A Response to Climate Change, But Will it Work?

By now, if you have not heard that climate change is regarded as a problem, you must have been living under a flat rock. At least some of the politicians have recognized that this is a serious problem and they do what politicians do best: ban something. The current craze is to ban the manufacture of vehicles powered by liquid fuels in favour of electric vehicles, the electricity to be made from renewable resources. That sounds virtuous, but have they thought out the consequences?

The world consumption of petroleum for motor vehicles is in the order of 23,000 bbl/day. By my calculation, given some various conversion factors from the web, that requires approximately 1.6 GW of continuous extra electric consumption. In fact much more would be needed because the assumptions include 100% efficiency throughout. Note if you are relying on solar power, as many environmentalists want, you would need more than three times that amount because the sun does not shine at night, and worse, since this is to charge electric vehicles, which tend to be running in daytime, such electric energy would have to be stored for use at night. How do you store it?

The next problem is whether the grid could take that additional power. This is hardly an insurmountable problem, but I most definitely needs serious attention, and it would be more comforting if we thought the politicians had thought of this and were going to do something about it. Another argument is, since most cars would be charged at night, the normal grid could be used because there is significantly less consumption then. I think the peaks would still be a problem, and then we are back to where the power is coming from. Of course nuclear power, or even better, fusion power, would make production targets easily. But suppose, like New Zealand, you use hydro power? That is great for generating on demand, but each kWhr still requires the same amount of water availability. If the water is fully used now, and if you use this to charge at night, then you need some other source during the day.

The next problem for the politicians are the batteries, and this problem doubles if you use batteries to store electricity from solar to use at night. Currently, electric vehicles have ranges that are ideal for going to and from work each day, but not so ideal for long distance travel. The answer here is said to be “fast-charging” stops. The problem here is how do you get fast charging? The batteries have a fixed internal resistance, and you cannot do much about that. From Ohm’s law, given the resistance, the current flow, which is effectively the charge, can only be increased by increasing the voltage. At first sight you may think that is hardly a problem, but in fact there are two problems, both of which affect battery life. The first is, in general an overvoltage permits fresh electrochemistry to happen. Thus for the lithium ion battery you run the risk of what is called lithium plating. The lithium ions are supposed to go between what are called intercalation layers on the carbon anode, but if the current is too high, the ions cannot get in there quickly enough and they deposit outside, and cause irreversible damage. The second problem is too fast of charging causes heat to be generated, and that partially destroys the structural integrity of the electrodes.

The next problem is that batteries can be up to half the cost of the purely electric vehicle. Everybody claims battery prices are coming down, and they are. The lithium ion battery is about seven times cheaper than it was, but it will not necessarily get much cheaper because at present ingredients make up 70% of the cost. Ingredient prices are more likely to increase. Lithium is not particularly common, and a massive increase in production may be difficult. There are large deposits in Bolivia but as might be expected, there are other salts present in addition to the lithium salts. There is probably enough lithium but it has to be concentrated from brines and there are the salts you do not want that have to be disposed of, which reduces the “green-ness” of the exercise. Lithium prices can be assumed to go up significantly.

But the real elephant in the room is cobalt. Cobalt is not part of the chemistry of the battery, but it is necessary for the cathode. The battery works by shuttling lithium ions backwards and forwards between the cathode and anode. The cathode material needs to have the right structure to accommodate the ions, be stable so the ions can move in and out, have valence orbitals to accommodate the electron transfer, and the capacity to store as many lithium ions as possible. There are other materials that could replace cobalt, but cobalt is the only one where, when the lithium moves out, something does not move in to fill the spaces. Cobalt is essential for top performance. There are alternatives to use in current technology, but the cost is in poorer lifetimes, and there are alternative technologies, but nobody is sure they work. At present, a car needs somewhere between 7 – 20 kg of cobalt in its batteries, and as you reduce the cobalt content, you appear to reduce the life of the battery.

Cobalt is a problem because the current usage of cobalt in batteries is 48,000 t/a, while world production is about 100,000 t/a. The price is increasing rapidly as electric vehicles become more popular. At the beginning of 2017, a tonne of cobalt would cost $US 32,500; now it is at least $US 80,000. Over half the world’s production comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, which may not be the most stable country, and worse, most of that 100,000 t/a comes as a byproduct from copper or nickel production. If there were to be a recession and the demand for stainless steel fell, then the production of cobalt would drop. The lithium ion batteries that would not be affected are the laptops and phones; they only need about 10 – 20 g of cobalt. Even worse, there are a lot of these batteries that currently are not being recycled.

