New method to turn CO2 into coal

Scientists have developed a new relatively low-cost method for turning atmospheric carbon dioxide into solid carbon that then be used as a synthetic fuel.

“By using liquid metals as a catalyst, we’ve shown it’s possible to turn the gas back into carbon at room temperature, in a process that’s efficient and scaleable,” [Dr. Torben Daeneke, a research scientist at RMIT University.] said. The liquid metal catalyst was developed by the researchers with specific surface properties, making it extremely efficient at conducting electricity, while chemically activating the surface.

According to the press release: “The carbon dioxide is dissolved in a beaker with an electrolyte liquid and a small amount of the liquid metal, which is then charged with an electric current. The CO2 slowly converts into solid flakes of carbon, which are naturally detached from the liquid metal surface, allowing the continuous production of carbonaceous solid.”

And, yes, the process has the potential to yield a future energy source. The carbon produced may be able to be used as an electrode.

This is excellent news, for a lot of reasons. At the same time, I always find this effort to use technology to grab and convert atmospheric carbon dioxide somewhat ironic. We already have a very efficient biological tool for doing this, called plant life, which is presently thriving worldwide because of the increased CO2 in the atmosphere. The more you plant, the more oxygen you create. And what’s more, it gives you a lot more food to eat. Why do anything else?

Hat tip reader John Vernoski.

New method for scrubbing CO2 out of the air

Researchers have devised a new much more efficient technique for removing carbon dioxide from the smoke of power plants.

The memzyme meets the Department of Energy’s standards by capturing 90 percent of power plant carbon dioxide production at a relatively low cost of $40 per ton. Researchers term the membrane a “memzyme” because it acts like a filter but is near-saturated with an enzyme, carbonic anhydrase, developed by living cells over millions of years to help rid themselves of carbon dioxide efficiently and rapidly.

“To date, stripping carbon dioxide from smoke has been prohibitively expensive using the thick, solid, polymer membranes currently available,” says Jeff Brinker, a Sandia fellow, University of New Mexico regents’ professor and the paper’s lead author. “Our inexpensive method follows nature’s lead in our use of a water-based membrane only 18 nanometers thick that incorporates natural enzymes to capture 90 percent of carbon dioxide released. (A nanometer is about 1/700 of the diameter of a human hair.) This is almost 70 percent better than current commercial methods, and it’s done at a fraction of the cost.”

The article also notes at the end that this technology could also be adapted to scrubbing CO2 from spacecraft atmospheres.

Hat tip to reader MarcusZ1967.

Southern ocean absorbs more CO2 than expected

The uncertainty of science: Scientists have found that the ability of the southern ocean surrounding Antarctica to absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide varies much more drastically than they had predicted.

In 2011, the ocean took in 4.4 gigatonnes of CO2, according to the study — more than 10% of the CO2 emitted by human activity at the time. That was roughly double what it absorbed a decade earlier. The increase marks a sharp turnaround from simulations published a few years ago, which suggested that the ocean’s ability to absorb CO2 had dropped in the 1980s and 1990s, and predicted that this trend would continue.

“It doesn’t mean that our [climate-change] projections for the future are going to change dramatically,” says Nicolas Gruber, an environmental physicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, who co-authored the latest paper. Rather, he says, the study shows that the ocean’s ability to absorb carbon changes more drastically than researchers had anticipated. [emphasis mine]

Typical of much of the climate research community, the scientist above insists that just because their models were wrong is no reason to change them, or the reasoning behind them. We are going to charge ahead, regardless of the facts!

CO2 satellite overcomes design flaw

Despite a decade of development, including the production of two satellites, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 was launched in July with a basic design flaw that was never spotted.

Scientists and engineers on the project have ridden an emotional roller coaster. In 2009, a rocket failure doomed the Orbiting Carbon Observatory, their first attempt at a carbon-mapping probe. Its replacement, OCO-2, launched successfully. But after the JPL turned on the main instrument — a trio of spectrometers that measure sunlight light reflecting off Earth’s surface — the team discovered a problem in OCO-2’s data. They eventually determined that it was caused by a design flaw that reduced the amount of light entering the instrument during one mode of operation. The problem dated to 2004 and had never been caught in testing, says JPL’s David Crisp, the science team leader of the OCO-2 mission. “It was a stupid mistake. Embarrassing to the instrument designer and to me,” he says.

This flaw was apparently in both OCO satellites and was never noticed.

Fortunately, they have improvised a work-around that is allowing the spacecraft to get its data, which interestingly shows the highest concentrations of CO2 are coming not from the U.S. and the First World but from poorer parts of Africa and South America (caused by “burning savannas and forests,” not SUVs) and from China.

OCO-2 in orbit

Second time’s the charm: A Delta 2 rocket successfully launched the Orbiting Carbon Observatory 2 (OCO-2) into orbit on Wednesday, five years after the first OCO was lost at launch when its Taurus XL rocket fell into the ocean.

The Earth-observing satellite is designed to globally track the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

I have to note that if the science of climate change was so “settled,” as President Barack Obama keeps insisting, why did we then spend half a billion dollars on this satellite? Wouldn’t it make more sense to drop the research and focus entirely on saving the planet?

