• karl stone
    224
    How it could be done:

    In terms of the physics of reality - solving the energy issue is the first necessary step to securing a sustainable future. Energy is fundamental because reality is entropic. Entropy is a complex concept from the Second Law of Thermodynamics - the effects of which can be described very simply. It is the tendency of everything in the universe to decline toward its lowest energy state, like water runs downhill, or an old building collapses to the ground over time. Where we need water above the lowest natural point, or to keep the old place from falling down, we must spend energy. Energy is thus fundamental to everything we do. And clean energy is necessary to prevent run-away climate change.

    There are two main obstacles to providing the world with bountiful clean energy:

    1) an abundance of fossil fuels - still in the ground, and
    2) the cost of applying the technology.

    The idea that renewable sources of energy are necessarily unreliable or insufficient to the task - is not a genuine obstacle, if applied on a sufficiently large scale. But we'll come to that in due course. First, we must address the question of how to keep fossil fuels in the ground. This may seem like an insurmountable issue - but the solution I devised is very simple, and entirely consistent with the principles of our economic system. Basically, fossil fuels are commodities, and commodities are assets. Assets can be mortgaged - and in this way, fossil fuels can be monetized without being extracted. The money raised by mortgaging fossil fuels would first go to applying sustainable energy technology.

    Having overcome these two obstacles, the next question is "what technology?"

    Here I would suggest taking on board the next big problem, and solving that at the same time. The next most fundamental need we have is abundant fresh water. 7/10ths of the earth's surface is covered with water, but fresh water is scarce. Only 2.5% of the world's water is fresh water, and it's unevenly distributed around the world. That's the cause of great human suffering and environmental damage. Solving these two problems together, would be a tremendous boon to humankind, and is ultimately necessary to sustainability. So how do we do it?

    Bearing in mind such issues as transmission loss over long distances, I would suggest that solar panels floating on the surface of the ocean, could produce electricity - used to power desalination and electrolysis, producing fresh water and hydrogen fuel at sea, collected by ship, or pumped through pipelines to shore. The geographical area available at sea is incredibly vast, and effectively shading the ocean, with thousands of square kilometers of solar panels would also help combat global warming.

    Desalination can be achieved via evaporation - heating sea water and collecting the steam. Steam can drive a turbine, to produce electricity - at voltages, adequate to power electrolysis. Electrolysis is the process of breaking the atomic bonds between two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom in water, by passing an electric current through it. Thus, these two process work hand in hand - producing fresh water and hydrogen fuel. Hydrogen - when compressed into a liquid gas, contains 2.5 times the energy of petroleum by weight, but when burnt (oxidized) the hydrogen atoms recombine with an oxygen atom, giving back the energy spent wrenching them apart - and producing no pollutant more volatile than water vapour.

    Burning hydrogen in traditional power stations would provide the base load for the energy grid - rather than, depending directly on renewable power sources, and the fresh water could be used to reclaim wasteland for agriculture and habitation - thus protecting environmental resources from over-exploitation. Eventually, this whole technological complex would power itself (as long as the sun shines) without adding a molecule of carbon to the atmosphere. Ships powered by hydrogen, would collect and bring water and fuel ashore.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    How it could be done:karl stone

    Entropy can't be stopped. It's not a matter of if but when.
  • ssu
    774
    the solution I devised is very simple, and entirely consistent with the principles of our economic system. Basically, fossil fuels are commodities, and commodities are assets. Assets can be mortgaged - and in this way, fossil fuels can be monetized without being extracted. The money raised by mortgaging fossil fuels would first go to applying sustainable energy technology.karl stone
    If they aren't going to be used, now or in the future, how can the fossil fuels be an asset? There's no revenue stream.
  • karl stone
    224
    Good question. The answer is a little ill-defined at present, because of the multiplicity of possible variables. But there wouldn't be an immediate transition from fossil fuels to renewables - it would take 30 years at least to apply the technology on a sufficient scale. Secondly, oil would continue to be extracted for other things, like plastics - humankind will need long term if we aim to survive. Thirdly, does it matter how we get from here to there? Even if it were to a greater or lesser degree a conceit - to mortgage fossil fuels in order to overcome fossil fuel use, there is always in theory the potential for its use - like with land banks, who cannot be induced to build, because the value of land rises faster than the rent that can be commanded in the market.
  • karl stone
    224
    This universe tends toward heat death - a million billion years from now - that's true, but we ain't staying.
  • Jake
    898
    Sorry to interrupt, but I thought I should report that my wife has the perfect description of philosophy, which she offers with a wink and a smile.

