October 22, 2009

Technologies that Would Change The Energy Picture

The Wall Street Journal has an article about five technologies that would change the energy and climate picture.

Over the next few decades, the world will need to wean itself from dependence on fossil fuels and drastically reduce greenhouse gases. Current technology will take us only so far; major breakthroughs are required.

* Space based solar power
* Utility scale energy storage to enable a high percentage of solar and wind
* Next Generation Biofuels
* Carbon capture and storage
* Advanced Car Batteries

There are several issues with the whole article.

1. Even if we were business as usual and if the climate models were correct it could be decades before we really notice serious climate change

Mojib Latif of Germany's Leibniz Institute is one of the leading climate modellers in the world. He is the recipient of several international climate-study prizes and a lead author for the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has contributed significantly to the IPCC's last two five-year reports that have stated unequivocally that man-made greenhouse emissions are causing the planet to warm dangerously. Yet last week in Geneva, at the UN's World Climate Conference--an annual gathering of the so-called "scientific consensus" on man-made climate change --Latif conceded the Earth has not warmed for nearly a decade and that we are likely entering "one or even two decades during which temperatures cool."

A New Scientist article also points out that climate change a few years or a decade of cool temperatures is not conclusive.

Bottom line: There is concern and fears and breakthroughs or increased usage of existing technologies will often take decades to have impact on slowing growth of greenhouse gases and then lowering the amount of gases.

This site has provided a list of faster impacting steps, since climate change or not it is better to reduce air pollution.

2. Plenty can be done with existing technology.

This goes to the list of faster impacting steps and technologies.

Making container ships run on nuclear power, improving aerodynamics on cars, retrofiting existing cars, building more nuclear power, uprating more nuclear power plants and other steps are either existing technology or ones that are incremental improvements.

3. Success in the listed technology breakthroughs would mainly change the psychology of more people to being more hopeful and optimistic about a portfolio of technological solutions.

4. Faster impact on climate would be to reduce air pollution and soot (black carbon). It could be achieved faster and would have more climate effects.

5. Breakthroughs with factory mass produced small deep burn fission nuclear reactors

Breakthroughs with nuclear fusion

would be technology that more rapidly transform not just the energy/climate picture but the economy and civilization.

6. Even modest molecular nanotechnology would enable climate control technology.

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