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Carbon Mining

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Robert Tulip

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Carbon Mining

Carbon Mining - A Better Way to Fix the Climate


Reducing carbon dioxide emissions, far from being the only solution to climate change, actually harms efforts to stabilise the global climate. That may seem an astounding and counter-intuitive assertion, but it is supported by evidence, suggesting a need for a radical rethink of the strategic framework around efforts to address climate change. Such a rethink will show that governments need to reassess its view that climate intervention cannot substitute for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

If the world economy reduces its CO2 emissions, the result will be a slowing of the growth rate of atmospheric CO2. Reducing emissions does not reduce the total amount of CO2 in the air. This difference between growth rate and total amount is crucial to understanding response to climate change. Emission reduction by itself cannot reduce the amount of carbon in the air and sea, but is like turning a flowing tap in a plugged bath down to just a drip, to delay but not prevent overflow. Climate stability needs to reduce the amount of carbon in the air, which means we need methods that are like pulling the plug in a bath. We can pull the plug on global warming by mining carbon from the air and sea using algae, with potential to operate on a scale bigger than total world emissions. Just as Tesla’s alternating current enabled scaling up of electricity to power modern industry over a century ago, so too today we need innovative simple technology that can build on current methods to remove carbon at scale.

We should aim to reduce CO2 from the current level of over 400 parts per million towards the 280 ppm level of CO2 that supported the stable sea levels of the last ten thousand years of history. The unfortunate fact is that emission reduction does not help that goal. Consider Australia’s climate change commitments. Australia has pledged to reduce its national CO2 emissions by about 28% by 2030, avoiding the addition of about 45 megatons of carbon to the air. That target is only 0.2% of the carbon removal needed for world climate stability, and only one tenth of Australia’s ongoing contribution to the world CO2 problem. And even this ineffectual target looks politically and economically impossible with current methods. We need a new global paradigm, shifting carbon dioxide from its current status of useless and harmful waste to make it a major mining resource.

Reducing the speed at which we make things worse may seem constructive, but the problem is that a focus on emission reduction hinders the development of the technologies that are needed to reduce CO2 levels. Emission reduction diverts attention from development of profitable carbon mining methods, crowding out the investment in activities that are needed to prevent climate change. A shift to a new economic paradigm involving negative emission technology, or more simply, carbon mining, requires a concerted focus on large scale innovation and investment, involving cooperation between governments and the energy industry.

These realities of climate politics and economics are very different from the assumptions behind the Paris Climate Agreement. While the Paris Agreement has worthy goals, it has no method to achieve them. It is almost like Paris is lost in a masquerade. It will take a big disruption to cut through the dither that UN processes have created. My view is that the big surprise will be a positive central role for US President Donald Trump, who despite his apparent denial of climate change is well placed to shift climate discussion towards a real assessment of practical risks and opportunities, in cooperation with his incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The unfortunate political deadlock preventing climate action was well illustrated by former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s description of climate lobbyists as socialists masquerading as environmentalists. This comment reflects the intense antipathy towards socialist politics on the part of conservatives, and the strong distrust of taxes on carbon, which are perceived on the political right as a form of socialism by stealth. Regardless of its merits, taxing carbon to reduce emissions is seen as inherently a big government socialist program that reduces economic growth. Doubts about whether emission reduction, carbon tax and renewable energy targets can fix the climate, together with the lack of broad political support in view of economic risks, illustrate that new innovative thinking is needed about how we can stabilise the climate.

Climate debate is split between advocates of emission reduction and the growing voices who do not trust the science of how emissions cause climate impact. Both sides tend to see the science through the prism of politics, with a toxic lack of trust. Conservative doubts about emission reduction are linked to the perceived failure of state-centric solutions associated with the UN, and illustrate that the prospect of success of UN-based approaches is reduced by political deadlock.
The challenge is to find a balance, to temper the conflict by recognising the good will and interests of all sides. If more trustworthy solutions were on offer, aligned to the capitalist incentives that conservatives support, President Trump could make a deal about carbon mining as a third way. A middle path could accept science while focusing on how business can profitably deliver the real main task required for climate stability, to reduce the amount of carbon already in the air. There is clear potential to remove more carbon than we add in order to step back from the high risks of global warming. Carbon mining can emerge as a new model that recognises we can only protect the climate if in doing so we also protect and expand the economy through investment in innovative commercial technology.

The science shows the risks of doing nothing are high. Whatever sceptics may think, carbon emissions from human activity are the cause of global warming, which is happening extremely fast on planetary time scale. If current trends are allowed to continue, climate change could cook the planet and cause the collapse of human civilisation. Such alarmist projections seem far-fetched, but the good news is they can easily be prevented if we use technology to solve the problems.