    Philosophy: blowharding to save the world
  • karl stone
    224
    Have we met? lol
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    This universe tends toward heat death - a million billion years from now - that's true, but we ain't staying.karl stone

    How can we save the world then?
  • karl stone
    224
    Do you think philosophy has an unhelpful tendency toward superlativism - that passes through common sense, but then just keeps on going?
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Do you think philosophy has an unhelpful tendency toward superlativism - that passes through common sense, but then just keeps on going?karl stone

    Common sense has been proven wrong many-a-times.

    Your point?
  • karl stone
    224
    "Common sense has been proven wrong many-a-times."

    Unlike philosophy?

    "Your point?"

    I'm talking about sustainability in the immediate future, and pointing out that entropy implies - the sun will explode and burn the earth to a crisp in five billion years or so, entirely misses the serious purpose of my remarks. I guess my point is - stop being a dick!
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    stop being a dick!karl stone

    Sorry. Didn't realize I was being a dick. Does that make it better or worse? I don't know.


    Anyway, the future is so difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. As someone said there are too many variables to factor in.

    I suggest we do what is most practical. Act locally, think globally.
  • TheMadFool
    2.4k
    Also...

    I think we need to relook into scientific thought. How we've framed the world in terms of scientific paradigms e.g. seeing the world and all in it in terms of give-take energy-matter interactions may be mathematically modelled and seem to work.

    Couldn't it be that there's another point of view that is better and more in line with your thoughts?
  • karl stone
    224


    Sorry. Didn't realize I was being a dick. Does that make it better or worse? I don't know.TheMadFool

    Much, much worse! I'd really rather it were a matter of choice - and then I could blame you!

    Anyway, the future is so difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. As someone said there are too many variables to factor in.TheMadFool

    That's why it took me twenty years thinking about it, to come up with what now seems pretty bloody simple.

    I suggest we do what is most practical. Act locally, think globally.TheMadFool

    What does that mean in practical terms? Is it not just a trendy soundbite that has no meaningful implications?
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    I would suggest that solar panels floating on the surface of the ocean, could produce electricity - used to power desalination and electrolysis, producing fresh water and hydrogen fuel at sea, collected by ship, or pumped through pipelines to shore.karl stone

    May I point out that covering the oceans will prevent phytoplankton from absorbing CO2. Put your solar panels on coastal deserts instead, and use the desalinated water to irrigate inland and grow some forest.
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    As to the politics and economics, what is required is to wage a global war against CO2. Money becomes irrelevant in wartime, one does whatever it takes - that might include shooting some traitors.
  • Jake
    898
    Another quick interruption.

    Having already plugged my sagely wife above, I will now shamelessly plug my own "blowharding to save the world" thread, which can be found here.

    While Karl addresses energy and water, my thread addresses another very important component of the world saving project, knowledge.

    Karl argues for more knowledge to help manage energy and water resources, a reasonable enough proposition, if one limits the subject to energy and water. There are many challenges before us, and it's very understandable to attempt to leverage the awesome power of knowledge to meet those challenges.

    However, when we 1) add all the knowledge growing projects together, and 2) watch as they feed back upon each other, 3) accelerating the overall pace of knowledge development, 4) we arrive at a different picture, which is.....

    The solution is the biggest problem.

    I know this to be a hard fact, because when I explain this blowharding theory to my wife while we're making dinner she always says, "Ok honey, I'm sure you're right." See? Proof!!!
  • ChatteringMonkey
    201


    It's hard to critique the idea, because we would need a lot of numbers and technical details to be able to evaluate it. I mean, i like the idea in theory, but have no idea how feasable it is economically and politically.

    How much would the proces cost, say compared to more conventional means of producing energy? What about night and winter times, is battery technology sufficient to suppliment times when solar energy is low?

