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By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.


1. Mankind faces three general problems related to fossil CO2 emissions.
a) Global warming;
b) Thermal Runaway;
c) Warm state trapping.

Global warming is with us today and causes a range of practical problems including increased air conditioning load, increaseed irrigation requirements, more violent storms, melting of mountain glaciers, melting of polar ice and gradually increasing sea level.

Avoidance of thermal runaway places a hard limit on ongoing annual fossil CO2 emissions, which impacts the present design of energy systems. This hard limit must decrease with time in order to prevent warm state trapping.

Warm state trapping constrains the total amount of fossil CO2 emissions to the atmosphere over the entire time that mankind inhabits the Earth. In essence avoidance of warm state trapping forces mankind to convert from fossil fuel energy systems to non-fossil fuel energy systems. The longer this conversion is delayed the more unstable the Earth becomes in terms of being able to withstand astrophysical events over which mankind has no control, such as nearby passage of another star.

2. It has been shown that at steady state conditions the change in atmospheric emission temperature is in accordance with the equation:
(Tab / Taa) = [(Fta / Ftb)]^.25 [(1 - Frb) / (1 - Fra)]^0.25
In this equation:
Taa = absolute emission temperature at time a in degrees K
Tab = absolute emission temperature at time b in degrees K
Fta = emissivity of the Earth at time a
Ftb = emissivity of the Earth at time b
Fra = planetary albedo of the Earth at time a
Frb = planetary albedo of the Earth at time b

The emissivity of the Earth was obtained from an infrared thermal emission spectrum of the earth collected by the Mars Global Surveyor space probe. Analysis of this spectrum indicates that doubling the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from 360.76 ppmv to a possible future value of 721.52 ppmv while holding Fr and the atmospheric water vapor concentration constant will cause an increase in atmospheric emission temperature of 3.15 degrees C. This atmospheric emission temperature increase is known as global warming.

At an atmospheric emission temperature of 273.15 K there is a step change in Fr which produces two stable temperature states, the normal state and the warm state. The transition between these two states is known as thermal runaway. In order to avoid thermal runaway it is essential to keep Ta < 273.15 K. That means doing all necessary to keep the atmospheric CO2 concentration under 618.52 ppmv. For perspective in 2014 the atmospheric CO2 concentration is 400 ppmv and rising at about 2.66 ppmv / year.

3. It has been shown that for the period 1965 to 2005 combined global warming and local warming in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) caused an average increase in measured temperature of about 2.44 degrees C and an average increase in measured summer temperature of about 2.726 degrees C. During this period the average summer outside air temperature increased from 18.228 degrees C to 20.954 degrees C. This increase in average summer outside air temperature substantially increased the air conditioning load in most buildings in the GTA.

It is conservatively estimated that the increase in summer temperature in the GTA, when extrapolated across southern Ontario, caused between 2000 MW and 3000 MW of extra summer on-peak electricity load, and doing all necessary to bring the average summer temperature back to its 1965 level should be a high priority for the Ontario Power Authority.

4. It is shown that if the total mass flow to the atmosphere Fc of carbon dioxide generated by combustion of fossil fuels is constant then the ultimate world wide average carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere (CO2) is given by:
(CO2) = (CO2)o [((Fc To) / Ma) + 1]
(CO2)o = historic atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration = 280 ppmv
Fc = mass flow of fossil carbon dioxide to the atmosphere (kg / year)
To = exonential decay time constant of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
Ma = historic mass of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere

Numerical evaluation of this equation using the 2004 value of Fc of:
Fc = 3.683 X 10^13 kg / year and
To = 40.94 years
Ma = 224.91 X 10^10 tonnes of CO2
(CO2) = 468.0 ppmv
Note that in 2017 it was found that Fc calculated from coal, oil and natural gas production data is too small and that To is too large as indicated by C-14 data. However, the product (Fc To) is unchanged.
Note that this is an ultimate world wide average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration and that the local atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration near a source of carbon dioxide such as a fossil fuelled electricity generating station or a major city will be significantly higher.

The corresponding global warming temperature increase over dry land, as compared to preindustrial temperatures, is given by:
Ta2 - Ta1 = (4.5445 C) Ln(468/280) = 2.333 degrees C
There may be a further minor temperature increase due to water vapor and local warming.

The resulting total temperature increase is sufficient to cause massive population migration from equitorial countries. The projected average temperature increase in a city such as Toronto will make summers unbearable without continuous mechanical cooling.

5. It is further shown that half life of transient excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as indicated by coal, oil and natural gas production statistics is about 28 years whereas the half life reliably indicated by C-14 data is about 10 years.

6. It has been shown that in order to prevent the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa exceeding 560 ppmv the world wide total rate of emissions of fossil carbon to the atmosphere must be kept below 167% of the 2004 world wide fossil carbon emission rate.

7. It has been shown that in order to restore the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration measured at Mauna Loa to its 1990 value of 352 ppmv, the world wide fossil carbon emission rate to the atmosphere must be reduced to less than 47.8% of the corresponding 2004 world wide fossil carbon emission rate.

8. It has been shown that a major consequence of global warming is an increased requirement for irrigation water per unit of land area under cultivation. Since the total fresh water supply is fixed, global warming reduces the total land area under cultivation which in turn reduces the total agricultural output. This issue has major consequences on both the food and biofuel supplies.

