Technical Fixes For Climate Change?

The idea of technological fixes for climate change (undoing global warming and its undesirable consequences) is as perennially popular as the hunger for diet pills and fat reduction skin creams without side effects, instead of the strictures of a change of diet and an increase of exercise. Like all weight-loss-without-effort pills and creams, proposed technological fixes for climate change, without any change in civilization’s energy diet and exertions for conservation, are (and will be) just as effective. It may well be that the consensus in favor of human stupidity is Nature’s way of saving the planet — from us.

Despite my present belief that commenting on the human comedy is pointless (at least for me), I could not resist saying a bit about some proposed technological fixes to climate change described in a recent article posted on a popular web site for social and political commentary. While I don’t “do physics” anymore, I still find it interesting, especially when it is about natural phenomena. Following is my recent note, which is a gloss on the cited article, by Robert Hunziker.

Hope in technology springs eternal. I enjoy Robert Hunziker’s articles on climate change, which appear in Counter Punch. His current article “Climate Change Meets High Tech,”, is really about energy technology research ideas proposed as solutions to the global warming problem, and I want to offer some words of caution about them.

My comments follow on three technologies: a new fuel cell that extracts CO2 from seawater, space-based solar energy beamed to Earth via microwaves, and controlled thermonuclear fusion energy on Earth.

The Naval Research Lab’s proof-of-concept experiment to extract CO2 (carbon dioxide) and H2 (hydrogen) from seawater, and combine these two gases into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is aimed at a purely military objective and is not a “game changer” to solve our CO2-emissions global warming problem. The NRL research project (and advertisement for more funding) is described at

The NRL apparatus is a new and innovative fuel cell. In general, fuel cells are vaguely like the heating of an old-fashioned liquid-cell battery by an electric hot plate or a natural gas burner. Fuel cells run “forward” to convert input energy/heat into chemical reactions that produce/extract new species from an existing fluid/media; or they run “backwards” beginning with chemical reactions between fed-in species of fluids, to extract energy that is then output in the form of electricity.

One example of a forward mode fuel cell (as I described it above) is a reverse osmosis desalination unit: electrical energy is supplied to extract salt from seawater, and to produce fresh water. Examples of fuel cells operating in the chemistry-to-electricity mode are units that use heat from oxidizing natural gas (oxidized within the specialized membranes of the fuel cells, not burned as open flames) to produce electric power (e.g., for propulsion motors in city buses) with exhaust gases of CO2 and H2O. When hydrogen gas (from a pressurized tank) is oxidized instead of natural gas then the exhaust is pure H2O (steam).

As always, the result (whether output electricity or a chemical change) is of less stored/delivered energy as compared with the energy supplied (whether as electricity, heat or chemical potential energy).

Thus, the NRL apparatus uses energy to extract CO2 and H2 from seawater, and then further combines them into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel, specifically aviation fuel. By the 2nd law of thermodynamics, the chemical potential energy of the aviation fuel produced will be less than the electrical energy supplied to produce the av-gas. Why do this? Because the Navy intends to use this technology on aircraft carriers for the production of aviation fuel directly from seawater, powering the process with the ships’ on-board nuclear reactors. The military objective is to eliminate the cumbersome fuel resupply chains from ports (Navy bases) to aircraft carriers at sea (on long and distant deployments).

There is less reason to use this technology on land. Perhaps, if one wished to produce liquid hydrocarbon fuels from seawater (at coastal installations) with electricity supplied entirely from solar technology, then this would be a less ‘global-warming harmful’ way of producing hydrocarbon fuels than via conventional fossil fuel technology, or the even dirtier synfuels processing of coal. In all cases the energy-return-on-energy-invested (EROEI) will be less than 100%.

Now, for a few words about space-based power generation. Yes, capturing solar energy in space is much more effective: no clouds, and no night with properly sited solar collectors (once lofted into position by rockets and perhaps assembled by astronauts). But, how to get the power back down to Earth? The usual proposal is to send it down as beamed microwave power. Power transmission as laser light is much less efficient (the conversion efficiency of electrical energy to laser light is quite low), and the atmosphere will scatter some of the laser energy. The frequency of microwave transmission can be selected for minimal (but never zero) atmospheric scattering (little interaction between atmospheric molecules and these electromagnetic waves).

