Thanks to brilliant dorg for sponsoring this video last week, a paper was posted to Reddit, outlining a new cheaper than ever process of removing carbon from the Earth’s. Atmosphere, great, you might think we’ve solved climate change, just give it a few years and we’ll, be all over it like a cheap suit.
But we’ve known for the past 10 years that human changes to the Earth’s. Climates are already irreversible. In this video essay. I’m, going to explain why and how, but also what we can still do to defy climate change.
This video essay is also brought to you by grass pollen which is sky high in the UK right now and has made me currently look and feel as if I’ve spent 15 rounds in the ring with Yvonne Drago, so no camera.
For this one just my voice, the earth is warming because we keep pumping carbon dioxide amongst other substances into the atmosphere preventing as much energy from leaving the planet as used to causing an energy imbalance which warms the earth to try and prevent such warming.
We have two options: either reduce the amount of energy coming into the earth from the Sun or remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and increase the amount of energy that the earth radiates into space.
Both of these are quite possible, but flawed solar radiation management is also going to have to wait for a future video. I’m only going to talk about the latter of these two because of this new paper posted on reddit in it.
The author’s, outline a new technique of extracting carbon dioxide of co2 from the atmosphere and converting it to an energy, dense fuel, very cool and definitely good news. But I’m, not going to talk about the specifics of the technique.
In this video, you can read the paper yourself for that. Instead, I’m going to talk about how this technique might work in practice combating climate change, but before doing so let’s understand what we’re up against emmalin’s.
Climate scientist, Susan Solomon headed up a paper in 2009 titled, irreversible climate change due to carbon dioxide emissions and to way oversimplify the conclusions of that paper in a sentence. The impact of carbon emissions persist longer than that of nuclear waste, and emissions of carbon due to humans to date will alter the climate for over a thousand years to come.
That’s, obviously quite alarming, and not even the full picture. So let’s. Break down those claims to come to these conclusions. Solomon and co-authors examined how the climate is going to change in the future, based on a class of computer models known as a mix that’s.
Earth System models of intermediate complexity: these are computer models which are similar to those used to predict the weather in the coming week or to being computer code, which represents the physics of how different parts of the Earth’s.
Atmosphere talk to each other. How air heats up in the Sun and moves around and have things like clouds form, but a mix are kind of simplified, faster, run versions of weather prediction models. The Solomon paper used a particular bond called the burn 2.
5 CC emic to see, amongst other things, how atmospheric concentrations of co2 will change over the next millennium, because co2 is emitted by humans and other natural sources like decomposition and respiration, but removed from the atmosphere by Plants, and notably by being absorbed into the oceans, but the rate at which these processes take place depends on the climate, which of course depends on the co2 concentration and that co2 concentration is changed by processes which are dependent on the climate, which depends on co2 concentration And so on there’s, a complicated feedback loop, so scientists use a computer model to simulate how these factors will interact for millennia in the future.
The authors found that, after co2 concentrations peak in the 21st century by the 31st century, around 40 % of the carbon emitted by humans into the atmosphere will still remain. That’s. To say that around 40 % of peak co2 concentration.
On top of the pre-industrial value of around 280 parts, per million will still be around in a thousand years. So if we were to completely stop emitting carbon today with a concentration of around 410 parts per million in the year 3000, the concentration would be around 330 parts per million.
This might not sound so bad, but that’s. If we were to completely stop emitting today and never emit carbon again, a more realistic, if still optimistic scenario is a peak of around 500 parts per million, almost double pre-industrial concentrations and a 31st century concentration of around 370 parts per million.
This means that the impact of carbon emissions persists for longer than that of new tío waste off a century. Nuclear-Waste is roughly three thousand times less radioactive than it was a year after its discharged from a nuclear power plant, while even after a millennium, the impacts of heben carbon emissions is reduced by a new factor of two or three and, of course those increased co2 concentrations.
Will change the climate in the year 3000? The paper goes on to outline how, in the 31st century, the planet will still be nearly as warm as it was when co2 concentrations were at their peak in the 21st century.
How global patterns of rainfall will be significantly altered, leading to massive droughts and how global average sea levels will have irreversibly risen, but by a highly uncertain amount? In other words, even if we stop emitting carbon today, the climate in a thousand years has already been altered, notably being hotter and the longer.
