Earth Science - Other

Gaia and us



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The Immutable Duality

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the complexity of the issues involved in the operation of society. Yet the use of the energy obtained from fossil fuels to drive these operations entails a simple immutable duality. It is that this irreversible energy use entails an irreversible global warming so climate change. Recognition of this simple mechanism would help to identify those measures that can be the most effective in meeting the dire challenges society should be addressing.

Fossil fuels are extracted from the geological store for the chemical reaction of carbon from the fuel with oxygen in air to provide the primary source of energy whilst exhausting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

The energy so produced does useful work for society but is dissipated as waste heat in this irreversible process. It entails an irrevocable draw down of this natural capital. It is a process that is depreciating the eco system.

The carbon dioxide so produced by industrial activity has irreversibly increased the concentration level in the atmosphere and oceans because the natural sources and sinks of this gas are roughly in balance. The high concentration level means that the radiation in is exceeding the radiation out so the atmosphere and oceans are warming up. This global atmospheric warming has instigated irreversible rapid climate change.

It is counter productive to use energy from fossil fuels in industrialized measures that attempt to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide released by the measure will exceed that extracted. Using natural methods, like forests driven by insolation, to enhance the carbon dioxide sinks, so reduce this rate of increase of the level is sound but of very limited value. The rate of energy flow through the forests is miniscule compared to that from fossil fuel combustion. Consequently, the speeding up global warming will continue so long as fossil fuel emissions continue. The impact of the consequential climate change on natural and industrial operations is expected to be dire.

The use of fossil fuels to provide the main source of energy to drive industrial civilization has a limited life. But the climate change initiated by using these fossil fuels will be continuing even when the fuels are exhausted. It is ironical that the declining availability of the fossil fuels will ensure a powering down of civilization just as climate change will make it harder for society to cope with an underfed excess population.

To summarize, industrialization has entailed extracting carbon from the geological store of fossil fuels to provide energy through combustion with atmospheric oxygen to power its operations. The resultant increasing level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is accelerating global warming so irreversible climate change. The declining availability of the fossil fuels will slow down the operations of civilization and the rate of climate change. Using fossil fuels temporarily to do work for civilization has ensured an ongoing climate change due to global warming.

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