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The holistic approach to climate change.

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A holistic approach to climate change is one in which the sight of the forest isn’t lost for the trees.

The theme of the October Special Issue of the Royal Society is “Going negative: An interdisciplinary, holistic approach to carbon dioxide removal” (CDR).

In its introduction, Tamara Jane Zelikova of the University of Wyoming says, “Society has grappled with waste, as a social, technical and public health challenge, for centuries.”

In the article Should carbon removal be treated as waste management? Lessons from the cultural history of waste, she notes how, “Holly Buck presents waste management as a powerful analogy for CDR. She begins with describing the roots of the circular economy, the idea that waste is a resource out of place. Buck points out that treating CO2 as a waste is part of how societies progress, analogous to the evolution of modern sanitation and recycling, driven by changes in societal norms, policy and technological progress. But Buck also points out the dangers of approaching CDR as simply an issue of waste management, opening up a resource frontier that normalizes the production of waste because it is a feedstock to something better. This framing suggests that if we can manage CO2 as a waste, and if that waste presents an exciting opportunity, we may inadvertently forego decarbonizing our energy sector and our entire economies and keep the status quo. While the waste framing applies to CO2, Buck provides lessons from the evolution of other waste management regimes to guide a more deliberate development of CDR within a waste management paradigm.”

A holistic approach to climate change would avoid the “danger” of opening up a resource frontier that normalizes the production of waste because the heat of global warming is always a feedstock that can be converted into something better. It is the ultimate resource out of place, and we are failing to use it properly.

In scitechdaily, MIT’s Asegun Henry says, “Our mission here is to save humanity from extinction due to climate change.”

In the paper Five thermal energy grand challenges for decarbonization, he cowrote with Ravi Prasher & Arun Majumdar they say, “More than 90 percent of the world’s energy use today involves heat, whether for producing electricity, heating and cooling buildings and vehicles, manufacturing steel and cement, or other industrial activities. Collectively, these processes emit a staggering amount of greenhouse gases into the environment each year.”

The challenges they identify are developing thermal storage systems for the power grid, electric vehicles, and buildings; decarbonizing industrial processes that contribute 15 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions; the cooling problem, air conditioners and refrigerators have chemicals in them that are 2,000 times more harmful than carbon dioxide on a molar basis; long-distance transmission of heat, and variable conductance building envelopes that change conductance to let heat in or out.

Global warming is thermal storage in the ocean. It is emissions free energy that can power a grid, preferably a hydrogen grid, vehicles, and buildings.

It can decarbonize industrial process and cool the surface by shifting surface heat into deep water.

It is also energy that can accelerate the long-term storage of carbon on the ocean floor as carbonates, above the carbonate compensation depth, via enhanced weathering.   

The heat pipes that shift the heat contain refrigerants in a closed system.

Carbon dioxide, however, can be one of these therefore the question of massive harm due to its use is moot.

The long-distance transmission of the heat warming is accomplished by the conversion of the heat of warming to work and then to the energy carrier hydrogen by an electrochemical process that consumes CO2 and produces an antacid that neutralizes the acidity of the oceans.

A general cooling of the surface takes the heat off building envelopes.

The paper, Human-induced changes to the global ocean water masses and their time of emergence says,  “The World Ocean is rapidly changing, with global and regional modification of temperature and salinity, resulting in widespread and irreversible impacts. While the most pronounced observed temperature and salinity changes are located in the upper ocean, changes in water masses at depth have been identified and will probably strengthen in the future.”

And the paper, Tropical Expansion Driven by Poleward Advancing Midlatitude Meridional Temperature Gradients says the “Both observations and climate simulations have shown that the edges of tropics and associated subtropical climate zone are shifting toward higher latitudes under climate change. The underlying dynamical mechanism driving this phenomenon that has puzzled the scientific community for more than a decade, however, is still not entirely clear. A number of investigations argued that the atmospheric processes, in the absence of the ocean dynamics, lead to the tropical expansion. For example, increasing greenhouse gases, decreasing ozone and increasing aerosols are suggested to be the dominant factors contributing to expanding the tropics. However, these investigations are mostly based on model simulations, and observations show a much more complex evolution of expanding tropics. By examining the tropical width individually over each ocean basin, in this study, we find that the width of the tropics closely follows the displacement of oceanic midlatitude meridional temperature gradients (MMTG). Under global warming, as a first‐order response, the subtropical convergence zone experiences more surface warming due to background convergence of surface water. Such warming induces poleward shift of the oceanic MMTG and drives the tropical expansion.”

These are both examples of heat in the wrong place. The most pronounced observed temperature and salinity changes are in the upper ocean, therefore moving heat into deeper water mitigates the problem. Especially in the case of sea level rise, where the thermal coefficient of expansion of water is half at a depth of 1,000 meters it is at the tropical surface, and heat in the depths isn’t available to melt icecaps or energize tropical storms.

Tropical expansion is alleviated by the movement of the heat of warming instead into deep water.

It is the ocean that is changing not the atmosphere therefore CDR is the wrong focus of a hollistic approach to climate change.

A circular economy that solves the ocean heat problem solves virtually all of the major concerns of society.

As the following demonstrates, the CO2 problem can be eliminated in less than a decade.


But absent a greenhouse blanket, the heat being added to the ocean can rapidly heat up the atmosphere.

A successful waste management heat regime would recycle the heat of warming until it is completely consumed as productive work.

A holistic approach to climate change focuses on the greatest and longest-lived of our environmental problems.

It is how our society will progress.


Jim Baird's picture

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