The World So Far

We have a lot of information about the world. We live on it, and from this we know what it should be like and how it behaves. The world has always been a place with an average temperature of about 17C with poles of ice that are about 10 feet deep and 2.5 million square miles in the north, and 6,000 feet and 5.5 million square miles in the south. But is this true? Obviously it is, as this is what we grew up with and told it is the correct conditions, the world being a homogenous, constant and perpetually unchanging place. It should always be this way. But a few people whose voices are drowned out suspect this may not be completely true.

To have an idea of what we could face we need to look at history, not the history of the past 1,000 years, or the history of maybe a million years, as this is like the previous few minutes and days of the world’s history. 100 years ago it was like this, now it is like this and changed a lot, so impending disaster is looming and certain. It’s a bit like claiming it rained heavily yesterday and today, so if this continues tomorrow we are guaranteed to have the next Noah’s Flood.

Let’s start with 2.5 billion years ago. There was next to no oxygen and the atmosphere was probably a mixture of nitrogen, carbon dioxide, argon and water. The nitrogen, argon and water in the atmosphere probably haven’t changed that much since then, but the carbon dioxide was probably around 20-25%, or about 450 times (+45000%) the current level. During the past 2.5 billion years this has reduced to the current level we are so concerned about. Where has it all gone; you only need to look at the rocks around you, most of it being laid down under the seas and oceans by organisms that harvested it for their supporting structures. Most of those are long gone, but not all. At that time there were no ice poles at all.

So, between 2.5 billion years ago and 500 million years ago life was pretty simple, the carbon dioxide decreased dramatically from 20,000ppm to 5,000ppm, and the more complex trees and plants started at the end of this. Since then, depending on who is leading the research and the results they intend, we have had about 5,000 at the start of this period, 1700-3000ppm about 400 million years ago, falling to about 210ppm 340 million years ago, rising again to 1700ppm 230 million years ago, falling to 210ppm 80 million years ago, rising to about 1000ppm 30 million years ago, falling to about 290ppm 100,000 years ago and rising to about 370ppm now. The current view is that if the rise is not stopped before it gets to 500ppm the world is doomed. Over the past 100 million years sea levels have fallen by about 170m and are starting to rise again.

The chart below shows the CO2 over the past 400 million years with the current level being the blue line and the grey line the current consensus for the end of the world situation. Based on this the world was destroyed for 76% of the time over the past 400 million years and nothing grew or survived.

So, our current climate that we are familiar with is above the 0 mark on the right hand side of the chart. You are bound to get variations, but the thing that will strike you as odd is that virtually everything we see is above our current condition in the past.

If you look at the picture over the last 2.5 billion years with the current level being the blue line and the grey line the current consensus for the end of the world situation it looks like below:

We could not survive in a world to the far left. It was not until about 500 million years ago that our form of life could, but even looking at this 99.9% of the world’s existence was above our present levels, so the assumption in today’s society is that the 0.1% we are currently in is the normal condition for the earth for the rest of its history. About 99% of the past 2.5 billion years was above the level for the current consensus’ level for world destruction.

Is the problem solved; no.

We are currently using the available resources of the planet at an increasing rate of about 1% a year. To combat CO2 we have increased this by about 15%, so within 10,000 years we will require more than the contents of the universe to continue to do so.

Continued industrial growth is an unachievable idea, mainly because of this +1% required for any deemed improvement. Continued growth in this way requires infinite resources to do so, more than the universe can give. Theoretically, if other universes exist we can plunder them to continue in this way. Even then after a few more thousand years we will run out of them too.

What is the worst the world can throw at us? As far as sea level rise the map below shows what could happen if the sea rises to levels of 100 and 30 million years ago, which is quite possible and may even be likely:

Can we stop this from happening? Probably not. We are trying to control the worlds climate and we can’t even change a small local rainstorm.

The average electric car at the moment is rated about 50KWh. Of this you won’t be able to charge it more than 90% or use it when it gets below 10% as it will damage the battery, so the computer cuts it out at these levels. Lithium batteries operate between about -20 to +60°C, best when it’s 10-30°C. The ratings are at 20°C, perfect conditions, but the batteries degrade with the speed of charging and reduce in overall available output with falling temperatures. So, a battery that’s continually fast charged will degrade faster than one that continually trickle charged and ones in very hot countries degrading faster than ones in colder countries, charging faster generating more internal heat. Car batteries when used for motion are constantly cooled to try and keep them within a good operating temperature.

So, if we look at a stationary car, a car is an enclosed space, so if heating is needed you would use probably about 1 KW per hour unless it was very cold outside. It depends on the ventilation needed and how well the car is insulated. Most electric cars being designed to discard excess heat rather than retain it.

The average electric vehicle does about 200 miles on a full charge. So this is based on about 40KWh of available power. Drive for 100 and it reduces to 20KWh of available power, most being used for shorter trips, The average car journey is about 9 miles with people charging generally when the power gets to about 60%.

So, we have a battery 50KWh that has 40KWh available, with about 80% power, so on average about 32KWh at 15°C, but ranging from 5-40KWh.

