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The real scientific reasons to expect human caused global warming has been ignored. Energy balance for earth needs to be clarified.


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Summary

Educate all (including self) about the scientific reasons for human caused global warming.

Solar energy from the sun is almost all energy input to earth. With 30 % reflection to space (70 % absorbed), the average earth equilibrium temperature using the assumption that the earth is perfect radiation (black) body is 254 Kelvin (-19 C), about  33 K below the actual average earth surface (land and water) temperature of 287 K. The effective earth radiation coefficient at the actual 287 K surface temperature is 63 %, lower than the absorption factor.

The earth is covered with atmosphere above water and land. The up to 30 km thick atmosphere (depending on the cut off air density used to define the non uniform thickness, less than 0.5 % of the radius) with lower temperature near the top cause the effective radiation temperature to be lower than water and land surface temperature. Understanding the earth temperature control factors and the equilibrium condition must be the foundation for understanding any deviation trend (warming) that may exist.

Some climate scientist also mention the lack of connection between most climate research publications to the well known scientific knowledge. Without the effective connection, climate scientist knowledge cannot even be transmitted to other scientists, let alone the general public. The best way to make more scientist to see the validity of global warming predictions is to make the prediction based on more well known scientific facts, not just scientific facts climate scientist just discovered and some other climate scientist may even have questions or doubts. The general public may not care or able to correctly know how to understand global warming, but climate scientist (or climate scientist community) need to try harder to educate all.


What actions do you propose?

I am writing this contest entry to point out the importance of valid reasoning based on clear scientific knowledge. There ia news report saying some people at MIT has concluded that even if all the agreements related to the Paris 2015 talk is done, the target of limiting temperature increase to 2 C cannot be reached. Instead, the temperature increase will be between 2.7 to 3.6 C. Wishful thinking and actions without real supporting technology are useless.

I do some research after reading the Wikipedia global warming article. The 33 C supposed basic equilibrium temperature deviation based on actual 70 % absorption coefficient and 100 % radiation efficiency is in my mind not justified. The incoming solar energy incoming flux is 1.74e17 watt, yearly energy input is 5.46e24 Joules. With the 30% reflection, the earth energy absorption rate is 1.22e17 watt and the yearly energy is 3.82e24 Joules.

Rasmus Benestad in a 2016 paper "A mental picture of green house effect - A pedagogic explanation" revisited a 1931 paper by Hulbert "The temperature of the lower atmosphere of the earth" Phys. Rev. 38 pp1876-1890. The basic temperature control factors are solar energy input and earth radiation output. The solar energy input is 70 % of the solar flux. The output at the 287 K average global surface temperature is equivalent to 63 % of the perfect radiator efficiency.

In a 1997 paper "Earth's Annual Global mean radiation budget" by J.T. Kiehl and Kevin Trenberth, the incoming solar radiation is 342 watts per meter square. The following numbers are their best estimate of the global energy input/output with the same unit (but without writing the units). 77 of the incoming solar energy are reflected by clouds, aerosol and atmosphere. another 67 are absorbed by atmosphere. The 198 reaching surface (land or water) are divided into 168 absorbed at the surface and 30 as surface reflection. Total reflection of solar flux is 107, approximately 31.3 % of the solar flux. The net incoming energy is 235. The total outgoing energy is also 235. 195 is from atmosphere and 40 from the surface. The incoming 168 absorbed at the surface is distribute among 78 for evaporation, 24 for thermals and 66 as the difference between surface radiation (390, upward) and back radiation (324, downward) from atmosphere. There are probably other papers similar to this 1997 paper after extensive record keeping and analysis. With earth surface warmer than of the top of atmosphere, radiation from the surface are more likely to be reflected back than escape into space. It is not proper to think of the earth radiation as from a source of some average temperature. The 31.3 % reflection in the 1997 paper seems to be higher than the newer consensus of 29 % or 30 % reflection.