New satellite data covering the period from 2000 to 2011 now shows that the atmosphere traps far less heat than predicted by every global warming climate model.

The uncertainty of science: New satellite data covering the period from 2000 to 2011 now shows that the atmosphere traps far less heat than predicted by every global warming climate model.

The models had predicted that the increase in CO2 — which is insufficient on its own to cause a greenhouse effect — would cause feedbacks with water (the atmosphere’s real greenhouse gas) that would increase the amount of atmospheric humidity which would thus trap heat in the atmosphere and raise the global temperature. The new data instead shows the opposite. The atmosphere is not trapping any heat. The greenhouse effect is not occurring as predicted.

Despite the failure of any climate model to predict the climate, the Obama administration is increasing the cost and strictness of regulation because of what it sees as the “social cost of carbon dioxide.”

Despite the failure of any climate model to predict the climate, the Obama administration is increasing the cost and strictness of regulation because of what it sees as the “social cost of carbon dioxide.”

[E]ssentially, the government is now incorporating newer climate models that capture the future damage from sea-level rise more explicitly. Those models also project that agriculture will suffer more heavily in a hotter world. So, in its central estimate, the federal government now assumes a ton of carbon-dioxide emitted in 2013 does roughly $36 in damage, rather than its previous estimate of $22, with the value rising each year.

Meanwhile, new data also suggests increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might actually be beneficial, not damaging.

Shouldn’t the EPA and the Obama administration get their heads out of the sand?

New computer models find that the tropical rain forests will not be harmed by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The uncertainty of science: New computer models find that the tropical rain forests will not be harmed by increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Tropical forests are unlikely to die off as a result of the predicted rise in atmospheric greenhouse gases this century, a new study finds. The analysis refutes previous work that predicted the catastrophic loss of the Amazon rainforest as one of the more startling potential outcomes of climate change.

In the most extensive study of its kind, an international team of scientists simulated the effect of business-as-usual emissions on the amounts of carbon locked up in tropical forests across Amazonia, Central America, Asia and Africa through to 2100. They compared the results from 22 different global climate models teamed with various models of land-surface processes. In all but one simulation, rainforests across the three regions retained their carbon stocks even as atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased throughout the century.

The study provides “robust evidence for the resilience of tropical rainforests”, says lead author Chris Huntingford, a climate modeller at the UK’s Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Wallingford. But uncertainties remain, he adds.

First, this prediction is based on a computer model, which is as likely to be as right as the previous pessimistic predictions. With that in mind, no one should start dancing for joy. The long term consequences of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere remain unknown.

Second, I am baffled by the previous predictions that favored catastrophe for the tropical jungles because of increased levels of carbon dioxide. Plants breath CO2. They prosper from it. If you put more in the atmosphere they will thrive. Moreover, the tropical jungles are already hot, and the plant life there is adapted to that heat. Raising the global temperature should not hurt them significantly.

Finally, faced with a result that defuses all the crisis-mongering of the global warming crowd, the author of the article feels obliged at the end to emphasis their new bugaboo: extreme weather! It’s coming! Duck your heads!

But don’t worry. When weather extremes also fail to appear, they will find something else to scream about.

Since 2006 carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. has plunged, almost reaching 1991 levels.

Since 2006 carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have plunged, almost reaching 1991 levels.

The key driver for the “shockingly good news” that CO2 emissions will probably fall this year to a two-decade low … is “the shale gas revolution, and the low-priced gas that it has made a reality, especially in the last 12 months. As of April, gas tied coal at 32% of the electric power generation market, nearly ending coal’s 100 year reign on top of electricity markets (see related CD post on this energy milestone). Let’s remember the speed and extent of gas’s rise and coal’s drop: coal had 52% of the market in 2000 and 48% in 2008.”

It is important to note that it is innovation, technology, and capitalism that is making this happen. Without a free market the shale gas revolution would not have occurred.

“Science in the service of politics.”

Climate scientist Richard Lindzen of MIT spoke before a public meeting of the House of Commons in Great Britain yesterday. You can read his entire speech here [pdf]. Please do. He know his stuff. More important, he begins his presentation by immediately accepting these points:

  • Carbon dioxide is increasing in the atmosphere.
  • There is a greenhouse effect.
  • There has been a doubling of CO2 in the past 150 years.
  • There has probably been a warming of about 0.8 degrees Celsius in the past 150 years.
  • Increasing CO2 alone should cause some warming.

He then notes that while none of these points are controversial among serious climate scientists, none of these facts are a cause for alarm.

