Showing posts with label AMM. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AMM. Show all posts

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Comprehensive Plan of Action on Climate Change

Threat to global food supply makes comprehensive action imperative
Climate change is strongly affecting the Arctic and the resulting changes to the polar vortex and jet stream are in turn contributing to extreme weather in many places, followed by crop loss at a huge scale.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said in a September 6, 2012, forecast that continued deterioration of cereal crop prospects over the past two months, due to unfavourable weather conditions in a number of major producing regions, has led to a sharp cut in FAO’s world production forecast since the previous report in July.

The bad news continues: Based on the latest indications, global cereal production would not be sufficient to cover fully the expected utilization in the 2012/13 marketing season, pointing to a larger drawdown of global cereal stocks than earlier anticipated. Among the major cereals, maize and wheat were the most affected by the worsening of weather conditions.

The image below is interactive at the original post and shows the FAO Food Price Index (Cereals), up to and including August 2012.

from: Threat to global food supply makes comprehensive action imperative
Apart from crop yield, extreme weather is also affecting soils in various ways. Sustained drought can cause soils to lose much of their vegetation, making them more exposed to erosion by wind, while the occasional storms, flooding and torrential rain further contribute to erosion. Higher areas, such as hills, will be particularly vulnerable, but even in valleys a lack of trees and excessive irrigation can cause the water table to rise, bringing salt to the surface.

Fish are also under threat, in part due to ocean acidification. Of the carbon dioxide we're releasing into the atmosphere, about a third is (still) being absorbed by the oceans. Dr. Richard Feely, from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, explains that this has caused, over the last 200 years or so, about a 30% increase in the overall acidity of the oceans. This affects species that depend on a shell to survive. Studies by Baumann (2011) and Frommel (2011) indicate further that fish, in their egg and larval life stages, are seriously threatened by ocean acidification. This, in addition to warming seawater, overfishing, pollution and eutrification (dead zones), causes fish to lose habitat and is threatening major fish stock collapse.

Without action, this situation can only be expected to deteriorate further, while ocean acidification is irreversible on timescales of at least tens of thousands of years. This means that, to save many marine species from extinction, geoengineering must be accepted as an essential part of the much-needed comprehensive plan of action.

Similarly, Arctic waters will continue to be exposed to warm water, causing further sea ice decline unless comprehensive action is taken that includes geoengineering methods to cool the Arctic. The threat that huge amounts of methane will be released from the warming Arctic seabed makes it imperative to prepare geo-engineering methods to respond to this threat and be ready for rapid deployment soon.

How to avert an intensifying food crisis

As extreme weather intensifies, the food crisis intensifies. Storms and floods do damage to crops and cause erosion of fertile topsoil, in turn causing further crop loss. Similarly, heatwaves, storms and wildfires do damage to crops and cause topsoil to be blown away, thus also causing erosion and further crop loss. Furthermore, they cause soot, dust and volitale organic compounds to settle on snow and ice, causing albdeo loss and further decline of snow and ice cover.

Extreme weather intensifies as the Arctic warms and the polar vortex and jet stream weaken, which is fueled by accelerated warming in the Arctic. There are at least ten feedbacks that contribute to further acceleration of warming in the Arctic and without action the situation looks set to spiral away into runaway global warming, as illustrated by the image below.

Diagram of Doom, with Comprehensive Plan of Action added  (credit: Sam Carana, October 9, 2012)

To avert an intensifying global food crisis, a comprehensive plan of action is needed, as also indicated on the image. Such a plan should be comprehensive and consider action in the Arctic such as wetland management, ice thickening and methane management (methane removal through decomposition, capture and possibly extraction).

A Comprehensive Plan of Action on Climate Change

A Comprehensive Plan of Action on Climate Change needs to include policies to achieve a sustainable economy, as well as adaptation policies.

Such a comprehensive plan is best endorsed globally, e.g. through an international agreement building on the Kyoto Protocol and the Montreal Accord. At the same time, the specific policies are best decided and implemented locally, e.g. by insisting that each nation reduces its CO2 emissions by a set annual percentage, and additionally removes a set annual amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and the oceans, followed by sequestration, proportionally to its current emissions.

Policy goals are most effectively achieved when policies are implemented locally and independently, with separate policies each addressing a specific shift that is needed in order to reach agreed targets. Each nation can work out what policies best fit their circumstances, as long as they each independently achieve agreed targets.

Cuts in CO2 emissions of 80% by 2020 can be achieved by implementing local policies focusing on specific sectors (such as energy production, transport, land use, waste, forestry, buildings, etc).

As an example, each nation could add fees on jetfuel. Where an airplane lands that comes from a nation that has failed to add sufficient fees, the nation where the airplane lands could impose supplementary fees and use the revenues to support methods that capture CO2 directly from ambient air. Such supplementary fees should be allowed to be imposed under international trade rules.