The authors of the 1997 paper probably adjust the numbers to balance the incoming and outgoing energy to reach a steady, coherent values. The required effort of collecting global data, assign corresponding area or other weighting factor is so extensive that the result must be viewed as probability estimate. It is far easier to assume close balance. There are a lot of efforts to account for the earth's energy balance with accurate measurements. I am confident that the consensus will not change drastically. Actually, global warming can also cause incoming/outgoing energy imbalance. The (near) scientific consensus now is there are more heat stored on earth. 93 % is in the ocean. Ice and continents each has 3 %. The atmosphere is only 1 %. The annual quantity is on the order of 10 e22 joules, about 0.2 % of the yearly solar energy flux absorbed by earth. My impression is the increase heat storage estimate on earth is not precisely known and different values have been reported. Other papers similar to this 1997 paper have been reported. Earth's radiation have contributions from higher average temperature (287 K) surface source and lower temperature top of atmosphere source. If the earth is regarded as at 287 K temperature, the emission coefficient would be 63 %, less than the absorption coefficient. The effective radiation source temperature difference (287 K average for land and sea surface, 240 K for top of atmosphere average) without more specific green house gas (GHG) effect is sufficient to make detail understanding difficult. Any less than totally transparent gas in the atmosphere can reduce earth's radiation because the top of the atmosphere will be cooler than land or sea surface.

GHG can affect earth's radiation. Wikipedia information is water vapor is responsible 36 to 70 % of the GHG effect. Carbon dioxide, methane and ozone are 9 to 26, 4 to 9 and 3 to 7 % respectively. Adding the percentages, the range is from 52 to 100 %. The logical sum for all GHG must be 100 %. The low ends of either water vapor and carbon dioxide can make the sum less than 100 %. The Wikipedia information is therefore self contradictory. This is an example of the difficulty in getting reliable global warming information.

Of the GHG mentioned in the previous paragraph, carbon dioxide is the GHG that clearly has significant human caused contribution. It is correct to promote less carbon footprint behavior. However, in this contest entry, I have to use more than 4000 characters to establish the global warming to carbon dioxide connection. This explanation is almost non-existent in most global warming discussion. Meaningful discussions must be based on reliable, credible information. This is a behavior change more people need to adopt.

The average carbon footprint for one person on earth is about 1.4 ton a year. The rate is higher in developed countries. Adding carbon into global circulation is the most consistent, sustained human activity in the last one hundred years. Without sufficient no carbon footprint renewable energy or really effective carbon sequestration, global warming cannot be averted. The available carbon sequestration technology capacity is far less than the carbon emission rate. The 2015 Paris meeting set goals to reduce carbon emission, not eliminate carbon emission, there effect is definitely not satisfactory. Of course, at the rate of carbon dioxide increase, breaking the target of 2 C temperature limit will likely take more than 10 years when most of the people signing the agreement will longer in position to be held responsible.

OTEC (ocean thermal energy conversion) is the technology that use the most abundant renewable energy resource on earth to meet total human energy need. My entry in the energy supply contest has more information. To obtain more OTEC information, please contact me at jameslau2@gmail.com for more details. OTEC can generate huge profits for power plant operators. There is no need to subsidize OTEC operators after OTEC technology demonstration.

Geo-engineering technology to increase earth's radiation is theoretically able to cool the earth down. To obtain enough radiation increase, the area with enhanced radiation and the rate of radiation enhancement must be large enough. According to the 1997 (and similar) paper, surface radiation enhancement would be less effective than atmospheric radiation enhancement. Only 11 % (40) of the 390 surface radiation is able to reach space. There is a ClimateColab industry contest entry for using Arctic shipping lanes so that the higher water radiation efficiency (more than ice) can get more heat radiated to space. This idea probably lack capacity. Besides the above mentioned data of atmosphere blocking, the areas of shipping lanes cannot be large enough to have real impact. I have requested the author of the radiation increase proposal to send me more information about capacity estimate.

I am ready to provide information about OTEC electricity cost estimate and OTEC electricity generation capacity. It is true that OTEC and other technologies that acts as heat pipe will initially allow more heat to be store on earth. The oceans of the earth can store more heat for another 500 years without making the living condition get significantly worse. With OTEC installations and some carbon sequestration technology development, reduce carbon dioxide level should make the radiation efficiency better so that the accumulation of heat will no longer happen.