In a previous post I noted there was not a single magic bullet to solve this problem. I stick to that opinion. We need a much broader approach than most of the politicians are considering. By broader, I do not mean the approach of denying we even have a problem.

This post is later than my usual, thanks to time demands approaching Easter, and I hope all my readers have a relaxing and pleasant Easter.


9 thoughts on “A Response to Climate Change, But Will it Work?

  1. K-T and assorted clone diagrams of atmospheric power flux balances include a GHG up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop of about 330 W/m^2 which violates three basic laws of thermodynamics: 1) energy created out of thin air, 2) energy moving (i.e. heat) from cold to hot without added work, and 3) 100% efficiency, zero loss, perpetual looping.

    One possible defense of this critique is that USCRN and SURFRAD data actually measure and thereby prove the existence of this up/down/”back” LWIR energy loop. Although in many instances the net 333 W/m^2 of up/down/”back” LWIR power flux loop exceeds by over twice the downwelling solar power flux, a rather obvious violation of conservation of energy.

    And just why is that?

    Per Apogee SI-100 series radiometer Owner’s Manual page 15. “Although the ε (emissivity) of a fully closed plant canopy can be 0.98-0.99, the lower ε of soils and other surfaces can result in substantial errors if ε effects are not accounted for.”

    Emissivity, ε, is the ratio of the actual radiation from a surface and the maximum S-B BB radiation at the surface’s temperature. Consider an example from the K-T diagram: 63 W/m^2 / 396 W/m^2 = 0.16 = ε. In fact, 63 W/m^2 & 289 K & 0.16 together fit just fine in a GB version of the S-B equation. What no longer fits is the 330 W/m^2 GHG loop which vanishes back into the mathematical thin air from whence it came.

    “Their staff is too long. They are digging in the wrong place.”

    “There is no spoon.”


    Up/down/”back” GHG radiation of RGHE theory simply:

    Which also explains why the scientific justification of RGHE is so contentious.

    • For those who might be puzzled about what this is about, what nickreality65 is asserting is that the so-called greenhouse mechanism is wrong. I am not going to comment specifically on the numbers or their relevance because I do not have a copy of “Per Apogee SI-100 series radiometer Owner’s Manual”. If the assertion is that the power in question is 333 W/m^2, then that appears to be a realistic figure because the solar input is about 1.33 W/m^2 at noon in summer here (I have measured it) and the temperature of the ground is at rough equilibrium as each day has roughly the same temperature maximum, leaving aside seasonal changes.

      The basic mechanism is that the ground is at temperature T, and it is a grey body emitter, and it radiates infrared radiation following Planck’s law, corrected for the absence of certain oscillators in the vibrational modes of whatever is on the ground. You cannot calculate this exactly because the nature of the ground varies from place to place. A small part of the infrared radiation is absorbed by two of the the carbon dioxide vibrational modes, which go to the excited states, and then this is re-emitted in a random direction. A little over half of this continues upwards, but that is absorbed by further molecules, and the whole repeated. Note that the amount absorbed is actually a very small part of the heat radiated because it is only two selected frequencies that are affected. The radiation returning to the ground is absorbed by the grey bodies, and the reason why this affects the ground is because this energy is not required to be absorbed from the ground. This means the ground cools more slowly. Water has a similar effect.

      The energy is not treated from “thin air” – it is required by Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory for vibrating charge distributions. It is not a 100% loop. As noted, most of the heat still goes to space, which is necessary because the next day’s sunshine inputs considerable fresh energy. Because the temperature is more or less at equilibrium, the heat in equals the heat out. What the Greenhouse effect does is slow down the loss of heat from the surface, which means the temperature has to rise to readjust the temperature and return to equilibrium. The second law is not violated. Heat does not move from cold to hot – what happens is that excited electronic states radiate photons as required by Maxwell’s theory. The second law of thermodynamics involves the ability to get work out of heat. Electromagnetic theory essentially involves only work because it is not random motion.