    And how do you solve the political issues? Often times people just ignore those, because well unlike the laws of nature, people can just adapt their behaviour, and therefor should... but it never really happens that way. So what about countries that don't have access to the oceans, or that are situated in areas where there is not a lot of reliable solar energy? Do you think it reasonable to expect countries to just get allong, and give away energy to those that need it?

    I think we should go nuclear again, and geothermal. Nuclear can be a temporary solution, not indiffinately ofcourse, but right now CO2 is a far bigger problem then nuclear waste. And maybe in the future we will find better ways of exploiting earth warmth, which is reliable and as good as infinite.

    In practice, a mix of all possible low carbon energy sources will probably be needed though.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    201
    Also i think we should look into the technological possibility of building a sun shield... it seems very probable by now that stopping CO2 emissions won't work, so we better start looking at some other technological solutions to keep temperatures acceptable.
  • karl stone
    224

    I would suggest that solar panels floating on the surface of the ocean, could produce electricity - used to power desalination and electrolysis, producing fresh water and hydrogen fuel at sea, collected by ship, or pumped through pipelines to shore.
    — karl stone

    May I point out that covering the oceans will prevent phytoplankton from absorbing CO2. Put your solar panels on coastal deserts instead, and use the desalinated water to irrigate inland and grow some forest.
    unenlightened

    You might be right, but coastal land is valuable real estate - particularly if it's sunny. Out in the ocean a million square miles of nothing right on the equator - where flotaing solar panels could be soaking up 16 hours sunshine a day and making energy for us - while shading the oceans from accumulating heat. I wouldn't presume to dictate - but ...

    As to the politics and economics, what is required is to wage a global war against CO2. Money becomes irrelevant in wartime, one does whatever it takes.unenlightened

    I came up with that idea also, a long time ago. A war for survival - turn over the entire economy to the effort, but found it wasn't necessary. I do not even agree with the scientists who wrote the report published yesterday, when they said:

    "Staying below 1.5C will require "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society".

    I think that approach is wrong, and what we should be doing is defending living standards - by applying the energy technology to afford them, as described in my OP. Another article asks - "Are you prepared to give up beef to save the world?" No. I'm willing apply renewable energy technology so that I can eat beef guilt free. And lots of it!
  • unenlightened
    2.9k
    coastal land is valuable real estate - particularly if it's sunnykarl stone

    https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2018/08/photos-along-the-namibian-coast/569041/

    See also Chile, Morocco Australia.
  • karl stone
    224
    Another quick interruption.

    Having already plugged my sagely wife
    Jake

    Hey, what you do on your own time...

    Having already plugged my sagely wife above, I will now shamelessly plug my own "blowharding to save the world" thread, which can be found here.Jake

    Thanks man, I'll have a look, but right now I need to press on with these replies.

    While Karl addresses energy and water, my thread addresses another very important component of the world saving project, knowledge.
    Karl argues for more knowledge to help manage energy and water resources, a reasonable enough proposition, if one limits the subject to energy and water. There are many challenges before us, and it's very understandable to attempt to leverage the awesome power of knowledge to meet those challenges.
    Jake

    I'm intrigued, but having not looked - I wonder if you're aware of Enemies of the Open Society by Popper. If not, might I suggest you take a look - I have a feeling it's going to come up. A lot!

    However, when we 1) add all the knowledge growing projects together, and 2) watch as they feed back upon each other, 3) accelerating the overall pace of knowledge development, 4) we arrive at a different picture, which is.....

    The solution is the biggest problem.

    I know this to be a hard fact, because when I explain this blowharding theory to my wife while we're making dinner she always says, "Ok honey, I'm sure you're right." See? Proof!!!
    Jake

    I'm not going to argue with that as a standard of proof, but I have a feeling that I've solved your problem, because - I don't arrive at that conclusion. In relation to Popper's dire warning that elevating science would require we 'make our representations conform' to science as truth until we're all locked stepped coffee coloured people wearing identical denim overalls - I have shown that there are legitimate limitations on the rightful authority of science, insofar as, beyond sustainability, no implication can be said to be compulsory. Does that solve your problem too?
  • Jake
    898
    I wonder if you're aware of Enemies of the Open Society by Popper.karl stone

    No, not aware. Explain it if you wish, listening.

