There is a terrible truth about global warming that few people seem
to recogize, or if they do, are able to face. If CO2
is the cause, and we want to reverse it, we would need to massively reduce
CO2 emissions. Not just a hopeful Kyoto type plateau in emissions, but a severe reduction. Most
CO2 comes from the burning of coal for power production and from the combustion of fuel for
transportation. To shift to alternatives on the scale required would require a massive and
unprecedented redeployment of energy infrastructure worldwide.
But that is not the bad news. The bad news is that improved energy efficiency,
together with all combined known renewable energy sources, wind, solar, hydro etc. just will not and
will never come close to providing anything like a substitute volume of energy production to that
which is currently provided by fossil fuels. There is quite simply insufficient ambient renewable enery
at the earth's surface to enable harnessing of such energy on the scale required ever to be feasible.
For example, to supply a typical city entirely by solar energy would require a solar collector of a size
similar to the city itself, even on the best assumptions, and allowing for storage via hydrogen
conversion.. The cost of that would be about 500 times more expensive than the equivalent coal
fired plant, not including cleaning costs, maintenace and depreciation.
The very bad news is that unfortunately there is only one currently
known, technically feasible
technology that could do it. It would need to be used, not just for power production, but also for the
production of hydrogen as a transportation fuel. It is a technology where the power plants pose a
serious risk of widespread radiation contamination, which have highly toxic waste products, which
last for centuries, for which there is no agreed means of disposal. Further, the waste products can be used to manufacture weapons of mass destruction. If this energy means was deployed to the
extent that would be required, the risk of serious accidents and of the proliferation of weapons into
the wrong hands would be such as to seriously endanger the existence of life on our planet.
But if CO2 causes global warming, the choice is cook or nuke.
It may be a surprise to most, because any mention of this is something
that is very studiously
avoided. For example how many times have you heard that Australia has the highest per capita CO2
emissions? True. But why? Because we alone of the indusrialized countries do not have any reliance
at all on nuclear power. Basic honesty would require that the reason at least be acknowledged occasionally.
John L Perkins
BSc, MSc(Lond), PhD
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