However, the science about the cause of warming is not matched by any clarity on how to manage carbon waste. How to remove the excess carbon from the global atmosphere is an unsettled question involving technology, politics and economics as well as science. We should see climate technology today as akin to the situation at the dawn of aviation at Kitty Hawk with the Wright Bros. We should expect that over this century we will rapidly move to build a leading world industry in carbon mining with the same prominence as aviation today.

Real practical solutions are only possible if we confront how the settled science of climate change has been misused politically through the false claim that emission reduction is the only solution. Climate science and what to do about global warming are separate topics. We should accept climate science while rejecting the assumption that reducing emissions is the only way to fix the problems of global warming. Emission reduction, although superficially plausible, is actually a very bad idea, as it worsens conflict and poverty, polarises politics, crowds out useful activity and has no prospect of achieving anything positive for the climate.

Carbon mining is a more effective path to climate stability than emission reduction because carbon mining can remove the carbon from the air faster than we add it, providing a rapid path to prevent sea level rise, ocean acidification and loss of biodiversity. Importantly, carbon mining at large scale can also remove the political division caused by demands to shift away from fossil fuels, by enabling fossil fuel energy production to remain compatible with climate stability.

If we mine twice as much carbon from the air as we add, we can keep burning coal and oil and gas. Shifting all that carbon from out of the crust for practical use as energy does not have to cause global warming. A new carbon economy can become the key to achieving enduring global abundance. Viewing climate stability as a global carbon mining project collaborates with the capitalist system instead of opposing it. Carbon mining presents unrivalled potential for rapid scaling up of new innovative industries by treating carbon as a profitable resource that can enhance shareholder value for current and new multinational corporations.

Emission reduction aims to shift energy use from coal to solar and wind. Unfortunately, the arguments for solar and wind as related to climate change have serious flaws, which are not much discussed, except by controversial writers such as Björn Lomborg, the Danish political scientist who has provided sound explanation of the failings of emission reduction and renewable energy targets as an economic priority. Lomborg observes that solar and wind power provide no climate benefit other than trivial delay of projected warming, but these ineffectual technologies have massive costs. UN data shows that a world investment in solar and wind this century of a trillion dollars would only slow world temperature increase by 0.1°C. If Lomborg’s figures are correct they should cause a shift of investment priorities. The funds now planned for renewable energy should instead be invested in profitable carbon mining methods that will reverse temperature rise and protect the environment.

Reducing emissions causes significant economic harm by making energy more expensive. To argue that we have to slow economic growth to save the planet, whether by taxing carbon or setting renewable targets, is a policy that will not achieve popular democratic support. Taxing carbon is like putting sand in the gears of the world economy. It provides no matching climate benefit other than a vague promise of incentives for research, about as useful as pushing on a string.

Carbon mining, by contrast, treats CO2 as a valuable resource, a low-grade ore body. Such an ore body, assuming carbon market price equal to coal at five cents per kilogram, requires extremely efficient and large scale methods to mine it profitably. The only way that is possible is by using large unused areas of the world where carbon farms could be deployed at low cost and high benefit. The only way to do that is to use the ocean, which covers 71% of the planet surface, more than double the size of all the continents combined. The world ocean has abundant untapped energy from tide, wave, current, wind, thermal and sun. Algae farms can use this energy to optimise productivity, minimise cost for production and transport, and deliver environmental benefits. The energy industry should research and develop technologies that mine carbon using large scale ocean based algae farming. This will pay for itself by turning CO2 from a harmful waste into a valuable resource. The efficiencies from use of renewable ocean energy to grow algae mean we should see the world ocean as the pioneer frontier which humanity now has to cross.

Profitable carbon mining methods hold the prospect of a rapid solution to global warming, while also strengthening existing economic systems.

The carbon locked up in CO2 is causing harmful climate change. Industrial algae farms can convert CO2 into useful carbon-based products, such as fuel, food, feed, fertilizer and fabric, providing the infrastructure for a new high carbon economy. A new carbon economy can be built at the scale and speed needed to prevent climate change by relying on the profit motive. Commercial methods to use the carbon in CO2 will make the climate logic of so-called “decarbonisation” and a “carbon budget” obsolete. Where the Manhattan Project successfully split the atom to end World War Two, the need now is to split the CO2 molecule at scale to remove the risk of dangerous climate change.

CO2 is 27% carbon and 73% oxygen. The world economy adds about ten gigatons of carbon to the air every year, in the form of forty gigatons of CO2 and other gasses such as methane (CH4). Carbon mining should aim to safely extract twenty gigatons of carbon from CO2 each year for use in commercial commodities. That target amount is double the ten gigatons of carbon in annual emissions. Achieving this goal would mean the continued annual emission of ten gigatons of carbon from fossil fuels would be no problem. The equation would be a net reduction of the carbon load by ten gigatons each year. In that scenario, it would be sensible and sustainable to keep mining fossil fuels, retaining our valuable existing infrastructure and technology for power and transport, providing incentive and security for energy investment, and using carbon for a range of valuable new products.

