Posts Tagged ‘Science the Shit out’

Solution To The Climate and Pollution Crises? Science! If you want peace, prepare for science!

June 28, 2021

The PARIS ACCORD IS COUNTERPRODUCTIVE. ONLY HARD CORE NEW SCIENCE WILL SOLVE THE ECOLOGICAL CRISES, And Prevent Their Consequences (Wars). New Science has to be invested in, forceful fossil fuel interruption will not work.

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Abstract: “Two degrees is too much” was clear 13 years ago… The Paris Accord pretended to address the problem with self-discipline and a little redistribution of wealth. That strategy is just cosmetic: homilies to self-restraint and electrification all over are not enough. The correct strategy is to do what Homo always did: ”Science the shit out of this”, as The Martian puts it…

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The present civilization is encountering an ecological crisis of the greatest magnitude. The phenomenon is not new. Countless civilizations have encountered such crises in the past, and, as a result, failed. What is new is that the problems we are confronting strongly affect the entire biosphere. And there are several problems, entangled. Some have to do with greenhouse gases: CO2, CH4, NOx, Chlorofluorocarbons; some with agriculture: phosphates, deforestation; some have to do with industry: plastics, heavy metals pollution, etc. Greenhouse gas pollution has made greenhouse forcing revert to what it was twenty million years ago, when Antarctica was covered with forests.  

There is no magical solution out of this situation. Present “solutions”, brandished by self-obsessed politicians, are not really solutions: covering the planet with electric cars, batteries and windmills will not replace fossil fuels, because the fabrication, disposal, and eventual recycling of such cars and batteries and electric engines and generators requires greater pollution and energy than it pretends to solve. At best, nothing much will have happened.

In an act of short termism, and herd behavior, Japan is closing 30 nuclear plants: fossil fuels will replace them, mostly. The nuclear incidents at Fukushima, caused by criminal negligence, killed nobody (although the useless evacuation did). The new fossil plants will kill plenty of people… and biosphere [1].

Asking the entire planet to become much poorer will not work, as governments, let alone We The People, will not agree. The fact is the terrestrial biosphere, given enough time, can handle much higher temperatures. Camels and larches thrived as close to the North Pole as one can, less than three million years ago, with a total CO2 equivalent parts per million significantly lower than today. Homo, the all-powerful species evolved during the most glaciated period.

Thermonuclear Power works. 1952 FILE PHOTO – The mushroom cloud of the first test of a hydrogen bomb, “Ivy Mike”, as photographed on Eniwetok, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, in 1952, by a member of the United States Air Force’s Lookout Mountain 1352d Photographic Squadron. The top secret film studio, then located in Hollywood ,California, produced thousands of classified films for the Department of Defense and the Atomic Energy Commission beginning in 1947. A 50th anniversary tribute to these “Atomic Cinematographers” and their work is planned for October 22 in Hollywood. ATOMIC – RTR7YHQ. The problem is to contain it in a room.

So what to do? We have no global solutions now. Ensure that the future will have them. That means investing in researching, or deploying new energy. An energy immediately deployable is “green” hydrogen (it can be mixed into the natural gas infrastructure). And then there is thermonuclear fusion or other near-clean nuclear energy solutions (Thorium, etc).  

So the mentality has to change. Biden wants to spend 74 billion dollars on car battery chargers. Tesla makes most of its profits by selling credits to polluting companies (a government subsidy program). This is happening at the rate of two billion dollars a year. By comparison, the Energy department budget request for 2022 is around 46 billion dollars, out of which the Department of Energy Office of Science’s budget of exactly $7.4 billion. Thus it is rising by $400 million. Very insufficient (although worse in nearly all other countries, with the exception of China, of course…)  

Expanding the science budget means to expand it in all directions. Because all directions are useful, potentially. Famously, Faraday, a research physicist paid directly by the British monarch, having discovered Faraday law.

Faraday demonstrated some basic science for senior politicians. One of those critters asked: “What is its use?”. Faraday recycled Benjamin Franklin’s observation, a few decades earlier, when he was asked what use could possibly have all these balloon experiments Franklin had witnessed in Paris:”…it may pave the way for some new discoveries in Natural Philosophy at present we have no conception of…” Pushed back by some contradictors, who couldn’t see what new science could be involved, Franklin retorted:”What’s the use of a new-born baby?” 

