Archive for Algae

Robert Tulip Comments on New York Times Article ‘Losing Earth’ Nathaniel Rich

Losing Earth by Nathaniel Rich is an elegy for the inability of the emission reduction movement to slow global warming. The article is an interesting political history of climate activism, but in my view it fails in the core task of policy guidance, failing to address the potential of carbon removal, the security dimension of climate change or the inherent difficulties of emission reduction. These problems illustrate that the barriers to climate action are primarily political, not technical, due to the pervasive assumption that emission reduction is the only means to achieve the goal of climate stability.

The ideology at play in this major New York Times report is that emission reduction is the only real solution to climate change. Any alternative is presented in a negative light, even though information about alternatives is available. Rich relies on James Hansen’s argument that carbon removal would cost trillions of dollars, without any indication that focussed research might cut that bill by orders of magnitude.

Climate change is the primary security problem facing our planet, posing threats of creating many millions of climate refugees and destroying crop yields, with potential to cause famine, war and extinction by tipping earth into a new hothouse stability. Unfortunately, emission reduction cannot stop or even markedly slow climate change, and has manifestly failed as a solution. The inability of emission reduction to solve climate change is shown by the fact that the Paris Accord will at best only slow CO2 growth by 10%. That result is like slowing the speed of an invading army by 10%, only briefly delaying the inevitable path to defeat.

Rich writes that “at the start of the 1980s… if the world had adopted … a freezing of carbon emissions, with a reduction of 20 percent by 2005 — warming could have been held to less than 1.5 degrees.” Here we get the first hints of the intractability of carbon emissions, and how Rich seems to represent a widespread political denial about this intractability. There is no way that countries like India and China will deny energy to the poor to address warming, but Rich appears to slight the aspiration of billions of poor people for access to affordable and reliable grid energy, suggesting a light bulb in every village would drastically increase emissions. The unfortunate political reality is that even an emission freeze is unenforceable, let alone cuts of the speed and scale that would be needed to impact climate. The general public sympathise with emission reduction until they see the costs, leaving such transformative visions incompatible with democratic governance.

Rich maintains the illusion that “a broad international consensus had settled on a solution: a global treaty to curb carbon emissions.” This alleged consensus confuses elite negotiations with popular support. The syndrome at play here is to ignore how the Paris treaty engages in spin and lies. The failure of the global treaty path is vividly displayed by Rich’s conversation with George Bush’s Chief of Staff John Sununu, who bluntly explained why the ‘global treaty emperor’ has no clothes: a global treaty “couldn’t have happened because the leaders in the world… were all looking how to seem like they were supporting the policy without having to make hard commitments that would cost their nations serious resources.”

This observation of political duplicity is a central point whose implications seem lost on some climate activists. Climate treaties are all hat and no cattle, as they say in Texas. When governments enter negotiations only for appearances, UN talks are a waste of time. Signing agreements based on electoral calculations, with no intention to honour their pledges, makes the Paris Accord a Big Lie. The big lie is that Paris committed to the two degree limit, even though the actual pledges lead to four degrees. The so-called ratchet mechanism to ramp up decarbonisation will only prove a political noose.

Climate science failed to gain political traction for reasons explained by the author of a major US climate report in 1983. Paraphrasing, Rich says the official view from the report ‘Changing Climate’ was “better to bet on American ingenuity to save the day. Major interventions in national energy policy, taken immediately, might end up being more expensive, and less effective, than actions taken decades in the future, after more was understood about the economic and social consequences of a warmer planet.”

Rich invites the reader to share his contempt for this policy line, but I am not so sure. Climate scientists have done a great job in explaining the causes of warming, but have not proven up to the task of explaining what to do about it. The rush to focus on emission reduction as the sole climate response has crowded out more considered strategic reflection on how to fix the climate using technological ingenuity.

Fixing pollution can work either by limiting the source or by cleaning up the results, like in sanitation. Global warming is settled science, but the science is far from settled about effective responses, leaving the world highly insecure in the face of major perils. My view is the key strategy will be large scale industrial carbon mining aiming to convert carbon waste into productive assets, including methods that employ the scale, energy and resources of the world oceans. Unfortunately the dominance of emission reduction in the climate debate leaves little oxygen or resources for such innovative discussion.

