The Atmosphere has a Stomach Ache from too much Gas

The atmosphere has a stomach ache from too much gas.

 

 

 

The atmosphere has a stomach ache from too much gas. The excessive gas causes global warming, and it is known as Carbon dioxide or CO2.

Can the atmosphere get rid of the CO2 to slow down global warming? Here’s the simple problem. CO2 has been stored in the ground for centuries. When we mine the earth for our energy and burn it, we let the CO2 loose into the atmosphere. That causes global warming. Our problem is how to recapture it and put it back into the ground.  We can try to convert it with our trees and seawater to its original balance in the atmosphere. But there is too much. Some say that the earth will end up like Mars, a lifeless planet with an atmosphere made up of 95 percent CO2.

We can copy the action of trees and seawater.  To do this, engineers are involved in clever ways to help get rid of CO2.  It is called CO2 capture where we store it and return it to the earth where it can no longer be in the atmosphere.

The Paris accord on climate change set the goal of keeping the planet’s warming below two degrees Celsius increase. To do that CO2 has to be kept from the atmosphere so that the warming will slow down. Pumping it into seawater has drawbacks. One idea is to plant more trees. Trees naturally absorb CO2. Unfortunately, to be successful so much land would have to be planted to trees that the land available for food production would decrease.

So we are faced with the dilemma of cutting our production of CO2 or finding ways to trap it.  Either we slow down our energy dependent culture or we face the increasing cost of destruction of civilization by global warming storms. The increased costs of repairing living areas from the destruction of massive storms caused by out of control global warming must be offset. The standard cost benefit is obvious as we count the high costs of modern hurricanes. By increasing the investment in CO2 capture, we can benefit by slowing the destruction by global warming which offsets the cost of capture. As the increase in global warming comes in the future, CO2 capture and its cost will become even more necessary and justified.

One idea is improving concrete manufacturing.  About five percent of human caused CO2 emissions are caused by making concrete. In MIT Technology Review, the plan to reduce CO2 is explained. In energy plants, flue gases are used with salt water to make sludge of cement. It is the same process that makes seashells and ocean reefs in nature. This sludge or cement is used in the mix of concrete used in construction thus converting the CO2 into storage and out of the atmosphere.   We’ll drive on highway concrete made partly from CO2.

 

 

At Arizona State University, Klaus Lackner has come up with an ingenious solution to capture CO2 from the air so it can be locked away underground, back to where it was for eons before we released it. The technology follows what we already know about carbon scrubbers, equipment already used to remove CO2 from industrial smokestacks.  Lachner’s machine looks like a large container size box. Lackner is sure he can design much smaller devices, perhaps units that can be placed in a person’s backyard to scrub the air.

Here’s how it works. An absorbent plastic sheet called an ion exchange membrane, which is used in water purification, traps the CO2.  A liquid solution then rinses off the CO2 and electricity releases pure CO2 from that liquid.  The captured gas can then be used for various purposes or stored underground. It is kept from returning to the atmosphere. .

Lackner has another idea. Since trees are nature’s major collector of CO2 in the process of converting the gas, he is also developing artificial trees that work much better than natural trees.  Each tree, in using his inventions, will store more than a thousand times as much CO2 as a regular tree. Imagine having one of his futuristic and beautiful plastic and metal devices in your garden.

According to the World Bank each American is responsible for 17 tons of CO2 a year or 93 pounds a day of which a great deal is due to our automobile driving. Could we be moving towards a backyard where we keep our own CO2 machine or  towards carrying a private artificial tree in a knapsack on our back? We might then capture and store our personal collection of CO2,  perhaps giving it to national disposal plants?  I imagine we’d stagger a little walking down the street with as much as 93 pounds a day collected in our backpack.

 

 Washington Post  (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/26/weve-reached-the-point-where-we-need-these-bizarre-technologies-to-stop-climate-change/?utm_term=.95535b0fbca7)

MIT Technology Review  (https://www.technologyreview.com/s/410499/a-concrete-fix-to-global-warming/)

 

Carbon dioxide is an inconvenient product of easier living

 “Carbon Dioxide is an inconvenient product of easy living”

 

In John Sandford’s new thriller, Saturn Run, the famous mystery writer tells of a future voyage to Saturn where an American team learns of the future from aliens. One of the most fascinating fictional disclosures is the universe is filled with great starships, They carry whole cultures in search of new planets to replace their home planets destroyed by global warming from carbon dioxide (CO2).  http://www.amazon.com/Saturn-Run-John-Sandford-ebook/dp/B00USMCJX6/

 

 On the other hand, we may have the same problem here on Earth. Our planet produces and absorbs CO2 in a balance through oceans and plant life. In this balance much of that CO2 becomes stored in the Earth in carbon fossils. In simple terms, when we burn fossil fuels we release that stored CO2 and cause an imbalance. This imbalance contributes to the increase in the CO2 that blankets the earth and our climate gets “global warming.” Essentially, we use energy from fossil fuels to make life more convenient, yet the result is higher unabsorbed CO2 causing a warming planet. This is pretty much the theory that governments are working on to fight global warming by cutting back on burning fossil fuels.

 

 

What can an individual do about the problem of too much CO2 on our planet? Let’s try to get a handle on the size of the problem.

 

In 2011 according to the World Bank statistics for countries on the planet, the United States contributed per capita about 17 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere in our use of fossil fuels. http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/EN.ATM.CO2E.PC/

 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a partial answer for citizens. It is called the Household Emission Calculator. It lists the assumptions and references for categories of CO2 emissions. The calculator allows you to analyze your CO2 contributions in pounds of CO2 and perhaps cut back on them. http://www3.epa.gov/carbon-footprint-calculator/ .

 

Here are some of the EPA categories and instructions on how to calculate your own household contribution. You can learn how much you can save if, for example, you lower the house room temperature only one degree.

 

Category one: Household vehicles. There are two calculations: One uses the EPA statistics drawn from fuel economy. The other is higher and uses the full fuel lifecycle including extraction, processing and transportation of fuel.

21,100 pounds is average per year per household.

 

Category two: Electricity which averages about 14920 pounds per year assuming 957 kWh month.

 

Category three: Natural Gas, which, if you use it, averages about 8,049 pounds per year assuming 5,583 cubic feet.

 

Category four: Fuel Oil, which, if that is your choice, averages about 16,779 pounds per year, assuming 62 gallons /month.

 

Category five: Propane, which if you use it, averages about 5,679 pounds, assuming 38 gallons /month.

 

Category six: Waste Disposal. According to the EPA if we can reduce packaging and non-packaging paper products, recycle construction debris and improve composting and recycling we could substantially cut CO2 emissions. Perhaps we could cut our household contribution to this CO2 total if we send our newspaper, glass, plastic, metal and magazine trash to the most efficient recycling which is the cause of the CO2.

 

Think about the real cost of our inconvenient product of easy living. It’s a debt we can’t repay. However, we can cut down the increasing debt. For example, if we walk more and drive less we can make a difference in producing CO2. Perish the thought, but we could turn off the car air conditioner and drive with the windows down. We can all imagine steps we can take. Remember, if the planet gets too sick, there is really no good cure or pill we can give it. We don’t want our grandchildren to have to migrate to a new planet on one of those starships that Sandford writes about in his novel.