      • References:
        Trenberth et al 2011jcli24 Figure 10
        This popular balance graphic and assorted variations are based on a power flux, W/m^2. A W is not energy, but energy over time, i.e. 3.4 Btu/eng h or 3.6 kJ/SI h. The 342 W/m^2 ISR is determined by spreading the average discular 1,368 W/m^2 solar irradiance/constant over the spherical ToA surface area. (1,368/4 =342) There is no consideration of the elliptical orbit (perihelion = 1,415 W/m^2 to aphelion = 1,323 W/m^2) or day or night or seasons or tropospheric thickness or energy diffusion due to oblique incidence, etc. This popular balance models the earth as a ball suspended in a hot fluid with heat/energy/power entering evenly over the entire ToA spherical surface. This is not even close to how the real earth energy balance works. Everybody uses it. Everybody should know better.
        An example of a real heat balance based on Btu/h is as follows. Basically (Incoming Solar Radiation spread over the earth’s cross sectional area, Btu/h) = (U*A*dT et. al. leaving the lit side perpendicular to the spherical surface ToA, Btu/h) + (U*A*dT et. al. leaving the dark side perpendicular to spherical surface area ToA, Btu/h) The atmosphere is just a simple HVAC/heat flow/balance/insulation problem.
        “Technically, there is no absolute dividing line between the Earth’s atmosphere and space, but for scientists studying the balance of incoming and outgoing energy on the Earth, it is conceptually useful to think of the altitude at about 100 kilometers above the Earth as the “top of the atmosphere.”
        The top of the atmosphere is the bottom line of Earth’s energy budget, the Grand Central Station of radiation. It is the place where solar energy (mostly visible light) enters the Earth system and where both reflected light and invisible, thermal radiation from the Sun-warmed Earth exit. The balance between incoming and outgoing energy at the top of the atmosphere determines the Earth’s average temperature. The ability of greenhouses gases to change the balance by reducing how much thermal energy exits is what global warming is all about.” (bold & underline are mine)
        ToA is 100 km or 62 miles. It is 68 miles between Denver and Colorado Springs. That’s not just thin, that’s ludicrous thin. 99% of the atmospheric mass is below 32 km. Above 32 km there are very few molecules. Without molecules, energy, heat, cold, hot concepts get a tad iffy.
        The GHE/GHG loop as shown on Trenberth Figure 10 is made up of three main components: upwelling of 396 W/m^2 which has two sub parts: 63 W/m^2 LWIR and 333 W/m^2 and downwelling of 333 W/m^2.
        The 396 W/m^2 is calculated by inserting 16 C or 279K in the S-B BB equation, a calculation that does not actually exist in the real world. The result is 55 W/m^2 of power flux more than ISR entering ToA, an obvious violation of conservation of energy, i.e. created out of nothing. That should have been a warning.
        ISR of 341 W/m^2 enter ToA, 102 W/m^2 are reflected by the albedo, leaving a net 239 W/m^2 entering ToA. 78 W/m^2 are absorbed by the atmosphere leaving 161 W/m^2 for the surface. To maintain the overall energy balance and a steady temperature (not really a requirement) 160 W/m^2 rises from the surface (0.9 residual in ground) as 17 W/m^2 convection, 80 W/m^2 latent and 63 W/m^2 LWIR (S-B BB 183 K, -90 C or emissivity = .16) = 160 W/m^2. All of the graphic’s power fluxes are now present and accounted for. The remaining and perpetual looping 333 W/m^2 are the spontaneous creation of an inappropriate application of the S-B BB equation violating conservation of energy.
        But let’s press on.
        The 333 W/m^2 upwelling/downwelling constitutes a 100% efficient perpetual energy loop violating thermodynamics. There is no net energy left at the surface to warm the earth and there is no net energy left in the troposphere to impact radiative balance at ToA.
        The 333 W/m^2, 97% of ISR, upwells into the troposphere where it is allegedly absorbed/trapped/blocked by a miniscule 0.04% of the atmosphere. That’s a significant heat load for such a tiny share of atmospheric molecules (aren’t any above 32 km) and they should all be hotter than two dollar pistols.
        Except they aren’t.
        The troposphere is cold, -40 C at 30,000 ft, 9 km, < -60 C at ToA. Depending on how one models the troposphere, an evenly distributed average or weighted by layers from surface to ToA, the S-B BB equation for the tropospheric temperatures ranges from 150 to 250 W/m^2, a considerable, 45% to 75% of, less than 333. Radiation is a surface phenomenon. There is no “surface.”
        (99% of the atmosphere is below 32 km where molecular energy moves by convection/conduction/latent/radiation & where ideal S-B does not apply. Above 32 km the low molecular density does not allow for convection/conduction/latent and energy moves by S-B ideal radiation et. al.)
        But wait!
        The GHGs reradiate in all directions not just back to the surface. Say a statistical 33% makes it back to the surface that means 50 to 80 W/m^2. An even longer way away from the 333, 15% to 24% of.
        But wait!
        Because the troposphere is not ideal the S-B equation must consider emissivity. Nasif Nahle suggests CO2 emissivity could be around 0.1 or 5 to 8 W/m^2 re-radiated back to the surface. Light years from 333, 1.5% to 2.4% of.
        But wait!
        All of the above really doesn’t even matter since there is no net connection or influence between the 333 W/m^2 thermodynamically impossible loop and the radiative balance at 100 km ToA. Just erase this loop from the graphic and nothing else about the balance changes.
        BTW 7 of the 8 reanalyzed (i.e. water board the data until it gives up the “right” answer) data sets/models show more power flux leaving OLR than entering ASR ToA or atmospheric cooling. Obviously those seven data sets/models have it completely wrong because there can’t possibly be any flaw in the GHE theory.
        The GHE greenhouse analogy/theory not only does not apply to the atmosphere, it doesn’t even apply to warming a real greenhouse. (“The Discovery of Global Warming” Spencer Weart) In a real greenhouse the physical barrier of walls, glass, plastic trap the convective heat, not some kind of handwavium glassy, transparent, multi-layer, radiative thermal diode.
        The surface of the earth is warm for the same reason a heated house is warm in the winter: Q = U * A * dT, the energy flow/heat resisting blanket of the insulated walls. Same for the atmospheric blanket. A blanket works by Q = U * A * dT, not S-B BB. The composite thermal conductivity of that paper-thin atmosphere, conduction, convection, latent, LWIR, resists the flow of energy, i.e. heat, from surface to ToA and to make that energy flow (heat) requires a temperature differential, 213 K ToA and 288 K surface = 75 C. The atmosphere is just a basic HVAC system boundary analysis.