Some policies will need to continue beyond 2020, in order to bring down levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to their pre-industrial levels this century, i.e. getting CO2 in the atmosphere back to 280ppm, CH4 back to 700ppb and N2O back to 270ppb. Policies can be very effective when focusing on local sectors such as agriculture and buildings, while also supporting geo-engineering methods such as biochar, enhanced weathering and direct capture of carbon from ambient air.

In addition to such policies to achieve a sustainable economy and adaptation policies, further geo-engineering methods will be needed to avoid runaway warming, as indicated in the blue area of the image below.

Arctic Methane Management

At the original post, some of the areas in these images can be clicked on, for examples or more background. The box for Additional Arctic Methane Management on above image is further worked out in the image below, which highlights the need for geo-engineering methods that focus on methane, a component of the plan that needs to be given far more attention. Again, support for such methods could be agreed to proportionally to each nation's current emissions.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Combining Policy and Technology

Technologies to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere

The Virgin Earth Challenge is a prize of $25m for whoever can demonstrate to the judges' satisfaction a commercially viable design which results in the removal of anthropogenic, atmospheric greenhouse gases so as to contribute materially to the stability of Earth’s climate.

Among the 11 shortlisted organizations are:
Above three technologies (biochar, carbon air capture and enhanced weathering) have great potential to help out with carbon dioxide removal (CDR) from the atmosphere. To combat global warming, further technologies should be considered, such as in Solar Radiation Management (SRM) and Arctic Methane Management (AMM).

How effective each technology is in one area is an important consideration; importantly, each such technologies can also have effects in further areas.

Further areas

Global warming is only one out of multiple areas where action is required; an example of another area is the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica; effective action has already been taken in this area, but the growing hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic shows that further action is necessary.

A safe operating space for humanity is a landmark 2009 study that identifies nine essential areas where sustainability is stressed to the limits, in three cases beyond its limits.
The inner green shading represents the proposed safe operating space for nine planetary systems. The red wedges represent an estimate of the current position for each variable. The boundaries in three systems (rate of biodiversity loss, climate change and human interference with the nitrogen cycle), have already been exceeded. From: A safe operating space for humanity, Rockström et al, 2009.

Areas and applicable technologies

The table below shows these nine areas on the left, while technologies that could be helpful in the respective area feature on the right.

As said, each of technologies may be able to help out in multiple areas. As an example, by reducing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, biochar and carbon air capture can also indirectly reduce carbon dioxide in oceans and thus help out with ocean acidification. Enhanced weathering could additionally reduce carbon dioxide in the oceans directly, thus presenting itself even more prominently as a proposal to achieve sustainability in this area.

Similarly, algae bags located in the mouth of a river could help out in multiple areas. They could produce biofuel and thus help reduce aviation emissions, while in the process catching fertilizer runoff, thus reducing emissions of nitrous oxide (the largest ozone-depleting substance emitted through human activities in a 2009 NOAA study) and also reducing depletion of oxygen in oceans.

1. Climate ChangeCDR: biochar, carbon air capture, enhanced weathering, algae bags, EVs, renewable energy, clean cooking & heating, LEDs, etc.
SRM: surface and cloud brightening, release of aerosols
AMM: methane capture, oxygen release, river diversion, enhanced methane decomposition
2. Ocean acidificationenhanced weathering
3. Stratospheric ozone depletionoxygen release
4. Nitrogen & Phosphorus Cyclesalgae bags, biochar, enhanced weathering
5. Global freshwater usedesalination, biochar, enhanced weathering
6. Change in land usedesalination, biochar, enhanced weathering
7. Biodiversity lossdesalination, biochar, enhanced weathering
8. Atmospheric aerosol loadingbiochar, EVs, renewable energy, clean cooking & heating, LEDs, etc.
9. Chemical pollutionrecycling, waste management (separation)

Implementing the most effective policies

Policy support for such technologies is imperative. Just like some technologies can help out in several areas, some policies can cover multiple areas. As an example, a policy facilitating a shift to cleaner energy can both reduce greenhouse gases and aerosols such as soot and sulfur. Sulfur reflects sunlight back into space, so reducing sulfur emissions results in more global warming, but conversely global warming can be reduced by releasing sulfur over water at higher latitudes.

How many different policies would be needed to support such technologies? What are the best policy instruments to use?

Traditionally, government-funded subsidies and standards have been used to contain pollution, sometimes complemented with levies and refundable deposits; this can also work for chemical pollution. Standards have also proven to be effective in reducing the impact of CFCs on the ozone layer, while - as said - policies could at the same time also be effective in other areas, in this case reducing the impact of CFCs as greenhouse gases.

