January 16, 2014

We're going to need big carbon straws by 2030

That's the consensus of the latest part of an updated climate change report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It says, per the link, that, if we don't do more to limit carbon emissions by 2030, that the only way to stop major global warming is going to be by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And of course, as the story notes, no such technology exists today, and it likely won't in 2030.

Plus, as the story doesn't note, such technology itself would be a major carbon producer. Can you imagine the energy involved?

And, for some conservatives and moderates who accept that some degree of change is happening, but that we can adapt? Er, this:
Even as the early effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world, the panel concluded that efforts are lagging not only in reducing emissions, but in adapting to the climatic changes that have become inevitable.
That, too, will cost money and willpower.

On the containment, not the mitigation, here's the bottom, bottom line:
As scientists can best figure, the target requires that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, stay below 500 parts per million. The level recently surpassed 400, and at present growth rates will surpass 500 within a few decades.
Actually, even at current rates of change, we'll be at at least 450 ppm by 2030. 

And, per the top of the story, here's what that will mean in detail:
If emissions do overshoot the target, the report found, future generations would likely have to develop ways to pull greenhouse gases out of the air. It is fairly clear this will be technically possible. It could be achieved, for instance, by growing bioenergy crops that take up carbon dioxide, burning the resulting fuel, and then injecting the emissions into underground formations. But the large-scale use of land to grow energy crops would compete with food production, already under strain as a consequence of the planetary warming.

Machinery might be developed that could directly extract greenhouse gases from the air; in fact, early work on such systems has begun. But experts have said the costs, safety and practicality of such techniques cannot be foreseen today. They believe it would be much cheaper to find ways to avoid putting the gases into the air in the first place.
And, even growing bioenergy crops is optimistic. Where?

And, this is already going to be problematic. I've blogged earlier about the fading future of the Colorado River. The Southwest, and even more the Pacific Coast, continue to face drought, a drought that may be exacerbated by jet stream changes in turn affected by climate change.

Shareholder resolutions to cut carbon sound fine, but they're worth little more than the paper upon which they're written. And, they may end up being as much  of "carbon indulgences" as planting trees for carbon offsets has become.

The only realistic answer starts with a carbon tax domestically combined with carbon tariffs on imports, to keep American businesses from further "cheating" by exporting carbon dioxide generation.

And, given that West Texas is expected to get drier, as well as hotter, with climate change, and a lot of central and eastern Texas depend on it, via downstream river flows, for a lot of water?

Texas climate change denialists should remember the old Fram commercial: You can pay me a little bit now or a whole lot later. 

More proof here: Flow into the Texas Colorado River's Highland Lakes was the second-lowest on record last year.

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