Carbon mining on a twenty gigaton annual scale could potentially be delivered by industrial algae farms on just one percent of the world ocean. Each square metre of algae in tropical seas can potentially mine twenty grams of carbon per day using intensive agronomy methods, using algae that contains 80% carbon dry mass. That unit yield is a theoretical potential, not a proven field result, but it is a reasonable goal to aim for, expecting exponential increased efficiency as operations scale up. An optimised one square metre algae photobioreactor can already mine 20 grams of carbon per day, in the form of 25 grams dry mass of algae, given the rapid doubling of algae biomass under ideal growing conditions. We should consider the bench top results as the “Kitty Hawk” proof of concept which can be scaled up to oceanic implementation. Agronomy can develop strains of algae that can prosper in a high CO2 environment at sea, for example in fabric bags, leaving aside any possible genetic engineering. The benchtop results can be replicated at scale by pumping nutrients up from the deep ocean as fertilizer, and using free renewable ocean energy in floating algae photobioreactor fabric ponds.

At 20 grams per square meter, each hectare of algae factory will mine 200 kilograms of carbon per day, over 70 tonnes per year, a yield already envisaged by photobioreactor manufacturers. Operating at this intensity on 1% of the world ocean, three hundred million hectares, would mine over 20 billion tonnes of carbon per year, double total world carbon emissions. It is even possible that CO2 from polluted cities could be profitably exported to vast carbon farms at sea, cleaning urban air and linking to high efficiency low emission coal fired power stations. Algae farms can be positioned to protect the biodiversity of fragile environments such as coral reefs by cooling the water and reducing the acidity and nutrient load, targeting locations of highest climate risk such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Carbon is a waste management problem. We do not promote sanitation by reducing defecation, and we do not prevent cholera by enforcing constipation. But reducing CO2 emissions to stop global warming can be compared to those absurdities.

Closing the carbon loop by treating carbon as a mining commodity would use the sun to transform CO2 into hydrocarbons through large scale photosynthesis of algae, opening the path for large scale plastic infrastructure construction as a primary sequestration method. Storing carbon from algae in useful products is like wood stored in furniture and houses. Carbon storage could expand in products such as bitumen for roads and a range of building materials at a scale and speed that would mean fossil energy use could also expand in ways that are ecologically sustainable. Adding algae based carbon to roads at a rate of ten tonnes per linear metre would store ten gigatons of carbon in every million kilometres of road, covering about 3% of the world road network each year, improving infrastructure connectivity. Storing carbon equal in volume to two years of emissions each year in a range of uses will reverse the warming trajectory.

Climate alarmists have calculated that mining all the world’s coal reserves would boil the sea due to the greenhouse effect. That analysis ignores the potential to remove that carbon from the air after it is emitted. Technological ingenuity can convert the burnt hydrocarbon back into useful products. Climate alarm can be answered by working out how to close the carbon loop, transforming the excess carbon that industrial civilisation has added to the environment into profitable commodities. We can create a new expanded carbon based economy, fuelling ongoing growth and prosperity in a high energy world.

The truly alarming problem is that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has no strategy to achieve its goals. Carbon mining could achieve the Paris goal of holding temperature rise to 1.5°. This transformative result can only be delivered by working in cooperation with the traditional energy industry, who have the expertise, the business need, the connections and the funds to make it happen.
The main problem standing in the way of such investment is the false theory that reducing carbon emissions is the only way to stop climate change. Reducing emissions is a distraction for efforts to stabilise the global climate. And yet that false argument is the entire basis of the UN climate agreements.

US President Donald Trump is entirely correct to oppose the Paris Climate Agreement with its harmful emission reduction agenda. His incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the ideal person to broker practical carbon mining action plans. The climate lobby has many hidden political agendas. In this masquerade, to understand the reasons they carry on this way, it appears some climate lobbyists see humanity as a plague upon our planet and would almost rather see the climate wrecked than cooperate with multinational capitalist enterprises to open the new era of large scale sustained universal abundance that carbon mining could create.

A public private partnership between leading firms such as ExxonMobil and the United States Government on large scale ocean based algae production would save the business model for the fossil fuel industry. Carbon mining would deliver enduring value for shareholders, and would safeguard public goods such as biodiversity and climate stability, achieving the main climate objectives of scientists, governments and communities.
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Re: Carbon Mining

It is Day One in the Trump Presidency that you are supporting. He has already deleted (in the first hour?) a White House web page concerning fighting climate change and added "something" called An America First Energy Plan. A quick perusal finds nothing about reducing CO2. The plan appears to lean towards increasing CO2 emissions by increasing coal, shale oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. There is zero mention of carbon mining.

