Comments by Jim Baird Subscribe

On Global Warming: Out of Sight, Peace of Mind

Thanks Brad. Yes I have seen the article and have discussed it with one of the authors for the past few days. It is noted in the piece I published today and will be the subject of a follow up article I am working on which I hope you will have the opportunity to read. Suffice to say I don't find a proposition that starts from an ocean surface magically cooled 8.3oC a very serious approach to a very serious problem.

The second law of thermal dynamics stipulates that you can covert a certain amount of heat to work by extracting it from a hot reservoir and exhausting into a cold one.  It does not say you should dilute the hot reservoir with the cold (with no economic or heat to energy conversion benefit), which is the proposition presented in the paper.

A NOAA study estimated in 2010 the oceans were accumulating about 330 terawatts worth of heat continuously. We would be lucky if we could convert and move just that amount of heat into the deep with the result we would produce close to the amount of energy currently derived from fossil fuels.

This would simply maintain sea surface temperatures at about what they are today and thus there would be no massive increased heat forcing due to the lack of clouds as is suggested by the paper.  By my estimate, to get the kind of effect seen in the paper you would have to move 5,500,000 times more cold water to the surface than would be possible with all of the ocean thermal energy conversion you could possibly produce.

Rather that sweeping the problem under the carpet, I much prefer to try and find a way to convert it into an opportunity. By that's just me.

March 26, 2015    View Comment    

On The Role of Energy Intensity in Global Decarbonization: How Fast Can We Cut Energy Use?

If using fuels to produce heat directly is typically more efficient than converting primary energy first to electricity and then to heat then using existing and problematic heat to produce electricity has to be the most efficient process of all?

March 19, 2015    View Comment    

On The Role of Energy Intensity in Global Decarbonization: How Fast Can We Cut Energy Use?

Jesse, sound climate policy has to be based on sound science. 

Climate change is the result of heat being trapped in the closed system of our biosphere and the greenhouse gases that trap that heat will linger for 1000 years. 

How Nature, or the species that is responsible for the buildup of those greenhouse gases, distribute that heat will determine the sustainability of all life on this planet.

The science of how heat is distributed or is converted from one form to another or to work is defined by the laws of thermodynamics. 

The Physics Department of the University of California San Diego points out that the change in entropy (a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system's thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work) of a system ΔS is defined as the amount of energy ΔE added to the system divided by the change in the temperature T  of the system (measured in degrees Kelvin), 

ΔS = ΔE/T.

Further they state that this is very closely related to the heat capacity of a system or object: “Because entropy and heat capacity are so intimately related, we can instantly order entropies of everyday substances: metals are lowest, followed by stuff like wood and rock, and liquids have the highest (water, especially), on a per-kilogram basis.”

They use the analogy of deep pockets for a system with high specific heat capacity like water and state that, “A system with deep pockets will not increase temperature as much for a given injection of energy. Substances with higher heat capacities have deep pockets, and therefore more ways to spread out the energy internally.”

The oceans are the largest system in the biosphere and are sustaining life by absorbing a great deal of heat but not nearly as much as they could were we to find a way to overcome the natural predisposition of oceans to thermally stratify with the warmest layer remaining near the surface. 

In essence they are not spreading the energy internally and soaking up enough of the energy being injected into the biosphere to keep us safe.

This can be overcome with heat pipe OTEC designs, which rather than reducing the amount of energy necessary to support a given amount of economic activity would produce increaslingly more climate benefit with every additional unit of energy produced.

March 16, 2015    View Comment    

On The Lowest Cost Renewable Energy Comes With a 2000 Percent Environmental Dividend

John, there are a number of energy carriers that could bring this power to market. Colleagues suggest ammonia is the best option. Since the automakers seem to be committing to fuel cells however, I think hydrogen would be best. Production of the "supergreen" kind that sequesters CO2 and neutralizes the growing acidity of the oceans is an excellent fit with the process.

March 2, 2015    View Comment    

On Can Humanity Coexist With Rising CO2 Levels?

Mark the 36C is simply an indication of the capacity of the ocean to accept heat without a significant increase in termperature. The whole point of the article is to try and point out some of the heat that would otherwise cause the atmosphere to warm up by 3.7°C to 4.8°C by the end of the century in the business as usual case, or whatever scenario you care to use instead could be safely sequestered in the deep and could be done through the production of zero emissions energy.

Yair Rosenthal of Rutgers has pointed out, "We may have underestimated the efficiency of the oceans as a storehouse for heat and energy. It may buy us some time – how much time, I don’t really know – to come to terms with climate change. But it’s not going to stop climate change.”

I will take as much time as possible to forestall and in fact prevent a 4C future.


February 28, 2015    View Comment    

On Preventing Sea Level Rise in New York City While Cleaning the Air in India and China

Steven, New York bills itself as the financial capital of the world. Very little of the capital raised there however is going into transitioning from a fossil fuel-free economy and therefore to the city's salvation.

A University of Calgary study suggests that 4 meters of sea level rise is already baked in, even if we stop adding CO2 to the atmosphere immediately, which of course isn't about to happen.

I submit no amount of adaptation is going to save Wall Street from this much rise since it is about the height of the maximum surge that hit during Hurricane Sandy - absent any storm.

