Contributions to the Engineering Institute of Canada Climate Change Conference
Duane Pendergast, August 04, 2006
I began to review climate science, as a hobby, during the late 1980's. Elsewhere on this site I pointed out in 1990 that climate scientists were confident that measurements would solidly confirm global warming from anthropogenic emissions in a decade or two. I am not a climate scientist. As an engineer, I do have some knowledge of computer modeling of fluid flows and heat transfer and appreciate that modeling and verifying computational models of the climate is a stupendous task. I'm not convinced that a decade and a half of additional data has provided solid proof that human enhanced carbon dioxide emissions will cause catastrophic climate change.
On the other hand, as a mechanical engineer, I am very familiar with the technology involved in our use of fossil fuels to provide the energy which supports our generally high standard of living. My climate change hobby eventually evolved into involvement in Canada's National Climate Change Process. That process was established to evaluate ways and means to control the greenhouse gas emissions said to be causing global warming. My participation provided an intimate and detailed education on methods proposed by stakeholders from a wide array of backgrounds. As a result I'm convinced that the myriad of solutions which are most often proposed and promoted by the majority of global warming devotees will simply not work based on technical considerations.
Still, I am impressed by the general influence growing numbers of humans have on the environment. Aircraft and Google Earth quickly reveal that. Although some believe that the earth and it's climate system is just too big to be influenced by human input, I'm not so sure. Earth has gone through some drastic cycles of warming and cooling. These are not explained with great assurance. Many explanations suggest that rather small modifications to earth's energy balance may be amplified by other effects to bring about big changes in climate. Indeed, significant global warming from atmospheric carbon dioxide increase requires great enhancement through not well understood feedback effects on atmospheric water vapor and clouds. This suggests that, with better understanding of the processes that determine climate, humans may some day be able to provide the input needed to maintain climate to support their needs.
The papers I prepared for the conference explain shortcomings of the rather timid approaches to greenhouse gas management that are the focus of government programs to date, and consider some of the bolder solutions which seek to apply human intelligence to damp out climate oscillations which have occurred routinely in the past.
One of these papers, titled "Kyoto and Beyond: Development of Sustainable Policy" , provides some examples of the inefficacy of some currently touted methods of greenhouse gas management. My presentation with speaking notes and the paper are both posted here.
A second paper; "Energy, the Carbon Cycle, and Enduring Greenhouse Gas Management" postulates that, rather than relying on the conservation of energy, humans will need to use even more energy in any initiative to moderate climate change. It was adapted and refined from an earlier contribution to the Americas Nuclear Energy Symposium in 2004.
This paper provided, in part, an appropriate introduction to the topic of the session; "Mega Engineering. I thus broke the presentation into two parts, the first of which introduced the speakers for the session. The second developed the theme that human ingenuity may be able to develop sufficient understanding of climate change, the carbon cycle and other climate modifiers, and develop sufficient energy resources to eventually be able to exert a degree of human control over earth's climate.
A third paper, "Nuclear Fission Fuel is Inexhaustible", co-authored with Douglas Lightfoot, Dan Meneley, George Stanford and Wallace Manheimer examines human energy needs in the context of fission fuel supplies. It is provided here with their permission.
Please note that copyright for the papers above has been assigned to IEEE and that the format will change to conform to IEEE Xplore requirements when publication is finalized.