Advocacy of emission reduction has the perverse effect of making climate an issue of political polarisation. People who are against radical social and economic transformation are hardened in their resistance, seeing climate action as part of a suite of progressive policies, together with other left wing causes like population control, gay marriage, abortion, wealth redistribution, etc. Conservatives who deplore these reforms, whatever their merits, see emission reduction mainly as a way to increase the intrusion of the state into private life, and are therefore highly suspicious of the motives and agenda of the scientific community and its allies. This toxic mistrust makes effective progress almost impossible.

Scientific debate about what will work to stop global warming is as much a question of political science as of physical science. If the political science indicates that a suggested physical strategy will face insurmountable cultural obstacles to implementation, the scientific requirement should be to investigate alternatives. The depth of political opposition to effective emission reduction is illustrated by Sununu’s statement quoted above about the duplicity of political commitment. Opponents have restricted decarbonisation to a token level, while ignorant anti-science denial of climate change grows louder by the day. Against this pessimistic context, the alternative strategy of carbon removal holds out the prospect of helping to depoliticise global warming. Through a strategy of climate restoration, carbon removal stands a good chance of gaining investment from economic and political partners who will not actively support emission reduction, working in concert with dominant prevailing incentives.

Scientific consensus on the greenhouse effect is not matched by consensus on what to do about warming. Instead there is scientific arrogance in the assertion that a global treaty is the best way to fix the climate. The science of politics suggests that political agreements on emission reduction are a dead-end street, assigning too central a role to government intervention in the economy. Instead of decarbonising the economy, a better approach is a long-term focus on removing carbon from the air combined with a short-term focus on reflecting more sunlight. These climate restoration strategies may prove the only way to prevent dangerous tipping points, in view of the strong likelihood of generating accelerating feedback processes.

Emission reduction is needed for pollution control and economic efficiency, but Rich’s assumption that cutting emissions must be central to climate security is debatable. With the total expected emission reduction under the Paris Accord about 5 GT CO2e/y, no emission reduction at all would be needed if carbon removal can develop methods that remove ten times as much carbon as Paris. His article reflects how the debatable focus on decarbonisation has hardened into a political mythology. In accepting secular climate myths, Rich ignores some basic mathematics of climate change. First there is the 10% problem of Paris, that it only addresses 10% of the expected emission growth, a problem which cannot possibly be addressed by doubling down on emission reduction. Second, the key climate security equation is that the only way to put the world on a path back to climate stability is to remove more carbon from air and sea than total emissions. That implication may seem horrifying for the Paris crowd to contemplate, but the global security problems are too serious to allow the unworkable strategies of decarbonisation to dominate the debate on climate change.

Comments

The Harsh Arithmetic of the Paris Accord

This chart comparing business as usual to climate goals from the New York Times shows that all Paris pledges by 2030 will only cut annual world emissions by less than 10%. As such, Paris emission reduction pledges should be seen as no more than ‘icing on the cake’, with the body requiring carbon removal.
BAU/Paris/2 degree CO2 projections
The key numbers are roughly as follows.
• By 2100, humans will have added about 6000 gigatons of carbon dioxide to the air.
• By 2030, the Paris Accord if fully implemented will have reduced the total addition by 60 gigatons of CO2, about five gigatons per year.
• This Paris goal removes about 1% of the total carbon addition, and if continued at the same rate to 2100 would avoid addition of about 5% of the total added carbon.
• A result of 5% is marginal to the scale of the problem, creating high risks of dangerous tipping points.
• The difficult politics and precedents and trajectories around the Paris Accord indicate that even this marginal result could only be achieved with great difficulty.
• By contrast, Carbon Dioxide Removal technologies such as Iron Salt Aerosol or large scale ocean based algae production offer potential to remove 100% of the added carbon, at far lower unit cost and faster speed than any emission reduction methods.