    I have shown that there are legitimate limitations on the rightful authority of science, insofar as, beyond sustainability, no implication can be said to be compulsory. Does that solve your problem too?karl stone

    Limitations on the rightful authority of science, I can vote for that. I might clarify that by editing to "cultural authority". That is, I agree science has great authority when it comes to the process of developing new knowledge. I don't agree that therefore we should develop as much knowledge as possible, a common assertion of science culture.

    Trying to steer back towards the topic of this thread....

    Let's say we achieve limitless free clean energy, truly an amazing accomplishment of science, which on purely technical grounds can of course be applauded.

    But what's the larger picture? Does limitless free energy result in the economy taking off like a rocket, causing us to burn through other finite resources at an ever faster pace? Does it cause human populations to further expand, resulting in an acceleration of species extinction? And so on...

    Also, I would prefer that members refer to me by my official title, Professor Party Pooper. Thank you very much.
  • karl stone
    224
    Chattermonkey, - I read your posts, and Jake, I read your other thread, but I have to away until later today, when I will respond.
  • Jake
    898
    Do you think philosophy has an unhelpful tendency toward superlativism - that passes through common sense, but then just keeps on going?karl stone

    Ya think? :smile:

    "Are you prepared to give up beef to save the world?" No. I'm willing apply renewable energy technology so that I can eat beef guilt free. And lots of it!karl stone

    There's another angle to beef eating which perhaps you haven't fully considered? If we are willing to torture and kill entirely innocent defenseless animals for no better reason than that they taste good, do we have the "psychological infrastructure" necessary to save the world?

    As example, why would a person who smokes be motivated to protect the environment when they are busy knowingly trashing their own most personal environment?

    What if saving the world is, at heart, not really a technical problem but a psychological, moral, emotional problem?
  • Evil
    78

    Also Western Sahara, Peru, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Somalia and maybe places near the Caspian Sea
  • Michael Ossipoff
    1.5k


    Those sound like great environmental ideas. You've shown something that hadn't occurred to me...how water, energy, and temperature can be dealt with and helped as part of the same solution method.

    It all sounds very well thought-out, and perfectly plausible and possible.

    ...but of course there's no reason to believe that improvement of any kind is societally possible, That's a whole other ballgame.

    But there's consolation: This physical world that we live in is only one of infinitely-many hypothetical possibility-worlds, and this life is only one temporary life...during which we want and like to live as best we can, while we're here. ...because we like to.

    We don't really have needs--We have likes.

    ...though there's really nothing that we can do to improve the quite-hopeless societal world, or prevent its disastrous consequences.

    Michael Ossipoff
  • karl stone
    224


    There's another angle to beef eating which perhaps you haven't fully considered? If we are willing to torture and kill entirely innocent defenseless animals for no better reason than that they taste good, do we have the "psychological infrastructure" necessary to save the world?Jake

    Well, that is an angle I hadn't considered - not least because, I eat defenslicious animals all the time, and am deeply concerned with the question of sustainability. In nature animals eat eachother alive. Farming is less cruel than nature. Where best practice is observed, animals have a good life, and death is relatively painless. The environmental issues around farming would be mitigated by clean energy used to produce fresh water - and would promote best practice.

    The point I was trying to make is that saving the planet doesn't require we hunker around in our hemp kaftans, singing cum by yar - while waiting on a lentil casserole cooking by the heat of a beeswax candle. Technology can afford current living standards for a large population going forward, if it is applied on a sufficiently large scale - in accord with a scientific understanding of reality.

    As example, why would a person who smokes be motivated to protect the environment when they are busy knowingly trashing their own most personal environment?Jake

    I smoke too, and see no connection. I'm mortal, but humankind is not...necessarily doomed to die.

    What if saving the world is, at heart, not really a technical problem but a psychological, moral, emotional problem?Jake

    In my view, it's an epistemological question. It's about truth. Our problem is that in 1633, Galileo discovered the means to establish valid knowledge by scientific method, and was arrested by the Church, tried and found guilty of heresy. Science as truth was suppressed to maintain religious, political and economic ideology intact - even while science was applied to drive the industrial revolution.