Q's:
1. If Trump does nothing regarding carbon mining (and reverses U.S. efforts at CO2 reduction?) are international efforts to reduce emissions still useless?
2. You have stated there are no active large scale efforts at carbon mining. A thought experiment: if algae / carbon mining turns out to be ineffective or less economical than emission reduction and no large scale mining develops, are international efforts to reduce emissions still useless? Is the choice really either carbon mining or planetary doom?
Disclaimer: just asking, not attacking....
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Re: Carbon Mining

Yes, Robert, I think you're betting on a horse that has given you no indication whatsoever that he even intends to run in the general direction of your transformative vision. Trump may have poured cold water on the Paris Accord, but he also has given no sign of wanting to solve the problem of climate change. Your position seems to be: well, he doesn't have to, because in carbon mining lies a grand opportunity to provide unlimited riches while saving the planet. That is still purely a pipe dream a this point, one no capitalist worth his salt would jump at. Under Trump/Tillerson, the carbon will be let loose in ever greater amounts but will not be captured.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Carbon Mining

LanDroid wrote:It is Day One in the Trump Presidency that you are supporting. He has already deleted (in the first hour?) a White House web page concerning fighting climate change and added "something" called An America First Energy Plan. A quick perusal finds nothing about reducing CO2. The plan appears to lean towards increasing CO2 emissions by increasing coal, shale oil, natural gas, and other fossil fuels. There is zero mention of carbon mining.
’Carbon Mining’ as a concept is my own way of describing what is more widely known as negative emission technology, or Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_removal for a broader view than my specific silver bullet proposal.

So far there are no commercially viable CDR methods, and nobody has shown that carbon mining could be profitable. CDR is only profitable as a way to extract more oil and gas by pumping CO2 into wells.

Carbon mining is a wild idea which I am throwing into the mix as a possible silver bullet solution to climate change. It is too preliminary to expect the Trump Administration to advocate it, and the nature of a new paradigm has not been discussed properly.

I prefer the concept of Carbon Mining over CDR because Carbon Mining embeds the ideas that we need to separate the profitable carbon from CO2. Just removing and sequestering CO2 is useless since it cannot turn a dime except from government subsidy. Profit is the source of sustainability at scale.
LanDroid wrote: Q's:
1. If Trump does nothing regarding carbon mining (and reverses U.S. efforts at CO2 reduction?) are international efforts to reduce emissions still useless?
Yes, still useless, due to the crowding out problem.

Emission reduction is only a stopgap until CDR is established. In my view CDR can only happen when the fossil fuel industry works out how to mine carbon from the air in order to save their business model and avoid the fate of Kodak. International climate efforts should switch entirely away from emission reduction since it is useless for stabilising the climate. The emission reduction emperor has no clothes.

Far better that companies define a method that will fix the climate and then deal with Trump to get his support for it. Present solutions not problems. Bashing your head against a brick wall by promoting emission reduction is worse than useless. It will get Trump’s back up and do nothing to save the world from the looming fiery apocalypse.
LanDroid wrote: 2. You have stated there are no active large scale efforts at carbon mining. A thought experiment: if algae / carbon mining turns out to be ineffective or less economical than emission reduction and no large scale mining develops, are international efforts to reduce emissions still useless?
Emission reduction is not “economical”. Yes, wind and solar lack the bad externalities of coal, so will prove anyway to be highly competitive against fossil fuels fully costed, but the practical reality is that these externalities lack adequate enforcement mechanism in prospect so are not economic drivers of the real market, apart from relatively marginal factors such as China’s need to reduce urban smog. The question of whether carbon mining is profitable requires an extensive research and development program which has barely begun, such as with NASA’s OMEGA project which they dropped. I think that is because no one has presented a compelling vision for how carbon mining can transform the world in a way that Republicans will like.
LanDroid wrote: Is the choice really either carbon mining or planetary doom?
Disclaimer: just asking, not attacking....
The planet will survive, with the post-historic trees. Humanity will go extinct, or at least civilization will collapse due to massive conflict, unless we work out how to rapidly reduce the amount of CO2 in the air. Intelligence may prove to be an evolutionarily unstable adaptation. But I think we are smart enough to adapt to set the base for a planetary civilization lasting millions of years. That means regulating the global atmosphere.