The 60 GT total reduction under the Paris Accord (about 1% of the 6000 GT projected cumulative emissions by 2100) is supported by an article in Scientific American, which states: “The planet’s current policies put it on a trajectory to emit carbon dioxide at a rate between 58 and 62 gigatons in 2030. Pledges under the Paris Agreement would bring that down [by about five GT per year] to a range between 52 and 57 gigatons of carbon dioxide.”

trillionthtonne.org at Oxford University that says with 3 degrees of warming there will be 5500 GT of CO2 (=1.5 GT carbon) by 2050. 6000 GT by 2100 is well within business as usual. Global CO2 emissions forecast to 2100 Figure 4 shows cumulative emissions reaching 6000 GT this century under all population scenarios.

In assessing climate restoration, an important starting point is to be guided more by science than politics. Accepting current political opinions as binding constraints is a recipe for climate failure. This is particularly so in regard to the balance between emission reduction and carbon removal. This balance should first be assessed on a scientific basis, in order to work out if the prevailing assumption of the primacy of emission reduction is well grounded in evidence.

If the unit cost through carbon dioxide removal technologies is orders of magnitude less than through emissions reduction, as appears the case, it is crazy and self-defeating to insist on emission reduction for purely political reasons.

Gaining acceptance for climate restoration will only work with a viable scientific and political case. Climate restoration requires analysis of constraints and opportunities. The entire concept of climate restoration faces political and cultural blockages, both from defenders of the old economy and from proponents of emission reduction as the sole climate strategy. Sometimes the barriers are hidden, or activities which seem beneficial may prove unhelpful. The ability of the Paris Accord to realise its warming targets is impossible while it focuses on the marginal factor of emissions.

A big question is the balance between carbon removal and emission reduction for achieving a healthy climate. The mathematics shows emission reduction is marginal, even though at present it is central to climate politics. Addressing constraints to implementation requires discussion about the political economy of climate restoration, identifying which groups are possible allies or opponents, how strong and influential are their views, resources, incentives and alliances, and what the implications of working with them might be for achieving the restoration goal.

My analysis of the debate suggests the Paris Agreement is mired in confusion about how to reach the 1.5 target, or even the two degree target.
UNEP November 2017 Emissions Gap Report says “current state pledges cover no more than a third of the emission reductions needed, creating a dangerous gap, which even growing momentum from non-state actors cannot close. This report highlights the dangers of that gap, the issues behind it and the means at our disposal to close it.” My reading is that this UNEP report fails in this objective of showing how to close the gap, largely ignoring the central need for a shift of policy to focus on R&D for oceanic carbon removal. The problem is that we cannot ‘close the gap’ by speeding up emission reduction, since neither the politics, the economics or the physics make that a feasible strategy.

The UNFCCC meeting in Bonn in May 2017 appears to have failed to address any practical measures to reach the 1.5 target, with no sessions discussing carbon removal.

There is no convincing rebuttal of the US government observations that all Paris commitments would have only marginal impact on temperature. In fact, the only thing that will cut temperature rise is taking out the excess carbon already in the air, but that is barely on the IPCC agenda.

The statement that emission reduction could be marginal is an incentive for effective large-scale action in cooperation with industry. The key argument is about the moral hazard of carbon dioxide removal. The perceived hazard is that CDR on a scale comparable to total emissions would remove all political pressure and much ecological/climate need for emission reduction and would thereby serve fossil fuel interests.

But why is that necessarily bad? The moral hazard opposition to carbon removal can be questioned for confusing means with ends. Emission reduction is not an end in itself, but only a means to achieve climate restoration.

The goal of climate policy is a safe and stable climate, but the focus just on emission reduction can only achieve results that are too small to achieve that goal. By making the attack on the fossil fuel industry central, the climate lobby generates political opposition, as seen in Mr Trump, and also prevents focus on carbon removal.

If fossil fuel industries could cooperate with carbon removal at scale, recognising that they are likely (BP Energy Outlook) to provide most energy for the next decades, we could get on a realistic path to solve the global warming problem.

The contrasting reasoning, against the moral hazard arguments, is that cooperating with affected industries to identify practical ways to remove carbon at large scale could achieve far more than the 5GT per year of CO2 reduction planned under the Paris Accord.

