Fast climate change (global warming) is driven mainly by our heavy dependence on fossil fuels to power the world’s economies. All scientists know that the greenhouse effect is real and does warm the planet. Almost all scientists say that continuing on our present course, using the present mix of fuels as the world economy and population grow, strengthens the greenhouse effect and will lead to more global warming with very serious consequences.
The first part of the book looks at the science including how we know the greenhouse effect is real, what happens when we add more greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, how future temperatures are predicted, the uncertainties in the predictions, and how long it will take to reduce those uncertainties. The main conclusions here are that the temperature is rising because of human activities, and that it is a lot easier to do something about it when the temperature rise is small than if we wait until it is larger.
The second part is about energy: what we use now and options for the future that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The big three fuels today are coal, oil, and natural gas. An odd fact is that gas may have the largest supply, emits the least greenhouse gases, and is the least used. There are many options for the future, some sensible, some senseless, and some self-serving. Getting past the smoke and mirrors and sorting out which is which is the main goal of this section of the book. I look at all the greenhouse gas reduction options including carbon capture and storage which would allow fossil fuel use to continue, the Renewables (wind, solar, geothermal, small hydroelectric), nuclear power, biofuels, etc. Costs, health effects and life cycle emissions are included, as is my scorecard of winners, losers and maybes.
The final section is on policy, both national and international. The national policy part focuses on what is going on in the U.S., though much of it has broader application. As with energy options, here too there are smart policies and not so smart policies. However, it looks today as if the U.S. direction is toward no policy since it seems difficult to get a political consensus.
International policy is even more difficult than national. The problem here is the wide difference is state of development of the countries of the world coupled with the consequent wide differences in emissions per person in different countries. I give the numbers and can only recommend a general outline of what might be the terms of an agreement.
Climate change and consequent global warming are extremely serious problems and the only way to make progress is to have people understand the issues and options, thus giving their politicians the necessary cover to make the hard decisions that will be required to come through this.
Take a quick look at the table of contents
- Chapter 1 Introduction
- PART I: Climate
- Chapter 2 Greenhouse Earth
- Chapter 3 Climate Modeling
- The First Climate Models
- Climate Change Goes Big Time
- The Big Problem: Lifecycle of Greenhouse Gases
- The Global Carbon Cycle
- Chapter 4 The Past as Proxy
for the Future
- A Short Tour through 4.5 Billion Years
- The last 400,000 Years
- The Recent Past
- Chapter 5 Predicting the Future
- Who Does It
- How is it Done
- Where are we?
- PART II: Energy
- Chapter 6 Taking up Arms against
this Sea of Troubles
- Energy Now and in the Future
- Emission Targets
- Chapter 7 How Fast to Move: A Physicists Look at the Economists
- Chapter 8 Energy, Emissions,
- Setting the Stage
- Sources of Emissions
- Reducing Emissions
- No Silver Bullets
- Winners and Losers
- Chapter 9 Fossil
Fuels – How Much is There?
- World Oil Reserves
- World Gas Reserves
- World Coal
- Chapter 10 Electricity, Emissions
and Pricing Carbon
- The Electricity Sector
- Pricing Carbon Emissions: Carbon Capture and Storage
- Does What Goes Into Storage Stay There?
- Summary and Conclusion
- Chapter 11 Efficiency: The First
- Chapter 12 Nuclear Energy
- Spent Fuel: Love It or Hate It, We Have It
- Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons
- Nuclear Power as part of the Solution
- Chapter 13 Renewables
- Solar Energy
- Ocean Energy
- The Electric Power Distribution Grid
- Chapter 14 Biofuels: Is There
- Phase-1: Ethanol from Starch and Sugar
- Phase-2: Cellulosic Ethanol
- Phase-3: Other Processes
- Chapter 15 An Energy Summary
- Chapter 6 Taking up Arms against this Sea of Troubles
- PART III: Policy
- Chapter 16 US Policy – New Things,
Bad Things, Good Things
- Reducing Emissions on a National Scale
- Bad Things
- Good things
- Chapter 17 World Policy Actions
- Kyoto-1: The Protocol of 1997
- Kyoto-2: Copenhagen and Beyond
- Chapter 18 Coda
- Chapter 16 US Policy – New Things, Bad Things, Good Things