Reducing emissions means reducing the amount of carbon we add to the air and sea. Emission reduction alone means the CO2 level will continue to increase. High CO2 means the physical forcing embedded in the system will over the next generations return the sea level to the height it was when there was last 400 ppm of CO2 in the air, ie 20-40 yards higher than now. That quantity of ice melt means everyone living at elevation below 40 yards above sea level may have to move in the next few centuries. This tipping point could happen suddenly with the collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet. We are fools walking on the edge of a precipice.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Carbon Mining

DWill wrote:Yes, Robert, I think you're betting on a horse that has given you no indication whatsoever that he even intends to run in the general direction of your transformative vision.
It is a one horse race for the next four years. And the indication of shared direction is that Trump welcomes entrepreneurial ingenuity for private profit. If it is possible to profit from preventing climate change then there is good reason for Trump to help that, especially if it helps to make America great again.
DWill wrote: Trump may have poured cold water on the Paris Accord, but he also has given no sign of wanting to solve the problem of climate change.
Yes, and the reason why Trump has no wish to solve climate is due to the logical weakness of the Paris claim that reducing emissions is the key to solving climate change. Trump regards emission reduction as anathema, so he rejects the whole climate caper kit and caboodle. He has sound reason for that rejection, given Lomborg’s proof of lack of connection between emission reduction and global warming reversal. But if we decouple emissions from climate Trump should be all ears.
DWill wrote: Your position seems to be: well, he doesn't have to, because in carbon mining lies a grand opportunity to provide unlimited riches while saving the planet.
It is more that in emission reduction lies a terrible problem of increased poverty and conflict without any climate benefit. There is no reason explained by the climate lobby as to why Trump should support the Paris Accord. A better method of climate action, without the hostility to capitalism, is needed before Trump will take an interest.
DWill wrote:That is still purely a pipe dream a this point, one no capitalist worth his salt would jump at.
I don’t agree. Anyone getting on board with carbon mining now will become rich. The proof of concept is challenging but as eminently doable as aviation was.
DWill wrote:Under Trump/Tillerson, the carbon will be let loose in ever greater amounts but will not be captured.
Sure, and that is because no one has come up with a profitable way to capture carbon. You would have to be very ideological within the Obama camp to assert the USA has a proven case that emission reduction makes economic sense.
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Re: Carbon Mining

This may cross over into another topic I've started: http://www.booktalk.org/global-greening ... 26575.html

Algae farming is an interesting consideration with respect to the Global Greening verses Global Warming debate.
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Re: Carbon Mining

There are already private efforts to explore geo-engineering and related technologies for use as an alternative to reduction. If any of these is shown to be viable as an engineering proposition, it would be a good idea to stand ready to subsidize them (essentially a carbon tax working in reverse).

The crowding out problem is imaginary. The sooner that policy in the U.S. agrees (as the former leaders of the Republican party did just this month) on the need to do something about global warming, the sooner we can mobilize all the options: emissions reduction, carbon storage, carbon mining, geo-engineering. Whichever is most cost effective will get the most incentive.

If carbon credits were earned by carbon mining, they could be sold for a handsome incentive under a working cap-and-trade system. Market incentives, on the other hand, will always respond less than they really should if there is no government involvement to correct for the market failure of externality production in the use of fossil fuel. Probably much less than they should.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Carbon Mining

Harry Marks wrote:There are already private efforts to explore geo-engineering and related technologies for use as an alternative to reduction.
Hi Harry, thanks for these perceptive comments. In fact, my suggestion that technology can be an alternative to emission reduction is broadly rejected. For example, Greenpeace represents prominent views within the climate lobby, and is respected on the political left. Greenpeace has recently made the fatuous statement that it opposes carbon capture and storage “as a dangerous distraction from the safe, secure 100 per cent ¬renewable energy future we all want”. My proposal on carbon mining is a geoengineering idea that is within the broad area of carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR). When Greenpeace calls such technology ‘a dangerous distraction’ it illustrates that alternatives to reduction face strong political barriers, and there is only grudging acceptance of technology as an augmentation to emission reduction.
Harry Marks wrote: If any of these is shown to be viable as an engineering proposition, it would be a good idea to stand ready to subsidize them (essentially a carbon tax working in reverse).
You might want to explain that reverse tax idea in more detail. I don’t think subsidy is the right model. Governments should invest in research and development and take equity share in private businesses on a public private partnership model.
Harry Marks wrote: The crowding out problem is imaginary.
The crowding out problem is very real, since climate activists actively use their elbows to denigrate technology as an alternative to emission reduction, and even to prevent calm discussion. Attention on wind and solar crowds out attention on carbon dioxide removal, including bioenergy, biochar, and other advanced research proposals such as direct air capture, let alone my suggestion for large scale ocean based algae production which has received no serious analysis.
Harry Marks wrote: The sooner that policy in the U.S. agrees (as the former leaders of the Republican party did just this month) on the need to do something about global warming, the sooner we can mobilize all the options: emissions reduction, carbon storage, carbon mining, geo-engineering.
No, that logic is flawed. Holding the climate hostage to the need for US policy consensus on global warming is a dangerous error. Far better to define profitable methods to mine carbon and leave this policy consensus out as a secondary objective.
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Re: Carbon Mining