It is not easy to calculate the economics of CO2 removal. Apollo/Manhattan scale research to develop new innovative Carbon Dioxide Removal technology may even find that CDR can be profitable, with high economic return.

My view is that the best methods of CO2 removal will prove to be around large scale ocean based algae production, building upon both NASA’s OMEGA project and the new refinement of Ocean Iron Fertilization using Iron Salt Aerosol to distribute iron at very low concentration via the troposphere, mimicking the principal ice age cooling agent of dust feedback.

These methods could become profitable due to the potential for algae to provide commercial products such as food, feed, fish, fuel, fabric and fertilizer, and the benefits of a cooler ocean, including direct benefits for industries including insurance, shipping, tourism, fishing, finance and mining, who should all have a solid business investment case for safe and efficient carbon removal. The profit would then fund rapid expansion and refinement.

The stumbling block, however, is the moral hazard argument mounted by the climate lobby, that such industry partnerships undermine emission reduction. Unfortunately, exclusive focus on emission reduction advocacy now looks like a ‘dog in the manger’, preventing innovative research and development of safe and profitable methods of climate restoration.

The benefits of renewable energy for economic efficiency and a clean environment are massive and should be celebrated and expanded. However, these superb results have been oversold as a climate solution. If the Paris Accord results only in the removal of about 5GT of CO2 per year as projected by 2030, or even double that projection, clean energy will remain marginal to climate restoration, which requires a higher order of magnitude of carbon removal.

We need immediate investment in carbon removal technology to prevent dangerous climate tipping points, especially in sensitive location such as the Arctic and the Great Barrier Reef.

To make a banking analogy, carbon emissions have put the world heavily in debt, but the Paris Accord is not even paying back the interest, let alone the principal. We may pray that our debts should be forgiven, but the reality is that mortgagee repossession is looming quickly. And doubling down on emission reduction won’t work. A completely different strategy is needed, with carbon removal as the new paradigm for climate restoration.

I give no value to IPCC review processes because I have seen little evidence of sincere engagement by governments with the need for carbon removal for climate restoration. The main driver of ascendancy for renewables is unfortunately the mass delusion that emission reduction could be decisive for climate restoration.

Robert Tulip

_________________
http://rtulip.net

Comments

why do we put negative emissions last in line for implementation?

This question should be the central question in climate politics. However, the failure to address negative emissions in public debate illustrates a failure of human psychology. The main problem is an inability to discuss the evidence that should inform public policy when the evidence conflicts with widely held assumptions. When people feel a crisis may be overwhelming they tend to only tinker at the edges, unable to engage strategically with the big picture.

To achieve the two degree target, let alone the 1.5° aspiration of the Paris Accord, the world must remove about 6000 GT of CO2e from the air this century. However, the emission reduction plans presented at Paris would remove less than 1% of this stability target, reducing total carbon level by only 60GT of CO2e over its implementation period to 2030.

That disparity between means and ends means that all the achievements of Paris are essentially useless for climate stability. We have a broken paradigm. But worse, the emission reduction achievements are harmful to the climate, because they deflect attention and investment from strategies aimed at the other 99% of the stability requirement, which can only be achieved by physical removal of carbon from the air in much larger quantity than total addition.

Why is the policy framework so fractured? To answer that difficult question requires analysis of climate politics. People tend to see scientific questions through a political prism. There is no question that climate science is settled, but that does not at all imply that the science is settled on climate response, the priorities of addressing global warming.

Attitudes about what to do reflect people’s values and commitments, and in these areas, people are tribal. Concern about environment and climate is primarily on the left side of the political spectrum, while support for fossil fuel extraction is mainly on the right side of the spectrum. The unfortunate results of this polarity include that people develop tribal attitudes about the moral worth of opposing political positions. We are all aware of the crazy denial of science from right wingers. The climate lobby has also formed a strong political ideology, centred on the false idea that emission reduction is the main climate agenda.