    Those religious, political and economic ideologies providing our identities and motives, do not describe the world as it really is, and so we act at odds to the world we live in. There's a relationship between the validity of the knowledge bases of action, and the consequences of such action. It's cause and effect. This is the problem I address, and it implies the answer I propose - that is, accepting a scientific understanding of reality in common as a basis for the application of technology.

    Because individuals are mortal, I just do not believe people will sacrifice their pleasures for the sake of sustainability; but if it can be shown that such sacrifice is not necessary, achieving sustainability hoves into the realms of possibility.
  • karl stone
    224


    Those sound like great environmental ideas. You've shown something that hadn't occurred to me...how water, energy, and temperature can be dealt with and helped as part of the same solution method.

    It all sounds very well thought-out, and perfectly plausible and possible.
    Michael Ossipoff

    Thank you very much; that's so kind of you to say so - but I'm not derailing my thread discussing the rest of your ideas. That said, I'd enjoy seeing you defend these wild notions. Is there a thread I might visit?
  • karl stone
    224


    It's hard to critique the idea, because we would need a lot of numbers and technical details to be able to evaluate it. I mean, i like the idea in theory, but have no idea how feasable it is economically and politically.ChatteringMonkey

    I'd suggest regional government, like the EU - is preferable to world government. Regional government would not be so remote that it lacked perceived legitimacy, and because most trade is conducted between neighbours - and regional government applying science based regulation, would inflict equal costs on direct economic competitors, which is to say, no competitive cost. There would need to be some sort of global coordination; but largely, regional government would address regional interests better than a distant global polity.

    How much would the proces cost, say compared to more conventional means of producing energy? What about night and winter times, is battery technology sufficient to suppliment times when solar energy is low?ChatteringMonkey

    I suggest we can mortgage fossil fuels while still in the ground, and use that money to apply sustainable energy technology. I also suggest floating solar panels at the equator, producing hydrogen fuel - did you read the OP? Solar panels would not provide electricity directly. Hydrogen fuel would be burnt in power stations, and electricity transmitted through existing grids. Thus, nighttime etc isn't an issue.

    And how do you solve the political issues? Often times people just ignore those, because well unlike the laws of nature, people can just adapt their behaviour, and therefor should... but it never really happens that way. So what about countries that don't have access to the oceans, or that are situated in areas where there is not a lot of reliable solar energy? Do you think it reasonable to expect countries to just get allong, and give away energy to those that need it?ChatteringMonkey

    What political issues in particular are you talking about? Of course, energy and water would be produced and delivered to nations far from the sea. Compressed hydrogen fuel, distributed by hydrogen powered vehicles - just as coal and oil and gas are transported to places that don't have any.

    I think we should go nuclear again, and geothermal. Nuclear can be a temporary solution, not indiffinately ofcourse, but right now CO2 is a far bigger problem then nuclear waste. And maybe in the future we will find better ways of exploiting earth warmth, which is reliable and as good as infinite. In practice, a mix of all possible low carbon energy sources will probably be needed though.ChatteringMonkey

    Oh super - you had a thought. I've been thinking about this for many, many years, but you think your off the cuff impressions are more likely to be true? Not! Did you know for example, that a nuclear power station requires about half the energy it will ever produce in the construction phase alone - and that's to say nothing of the carbon cost of managing nuclear waste forever afterward?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.8k
    According to the latest climate report from the UN, we have even less time to do something "to save the world" than we thought: 12 years...

    Of course we can cut CO2 emissions to practically zero in 12 years (or say 24). When Japan, Germany, Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States mobilized for WWII, heaven and earth were moved. Tremendous productive forces were employed to build the capacity to wage massive war. We can do it again for CO2 reduction.

    How?

    Convert private auto manufacture to mass transit production.
    Start a crash wind turbine and solar cell production program; install widely.
    Build large energy storage batteries.
    Immediately reduce consumption of goods which are not merely unnecessary, but are useless.
    Reorganize life for need rather than profit.
    Obviously: end coal and petroleum production.

    It can be done, but it will almost certainly NOT be done because the short-term costs of saving the planet will cost the rich more money than they can stand losing. It will be necessary to liquidate the wealth of the richest 1%. (Mind, that is liquidate the wealth -- not liquidate the wealthy. Liquidating the wealthy gets too much bad PR.)
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