Faraday’s law of induction (briefly, Faraday’s law) is a basic law of electromagnetism predicting how a magnetic field will interact with an electric circuit to produce an electromotive force (EMF)—a phenomenon known as electromagnetic induction. It is the fundamental operating principle of transformers, inductors, and many types of electrical motors, generators and solenoids. Around 1830, it looked as if electricity was of no use for civilization. Now we have an electric civilization. All of society, all the electricity generation (except Photovoltaics), including all the green energy drive, depends upon the induction law [2]. The photovoltaic effect was discovered at the same time by some obscure Frenchman… That looked like an anecdote, until the physicist Hertz found many peculiarities related to it (and which Einstein elucidated, long after Hertz’s death, with Planck’s quantum).

The USA has 331 million people. Just China plus India have ten times the population of the USA. No matter what “help” the USA can give those two by holding their hands would be not just presumptuous, but ineffective. However, if the USA and the EU invent new energy, that would be very helpful to the rest of the world, especially countries like Niger. When the French administered Niger last, in 1960, there were 3.4 million inhabitants there. Now there are 25 million in this mostly desertic country. Women there have an average of eight babies or so. This is typical of subsaharan Africa.

So we need to accelerate science. It is a matter of saving civilization. Because only science can save the future. 

When a Euro-American probe passed by Enceladus, it took pictures of water plumes. Enceladus, a little moon of Saturn, has a gigantic ocean of water. Said ocean has existed for more than four billion years. A probe equipped to fly through and analyze the plumes for organics should have long been launched. It was not, so we don’t know if life has evolved there and if not, why not.

An occasion was missed.

Those sorts of probes push inspiration, imagination, science and tech to its limits.  An example is thinking about what happened to Venus… thanks in part from information by earlier probes, including a European one which practiced aerobraking… It turns out that Venus probably had life, and an ocean, for three billion years… And then a run-away greenhouse. So Venusian science helps us visualize potential futures… Venusian climate was impacted by the planet’s very slow rotation: an effect we do not have, Earth rotating 200 times faster… 

There is only one solution to the ecological crises we have created: science. And science we do not have, or do not master yet… 

All the rest is smoke and mirrors… 

In particular, the Paris Accord is worthless: countries are supposed to reduce their CO2 emissions… But most countries simply cannot… Absent a scientific miracle… which only wealthy countries can produce. But, instead of producing said miracle, by spending a lot of money on science for new energy, wealthy countries are supposed to give to the poor, as if Mr. Climate Catastrophe could be bought with cash. So the Paris’ Accord entire drive, money as panacea, is grotesque, deeply immoral and strategically tragic [3].

Indeed that offering of money would be better spent doing scientific research.

Strategically tragic also in part because scientific supremacy by the dominant civilization insures peace, and only this supremacy does that (The most advanced Greek city states and Republican Rome understood this).

Some civilizations, confronted to ecological devastation they caused, were able to save themselves by taking scientific action: the Egyptians retreated to the Nile, the Sumerians went up rivers, the entire Middle East introduced hydraulic dictatorships and their water works, Middle Age Europe and Japan took drastic actions to save the forests. In all cases, they analyzed the situation and found solutions. The Roman state did not, thus collapsed.

If you want peace, prepare for science.

If you want sustainability, muster science.

If you want an optimal future,  invent a lot of new hard science.

Wishful thinking is no alternative.

Patrice Ayme

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[1] Although Japan is talking about creating a hydrogen economy. That’s great, as I have long advocated. However, Japan rolled out its first hydrogen transportation ship. It is supposed to bring (dirty, not green) hydrogen from Australia; the ship carries as much energy as a briefcase with the appropriate fissile materials (which can be recycled). 

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[2] Electric tech depends upon magnets, and the higher performing, the better. Thus huge quantities of rare heavy metals are used, say in windmills. Efficient windmills, as big as skyscrapers, kill birds, and are visual and auditory nightmares; even if replaced by windwalls or the like, with smaller mills in a wall (that has been proposed). 

The material in a Tesla battery is worth around $1500 – but the market value is between $10,000 and $15,000,’ due to precision manufacturing. To get those materials, including expensive, toxic cobalt, you have to disassemble the battery (without it catching fire!), you have to crush it, you have to process it in some kind of recycling process. And then you only have a couple hundred dollars left. 

The toxic materials required by all this electric tech are produced in work friendly environments such the Congolese jungle, full of helpful children who don’t go to school for you, eco battery enthusiasts, or in countries colonized by the just as friendly People Republic of China, where thousands of Uyghurs are keen to be recycled as servants of those who love to pose as ecologically correct.

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[3] Full disclosure: I know personally one of the plutocrats who authored the Paris Accord. He has a PhD in (pseudo) physics from Princeton, but he hates me so much that he got my daughter kicked out of her Franco-American school. At least, she was, and so he told me he would make it so. This is the sort of individual who has a fleet of (Tesla) expensive model electric cars, but he can’t even go between his mansions with them.


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