However, standards don't raise funding for support of such technologies, while taxpayer-funded subsidies make everyone pay for the pollution caused by some. Hybrid methods such as cap-and-trade and offsets are prone to corruption and fraud, which compromises their effectiveness. Local feebates are most effective in facilitating the necessary shifts in many areas.

Two sets of feebates

To facilitate the necessary shift away from fuel toward clean energy, local feebates are most effective. Fees on cargo and flights could fund carbon air capture, while fees on fuel could fund rebates on electricity produced in clean and safe ways. Fees could also be imposed on the engines, ovens, kilns, furnaces and stoves where fuel is burned, to fund rebates on clean alternatives, such as EV batteries and motors, solar cookers and electric appliances. Such feebates are pictured as yellow lines in the top half of the image below.

Support for biochar and olivine sand could be implemented through a second set of feebates, as pictured in the bottom half of the image below. Revenues from these feebates could also be used to support further technologies, as described in the paragraph below.

Further technologies should be considered for their effectiveness in specific areas, including:
  • release of oxygen to help combat methane in the Arctic and to help combat loss of stratospheric ozone
  • use of plastic sheets to capture methane
  • use of radio waves to enhance methane decomposition
  • diversion of water from rivers to avoid warm water flowing into the Arctic Ocean
  • release of aerosols over water at higher latitudes
  • surface & cloud brightening to reflect more sunlight back into space

Professor Schuiling proposes olivine rock grinding

Dutch Professor Olaf Schuiling has been working on rock grinding for many years. Remember the Virgin Earth Challenge, launched early 2007 with the promise to award $35 million to the best method to remove greenhouse gases? Schuiling said: Let's grind more rocks! Last thing Schuiling heard was that he was among the final ten contenders.
Schuiling's method is simple. Crush olivine rock to small pieces and it will bind with carbon dioxide. This process - called weathering - happens in nature but takes a long time. Crushing and grinding olivine rock will speed up the process and is therefore often called enhanced weathering. It works best in wet tropical countries, but can be done everywhere around the world.
Schuiling proposes to cover beaches, levees and railway tracks with the material, and proposes olivine to be added to building materials like pavement and concrete. It can also be added to soil and water. Adding olivine can fertilize the soil and improve its ability to retain water, and can work well in combination with biochar and other ways to increase organic carbon in the soil. When added to the sea, it can reduce acidification, and stimulate growth of diatoms and other forms of biomass in the sea.
This is a win-win solution, Schuiling says, as it helps grow more food, while combating global warming. To add another win, it can also produce drinking water that is healthier than rain water. Schuiling recommends cities to build olivine hills, to remove carbon dioxide from the air while filtering water.
There's is a video with more background, in Dutch with English subtitles. Also have a look at this poster.


What works best is implementation of feebates that put in place combinations of local financial incentives and disincentives, as illustrated by the image on the right. 

Energy feebates, working in a parallel yet complimentary way, can clean up energy supply within a decade, while feebates as pictured above can continue to bring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back to 280 ppm, as well as bring down carbon dioxide levels in the oceans.

Rock grinding should be part of a comprehensive policy that also includes replacing fuel with renewable energy and support for biochar. The latter is also discussed in the posts Biochar and The Biochar Economy.

As the above diagrams try to show, biochar and olivine sand can be combined in soil supplements, to help bring carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere back to 280ppm. Rebates could be financed from fees on nitrogen fertilizers, livestock products and Portland cement.

Enhanced weathering is possible with other types of rock, but more easily done with olivine. The paper Olivine against climate change and ocean acidification includes the map below with the global distribution of dunite massifs. By removing their lateritic overburden, the underlying dunites (rocks that consists of > 90% olivine) can be mined. 

As the image on the right shows, there's no need for long distance transport. One dot often represents several dunites and olivine is available in abundance at many places across the globe.

The benefits are great and this looks like one of the most economic ways to bring down carbon dioxide levels. 

The energy can come from wind energy, which is clean, price-competitive and available in abundance in many places. Rock grinding, the transport and distribution can be largely automated, and take place predominantly at off-peak hours, while wind energy can be supplied very economically at off-peak hours.

Olivine sand can also be combined well with biochar, as soil supplement. Have a look at the post the Biochar Economy.

Further reading:
Carbon Air Capture and Algae Bags
Enhanced weathering
Oxygenating the Arctic
Ozone hole recovery
Enhanced methane decomposition
Vortex towers could vegetate deserts
Carbon-negative building
LEDs: When will we see the light?
Thermal expansion of the Earth's crust necessitates geo-engineering
Towards a Sustainable Economy
The way back to 280 ppm