Unless heated, which would take up extra power, a rough guide is that the internal resistance of a lithium battery doubles every 15°C. So, our model if in a 0°C ambient temperature level would give you 16KWh, and at -15°C about 8KWh useable usable power. The range is about 1.25-10KWh for n average car. Teslas, and some other luxury cars can have 100KWh batteries but are designed with sports car characteristics, so they use power a lot faster, and many drivers use the brakes and accelerator as on/off switches that also reduces mechanical and electrical life. Diesels have the problem of waxing at lower temperatures if the lines are not heated, but both petrol and diesel give off fumes if stuck in a blizzard. It’s probably academic which has the better outcome, the best thing to not be there in the first place, needing the chemistry and physics of the vehicle to save you.

The overall average full costs and pollution levels for electric, electric/hybrid, diesel and petrol are pretty similar if you go from raw materials and generation to disposal. The key to overall effect is down to driving style and how long the vehicle has a useful life, so they are not separate discrete entities. Company cars are the worst offenders, as the costs shoot up after the first 3 years with them, but with personal cars it goes up gradually after about 10 years although it can reach a plateau. Again, this is dependent on subsequent driving style and initial cost. For transport ships, trains, buses, HGV’s and taxis tend to be very good, sports, luxury and performance cars and aircraft very bad per kg/mile shifted. Usually the more exotic or highly technical something is the worse it is. Nature itself is a lowest entropy sort of existence, complication out in competition on the extra resources it requires, going from a more to a less ordered condition.

It’s not the weight or quantity of materials, it’s what is needed to put them into a form that you require or can use. 200kg of lithium is worth a lot more than 200kg of oil and needs a lot more processing and energy to use it. Diesel if it wasn’t for all the tax would be about £600 per tonne, lithium being about £3,500 per tonne. There is approximately 1.5 million tonnes of gold in the oceans, so that’s about £61 trillion. The energy needed to get it is probably about 50 times that, so it’s usually only practical if you want something else, such as fresh water. The total yearly world production of lithium that all the current car batteries are based on is about 90,000 tonnes a year, increasing very slowly. The average weight in high grade lithium needed for a typical modern EV battery is about half a tonne. There are about a billon cars in the world that need to be replaced and virtually every electrical device needs it as well. Lithium is a good long-term investment, as unless the fabled alternatives actually deliver what the marketing people promise. I can see lithium doubling in price every 5 years, so by 2026 about £7,000 a tonne and 2031 £14,000 a tonne. Oil will probably be hit harder and harder with taxation, so I could well believe that Diesel will be 95% tax and £7,000 a tonne by then.

For tidal power the key word is silting. There isn’t a practical running tidal system left in the world. All of them have become either non-working or display pieces that cost more to run than they produce. It’s sad, but the action of using the motion of the river to provide power also means it reduces its flow and allows it to drop more sediment. Usually they are put in place not to produce power efficiently but to give land reclamation. Add to the problem that sea water is extremely corrosive, a lot of special resistant materials are needed.

How will it affect our climate?

If the IPCC is correct then we need to calculate the effects for a recursive CO2 system. The objectives are to limit average temperature rises to +1.5°C, but this rise by 1.5°C would have implications for releasing CO2 from the worlds seas and oceans by reducing the amount that they can hold. For most purposes we are looking at the top 200m of sea and ocean’s surface, not much going on in the form of transfers below this level, things like clathrates only forming below 2000m, where heat interchange is extremely limited. At pressures above 200m, although water can hold more gasses, the higher pressure prevents this from happening to a good degree. You find very little dissolved CO2, nitrogen or oxygen after this point. At a normal pressure and an average surface water temperature of about 16°C, water can hold about 2 grams of CO2 per Kg., the differences between pure and sea water being extremely small.

Sea and oceans cover about 71% of the planets 361 million square kilometres surface, so the area of interest is about 5.13 x 10^16 cubic metres as below the thermocline of 1000 metres the water temperature is just above freezing, even given the large amount of heat from the earth’s molten core. The average of the area above the thermocline is somewhere near 8°C, so this would be a better calculation figure than the surface temperature, but with added pressure it could theoretically hold more CO2, but in most cases holds less.

So, for 16°C surface water at standard pressures can hold about 102 billion tonnes of CO2. A rise of 1.5°C will release about 10 billion tonnes of CO2 from the seas.

At 8°C average water temperature, with circulation at 100m pressures it can hold about 160 billion tonnes of CO2. A rise of 1.5°C will release about 15 billion tonnes of CO2 from the seas.

Because stuff is always dying and falling into the oceans you would also get a 10% value of methane being released at the same time, so the figures would probably give at 16°C a billion tonnes of methane and at 8°C about 1.5 billion tonnes of methane released, so doubling normal emissions pushing the temperatures higher.

If the IPCC figures are correct then probably the plans for +1.5°C would probably give an overall recursive figure of about +4°C, so I would guess at a 3m rise being inevitable.

For time periods a rough estimate for the map below would be about 2050. The black outline being the new coastlines and the red area liable to regular flooding.

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