Robert Tulip wrote:...my suggestion that technology can be an alternative to emission reduction is broadly rejected. For example, Greenpeace represents prominent views within the climate lobby, and is respected on the political left. Greenpeace has recently made the fatuous statement that it opposes carbon capture and storage “as a dangerous distraction from the safe, secure 100 per cent ¬renewable energy future we all want”.
Greenpeace tends to be a bit extreme, and quite directive, as one would expect from a "direct action" organization whose reason for existence has always been more about dramatizing matters than about real-world solutions. I think their knee-jerk rejection of nuclear power generation, for example, is actively harmful, even though I tend to agree with them that much energy is wasted and conservation is the cheapest and most ethical approach of all. I get way more bothered by people who don't want to see other people's laundry hanging out to dry than I do about Greenpeace.
Robert Tulip wrote:My proposal on carbon mining is a geoengineering idea that is within the broad area of carbon capture and storage (CCS), also known as carbon dioxide removal (CDR). When Greenpeace calls such technology ‘a dangerous distraction’ it illustrates that alternatives to reduction face strong political barriers, and there is only grudging acceptance of technology as an augmentation to emission reduction.
I must be pretty naive about the politics of the matter, maybe because I identify with the U.S. In my country, getting people to even admit there is a problem seems to be the hard part, and nobody I know in the policy world seems to worry about the jostling over solution approaches.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: If any of these is shown to be viable as an engineering proposition, it would be a good idea to stand ready to subsidize them (essentially a carbon tax working in reverse).
You might want to explain that reverse tax idea in more detail.
As for a subsidy, economists treat that as the reverse of a tax, in terms of its effects on resource allocation. We already have the "quantity intervention" equivalent (a tax or subsidy is a "price intervention") in the form of the carbon credits earned through the Clean Development Mechanism. Carbon credits are earned by influencing economic development in a climate-friendly way. Replanting trees, preserving trees that would be cut down in the baseline case, financing co-generation, etc., etc. all earn carbon credits.

If there was a proper cap-and-trade system in place, like the EU set up on a rather tepid basis, then it would be worth quite a bit to carry on methods which store carbon or use it in a climate-friendly way. Subsidies would be a price intervention approach giving the same incentive: instead of earning CO2 permits to trade, they would earn payments from the public purse. Either way, there should be a certain amount of money to be made for each ton of CO2 saved from the atmosphere.
Robert Tulip wrote: I don’t think subsidy is the right model. Governments should invest in research and development and take equity share in private businesses on a public private partnership model.
Again, all of the above. R and D is probably the most cost-effective approach and it has the additional bonus of providing a public good, thus solving an even more severe market failure than the one created by externalities. Equity share gives government an incentive to deliberate carefully and judge shrewdly.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: The crowding out problem is imaginary.
The crowding out problem is very real, since climate activists actively use their elbows to denigrate technology as an alternative to emission reduction, and even to prevent calm discussion.
I should have said it is "artificial." I agree it is real, but it should not be, since "all of the above" is the right approach. We have about 8 years left to eliminate 80 percent of emissions, to keep the probability somewhat low (< 30%) of putting the Sydney Opera House and the Statue of Liberty underwater. Any carbon mining that we can get going will extend that budget.
Robert Tulip wrote:Attention on wind and solar crowds out attention on carbon dioxide removal, including bioenergy, biochar, and other advanced research proposals such as direct air capture, let alone my suggestion for large scale ocean based algae production which has received no serious analysis.
If the perception really is that attention is the scarce commodity, this indicates a really severe distortion of the realities of the planet's situation. Countries should be working as hard as the private sector is, and I do not mean that as metaphor. All possibilities should be explored, and denialists should be consigned as quickly as possible to the dustbin. Trump has appointed a total disaster in Scott Pruitt, and if the staff manages to make a convert of Mike Flynn they should get a Nobel Peace Prize.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: The sooner that policy in the U.S. agrees (as the former leaders of the Republican party did just this month) on the need to do something about global warming, the sooner we can mobilize all the options: emissions reduction, carbon storage, carbon mining, geo-engineering.
No, that logic is flawed. Holding the climate hostage to the need for US policy consensus on global warming is a dangerous error. Far better to define profitable methods to mine carbon and leave this policy consensus out as a secondary objective.
Well, I believe the situation is desperate enough that I would give Trump kudos for even supporting R and D and public/private partnerships, without added incentives. But the hostage crisis is in your imagination. I am not advocating delay, I am advocating an end to denial.

