Let’s talk a little bit about heat. just heat. As you know…the high and uncomfortable temperatures that most of the planet and people are experiencing right now. This year he received a heat advisory/warning in July about 100 million Americans due to sustained highs in the 90s and his triple-digit temperatures.

Then, in late July, two-thirds of China’s population was also reported to be under high temperature warnings. That’s about 900 million people! And they’re not the only ones.

But perhaps a short refresher course is more appropriate. Like what many of us have to do from time to time in our business and work lives to stay up to date on all legal and professional matters.

Let’s take a look at the diagram on Wikipedia titled “Greenhouse Effect”. It’s a simple and accurate way of representing the science behind global warming. It’s really simple. Over a century ago, our atmosphere had a very different composition than it does today.

back to basics

As the diagram shows, visible light from the Sun enters the Earth’s atmosphere and some of that light and energy is reflected back into space. The rest continues to the surface of the planet, where it is absorbed. A warmed object radiates some of its heat into space as infrared energy, which we cannot see.

However, some of this radiation is absorbed by carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) present in the atmosphere and returns to the Earth’s surface, increasing its temperature. The more carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere, the more heat is returned to the surface. Levels are about 50% higher than in the recent past.

So what have we done to the atmosphere? Over the last century or so, we added about 2,400 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide to the air we breathe, largely from the burning of fossil fuels. coal, oil and gas. Another way to express this amount is that there are 2,400,000,000,000 tons, or … 4,800,000,000,000,000 pounds of this gas in the atmosphere. Our atmosphere today is quite different from the recent past.

It’s important to note that about half of this CO2 is absorbed by the ocean.

These numbers may vary slightly depending on when the calculations were made and what assumptions were made, but the point is that they are huge quantities with consequences. and radiation heat balance, and now it is enough to change the imbalance.

And we warm up.

This is nothing new! On page 341 of Popular His Mechanics, March 1912 (see figure and text), the effects of burning fossil fuels on the temperature of the Earth were known.

But there is a solution to this emissions problem, and this includes moving electricity and transport to renewable sources.

This is a difficult transitional issue, and many people and institutions find it difficult to accept or adapt to change.

projection vs.actual

The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) is a good example. As the name suggests, it deals with all energy issues including supply, availability, forecasting, policy and financing. In 2001, the EIA projected future renewable power sources and produced the following graph.

See chart titled ‘Predicted vs. Actual U.S. Electricity Generation from Wind and Solar, 2001-2020’.

The graph has two dotted lines near the bottom and two solid lines near the top. The dotted line at the bottom is his EIA forecast for solar PV growth over the next 20 years, little changed from the baseline. The next highest dotted line is his EIA projection of wind power over the same 20-year period. It shows a very slow upward trend and levels off in a few years.

Now let’s take a look at the first solid line above the two dashed lines that represent the actual solar power generation. Actual occurrence was 57 times higher than predicted.

The top solid line shows the actual growth of wind power over that 20-year period, underestimated by a factor of 14.

Step up

How can EIA be so erroneous? this is their job. We can all speculate as to why, but predicting the future is fraught with uncertainty.

Some of our leaders are beginning to address the climate change crisis by replacing the use of fossil fuels, like Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee. In July 2022, he signed a historic law requiring the state to supply his electricity needs by 2033 with his 100% renewable sources.

Next, take a look at the bar chart titled ‘Additional Operating and Planned Generation Capacity (2022)’. The vertical axis is gigawatts and the horizontal axis is the month of 2022. This chart is from cleantechnica.com on August 4, 2022 and uses data from EIA.

The first part is installed capacity for the first six months of 2022 and the second part is planned additions for the second half of 2022.

Developers and project planners indicate that the US will add 29.4 gigawatts (GW) of new capacity in the second half, bringing the total to about 45 GW for the year. This is a huge amount of electricity, mostly from solar and wind power.

Yes, NIMBY (not in my backyard) will be a problem as more and more renewables are installed. So entrepreneurs and planners are looking at some creative solutions. And they even came up with some new words. “floatovoltaics” is one of them. There’s no reason not to use reservoirs instead of putting solar plants on farmland (see photo of hexagonal floating solar arrays inside wind turbines).

And then there’s the ‘Agrivolta’, where solar farms are placed on high pillars in fields so that crops and livestock can grow and/or graze underneath.

There is no end to what we can do.

And so it goes.

Raymond N. Johnson, Ph.D.’s scientific career spanned 30 years in research and development as an organic/analytical chemist. He is currently the founder and director of the US Climate Institute (www.ICSUSA.org). Climate Science is published on the first Sunday of each month.

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