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posted on 23 June 2017

Let Some Good Come From Global Warming

Written by Steven Hansen

I have lived 15 years of my life on the high seas witnessing changing climatic conditions. I am far from a doubter that climate change is happening, but have a skeptical view of most theories why the climate is changing.


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The big kahuna in climate change is global warming. Most believe the primary cause of global warming is carbon emissions mostly coming from use of fossil fuels. Betting all your bananas that carbon emissions are the primary cause of global warming is dangerous. For starters, a major contributor to higher levels of carbon dioxide is land-use changes (such as deforestation). It could be possible that the correlations to carbon dioxide (the primary suspected cause of global warming) is not causation, and that there is a natural cycle underway which is the primary force. That is not to say carbon emissions are not reinforcing this change - or not to say that there should be a structured approach to weaning the world off of carbon dioxide emitting activities.

From a recent post:

In previous warm periods, it was not a CO₂ spike that kickstarted the warming, but small and predictable wobbles in Earth's rotation and orbit around the Sun. CO₂ played a big role as a natural amplifier of the small climate shifts initiated by these wobbles. As the planet began to cool, more CO₂ dissolved into the oceans, reducing the greenhouse effect and causing more cooling. Similarly, CO₂ was released from the oceans to the atmosphere when the planet warmed, driving further warming.

But things are very different this time around. Humans are responsible for adding huge quantities of extra CO₂ to the atmosphere - and fast.

My weather guru Sig Silber has posted on global warming, and in a recent email to me stated:

That carbon (and related) emissions is the only cause of global warming is simply incorrect. To the extent that global warming is anthropogenic, the IPPC considers that about a third of the impact is related to land-use changes the most well known is deforestration but the creation of cities that are heat islands is also a cause and one that can be reduced. Let's face it, population is a factor also as impacts scale with the number of people and domesticated animals.

A very interesting and yet unexplained situation is that the formulas for predicting the impact of emissions seem to work differently in the Nordic Areas where the science of meteorology began. It could be that our ideas of the impact of solar rays may not properly take into account latitude. Climate Change may be settled science but only until the next scientific paper is published which might be as long as a half hour.

Due to the long half-life of carbon dioxide (infinity) the climate is pretty well baked in. Due to the inevitability of peak oil, the solution is baked it. So probably very little needs to be done. We have 100 years of warming, 100 years of stable and then 100 years of returning to 1750 conditions and then the next ice age.

The Academy of Sciences published two sets of solutions to Global Warming if we were to decide we did not like it. The two categories of approaches are

A. carbon sequestration

B. sunlight cloaking.

So we have the concepts for controlling our climate if we want to do so. Both probably are preferable to throttling the economy. Solution B is more radical and could be problematical. It would cool the planet but not reduce GHC concentrations so that is a big difference between A and B.

Sorry - nothing will change the inevitable

In all events - it is likely too late to reverse the affects of warming in the near future. The seas will rise. Predictions are that seas will rise between 50cm and 100+cm before the year 2100. A good view of the land which will be taken back by the seas is [here].

The major problem in a one meter sea level rise is periodic flooding along the coastal areas - although some cities such as Miami may see real persistent encroachment of the seas into portions of the city.

Turn every defeat into a victory

The sea level change can evolve to be economically positive. Picture the USA coastline similar to much of the coastline of the Netherlands - with dikes protecting the low lying areas. These dikes can be designed to accommodate new road and transportation infrastructure. The coastal areas of the USA can be rebuilt with brand new infrastructure. And the government own the beaches in most states, and universally owns the land under water. Land acquisition costs for this new infrastructure is almost nil.

[above image from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/320248223488331711/]

My back of an envelope cost for hydraulic filled shoreline dike is $20 million dollars per mile [using ocean dredges to mine the fill for the dike] plus the costs of land side pumping system and gates for egress and ingress.

[above image from http://www.geo.uu.nl/fg/palaeogeography/results/flooding]

The dike could be built incrementally - just like some Dutch dikes (see image above). This approach is especially suited for the east and southern coasts of the USA - whilst the west coast is more rugged requiring a different approach. The length of the east and southern coasts is approximately 3,700 miles - which makes the overall cost for a coastline dike around $70 billion. However, once the relocated infrastructure is factored in, plus the costs for gates and pumping systems the costs could rise to $1 trillion. When one considers this outlay could be spread over 30 to 70 years, this kind of infrastructure work is well within the capabilities of government budgets.

[Sidebar: Some of the investment cost could be recovered by incorporating tidal flow powered turbines for electrical power generation. This technology is less developed than other renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, but there is work ongoing. For some background see Tidal Energy (Marine Current Turbines website).]

No need to stand around and wait for the seas to rise - the USA could ultimately solve part of its infrastructure issues, and stimulate the economy with new construction. This is a far better use of government money than fighting unwinnable wars.

Other Economic News this Week:

The Econintersect Economic Index for June 2017 continues to forecast normal growth for the second month in a row. Six-month employment growth forecast indicates modest improvement in the rate of growth.

Bankruptcies this Week from bankruptcydata.com: A.M. Castle, Foundation Healthcare

Weekly Economic Release Scorecard:

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