What is wrong with that? It confuses the means and the ends. Emission reduction is justified in political ideology by the fallacy that it is the only way to achieve the end of climate stability. However, as I explained above, the numbers show it won’t work. The real ‘terrifying new math’ of global warming is that everything we can do to reduce emissions will still leave the amount of carbon in the air remorselessly increasing. In paradigm terms, that is called an anomaly. But rather than explore this logic without emotion, the tendency is to double down and treat the supposed means as an end in itself.

Symptoms of this confusion include first, the belief that attacking fossil fuels is central to stopping climate change, even though many countries will continue to use emitting energy at high level regardless of climate agreements. The election of Trump shows the capacity of climate politics to mobilise reaction, illustrating that attacks on fossil fuels will encounter vigorous opposition.

Second, the IPCC, as the home of climate ideology, has apparently defined climate mitigation as only achieved through emission reduction, even though emission reduction does almost nothing to mitigate climate change. The real priority for mitigating climate change should be carbon removal.

Third, and worst, there is a widespread attitude among climate activists, whether overt or covert, that actions to insure against climate change by removing carbon from the air should be opposed because they undermine political pressure to achieve emission reduction. Questioning emission reduction is as politically deplorable as questioning gay marriage.

The sad fact is the means has completely displaced the end in climate politics. The result is that it seems the climate movement is more concerned about building a popular left wing political front against fossil fuels, based on the failed emission reduction paradigm, than actually stopping climate change. It is as though the old political battles of the last century between socialism and capitalism have subconsciously been used as the map for climate politics.

Unfortunately, this focus on political conflict is a recipe for disastrous ongoing warming. It is even possible the fossil fuel industries and their allies could install military governments in some countries if elected governments insisted on policies that would shut them down. Meanwhile the sixth extinction marches on, with the collapse of planetary biodiversity and extreme risks to economic and climate stability.

My view is that this conflict on climate policy can be overcome if carbon removal is accepted as a strategy for a unified approach, presenting ways for fossil fuel industries to work in cooperation with climate science by investing money, resources, skills and political support in carbon removal, with a main focus on marine biology.

If new technology can be developed that can remove more carbon from the air than total emissions, emissions can continue, and there is no need for emission reduction. That would even mean the stock price of coal could be sustained.

Negative Emission Technology is last in line because it undermines emission reduction and destroys the political strategy of a popular front against fossil fuels, both of which are considered more important by the climate lobby than actually doing anything about global warming.