9. It has been shown that the excess atmospheric CO2 and the corresponding increase in atmospheric water vapor concentration are causing net heat capture by the oceans which is melting polar floating sea ice. Once the melting spreads to the Greenland and Antarctic land borne ice, the sea level will rapidly rise. This sea level rise will continue for about 144 years or until the excess atmospheric CO2 concentration decays. It has been shown that the excess atmospheric CO2 decay time constant from C-14 data is about 16 years and that the projected rise in sea level is 2.5 to 3.7 m. It has been shown that the only way to mitigate this sea level rise is to stop use of fossil fuels forthwith.

10. The issue of carbon dioxide related warming in Toronto is but a taste of problems to come. The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is gradually increasing and this concentration increase, in combination with the corresponding increase in atmospheric water vapor concentration, will in time make equatorial countries uninhabitable. The consequent population migration towards Canada will require a complete revision of present electricity load forecasts, electricity generation requirements and electricity transmission line requirements.

11. The Ontario Power Authority should immediately cease use of fossil fuels for electricity generation. In order to do so it will have to terminate existing long term fossil fuel contracts and pay a high premium to obtain non-fossil fuel generated electricity from all available sources. The near term price for new non-fossil fuel electricity energy may have to be increased to as much as $.30 per base load kWh and government backed electricity purchase price guarantees may be required in order to mobilize industry to supply the required non-fossil fuel electricity on a timely basis.

12. It is anticipated that the Ontario Power Authority will have to recommend to the Minister of Energy of Ontario that, not withstanding the Minister's earlier directions, Ontario will have to proceed with construction of large amounts of new nuclear generation on an as fast as practical basis without any politically imposed limits. The government of Ontario may have to suspend existing environmental hearing provisions relating to construction of transmission lines in order to ensure that transmission facilities for the new nuclear generation capacity are available as the new nuclear generation is constructed.

13. Load factor and generator capacity factor dependent electricity rates will be required to mitigate the cost of new transmission lines.

14. It is anticipated that new transmission lines will also have to be built on an as fast as practical basis, to access non-fossil fuel energy from hydro and wind sources by the Great Lakes, in northern Ontario, in Manitoba, in Quebec and in Labrador. The government of Ontario is no longer in a position to haggle with the other provinces and will likely have to accept any reasonable terms that they dictate. Similarly, aboriginal parties and other land owners will have to be generously compensated for expropriated transmission line right-of-way, because Ontario no longer has time to engage in prolonged negotiations.

15. The temperature increase due to increases in the concentrations of carbon dioxide and water vapor in the atmosphere has further provincial, national and international implications that are set out on the web page titled: Consequences.

16. Further actions by the Ontario Power Authority and other Ontario governmental bodies to address this warming problem are set out on the web pages titled: Remedial Action and Energy Vision.

17. The main conclusion of this work is that combustion of fossil carbon is no longer a viable source of primary energy. Energy must be obtained from non-fossil fuel sources. To the extent proctical carbon should be buried in the ground. This change in thinking is so radical that many people will have difficulty accepting this reality.

A simple practical example of application of this principle is that only the volatile portion (Biogas) of municipal waste should be burned. The rest should be buried.

18. In general, as the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases the ease of radiating heat into space decreases. This reduction in radiative cooling reduces the efficiency of all thermal-electric generation systems, including nuclear power systems.

19. It was previously thought by some people that when the primary carbon dioxide absorption band was saturated global warming would stop. However, one of the revelations of this work is that the main carbon dioxide absorption band at 15 um has multiple sidebands, and as the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases these side bands cause the Earth's emissivity to further decrease and the local and global warming to further increase. As the atmospheric temperature increases the average water vapor concentration in the earth's atmosphere also increases, which further reduces the Earth's infrared emissivity and hence further increases the atmospheric temperature.

20. The only hope for survival of mankind is that universal public education relating to the issues presented on this web site will cause sufficient political pressure to force implemention of effective fossil carbon taxes. In order to be effective such taxes must be sufficient to prevent fossil carbon being used as a primary energy source. Such fossil carbon taxes will greatly increase the cost of fossil fuels. It is my hope that this web site will contribute to public education with respect to this matter.

21. My immediate concern relates to energy policy personnel, electricity utility executives and their regulators in developed nations such as Canada and the USA. They are educated people who should be able to understand and act on the matters presented on this web site, regardless of political considerations. They have no valid reason, other than incompetence or corruption, to advocate or approve new capital construction that causes more ongoing use of fossil fuels. They have at their disposal non-fossil fuel alternatives such as remote hydro power, wind power, nuclear power and solar power. There is no doubt that in the absence of a fossil carbon tax all of these alternatives are more expensive in than using fossil fuels. However, fossil fuels emit excess carbon dioxide that has a half life in the atmosphere of about 28 years. This excess carbon dioxide will impose an additional electricity load for air conditioning for about a century that can only be met via construction of additional non-fossil fuel generation. The extra cost of the non-fossil fuel generation required to meet the ongoing extra air conditioning load resulting from use of fossil fuels makes fossil fuel generation completely uneconomic. Electricity utilites and their regulators must lead the way by implementing non-fossil fuel generation to minimize both local and global warming.

22. In terms of assisting development in third world countries the most important contribution that Canada can make is to use nuclear power to displace its existing consumption of fossil fuels so that fossil fuel capacity becomes available for use in third world countries without further impacting the world atmospheric CO2 concentration.



This web page last updated October 11, 2014.

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