We keep pumping carbon into the atmosphere before stopping the worse. Those effects in the year 3000 are going to be, but, in short, climate change is by now locked in. But what if we could remove carbon from the atmosphere? What if we could get ourselves back to that pre-industrial concentration of 280 parts per million and remove the forcing due to carbon in the future? The paper posted on reddit by Keith at AU says that, with their new technique, a tonne of co2 can now be extracted from the atmosphere for between 94 dollars and two hundred and thirty two dollars.
So let’s, be super optimistic and run with the cost of $ 94 per tonne in 2017. Humans emitted 32.5, Giga tons of co2 and let’s, make a crude assumption that the world economy isn’t gonna change from now, and that these are the emissions that carbon capture technology will have to offset to do.
This would cost very roughly three trillion dollars per year every year, that’s, roughly the equivalent of the GDP of the United Kingdom, or about 3 % of the world’s economy. If the world wanted to remain carbon neutral and offset its carbon emissions using this technique and again remember, this is assuming the lower bound predicted by the study.
It would be the equivalent of building a new International Space Station from scratch every 19 days for the rest of time. In short, using this technology and the economics presented in the paper, it simply isn’t possible to offset the world’s emissions as they at least, and let alone start to reduce co2 concentrations.
But here are two positive things to consider. One, this technology is still in relatively early stages and it’s still quite possible that the cost of removing a ton of co2 will come down by an order of magnitude or two or even three over the next few centuries.
If this happens, then maybe we can afford to offset emissions in some meaningful way in the future, and we can reduce the emissions that we need to offset by changing our economy, and the recent ren21 global status report indicates that we’re.
Making promising progress in converting to a renewables based energy economy and reducing future carbon emissions, but we still have a long way to go, particularly when it comes to transport. It’s possible that global carbon emissions will peak in the next few decades and then start to decrease.
Though they’re, going to be on the scale of gigatonnes for the foreseeable future, and so still too large to feasibly offset with existing technology, climate change is and likely will remain irreversible on human timescales.
I haven’t actually even talked about real one-way process is driven by climate change like species extinction or shot down of the thermohaline circulation. Simply I focused on how the climate in a thousand years has already been altered by our activities now and how we’re, a very long way off, even breaking even with our carbon emissions, let alone removing carbon from the atmosphere and undoing damage.
We’ve already done, and even if we did, climate change has already driven species to extinction and will continue to do so. Whilst we try and reach that holy grail of negative emissions, altering the broader environment in ways that we haven’t even begun to understand to me, it’s very unlikely that we’re ever gonna reach, substantial negative Emissions, so the damage we’ve already done, is here to stay forever on human timescales.
The best that we can do now is to limit future emissions and future harm as an individual. You can make a difference by not eating meat, by using public transport and by lobbying your government to support policies which curb emissions and Industry we can’t just give up.
We owe it to our children and our children’s. Children to limit the harm we’re doing to their world because they’re already, inheriting it damaged. We now just have to try and limit future damage as best we can by changing our economy now and not trusting in some future technology to save us, because it won’t.
The Bern 2.5 CC emic that the Salomon paper used is a middle of the range climate model, not incredibly complex, but still a vast web of variables and physical processes at the heart of it, though, are a series of algorithms repeating the same instructions over and over And over again, there’s, no magic, just logic, and if you’d like to learn how to code a model like this yourself, then a great place to start is brilliant dog.
I’ve, never actually taken a formal course on computer science, but I’ve recently started working through the courses on brilliant, which are so slick we put together and work based on my recommended way of learning, which is through doing problems And learning from your mistakes in particular, I’m, really interested in seeing where the machine learning course currently and the development is going and definitely gonna, have to try and write some programs of my own to test down some of these techniques.
If you’d like to join me in doing this, and the brilliant community pets, ooh brilliant org forward, slash Simon Clark to sign up for free and as a bonus, the first 200 people that go to that link will get 20 % off their Annual premium subscription, thank you for watching this video and apologies for not being on camera in this one, like I said, pollen has kicked me in the face super hard this year, and you really want to see me in the state that I’ve In please check the description for links to the papers I talked about in the video and actually, if you’d like to learn more about the science I talked about, then I wrote a short blog post expanding on some of it on my website.
It’s, basically stuff that went in the script originally, but was too long link in the description cheers for watching and you’ll see me in the next one.