A Desperate Solution for Global Warming May Exist

  • By around 2030 or 2040, I suspect that even leaders will finally start to realize that, due to Global Warming, that "We are all walking dead!" (due to matters which are fully discussed in Physics of Global Warming.

  • I think there MIGHT still be a chance of survival of mankind and the other animals and plants on Earth, but the consequences of doing it or even trying it, may kill off nearly all plants and animals and fishes in the oceans.

    It is hoped that no future leaders would ever be faced with such a horrific choice. But in case they are, here is some logic and some numbers that may become very important.

  • Right Now US Gov't data shows that the Earth's atmosphere contains
    of Carbon Dioxide note 48 That amazingly fast increase is primarily DUE TO US burning fossil fuels!
    Actually, we will calculate below that the enormous amounts of fossil fuels we burn (coal, petroleum and natural gas) produce and release nearly TWICE this amount of increase, and we just happen to be lucky that (cold) ocean water is extremely good at absorbing a lot of the carbon dioxide we are sending into the atmosphere! (this number is metric tonnes, and the same number in American short tons would be about 10% higher)

  • CO2 in the atmosphere absorbs OUTGOING heat from the Earth. That newly warmed atmosphere then re-radiates the heat as more infrared energy, only half of which is radiated upward and away from the Earth, while the other half is re-radiated downward to provide extra heating for the Earth's surface. This therefore acts as a blanket to warm up the Earth.

  • Once the Earth heats up enough, plants which provide our food will no longer be able to raise sufficient water from the soil to keep from drying out and dying, which will eliminate all food supplies.

  • We do NOT have any practical way of REMOVING very much CO2 from the atmosphere.

  • But we HAVE recently learned / realized that COLD ocean water is able to absorb spectacular amounts of carbon dioxide into it. The premise is therefore to try to send (gaseous) carbon dioxide from the atmosphere down into ocean waters, to try to get it to be absorbed.

    There IS a very dark side to this. When carbon dioxide gets absorbed into water, it forms a type of acid, called carbonic acid, which is known to damage and kill plants and animals and fishes in the water, depending on the concentration of this acid.

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Unfortunately, amazingly little actual science has yet been done on many subjects which are critically important to this issue.

For example, we STILL have no good idea of how much carbon dioxide is ALREADY in the oceans. Yes, near the surface, in very shallow waters, we know local amounts. But only the most minimal research has yet been done regarding what the conditions are for very deep ocean waters, and even those researches have only been begun in the past handful of years! So we really have no idea HOW MUCH ADDITIONAL CARBON DIOXIDE we might be able to cause the oceans to absorb!

In fact, we probably should assume that the oceans had achieved a chemical balance with the atmosphere over recent millions of years, meaning that we might GUESS at ocean levels based on that un-documented assumption, which is about the ONLY information we currently even have to try to work with!

We also have very little idea of what levels of carbonic acid would kill off the various plants and animals and fishes now living in the oceans. This is more BASIC RESEARCH which needs to be done immediately.

But SHOULD WE find that the oceans might have the capability of ABSORBING AN ADDITIONAL 1,000,000,000,000 tons of carbon dioxide, and IF we might figure out some way to actually get that trillion tons of carbon dioxide to be transferred from the atmosphere down into the oceans, that might have wonderful effects regarding the atmosphere! The Earth's atmosphere might then revert to a Pre-Industrial Revolution level of around 310 ppmv of carbon dioxide concentration, and then Global Warming WOULD immediately stop and we would settle back to the environmental temperatures of two centuries ago, and nearly immediately.

However, virtually NO research has been done regarding whether or not we have the technology to do that!

Yes, we certainly know how to inject SMALL AMOUNTS of carbon dioxide into soda pop, to create what we call carbonated beverages. Fine. But we have no clue (yet) on how to try to do this on a giant scale, such as would be needed for this issue.

A mere handful of experiments have been tried regarding "bubbling" carbon dioxide down into ocean water. Those experiments have all been dismal failures! It has been found that a LITTLE of the carbon dioxide gets absorbed, but then each bubble develops a "rind" around it (vaguely like the rind on a lemon or orange) which entirely stops all further absorption. The bubbles then rise through the water and get released back into the atmosphere after they break the surface.

Such attempted experiments have all only been during the past decade, but the fact that they have all been such dismal failures seems to have stopped further experiments from being done!

I am personally pretty sure that they all failed because they have released LARGE bubbles of carbon dioxide. I am convinced that IF they repeat such experiments and instead only release TINY bubbles (say smaller than one-eighth inch diameter) I suspect that no rind will form and nearly all the carbon dioxide will be absorbed by the seawater.

There is still the matter of the massive piping that would be required to send carbon dioxide down into the deep ocean, and the immense pressure that compressors would need to generate to do that (because the water at even one mile deep is already at around 160 atmospheres or around 2,000 PSI natural pressure).

Extracting TINY AMOUNTS of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is now pretty easy, with suitable compressors and immense amounts of electrical power to drive them, but no one yet knows how to extract LARGE amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Whether CAPTURING all the gases leaving an industrial chimney or a powerplant chimney, and cooling and compressing it down to liquefy the carbon dioxide into liquid, this MIGHT be possible, but the likely SCALE of such efforts might be unrealistically small. After all, a tanker truck can only carry around TEN TONS of liquid carbon dioxide, which would mean that THREE BILLION TRUCKLOADS would be required EVERY YEAR, just to deal with the ADDITIONAL AMOUNTS that we are now sending into the atmosphere. To actually deal with the problem of Global Warming, at least 30 times that many truckloads, or around 90 BILLION FULL TRUCKLOADS would have to be processed and transported every year. That is around 250 MILLION FULL TRUCKLOADS EVERY DAY! (there are only a few thousand such high pressure tanker trucks which now exist!)

But, again, if humanity find itself in such a desperate situation regarding trying to fend off the total extermination of mankind, they may then find some way to accomplish the needed goals. Still, by forcing the oceans to add a trillion tons of carbon dioxide would certainly greatly increase the concentration of carbonic acid in all ocean waters. Assuming we someday learn what level of carbonic acid that seaweed and algae and fishes could survive, it might actually be possible.

It does NOT seem very credible to try to do, especially since humanity trying to save itself might cause all oceans to become totally DEAD, so this is NOT an idea which I recommend. But if and when people realize what desperate circumstances they find themselves, entirely due to the astounding burning of all fossil fuels which they could find inside the Earth, they might some day try this concept.

This presentation was first placed on the Internet in June 2008.

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C Johnson, Theoretical Physicist, Physics Degree from Univ of Chicago