the interests of more talented scientists to debunk. What exactly should change in this case? Reverse the decline of coal, keep illegal levels of air pollution in cities by not going electric, forget about energy efficiency measures, etc? I'm not seeing what 'economic carnage' is being done. 'Carnage' for some for sure, but much the same as the carnage that hit the horse drawn cart industry when the car came along. Exon Mobil is not even close to being one of the world's most valuable companies any more, and I don't think that's artificial. The fossil fuel industry has reached the end of the road in terms of innovation.

Lola said...

M. It's damage because (a) there are serious doubts as to the veracity of AGW claims and on the back of those doubtful claims authoritarian governments are taking actions which will destroy wealth. OTH to deal with the externality of air pollution in cities is very good idea. So set a tax that prices the pollution and let markeys sort it out, a la Stern.

mombers said...

Lola, which specific policies are destroying wealth?

Mark Wadsworth said...

M, I have done these lists time and time again. There are some things worth doing anyway, like better public transport in towns, reduce car pollution in towns (by whatever means, including just banning them) working from home, don't over-fish or chuck so much plastic in the oceans, use nuclear power rather than coal, energy efficiency measures and home insulation etc etc.

Those don't destroy wealth.

Shutting town perfectly viable coal and gas power stations, imposing electric vehicles, subsidising wind and solar, banning eating meat (methane), banning brewing beer (emits a lot of CO2), banning international trade (diesel ships emit CO2) and all this stuff is where it gets frightening.

Bayard said...

M, fossil fuels are an extractive industry, which means there will come a time when there is nothing left to extract. We don't know when that will be, any more than we know when we will die, but we do know that we are going to die sometime and we do know that we are going to run out of fossil fuels sometime. Therefore the sensible thing to do is to look for an alternative. What is not sensible, is to seize on one alternative, electricity, and discount all the others, despite the obvious drawbacks to electricity when it comes to motive power. The thinking should be, "we are going to run out of fossil fuels one day, but we are still going to need to move ourselves around and we are still going to need a feedstock for the chemicals we rely on. Thus we must conserve the use of fossil fuels until it is possible to synthesise them." Instead we get "Fossil fuels are evil!" "Electricity is good!" and Greta Thunberg, completely ignoring the fact that you can't use electricity as a chemical feedstock. If you do the right thing for the wrong reason, it's pretty damn certain that you'll go the wrong way about it.

George Carty said...

Actually electricity is almost perfect a source of motive power (given how efficient we can make electric motors): the issue with electric vehicles is that the energy density of batteries is far lower than that of combustible fuels (as they react with atmospheric oxygen and exhaust the waste products to the atmosphere, while batteries store all their reactants and waste products).

And presuming you're looking at fossil fuels as a chemical feedstock for organic chemistry (as opposed to a heat source for inorganic chemistry, such as the smelting of metals) couldn't biomass of various types serve as a replacement?