Robert Tulip

Comments

Geostorm Movie Review

Geostorm
In watching an action fantasy world apocalypse movie like Geostorm, a temptation for the cynical can be to just see the surface appearance. First a village mysteriously freezes solid in an instant in Afghanistan, then the streets of Hong Kong erupt in flaming explosions sending skyscrapers collapsing like dominoes while a driver miraculously escapes through the rippling volcanic chasms opening around him. And next the bikini babes on Copacabana turn to blocks of ice as a super cold front somehow pushes a tsunami onto the Rio beachfront.
The cause of the disasters is problems with geoengineering satellites deployed in 2019. But is this just a programming malfunction? If not, who are the baddies who have sabotaged the world weather management system run by the USA? Why and how did they do it, and how can they be stopped? Who is the rogue on board the geoengineering space station? Will the clock that he started tick down to zero, causing a geostorm, a fiery end to life on earth? Will the US President die in the robot car chase through massive lightning bolts hitting every second? Will the hero return from exile, and will he survive on the space station? Will his brother get the girl? Which city is next?
Such plot details are classic Hollywood formula. This movie combines amazing disaster scenes, excellent visuals and production, a strong simple plot, a vivid range of characters and great acting into a gripping thriller. Geostorm is full of tension and drama and surprise and new ideas down to the wire. It is a worthy popular successor to Independence Day and Godzilla, which were both also produced by the Geostorm producer/director Dean Devlin.
Geostorm deserves to be a smash hit for a serious reason though. This movie makes an important and well considered contribution to advancing policy debate on response to climate change. The question raised at the start is how to address the threat that global warming could destroy the world economy. This explicitly raises the need for urgent concerted technological response to avert catastrophe, since previous methods focused on emission reduction have failed.
The movie deliberately chooses an impossible geoengineering technology, aiming to blend the topical ideas of weather management and space travel to create a science fiction fantasy. But the parable is equally applicable to realistic geoengineering proposals, ranging from solar radiation management to large scale ocean based algae production for carbon mining. Any large scale climate intervention needs proper risk management if it is to help forestall the impending climate impacts.
In a nod to human corruption, the plot raises the risk of weaponizing a peaceful technology, evoking the failed military Star Wars Initiative idea of death from the skies. And recognising human fallibility, Geostorm asks if this magical system installed by technological geniuses at the last minute will become like Goethe’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice, producing uncontrollable and unforeseen damage.
The movie explores the real risk of whether a technological fix to mitigate extreme weather could be built too quickly under political imperatives. The need to respond to weather events that destroy whole cities could mean decisions will be made by politicians who will not take on board the best information. The rapid deployment then opens the unsettling policy risks of how such a system could be corrupted and misused for political motives, how it could sideline the high ideals of global scientific cooperation in favour of national or commercial interests. And then, with the process already compromised, could the resulting security gaps, political appointments and weak governance systems risk manipulation by criminals who don’t have a clue about the science of what they are doing, and who lack concern about the scale of damage they might cause?
The need for geoengineering means these issues should already be big questions in world politics today. Unfortunately they are not, because the dominant attitude is that if we ignore or deny climate change or only accept unworkable responses the problem will go away. With CO2 level continuing to grow apace, the risk is that far from going away, the problems will go awry.
Emission reduction alone cannot hold temperature rise this century below four degrees Celsius, so technological fixes are essential. Putting on an alarmist hat, it seems possible that failure to deploy geoengineering could even make the current sixth world extinction event rival the mass death that ended the Permian Age 252 million years ago. That seems to be the partly unconscious apocalyptic worry driving popular interest in movies like Geostorm.
Geoengineering is absolutely necessary and urgent for climate stability. We need world leaders to take up the ideas implied by this movie, through large scale funding of lab and field trials looking to select and deploy systems that will stabilise and repair the climate as a primary global security concern.
A bunch of reviews are at https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/geostorm/, but as you might expect from the usual foolish cynics writing in popular media, they have no eye for the meaning of this movie. They wrongly see it only through a surface movie industry lens without caring about its meaning and purpose for core ethical problems facing humanity. Geostorm raises major existential concerns of our age in an accessible popular way. It should be celebrated and debated as a major event. Geostorm could help achieve the political tipping point we need to deploy geoengineering systems with sound governance, reversing the current path towards mass extinction and economic and social displacement and collapse in favour of practical methods to stabilise the global climate.
Robert Tulip

Comments

Deep Ocean Water for Carbon Removal

Proposals to raise deep ocean water (DOW) to the surface as a climate mitigation technology have been criticised for producing warming. These problems may not arise if DOW is used for algae production with full recycling of nutrients.

Atmospheric consequences of disruption of the ocean thermocline, (Kwiatkowski et al 2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 034016) found that artificial vertical mixing of ocean water for local cooling, such as in the proposed ‘Lovelock Pipes’, would actually produce wider warming, reversing the intended benefit. Any proposed applications of large scale ocean pumping to mitigate climate change would need to address the problems modelled by this and related studies.

In considering use of ocean pumping for large scale algae production, recycling of deep ocean nutrients may be a key method to address such problems. A recent scientific paper, Phosphorus and nitrogen recycle following algal bio-crude production via continuous hydrothermal liquefaction, ( Edmundson, S., Algal Research (2017), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2017.07.016), explains how hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) to produce algae biocrude can separate and recycle the phosphorus and nitrogen in algae for ongoing reuse as fertilizer.

This finding could enable ocean based algae production to mitigate climate change by recycling oceanic phosphorus and nitrogen in combination with carbon dioxide mined from the air. Subject to modelling assessment, my hypothesis is that the climate benefit of efficient removal of carbon from the air in this way would outweigh any warming effects.

