09 Mar 2023

The Carbon Capture Fantasy


Questions about emissions, the electric grid, fossil/organic fuels, the economics and governmental policies of all the above swirl around day after day with different actors waxing and waning on the carousel that is “climate.” Or CLIMATE! From Al Gore, The Science Guy, Greta Thunberg, John Kerry, Rachel Carson, Paul Ehrlich and carbon tax fans et al, to Bjorn Lomborg, Alex Epstein, Steven Koonin and a host of skeptics there is no shortage of debate, name-calling and garden variety rage. Let’s not leave out the milquetoast fence-sitters, those three percent in every poll that “Don’t know/no opinion.” But, I digress…

Cutting through all the noise, a measure of which is dogs barking in the heads of the handwringers, can a rational case be made around which a consensus view might develop? We here at PolicySmith don’t know, but we’re going to take a run at it.

First some basic science, much of which may be new to most, but is simply established unassailable fact.

~ CO2 is a trace gas in the atmosphere. It is four parts per million, that is .04 percent of air. Four drops of vermouth in a boxcar of gin would be a very dry martini!

~ CO2 dissolves in seawater, about half of all emitted by Earth’s fauna, and half of all other Co2 is from eruptions, sear floor vents, wetlands, etc. is in the ocean as well, an equilibrium that is constant.

~ The logistics of storing 35+ billion tons of gas — every year — is unthinkable. And due to the equilibrium of the air and the oceans, 70 billion tons would have to be extracted as the ocean would absorb half of that.

~ The more CO2 in the air, the more fuel for flora to flourish, which when photosynthesized with sunlight, in turn produces life giving oxygen to all fauna.

~From 500 million years 50 million years past, Earth’s temperature swung from 14 degrees warmer than today to 4 degrees colder than today. In the next 49 million years the Earth gradually warmed to an average temperature similar to modern times. In the subsequent 90,000 years temperatures varied from up two degrees to down four degrees from today. The most recent 10,000 years have shown a remarkable stability, varying +/- one degree from today’s average.

~ In the most recent 800,000 years, CO2 emitted into the atmosphere ranged from 160 parts per billion (ppb) to 300 ppb, a level most recently recorded in 1950. Seventy years years later CO2 emissions rose steadily to total 400 ppb. While the measure of billions of tons — an annual average of 39-40 billion tons over the most recent 10 years — reads large, it has risen to a mere .04 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere from an average of .03 percent in the preceding 50 million years. The nervous nellies call it a 49 percent increase. The reality is as a percentage of Earth’s atmosphere the increase is almost too small to measure. Note the hockey stick projection out to 2500. Also note that spikes of that intensity over such a short duration do not exist in Earth’s history.

~ The intensity of concern relating to climate issues varies widely from nation to nation. From lip service in less developed and non-democratic nations, to bizarre manifestations of hysteria in some “advanced” societies, to the rent seekers vying for “reparations” and/or handouts from wealthiest nations bent on salving their reputations.

~ It is always all about the money. And power…both kinds.

An “Energy Transition” is being sold in the face of an Energy Information Administration Outlook that shows no such transition exists. Global primary energy use will grow roughly 50 percent by 2050. That’s because the impoverished will rise from poverty due to the likely relative affordability and availability of conventional fuels. Oil consumption will grow every year by about 350-370 million barrels for the next 30 years. That continues the annual growth rate over the past five decades.

Said consumption growth portends growth in CO2 emissions regardless of carbon capture initiatives.

Governments, especially the U.S., are and have been spending billions of dollars to study the problem. EPA and DOE grant subsidies to the unproven/unlikely, and, handicap conventional fuel producers. One might rationally conclude that a solution to perceived CO2 challenges would dry up funding for the search. So, does the fund-seeking establishment really want a solution? Does the Earth really need it?

Dr. Richard Lindzen

Enter the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dr. Richard Lindzen. In his long and distinguished career in physics and atmospheric science he’s been published more than 200 times, both books and papers. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Dr. Lindzen summarizes the issue: “Misrepresentation, exaggeration, cherry picking or outright lying pretty much covers all the so-called evidence marshaled in support of the theory of imminent catastrophic global warming caused by ‘fossil fuels’ and CO2.”

Prior to the 1980s, the greenhouse gas theory was not considered a credible explanation of the Earth’s climate system. Views varied greatly with a number of then-credible institutions advancing the notion of climate cooling and descent into a new Ice Age. It was about that time, according to Dr. Lindzen, that water cycle, convection and conduction were replaced as talking points in the scientific elite by radiation and CO2. The Newsweek clip from 1975 is illustrative

Lindzen further calls out the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “…government controlled and only issues government dictated findings.” He discounts peer review climate science as a “joke,” calling it “…pal review, not peer review.” Dr. Lindzen is one of the notable long time holdouts against the demonization of atmospheric CO2. In a 2018 London lecture he referred to climate change as perceived by the IPCC as “An implausible conjecture backed by false evidence and repeated incessantly has become politically correct ‘knowledge’ and is used to promote the overturn of industrial civilization.”

After turning over all these carbon/climate rocks, what can be posited with some certainty?

~ Climate inevitably changes over time regardless of human activity — the world’s cliimate is chaotic system with countless variables.

~ There is no consensus, nor any settled science relating to climate change, the role of CO2 in climate change or stasis, on the veracity nor reliability of any climate model.

~ After decades of research costing billions of dollars, scientists have barely begun to comprehend the workings of the world’s climate.

~ Carbon emissions have historically averaged about .01 percentage point below today’s levels.

~ Capturing vast amounts of a trace gas appears near impossible and clearly not cost effective.

~ Government funding perpetuates queues at the funding trough.

~ There is no energy transition. There are additions around the edges in wind and solar.

~ Those wind and solar sources, like all energy produced, have downsides. Impacts on the environment from these two have been largely ignored and/or discounted.

~ Nuclear power plants emit zero CO2.

Our conclusions are relatively simple. Carbon capture at the source on a scale that would make a material difference in climate will require a concentrated effort by ALL major emitters. Absent such an effort, CO2 emissions will inevitably rise. Municipality initiatives relating to carbon capture and/or climate change are feel-good exercises that have impacts too small to measure. The best hope for a consensus view on limiting carbon emissions is by generating electricity via nuclear power. While emitting zero carbon, decentralized nuclear generation would secure the grid and greatly lengthen the odds against disruption, whether by force majeure or malicious intent.

PLEASE NOTE — We solicit your reactions be they positive, negative or anything in between. That applies to this and/or any post by the PolicySmith. Thank you for adding to the dialogue…

2 Responses to The Carbon Capture Fantasy
  1. Comment *Wow…………classy charts and everything here……….classy charts and sharp, snappy prose too………I knew zero about the entire carbon discussion before and you are helping a dull mind scratch through to some knowledge. Even more on the climate change issue/dynamics/politics in the future would also be welcome for me.I don’t know much except the cliches and bird-killing windmills everywhere.

    I do think group think on many matters currently is a tremendous problem without descending into wacko crackpots as a preferred alternative.


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