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The Willie Sutton/Will Rogers Approach to Energy

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Willie Sutton is purported to have claimed he robbed banks "because that's where the money is."

Whether or not those were his words; it is the right approach to energy.  

Robert Stewart of Texas A&M points out in Oceanography in the 21st Century, "18 times more heat has been stored in the ocean since the mid 1950s due to global warming than has been stored in the atmosphere.

When a liquid is heated it expands and because its molecules move apart it becomes less dense. As a consequence the oceans are becoming thermally stratified which negatively impacts phytoplankton that are the base of the ocean food chain and the lungs of the planet. They absorb more atmospheric carbon dioxide than the world's forests.

The Nature article, "Global phytoplankton decline over the past century" by Daniel G. Boyce of Dalhousie postulates the volume of phytoplankton in the world's oceans, which produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere by consuming the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide, has been declining steadily for the past half century-down about 40 percent since 1950.

"What we think is happening is that the oceans are becoming more stratified as the water warms," said Boyce. "The plants need sunlight from above and nutrients from below; and as it becomes more stratified, that limits the availability of nutrients."

Expanding oceans have no place to go but up onto the land and warming oceans and air melt the polar icecaps which exacerbates the sea level problem.

Contrary to the IEA's recent report that we have five years to prevent "dangerous" climate change, a Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis study last January concluded that even if we stopped putting CO2 into the atmosphere today the seas may rise by at least four metres, over the next 1,000 years.

The insurance company Allianz has estimated that $26 trillion worth of infrastructure will be at risk by as early as 2050 and the outlook for Small Island States is bleak.

Increasing evaporation is another consequence of warming oceans and the conventional wisdom has been this moisture produces cloud cover and an albdedo effect that will produce ocean cooling.

A recent study however indicates that this may in fact be wrong and instead warming oceans transfer heat to the overlying atmosphere, thinning out the low-lying clouds to let in more sunlight that further warms the ocean. This feedback warms both the air and water and may lead to thermal runaway and catastrophe.

As Will Rogers was wise enough to note: "When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging."

Unfortunately, many of the actions proposed in response to global warming are likely to do more harm than good.

Fusion has been referred to as the holy grail of energy because it mimics the sun which is the source of virtually all of our power but for fission. The problem is like fission; fusion boils water to produce electricity which is a process that is only about 33 percent efficient.

Richard Smalley, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, estimated a population of 10 billion by the year 2050 will require as much as 60 terawatts to meet its needs, including massive desalination.

To produce this 60 terawatts with either fission or fusion an additional 120 terawatts of waste heat would be produced, most of which would end up in the ocean, exacerbating thermal expansion and accelerating the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet.   

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