If nitrogen and phosphorus from deep ocean water are used to fertilize a contained algae pond at sea, and the algae is then converted to biocrude by HTL, then the finding that phosphorus and nitrogen in the algae can be separated from the biocrude enables continuous reuse of these nutrients. This changes the parameters for analysis of deep ocean water climate impact. Recycling of oceanic nutrients in algae farms presents a possible path to enable efficient mining of carbon from the air at scale.

If nutrients can be used in combination with atmospheric CO2 for ongoing repeat fertilization of the algae farm, this HTL nutrient separation process means DOW could potentially provide the nutrients required to grow algae on the scale needed to reverse global warming.

For algae factories at sea using HTL and recycling nutrients, my calculations of orders of magnitude are as follows.
· Ocean water below the thermocline has 3 micromoles of phosphate per litre, equal to 90 tonnes of phosphorus per cubic kilometre (per Sverdrup).
· The scale of carbon removal to reverse climate change requires removal of more than the ten gigatons of carbon in CO2 added to the air every year.
· To push back from the brink of possible climate tipping points, a reasonable goal is to remove twenty gigatons (petagrams) of carbon from the air every year (one gigaton of water has volume one cubic kilometre).
· Converting twenty gigatons of carbon from CO2 to hydrocarbons and other products for storage in stable useful form (plastic, soil, bricks, roads, etc) would require 172 million tonnes of phosphorus and 2.6 billion tonnes of nitrogen to grow algae at the Redfield Ratio (C:N:P=117:14:1).
· With complete retention of mined phosphorus and nitrogen via HTL, about two million cubic kilometres of water would need to be processed to obtain that amount of nutrient.

The attached diagram of a tidal pump may be one way to shift this volume of water. For the entire annual goal of 20gt of carbon, my estimate is that pumping arrays of 500,000 km2 located on continental shelves with twice daily tidal range 0.5 metres would take ten years to pump two million km3 of water to the surface, in order to mine the required amount of phosphorus and nitrogen from deep ocean water.

These nutrients would then be available for permanent recycling. This process would also deliver other useful dissolved minerals, and would continue indefinitely, enabling economic use of the vast dissolved mineral wealth of the seas. That scale of pumping operation is about 2% of the world continental shelf area as an eventual goal, and would depend on the availability of suitable locations, which in turn would depend on demonstrated environmental benefit. The algae farm area would be about six million km2, or 2% of the world ocean surface.

The use of hydrothermal liquefaction at such a scale would require innovative technology. HTL requires pressure equal to water pressure at two kilometres deep in the ocean, and temperature above 300°C, to make the algae cell wall break down to produce biocrude. The best way to subject algae slurry to such heat and pressure may be to pump it down to the deep ocean floor, and develop controlled automated sea floor systems for processing, as per the attached sketch. The feasibility of that method has not been assessed.

In summary, the demonstration that ‘Lovelock Pipes’ would have unforeseen warming effects does not mean raising DOW is unfeasible as a climate change response, and the ability to use HTL to recycle oceanic nutrients means that large scale ocean based algae production could be an effective method for carbon mining to deliver climate stability.

Robert Tulip

Comments

Ocean current transport and storage

From http://cosmoquest.org/forum/showthread.php?155963-Submarine-Buoyancy&p=2333327#post2333327

Ocean current transport and storage could be safer and more economic and scalable than storage of carbon products on or beneath the land.  The attached diagram shows a route to move algae grown in the tropics to polar seas using deep ocean currents.

Ocean Current Algae Transport Storage

The large ocean currents are the circulation system of our planet, akin to the veins and arteries of blood circulation of a body.  Fossil emissions are like cholesterol in the arteries of the world ocean, potentially causing disruption of the entire system.  The immediate global climate challenge is to remove more carbon from the air and sea than we add, in order to restore climate stability and insure against massive sudden change.

The stable ocean currents can be used as transport and storage systems for algae, beginning at small scale to test safety and efficacy, possibly using bags containing fresh water, and building upon scientific knowledge of ocean current size and behavior [url]https://www.whoi.edu/main/topic/ocean-circulation[/url].