Think of this as the practical equivalent to fighting a war against a well-armed fleet of aliens which will arrive in 20 years with the intent to enslave us all. There is no excuse for any delay on any front. We need to do everything we can, as quickly as possible.
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Robert Tulip

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Re: Carbon Mining

Harry Marks wrote:Greenpeace tends to be a bit extreme, and quite directive, as one would expect from a "direct action" organization whose reason for existence has always been more about dramatizing matters than about real-world solutions.
My experience is that there is genuine fear across the whole climate change lobby of making any criticism of the quasi-religious dogma of emission reduction, with Greenpeace only the most fanatical extreme of a widely shared view.

I have routinely heard the mantra among geoengineers that carbon dioxide removal is only an adjunct to emission reduction and cannot replace it. I entirely disagree with that false mantra, since carbon dioxide removal can be orders of magnitude bigger than total world emissions, blowing emission reduction out of the ballpark as a climate stability measure.
Harry Marks wrote: I think their knee-jerk rejection of nuclear power generation, for example, is actively harmful, even though I tend to agree with them that much energy is wasted and conservation is the cheapest and most ethical approach of all.
I like the technology focus of nuclear energy, but my assessment is that it is too dangerous, slow and expensive as a meaningful part of climate stability strategy.

Conservation is important for avoiding waste and pollution, but is irrelevant to climate stability.
Harry Marks wrote: I get way more bothered by people who don't want to see other people's laundry hanging out to dry than I do about Greenpeace.
We differ then. Greenpeace exercises a malevolent baleful influence of gross stupidity on the central issues of human existence, intimidating otherwise sensible people into believing delusions.
Harry Marks wrote: I must be pretty naive about the politics of the matter, maybe because I identify with the U.S.
As I mentioned, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has issued a fatwa against geoengineering, illustrating the toxic stupidity that infests this discussion. I follow the discussion at the google group on geoengineering, and am constantly amazed at the brain-dead idiots who argue aggressively that all geoengineering is unethical.

The issue with political polarisation is that people regard climate as a left/right or liberal/conservative split, and divide the world into good and evil on that basis. Unfortunately, the liberal answers don’t and won’t work, and we need to mobilise conservative energies to create workable answers. But conservatives have been dissuaded by the zombie methods of the left from seeing that climate is the number one security problem for the world.
Harry Marks wrote: In my country, getting people to even admit there is a problem seems to be the hard part, and nobody I know in the policy world seems to worry about the jostling over solution approaches.
The liberal strategy of defining the climate problem is flawed. Liberals say the problem is excessive emissions, but that framing is wrong, creating the false solution of emission reduction.

Conservatives react against emission reduction because it causes economic harm. They then just construct denialism as a convenient false rationalisation in order to prevent and deflect emission reduction efforts.

The lack of worry about solution approaches is in my view the massive elephant in the room, and is a direct result of the false posing of the problem as emissions. Climate lobbyists have falsely inferred that the settled science on climate means the science is also settled on what to do about it, which is manifestly and dangerously wrong.

My Cassandra claim of a clear and present danger gets no notice because it is held to be politically incorrect on the bloc thinking assumption of liberal virtue.
Harry Marks wrote: We already have the "quantity intervention" equivalent (a tax or subsidy is a "price intervention") in the form of the carbon credits earned through the Clean Development Mechanism. Carbon credits are earned by influencing economic development in a climate-friendly way. Replanting trees, preserving trees that would be cut down in the baseline case, financing co-generation, etc., etc. all earn carbon credits.
I cannot find where carbon dioxide removal has ever been accepted as a possible activity under the Clean Development Mechanism, which has been corrupted by the subsidy mentality.

Based on my long experience of working with the Australian government I regard the United Nations system with contempt. The Kyoto Protocol was a Big Lie.

What we need to address climate stability is a focus on innovative research and development, not providing subsidies for things that don't work. Planting trees, let alone the ludicrous protection racket of paying people not to cut trees down, is useless for climate stability. By contrast, algae grows a hundred times faster than trees, so is orders of magnitude more effective as a carbon mine. But there is no oxygen for that debate anywhere I have looked.
Harry Marks wrote:
there should be a certain amount of money to be made for each ton of CO2 saved from the atmosphere.
My hope is that we can open the Panguna copper and gold mine in Bougainville and use its revenues to fund a project to grow algae at industrial scale on the continental shelf of Bougainville, and then store the algae in mile wide fabric bags sitting on the deep ocean floor, 30,000 feet deep in the New Britain Trench, storing the algae carbon for later sale. Here is a map.
New Britain Trench.png
New Britain Trench.png (115.92 KiB) Viewed 139960 times
Harry Marks wrote:R and D is probably the most cost-effective approach and it has the additional bonus of providing a public good, thus solving an even more severe market failure than the one created by externalities.
R&D is definitely the most cost-effective, but climate politics is corrupted by subsidies for ineffective zombie airhead methods.
Harry Marks wrote: Equity share gives government an incentive to deliberate carefully and judge shrewdly.
I personally think that government investment should be welcome but secondary, as the main aim is to develop a profitable commercial industry that government facilitates. Governments have a bad habit of trying to control things they don’t understand. But the climate freight train has such a head of steam that we urgently need all the money and skill we can mobilise to fix it.
Harry Marks wrote:We have about 8 years left to eliminate 80 percent of emissions, to keep the probability somewhat low (< 30%) of putting the Sydney Opera House and the Statue of Liberty underwater. Any carbon mining that we can get going will extend that budget.
Yes, those numbers look plausible to me. The last time our planet had so much carbon in the air, several million years ago, the sea was at least 60 feet higher, enough as you say to put coastal monuments under.