The evidence is that the increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming, and that the connection of this minimal warming (or even significant warming) to the purported catastrophes is also minimal. The arguments on which the catastrophic claims are made are extremely weak – and commonly acknowledged as such. They are sometimes overtly dishonest. [emphasis mine]

» Read more

The link between sunspots and climate

In a preprint paper published today on the Los Alamos astro-ph website and accepted for publication in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, Norwegian scientists have found a strong correlation between the length of the solar sunspot cycle and the Earth’s temperature during the following cycle. From the abstract:

Relations between the length of a sunspot cycle and the average temperature in the same and the next cycle are calculated for a number of meteorological stations in Norway and in the North Atlantic region. No significant trend is found between the length of a cycle and the average temperature in the same cycle, but a significant negative trend is found between the length of a cycle and the temperature in the next cycle. This provides a tool to predict an average temperature decrease of at least 1.0 ◦ C from solar cycle 23 to 24 for the stations and areas analyzed. We find for the Norwegian local stations investigated that 25–56% of the temperature increase the last 150 years may be attributed to the Sun. For 3 North Atlantic stations we get 63–72% solar contribution. [emphasis mine]

You can download a copy of the paper here [pdf].

Their paper finds that if a particular sunspot cycle is longer with less activity, the climate will show significant cooling during the next cycle.

The paper makes several important points:
» Read more

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

Researchers in California have produced a cheap plastic capable of removing large amounts of carbon dioxide from the air.

The article focuses on how this could save us from global warming. What I see is a possible tool for making the construction of interplanetary spaceships more practical. On any vessel in space, something has to cleanse the air of carbon dioxide. Finding a cheap way to do this makes building those vessels much easier.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reach new high

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a new high in 2010.

And yet, the rise in the world’s climate has stalled since around 2000. This suggests to me, as does a lot of other research, that the Earth’s climate is far more complex than claimed by many scientists, and that there are some factors we do not yet understand contributing to the ebb and flow of the planet’s global temperature.

Let me add one more point: this lack of understanding about climate change also suggests it is a mistake for our government to take drastic action against global warming at this time. As George Will has noted, “The law is a blunt instrument.” It often does a poor job of dealing with these kinds of issues, especially in cases where our knowledge is flawed or incomplete.

The global output of atmospheric carbon dioxide jumped in 2010 by the biggest amount on record, according to the U.S. Department of Energy

The global output of atmospheric carbon dioxide jumped in 2010 by the biggest amount on record, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

In 2007 when the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its last large report on global warming, it used different scenarios for carbon dioxide pollution and said the rate of warming would be based on the rate of pollution. Boden said the latest figures put global emissions higher than the worst case projections from the climate panel.

And yet, the global temperatures are not rising, as also predicted by those same IPCC models.

New NASA Data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism

The headline says it all: New NASA data blow gaping hole in global warming alarmism.

Scientists on all sides of the global warming debate are in general agreement about how much heat is being directly trapped by human emissions of carbon dioxide (the answer is “not much”). However, the single most important issue in the global warming debate is whether carbon dioxide emissions will indirectly trap far more heat by causing large increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds. Alarmist computer models assume human carbon dioxide emissions indirectly cause substantial increases in atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds (each of which are very effective at trapping heat), but real-world data have long shown that carbon dioxide emissions are not causing as much atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds as the alarmist computer models have predicted.

The new NASA Terra satellite data are consistent with long-term NOAA and NASA data indicating atmospheric humidity and cirrus clouds are not increasing in the manner predicted by alarmist computer models. The Terra satellite data also support data collected by NASA’s ERBS satellite showing far more longwave radiation (and thus, heat) escaped into space between 1985 and 1999 than alarmist computer models had predicted. Together, the NASA ERBS and Terra satellite data show that for 25 years and counting, carbon dioxide emissions have directly and indirectly trapped far less heat than alarmist computer models have predicted. [emphasis mine]

Where’s the warming?

Where’s the warming?

Global greenhouse gas emissions have risen even faster during the past decade than predicted by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other international agencies. According to alarmist groups, this proves global warming is much worse than previously feared. The increase in emissions “should shock even the most jaded negotiators” at international climate talks currently taking place in Bonn, Germany, the UK Guardian reports. But there’s only one problem with this storyline; global temperatures have not increased at all during the past decade.

The evidence is powerful, straightforward, and damning. NASA satellite instruments precisely measuring global temperatures show absolutely no warming during the past the past 10 years. This is the case for the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, including the United States. This is the case for the Arctic, where the signs of human-caused global warming are supposed to be first and most powerfully felt. This is the case forglobal sea surface temperatures, which alarmists claim should be sucking up much of the predicted human-induced warming. This is the case for the planet as a whole.

If atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions are the sole or primary driver of global temperatures, then where is all the global warming? We’re talking 10 years of higher-than-expected increases in greenhouse gases, yet 10 years of absolutely no warming. That’s 10 years of nada, nunca, nein, zero, and zilch. [emphasis mine]

Scientists find previously unknown deposits of CO2 on Mars

Scientists find a gigantic and previously unknown deposit of CO2 at Mars’ south pole.

“We already knew there is a small perennial cap of carbon-dioxide ice on top of the water ice there, but this buried deposit has about 30 times more dry ice than previously estimated,” said Roger Phillips of Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. Phillips is deputy team leader for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s Shallow Radar instrument and lead author of the report. . . . “When you include this buried deposit, Martian carbon dioxide right now is roughly half frozen and half in the atmosphere, but at other times it can be nearly all frozen or nearly all in the atmosphere,” Phillips said.

What this discovery means is that, depending on Mars’ orbital circumstances, its atmosphere can sometimes be dense enough for liquid water to flow on its surface.