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Blogs under tag Global Warming

Adam Smith and Economies of Scale for Algae Production Posted by RobertTulip on Tue September 07 2010 12:38:57 AM 39

Action at the individual level will not stop global warming. Only large scale intervention with economies of scale will have real impact. A good explanation of why this is so was foreshadowed by Adam Smith in The_Wealth_of_Nations with his example of a pin factory. Individuals can make pins in home based workshops, but coordinating their efforts in factories will result in far more efficient and effective production. Taking this insight into the modern context of new technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, we can see that home based algae farms could well be a useful way to treat domestic waste water and make useful products, but if we want to use algae to regulate the climate then we have to operate on a global scale. This will mean building algae farms at sea on a scale of many square kilometers. My rough calculation is that farms covering an area of 500,000 square kilometers, 0.1% of the world ocean, would be big enough to make a dent in emission trajectories while also producing a workable quick replacement for fossil fuel.

What can we realistically expect re global warming Posted by RobertTulip on Fri August 13 2010 11:14:29 AM 5

From http://www.bautforum.com/showthread.php/106405-What-can-we-realistically-expect-re-global-warming?p=1774441#post1774441

OP question: "Given that there is no prospect of a political settlement over global warming, can we expect civilisation to end by 2100? Will science find a way to make the world liveable? Will the worst case scenario be the best fit scenario, or will the results be more mild then we expected?"

My comment: "A political settlement may not be the key factor. The Kyoto Protocol did not even slow the increase of emissions, and was more about being seen to respond than actually delivering anything to mitigate climate change. Similar criticism applies to the Copenhagen conference.

Reducing annual global emissions from 30 billion tons to 25 billion tons would deliver maybe a few years before a dangerous tipping point is reached. Emission reduction of this scale is essentially pointless, merely slowing an impending crisis. The real question is whether and how energy supply can be transformed globally in a way that would push CO2 concentrations downward.

Regarding sceptic views on a tipping point, the issue is the extreme rapid geological speed of increase, not whether we can stoically imagine life continuing in a high CO2 atmosphere. Of course life could survive an experimental quadrupling of CO2, just as 5% of organisms survived the Permian catastrophe, but that is hardly an optimal model.

The OP asks "can science find a way to make the world liveable?" The task here is to find a way to stabilise and reduce CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. Geological sequestration of CO2 is too expensive, and does not turn CO2 into a valuable commodity. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is more a way to achieve environmental goals under the guise of a climate objective. Nuclear power is a valuable stopgap, but will only deliver a fraction of the required change in energy system.

The question, assuming we desire to return the planet to a 250 ppm CO2 state, is whether there is any way to suck CO2 out of the air and sea on a scale approaching 50 billion tons per year, assuming we continue to emit 30 billion tons, and whether such change can be made politically attractive by being self-financing and ecologically beneficial.

As far as I can see, large scale algae production is the only feasible answer. If algae can fix 100 tons of CO2 per hectare per year, then algae farms covering one percent of the world ocean (ie five million square kilometres) will be needed to stabilise the world climate. Such farms would be more than ?bandaids on Gaia?, as they would produce a wide range of valuable commodities. Enough of the produced carbon could remain unburned, in the form of fertilizer, fish food, plastics and carbon blocks, to have material impact on climate stability. If we can work out how to build infrastructure such as roads and buildings out of carbon sourced from algae, we may be able to use a commercial market system to stabilise the world climate."