Dr Michael Coughlin, head of the National Climate Centre was reported as saying that the world is now hotter than any time since prehistoric times. He is supported by research using gas trapped in Antarctic ice going back 650,000 years that found that current levels of carbon dioxide in the air are 27% higher than at any tiny time during that period. This goes along with NASA's report that says that 2005 is the hottest year on record.
Effects that have been attributed to the warming include that the Artic sea ice dropped to its lowest level ever, the record hurricane season and an unprecedented drought that reduced the flow of the Amazon river to its lowest ever rate. Canada and Australia had their hottest ever weather this year, while India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Algeria suffered heatwaves reaching 50C.
If this isn't strong enough proof that global warming is real, what do you need Mr President? It certainly should be enough to convince you to take all possible measures to reduce global warming, which should include as its main point the reduction of burning of fossil fuels. The time required for any mitigating measures to have any impact is so great, that all stops have to be pulled out now. Items that have been repeatedly indicated as being necessary include:
Reduction of fuels burned in vehicles including: higher gas mileage requirements, use of high efficiency diesel engines, and faster deployment of hybrids; incentives for development and deployment of plug-in hybrids; greater emphasised development of advanced batteries; and incentives for development and deployment of electric vehicles.
Greater incentives for rapid deployment of increased efficiency or non-carbon emitting electric power generation. This includes IGCC technology, stationary fuel cells, sequestration of carbon dioxide created during fossil fuel electric generation and deployment of next generation nuclear plants.
Faster deployment and accelerated research on renewable energy. This primarily includes faster deployment of wind power, thermal solar power, geothermal power and ocean power. Increased efforts at reducing the costs of photovoltaic (PV) solar power are required where recent research results, here, here and here, provide strong evidence that this technology can compete with conventional sources of power. Only a combination of renewable sources of electricity, combined with energy storage, can totally overcome the problems of intermittency of renewable energy.
Greater incentives for development and deployment of biofuels, which are carbon neutral. This includes more efficient processes for making ethanol and biodiesel including: ethanol by fermentation of cellulosic materials, biofuels from gasification/pyrolysis, biofuels from gasification combined with Fisher-Tropsch synthesis and maximum usage of methane resources.
Efficiency of energy usage in homes and businesses can be accomplished with higher insulation efficiency standards, including reduction of infiltration and more efficient heating and cooling through the use of stationary fuel cells and geothermal heat pumps. The direct carbon fuel cell looks like a sleeper technology and needs greater funding for research, whether for home use or for MW power generation.
Hydrogen--this technology is too far off to have a significant impact in the next 15 years and funding for its development should be adjusted accordingly, with much of its funding transferred to the above higher priority items. Stationary fuel cells are a bright spot in this technology and their development needs to be accelerated--they can use almost any form of fuel and can be very efficient. Development of fuel cells for cars requires a great deal of cost reduction more than anything else. These sort of developments can be attacked by a slow, step by step progression, or by a much more expensive attack by pursuing several parallel paths. I know less expensive materials for catalysts and electrodes are emerging and need more funding. Sealing between the many electrodes in a stack is a problem and can be approached either with better sealing or eliminating the sealing. I am not well enough informed to know what direction fuel cell development should take. It appears to me that if fuel cells are to be used in cars that the first generation of filling stations will generate their hydrogen on site by electrolysis; this technology is well developed and has been used in the stations that have already been built. It is being further refined for this application by GE and I presume by the others who have built stations. Development of IGCC or nuclear technology for the production of hydrogen seems to me to be a technology that can be developed by commercial entities, especially at this time, with the long time frame horizon that I see.
My conclusion after going through scenarios like this has always been that we have two equally compelling reasons to invest in the technologies itemized above: a decreasing supply of fossil fuels and the impact of global warming. With two such compelling reasons, the requirement for the pursuit of these technologies should not be in question.
Resource: World is at its hottest since prehistory, say scientists, Geoffery Lean, The Independent, online edition, December 18, 2005