Growing algae in large bags in the Pacific Ocean at the equator can be a way to utilize the global ocean currents for energy, nutrient and space to contribute to climate stabilization. By sinking produced contained algae blooms to the ocean floor using tidal pumping or other methods, and applying heat and pressure, the algae can be concentrated and converted to useful commodities including oil and bioplastics.  Products such as oil can then be transported in bags made of bioplastic on the deep ocean subsurface currents, if these bags can be proven to be safe and effective.

There are many problems which could prevent this idea from working.  It is entirely new and innovative, a research concept rather than an active proposal. The scale of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, as the core of the stable planetary ocean circulation system combined with the other main oceans, gives potential for this method to be a major effective contribution to carbon removal, utilization and storage. Using the existing energy systems of planetary currents to mine carbon could be important to maintain the health and stability of the global ocean circulation system.

The current California methane leak [url]http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-12-24/unstoppable-california-gas-leak-now-being-called-worst-catastrophe-bp-spill[/url] illustrates the risks of geostorage, especially where other mining occurs nearby.

The whole range of storage possibilities should be explored, to find the products from algae that can best substitute for existing methods, addressing carbon capture, storage and utilization.  Sequestering carbon into the ocean in stable and valuable form could mobilize the investment resources needed to scale and sustain action to deliver the Paris Leaders Agreement on Negative Emission Technology.

This Planet Accord is implied in Paris Agreement [url]http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/l09r01.pdf[/url] Article 5 1. “Parties should take action to conserve and enhance, as appropriate, sinks and reservoirs of greenhouse gases…” The ocean is easily the largest carbon sink for the planet, dwarfing the scale of land based alternatives.  Industrial systems could build carbon sinks in the ocean using algae manufacture and storage.

Comments

An algae based economy

Planetary transformation should be to different methods of consumption that can sustain and increase human wealth and happiness.   In terms of the climate crisis, thinking on emission reduction needs to evolve into a new paradigm for a transformed ethic of human existence on our planet. The strain on world resources will only be managed through focus on technological transformation.

How I visualise a transformed world is one where the massive unused resources and energy of the world ocean become available through new simple large scale technology, and as a result the grossly inefficient traditional rural systems that perpetuate poverty and impact the environment can be replaced by new modern urban lifestyles in which people have a light ecological footprint but still have abundant energy and resources.

A shift to a high technology urban lifestyle, with materials mainly built from carbon, can create universal abundance for high human populations while also enhancing global biodiversity.  Failing to explore such a path leaves open the risk of catastrophe.

Current affluent lifestyles are not sustainable and replicable in the manner of the First World.   It is actually possible physically on our planet to shift the world economy to a system of abundance rather than scarcity, but this needs a paradigm shift in terms of both technology and culture.

My view is that it is entirely physically possible to achieve sustained global abundance through an algae based economy.  This is not an irresponsible fantasy but a practical reform agenda.  Putting our eggs in the basket of sacrificing wealth by reducing energy and resource use is actually the really irresponsible attitude, since it is a recipe for failure and conflict, whereas discussion of a technological path to universal abundance is a basis for successful stable global peace and justice.  The environmentalist ideology is a genuine barrier to progress when it stymies technological solutions.

We need to shift from a linear waste mentality to a culture of cyclic reuse. Such a shift could sustain vastly higher productivity and happiness than we now have.

My point here is counter-intuitive from a traditional linear view.  We naturally assume that the most wealthy cause the most damage.  But that ignores the role of education as a product of wealth in enabling biodiversity protection by improving understanding and accountability.  Among the real causes of biodiversity loss, one of the biggest factors is poverty, for example in the use of firewood for cooking and in activities of subsistence farmers to clear land.

I propose as a core reform to develop efficient industrial processes to grow algae on immense commercial scale at sea.   The results of that would be immediate direct protection of marine biodiversity by increasing the nutrient available at the base of the food chain, and also by stabilising the carbon cycle, enabling rapid removal of the excess carbon our linear methods have added to the air and water.

We need an unbending focus on the big picture, which is the question of how we can mine twenty billion tonnes of carbon from the air and sea each year.

Summarised from http://www.booktalk.org/post152003.html#p152003

Comments (1)