Cost effective OTEC plant need water depth of 1000 meters or more. Areas with sufficient depth are likely to be more than 12 nautical miles from shoreline. The 200 nautical mile economic exclusion zone will become important for countries able to use OTEC technology. The island building efforts in Philippine Sea (Japan) and South China Sea, which can cause international conflicts, may greatly complicate OTEC development. The international law of the sea need to be amended to protect OTEC installations at more than 12 nautical mile from shore.

Renewable energy production must have enough generation capacity to replace all fossil fuels. OTEC can be supplemented by other renewable energy technologies in locations least accessible to OTEC energy. Half of the effort to limit global warming is use renewable energy.

The Paris agreement just reduce fossil fuel use, not elimination. A recent MIT report estimated that instead of meeting the 2 C target, the agreement will allow global average temperature to increase by 2.7 to 3.6 degree. I am sure the MIT estimate is not based on atmospheric carbon dioxide level reaching 1000 ppm. Without the ability to completely replace all fossil fuels, 1000 ppm is inevitable. The projected temperature increase will be 7 C.

The already excessive carbon dioxide level need to be reduced. Natural sequestration is apparently not sufficient to slow down global warming. With cost effective renewable energy, the power to operate sequestration technology will be available. The world need to learn about efficient carbon sequestration technology. Burning fossil fuel is by far the most consistent human effort in history. The sustained per capita carbon footprint of more than 1 ton per person for the last 30 years have to be matched with similar carbon sequestration effort to reverse the carbon dioxide emission in the last 200 years. This new geo-engineering effort is the reverse of the fossil fuel burning geo-engineering effort. 


Who will take these actions?

To promote effective understanding of global warming science, publications showing the rather complicate energy flow information around earth must be widely distributed. A lot of the general public probably don't care or cannot understand the related sciences. There are some scientist eager and able to know the real global warming science but are unable to find good information because many climate scientist failed to connect their research result to the basic science that more scientist can understand. I probably need to expand my writing so that I can explain the science to more people effectively. The education systems of the world have not been effective in making people know what is global warming.

When OTEC is known as the cost effective renewable technology, more countries will operate OTEC power plant more than 12 nautical miles from shore. International law need to cover the safety operation of these facilities within the economic exclusion zone but beyond the territorial water.

Convincing people that OTEC is the solution will need real money. Business organizations interested in making profit are the best actor. OTEC electricity should be cheaper than electricity from burning fossil fuel. 


Where will these actions be taken?

The education part of the proposal can be done anywhere in the world.

Testing and build OTEC power plants will concentrate in tropical ocean areas with more than 1000 meter water depth. See my electricity supply contest entry for more information.

Initial OTEC plants will be build within the economical exclusion zone of OTEC adopting countries. There is good chance that some area beyond the economical exclusion zone of any country (truly international water) will also be used for OTEC. Providing access for OTEC operation in international water is a task for the political bodies of the world.

Carbon sequestration effort can be conducted anywhere in the world. The effective technology may be limited by geographical factors not yet identified.


How will these actions have a high impact in addressing climate change?

The education part should lead to the realization that OTEC is the global warming solution. Good understanding of the global warming science should reduce the number of people doubting global warming. Good understanding should also reduce unwise political actions that would do more harm than good in solving the global warming problem.

We can find out if knowledge is power. Real knowledge about the real cost of global warming can direct research effort into area related to real solution. The political correct thinking of tax collection and use the  tax money for research without real scientific and engineering merit must be terminated. Efforts than can only lead to partial easing of carbon emission should only get partial support.

The widespread OTEC power plant implementation will solve the global warming problem. Global carbon foot print (as new fossil fuel related emission) can be reduced to practically zero.


What are other key benefits?

Real knowledge can lead to really effective action. Delaying spread of real scientific knowledge can only delay implementation of really effective solution.


What are the proposal’s costs?


Time line


Related proposals


References