  2. nickreality65 The convention in replying to a post is to discuss what the post is about, which in this case was whether electric vehicles are solution to a specified problem. I tried to explain to you why the so-called greenhouse effect works, but I clearly failed, so I am going too ask you to stop responding in this way. If you feel you have something that shows everyone else is wrong, then why not publish it in a peer-reviewed journal?

    As a piece of information, and not an invitation to continue, the top of the atmosphere, the thermosphere, is about 1300 degrees C, and the reason is the gases are essentially just nitrogen and oxygen, and these have no significant ability to radiate because the molecules have no dipole moment. The transfer of heat to a state of vacuum is not a heat transfer issue as you say – it is a radiation problem because only photons can take the energy into a vacuum. This can only be addressed through the Planck radiation equation, modified for the shortage of certain oscillators in a non-black body.

  3. Dear Ian:
    Individuals like the other commenter are paid by the fossil fuel industry to confuse the naive with pseudo science. You should feel flatter to get the interest of such critters: that means they take you seriously, and fear you! Contempt is all they deserve. Truth is into the facts, which are unequivocal: dramatic rise of CO2, rise of temps, storms, ocean acidity. Science is about facts, not fishy theories.

    As far as batteries are concerned, no problem with the preceding considerations. However, Lithium batteries are improving at 10%. A jump of storage and safety is expected by switching to solid state lithium (achieved in lab, many say). Toyota is constructing a solid state lithium battery factory, protected by trade secrets…

    Anyway, will publish something about the Dark Matter-less “ultra diffuse” galaxy (published this week in Nature), soon. It shots down all DM theories, but for the one I suggest…

    • Dear Patrice, I know there are those who seemingly feel the need to put out strange arm-waving explanations as to why we should burn more coal. I have contemplated writing a post to show how heat conduction differs from what the greenhouse gases do. The question is, would anyone be interested, because the likes of some who are determined to deny the effect are unlikely to be helped.

      I shall look for your DM post. Interestingly, my first response on seeing about that galaxy was that that was what was needed to show that DM was real.

      • Most CO2 denial fanatics are PAID by the fossil fuel industry. At least, among the (few) famous scientists of that persuasion. Engaging those people is a waste of time akin to mollifying a determined SS with old Jewish poetry….
        The alleged non-existence of a galaxy without DM was indeed evoked to claim DM wasn’t real…

  4. So, (NZ here). 167,000 bbl/day consumption of refined fuel equates to circa 284,000 MWh or 284 GWh a day… Or 103,623.5 GWh a year. Which is about 21 Manapouri hydro plants? Ummmmm.

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