The big driver for sea level rise is going to be icecap melting. There is the potential for 80 meters there. The poles are warming faster than anywhere and past evidence suggests they warm about 3 times more than the global average. The heat is collected in the tropical ocean and then flows in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics to the colder region. Often the mechanism for this is tropical cyclones. By moving this heat instead into the deep, the other major cold sink, you short-circuit this movement to the poles and the icecap melting. The coefficient of thermal expansion of sea water is also half at 1000 meters what it is at the surface so you reduce sea level rise that way as well. To get this power to market you have to electrolyze the sea water to produce hydrogen, which is as much a water carrier as it is an energy carrier, and bring this water/energy to shore, where it is reconstituted, you reduce sea level rise again.

As much energy as is currently being derived from fossil fuels can be produce in this manner and thus you are transitioning away from fossil fuels even as you mitigate the impact of their burning. 

It would be in the interest of Wall Street, and Columbia University to get behind the only solution that has a chance of stopping a rise of 4 meters let alone far more.

February 25, 2015    View Comment    

On The Lowest Cost Renewable Energy Comes With a 2000 Percent Environmental Dividend

John the deep ocean heat sink is at least 300 times greater than the top 10 meters where 80 percent of the solar radiation is absorbed in the ocean. For OTEC to function you need a temperature difference of at least 20C between the heat source and the heat sink.

A recent Scripps Instiute study relying on an array of about 3500 Argo buoys from 2006-13 shows temperatures warmed at about 0.005 degrees a year down to a depth of 500 metres and 0.002 degrees between 500-2000 metres. . Levitus has pointed out to a depth of 2,000 meters the oceans warmed by an average of 0.09 ºC over the 55 year span (1955 -2006) of his study but if that 0.09 °C was instantly transferred to the lower 10 kilometers of the atmosphere, it would warm on average 36 °C. 

I think from this data you can see you can move an awful lot of heat into the deep without having much impact on the delta T.

You are right though there is some degradation and that is why it was originally thought you could only get about 5 terawatts of power from this source but that has been almost tripled per

It is also pretty clear we are a lot better of with .09C in the ocean as opposed to 36C in the atmospehre.

February 24, 2015    View Comment    

On A Lesson in Oil Pricing

Geoffrey, it never ceases to amaze that industry invariably refuses to take the effective measures that might protect the interests of its shareholders. I suggested one here for hydrocarbons and coal but have also seen the nuclear industry fail to act on its waste and proliferation problems and the consequences. The nuclear assisted hydrocarbon production method would have gone a long way towards solving the cost and emissions problems currently overhanging Alberta's oil sands. Both Canada's nuclear and petroleum industry's have suffered for a lack of addressing the issues and fossil fuels in general will likely, ulimately, suffer a similar fate?

Or they could act to protect their interests with effective measures, of which CCS isn't likely to be one.

February 23, 2015    View Comment    

On Can Humanity Coexist With Rising CO2 Levels?

Jim, I don't recall making any comment about a carbon tax. Governments however are bringing in a lot of money from leases, royalties and taxes on the development and sale of fossil fuels. One of the things about OTEC is that it occurs in noone's backyard. That means it generates power outside of any government's tax jurisdiction as well. What I was trying to get at is: if governments lose their income from fossil fuels to a product manufactured outside of their jurisdiction, they will be forced to figure a way to tax the imported product, probably with some kind of duty.

February 20, 2015    View Comment    

On Can Humanity Coexist With Rising CO2 Levels?

EP I haven't forgotten the accumulation problem. Levitus has pointed out to a depth of 2,000 meters the oceans warmed by an average of 0.09 ºC over the 55 year span (1955 -2006) of his study but if that 0.09 °C was instantly transferred to the lower 10 kilometers of the atmosphere, it would warm on average 36 °C. This would spell our demise and that of most other species, but fortunately this transference won’t happen all at once. Rather, just as the oceans are slow to warm, it will take a long time for them to cool by giving back the hypothetical 36 degrees to the atmosphere. It is currently believed it will take at least a thousand years for the oceans and the atmosphere to come back into equilibrium. OTEC first converts about 3 percent of this heat continuously to energy (over the period of 1000 years this is 3000%). When this is used some of it will dissipate to space like any other source but OTEC is the only one that first converts the heat that would otherwise destroy us to work. Second it attacks the GHG problem because it is emissions free and supergreen electrolysis sequesters CO2. Third it can expand the 1000 year period it will take for the ocean and atmosphere to come back into equilibrium. The slower this occurs, the less the impact will be.

Interesting you want those not making any money, yet wanting to address the problem, to fund this research. The object of the piece is, it might be in the interest of those that are making the money and creating the problem to finance a solution that not only mitigates the damage they have created, could keep them in the energy game after the fossil fuel era runs out, whatever the reason for that might be.

February 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Can Humanity Coexist With Rising CO2 Levels?

I did thanks. Edit button doesn't come up however to fix it.

February 18, 2015    View Comment    

On Atomic Balm: Some Prominent Environmental Veterans are Talking up Nuclear Power as a Climate Change Solution

Thanks Joris, it can be a  long, thankless and painful wait but it makes for restful nights.

February 18, 2015    View Comment