Techno-fixes for climate change

Last week I presented at the Australian Academy of Science on ‘techno-fixes for climate change’. This talk was part of an AAS series organised by Bryan Gaensler called “Science Fiction becomes Science Fact“.

My talk was vodcast, and goes for 38 min, followed up by about 17 min of Q&A with the audience at the Shine Dome in Canberra (Australia). In it, I discuss climate scenarios, the energy problem, advanced nuclear energy, plasma-arc torches, geo-engineering, vertical farms, desalination, synthetic fuels, and much more. I also introduce the paradigm of ecomodernism.

I hope you enjoy it.

It was also covered in a report on BuzzFeed.

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11 Comments

  1. Comprehensive and well-organized, and includes mention of some key points (like “we are arguably already geo-engineering the planet”). Excellent.

    A little more detail on the additional advantages of the IFR closed nuclear fuel cycle would be good to include. Specifically, non-proliferation: the used fuel is reprocessed on-site, and it is self-protecting.

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  2. Nice talk Barry. And good to see the microsphere [low intensity geoengineering] (https://bravenewclimate.com/2011/10/08/low-intensity-geoengineering-microbubbles-and-microspheres/) getting an airing!

    I had my year 9 daughter watch this. Its been some time since I’ve engaged my kids with material on climate change because, frankly, the topic is so grim. This has been understood by the broader environmental movement who have tried to find silver linings in various green visions. I have found these efforts unconvincing.

    Until now. The ecomodernist perspective is both compelling, and positive. It offers an achievable suite of climate change responses, and affirms a positive view of humanity, and offers a realistic hope for lives that achieve our full potential, and a development path that preserves our natural endowment.

    I think it means something that the terms of the climate debate have changed such that I feel I can now bring my kids and other young people into it again, and honestly offer a hopeful vision. If ecomodernism can do this for other parents and teachers it will have a huge impact.

    After watching it my daughter was keen to share it with her teachers and friends. So I think a message of hope can spread. Well done.

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  3. We really need to start removing carbon dioxide from the air. I don’t know what the cost will be, but the only way to find out is to start doing it. Once we know the cost it can be added on to the cost of fossil fuels when they are extracted. End of carbon dioxide problem, if we can afford it.

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  4. Dear Barry, a much needed presentation, but I fear too much information in your talk, dilutes the essential message to your audience that nuclear energy is critical to combat global warming and climate change. You made little reference to the problem of acidification of the ocean due to the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reaching 400ppm; a level not attained in the history of mankind. Global warming may eventually be reversed, but the extinction of sea life due to sea acidification would be forever.
    And why is it that you make no mention of the liquid fuel reactor technology being developed, that would enable a reactor to run on cheap unprocessed thorium fuel; and which offers many significant advantages over the solid fuelled uranium reactors now being promoted?
    While I admire the wonderful work done by the scientists and engineers at the Argonne National Laboratory in developing the IFR, I wonder why the liquid fuelled reactor development should be ignored. I have purchased and read both Till & Chang’s book “Plentiful Energy” and Robert Hargraves’s book “Thorium energy cheaper than coal”.

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  5. IFR: “Objective analysis confirms it is the world’s best Gen IV reactor design: Although there are other reactor designs such as the LFTR that might appear to be promising, the IFR was rated #1 in a multi-year comparative study done by the Gen IV International Forum. It has the support of Hans Bethe, over 1,500 scientists from ANL, support from the scientists who have the most hands-on experience with fast reactors, support from former top nuclear management at DOE, and so on. GE has a commercial design [http://gehitachiprism.com/] that has been pre-certified; they are ready to submit to NRC certification and build. We have three decades of operational experience with it and most of the hard problems have been solved. If you only have money to build one fast reactor, this is clearly your best choice. Nothing else is even close.”
    http://skirsch.com/politics/globalwarming/ifr.htm

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  6. Barry, that talk was remarkable. In Australia’s science holy of holies, the Shine Dome, you delivered a discussion that non-scientists can comprehend, on a subject that is as divisive as any in the modern world.

    Yes, you did choose not to elaborate on the various permutations of nuclear power that are available or will soon be, but that was not the point of this discussion: you pointed to the problem and to a range of partial solutions, only Gen IV among them that have here-and-now potential to be able to carry your vision through to completion.

    Well done.

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  7. Hi Barry

    Your expected marketshare for wind and solar combined at 30% would that be out of the total market for energy or for the electricity market only and what are the expected marketshares for other forms of electricity generation.

    Thorcon assumes they will be cheaper than coal at between $0,03/kWh and $0,05/kWh. http://thorconpower.com/ This is a price point well above the average 20 year wind PPA in USA in 2014 including PTC and about on par with wind power excluding PTC. This article includes links to the original report and a PPT summary. http://cleantechnica.com/2014/05/08/2013-ppa-prices-us-interior-averaged-2-1-centskwh-windpower-2014-part-2/

    The competitive pressure upon the coal industry has been devastating. http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/why-coal-companies-are-collapsing-in-such-spectacular-fashion

    Peabody that is the largest coal industry company now has a market cap that is a tiny fraction of Vestas the largest dedicated wind industry company. https://ycharts.com/companies/BTU/market_cap

    Clearly wind energy cannot scale to meet the energy needs of the world unless the industry weans itself of excessive usage of raw materials and especially materials in scarce supply.

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