Time for a Manhattan Project to combat global warming

Storming piece by Mike McCarthy, the Independent’s environment editor, in Monday’s issue of the paper, pointing out that the gap between the action that we’re taking to curb human-caused global warming and greenhouse gas emission is falling far behind the action we need to take. Our actions are on a bicycle and greenhouse emissions are in a car, and we’re pedalling uphill and into the wind.

Some of it makes for depressing reading, if you’re in the mood to be depressed. (Note it’s behind a paywall..)

this problem, potentially the gravest [that] human society has ever faced, is simply not going to be solved… We promise, but we simply cannot get a handle on [tackling climate change]. It is as if willing-minded countries and their politicians have been swept along by the war-rhetoric of fighting climate change (Tony Blair being the most egregious example), and been prepared to make the gestures, but have not really understood or been prepared to take on board the full implications. Societies everywhere seem just too wedded to dependence on carbon, especially in areas like motor transport and aviation. Programmes to cut emissions are everywhere failing.

Projects like Kyoto, wind power, wave power, solar power are just tinkering at the edges; they barely make the tiniest bite into emissions. What we really need, he points out, is a ‘Manhattan Project’ for our future energy needs: a really concentrated effort that recognises that time is not on our side, and that we need to find a solution, where the politicians simply hand over the task to the scientists and engineers and stay the hell out of it.

The first solution is obvious: fission power. Nuclear power stations make a huge contribution to our energy needs, and we know how to build them in huge numbers. Many scientists, especially those concerned about climate change, think we should focus on fission as a short-term response and phase out carbon-based forms of electricity generation as fast as possible. Yes, you can quote terrorist threats. But the threat of millions of people being displaced from their countries by rising sea levels will be a lot more inexorable than any theoretical risk from terrorists. I’m really not worried about Al-Q’aida, not nearly as much as I am about the longer-term effects of global warming and what sort of world it means we’re leaving to our children.

The second solution, which people are working on – but grossly underfunded, with insufficient political will – is fusion power. The ITER scheme is intended to create a fusion reactor, perhaps in France or in Japan, that will prove the concept. The trouble is that controlling fusion is tricky. Well, so was nuclear fission in the 1940s, but the American team managed it.

The trouble is that we have the old “frog in a saucepan” problem. Put a frog into hot water and it jumps out. Put it into lukewarm water and warm it gradually, and it lets itself be boiled alive.

I’m also reminded of Neil Postman book I read years ago called “Amusing Ourselves To Death”. It was a long polemic about how US TV had turned into absolute crap, not reporting real news and instead focussing on trivia that would attract attention, yet mean nothing.

That was published, as I recall, 30-odd years ago. It’s just as true now; but the infection has spread across the Atlantic too. It’s made even worse by mendacious idiots who wouldn’t know a scientific proof if it ran over their foot, but have a platform with huge leverage on government actions.

Sure, I’m guilty too of not doing enough, and of getting distracted by trivia. (Hell, look at the content of this blog.) Then again I don’t take many plane trips, don’t travel far by car, recycle where I can. But the point is that this is, to reiterate, just tinkering at the edges. We really need a concerted effort, throwing serious resources behind an attempt to solve the gap between clean energy supply and all energy demand. Fusion and fission are the only ones that have the slightest chance – unless something like zero-point energy turns out to be useful. So, two Manhattan Projects, in competition.

1 Comment

  1. Help! am very much afraid neither the Manhattan Project will help; or Zero-point Energy
    If anything the rise in the use of Z.P.E. in air conditioning units,Wind Turbines,computers,
    non-lethal weapons, lightweight trains, and much of technology, seems to have
    fallen on deaf ears as far as the civilian authorties are not concered.
    Telecommuincations and other systems are hiding behind “Goverment Guide Lines”…
    As Zero-point Energy does not comply to, BSI CE/EMC Law which was supposed to have been
    imposed fully by 2005. The IEE say that the EMC law (electromagnetic compatibility)has links to health and safety.. Whereas G.G.L. does not, only that it works not; whether it turns your brains to mush, WHILE

    The Department of Health are worried that computers/fax/photo copiers give off Ozone; however
    they do not seem to understand what componets are in the technology. Not only that they give
    off Phosgene gas another 2nd world war weapon where, Zero-point energy came from…
    Its even being sold as a healing substance.. Some expert don`t take it seriously as most of
    this energy can`t be read on a meter..
    The equipment using these systems is 3 or 4 times more powerful than what is read on the
    meter. They are misold as low powered and power effeicient..

    Zero-point is also related to the making of nuclear energy..
    As its produced by types of particle accelerator, which likewise have problems with very
    low frequency radiation.. The particles are accelorated way off scale and are abel to
    increase the Mass of particles so they spit to produce nutrons..
    That field created is the basis of how the universe works, once manufactured goes largely
    unrecoginesd by civilian technology.. Only complex computer calaculations might get some
    where near…

    There are so many sciencentist playing psychic and mind games with this technology..
    We are now in a Alantis… But no one sees or hears… If you tell them..
    Greenhouse gases are being caused by technology…
    Not just chemical pollution… That technology containes the very stuff that supposed to
    stop Greenhouse problems and save the planet..
    Industry has push the self distruct button, and has forgotten what it once knew over 50
    years ago.. God Help us all..
    Einstien warned about the use of PSI energy which is the same as Zero-point energy and
    Dark matter resently replacing the supper string theory.

    If you would like to discuss this further, some very serious work needs to be done?

    Zero-point energy is related to Vibroacoustic Disease:
    The aircraft industry have sudderly found problems: (www.lowertheboom.org/trice/vad.htm)

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