We already have the physical drivers in place for that sea level, and a tipping point could cause a sudden unexpected big sea level rise. We don’t know and are sailing blind.
Harry Marks wrote: If the perception really is that attention is the scarce commodity, this indicates a really severe distortion of the realities of the planet's situation.
Yes, my perception is that attention is scarce. People just talk past each other. Dialogue and listening are rare. The reason is that communities are ossified into opposing camps, so that scientists do not listen to business people and vice versa, except for narrow instrumental purposes.

On the broad questions the situation is culture war. My view is that salvation requires input from all sides. And of course I lace the term salvation with irony, since it is rejected by science.
Harry Marks wrote:Countries should be working as hard as the private sector is, and I do not mean that as metaphor. All possibilities should be explored, and denialists should be consigned as quickly as possible to the dustbin. Trump has appointed a total disaster in Scott Pruitt, and if the staff manages to make a convert of Mike Flynn they should get a Nobel Peace Prize.
Again, my understanding of denialism involves some level of psychoanalysis of the unconscious motives of both sides of the climate debate.

Of course denialism is objectively false, like young earth creationism. So people’s motives for making false claims must involve unconscious psychological drivers, since they have no need to remain ignorant of facts. The reasons rapidly emerge as primarily about social power, that the false claims stand in for arguments that are more real but less persuasive.

With climate, the real argument is that people don’t want a transition away from the fossil fuel economy due to the risk and dislocation that creative destruction would cause for vested interests. It is far easier to convince a stupid mass audience that the science is wrong than to engage in complex arguments about risk.

But equally, the climate lobby has unconscious drivers. By putting all its eggs in the basket of emission reduction, the climate lobby signals an apocalyptic fear that the human footprint on our planet is too big, and needs to just be made smaller. That is a muddled view on several counts.

First, technological change could make universal human prosperity compatible with protection of biodiversity, so the smaller footprint argument is invalid. Second, emission reduction is perceived by conservatives as a direct attack on economic growth, so the climate lobby faces the full fury and resources of the political right mobilised against it, except for some tactical claims of support that will melt away when the rubber hits the road.

Far better for the climate lobby to try a judo throw, looking at how to change the trajectory of the current economy to make it beneficial to the climate. That is my thinking on carbon mining.
Harry Marks wrote: I would give Trump kudos for even supporting R and D and public/private partnerships, without added incentives.
Yes, and that is what I think is possible as a Nixon in China type of policy shift for President Trump.
Harry Marks wrote: But the hostage crisis is in your imagination.
Honestly I don’t think so. When I read environmentalists attacking geoengineering, all I hear is “don’t move or the planet gets it”. I support geoengineering as the only ethical responsible practical method to reverse the current sixth planetary extinction that human insanity is causing.
Harry Marks wrote: I am not advocating delay, I am advocating an end to denial.
Denial only matters when it prevents practical action. The only things that denial prevents are emission reduction, scientific research, government involvement and public understanding. But none of those are essential for climate protection. That is why formulating a climate strategy that focuses on the profitable private mining of carbon from the air has better prospects of success than emission reduction.

The motto should be Get Out Of My Way, as John Galt from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged said. John Galt's entrepreneurial brilliance is the best model for how to fix the climate, and he is a conservative American hero.
Harry Marks wrote: Think of this as the practical equivalent to fighting a war against a well-armed fleet of aliens which will arrive in 20 years with the intent to enslave us all. There is no excuse for any delay on any front. We need to do everything we can, as quickly as possible.
Think also of Abe Lincoln’s comment, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."

Emission reduction is like attacking an oak tree with a blunt axe. It won’t work.

There is a good excuse to delay on emission reduction, as action on that front is a recipe for failure and catastrophic global warming. But if we promote dialogue between hostile camps, there is every prospect of a shift to sunlit uplands.
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