To convey reasonable power, the microwave beams would have to be intense since they would be of modest diameter (perhaps meters to 1 km). Otherwise, a wide beam would have to be captured with a large ground antenna; and probably many beams would be needed to power our industrialized civilization. The difficulty with sustained and intense microwave beams from outer space would be that they could cook holes in the atmosphere, and prove harmful to any creatures and organisms, or ships and airplanes, that might inadvertently cross their paths. These problems with microwave-beamed space-based power have been known since the 1970s, when the space-based (microwave-transmitted) power schemes were first proposed. Basically, this scheme is like the operation of unshielded (i.e., open) megawatt to gigawatt microwave ovens aimed down on us. It’s almost like H. G. Wells’ heat ray from “The War Of The Worlds.”

Now, about fusion. I fell in love with controlled terrestrial fusion energy in my boyhood, and went into science and energy research to be a part of the fusion energy future. That future is still in the future, and I suspect it will always be. Actually, we already have civilization-powering fusion energy, it’s called the Sun. It is just that we have yet to fully accommodate ourselves to the efficient uses of it.

Any controlled terrestrial fusion reactor (likely based on hydrogen and/or deuterium, and producing helium) will necessarily generate fusion neutrons and gamma rays in its core. That is the fusion energy that must be captured and converted into usable electricity (and heat). The materials that interact with this hard radiation, both to absorb the energy (like molten/fluid lithium blankets coating the inner walls of the reactor) and to contain the radioactivity (like the layered walls of the reactor vessel and its surrounding containment vessels and shields) will unavoidably become activated, that is to say radioactive. The “first wall” in particular will degrade and need periodic replacement. Hence, there will be a steady production of radioactive waste at any fusion energy electrical generation facility.

The only fusion reactor we know of today that does not produce a radioactive waste disposal problem on Earth is the Sun. Not only does it produce copious amounts of energy by fusion, while keeping the radioactive wastes 93 million miles from us, but it beams its energy to all points on Earth with admirable reliability, magnanimous equity and benign transmission.

Solar power at 1% conversion efficiency on 2% of the land area of the United States of America would produce the total electrical energy use of the nation, 4 trillion kilowatt-hours per year (4T kWh/y).

We have what we need and only lack the vision to realize it.

Excellent 20th Century Books

Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor at, has published a list of his 100 favorite non-fiction books (originally in English) from the twentieth century:

100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century (and Beyond) in English
(chosen by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair)
5 April 2014

I have read several of these books as well as a few others, not listed, by some of the authors cited.

Given Cockburn’s and St. Clair’s literary and political interests, they did not consider books on science like the physics book

Taking The Quantum Leap, by Fred Alan Wolf (1981, revised 1989, a National Book Award Winner),

nor scholarly works on folklore and Eastern thought like:

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell (1949), and

The Philosophies Of India, by Heinrich Zimmer (1951).

Let me suggest a few more titles for your consideration, along this theme of “20th century books in English”:

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner (1986, revised 1992).
For me, this book ranks with Thucydides.
I described Cadillac Desert, along with some other works, at

At War With Asia, by Noam Chomsky (1970).
I described my reaction to reading this book, here:

The Making Of A Continent, by Ron Redfern (1983).
Redfern tells, in words and with many photographs, how the Cadillac Desert that captivated Edward Abbey and Marc Reisner came to be (along with the rest of North America).

Vietnam, Inc., by Philip Jones Griffiths (1971).
A book of searing photojournalism that undoubtedly helped to end that war, by working on the public mind.

The Shock Of The New, by Robert Hughes (1981).
A fascinating presentation and explanation of modern art.

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins (1976).
A 30th anniversary edition of this seminal work on modern (DNA-based) Darwinism is in print.

A book written in the 19th century that was only published in its unexpurgated form during the 20th century is:

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, edited by Nora Barlow (1958).
“The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, with original omissions [usually about religion] restored, edited and with appendices and notes by his granddaughter Nora Barlow.”
See the following blog entry for details about print and free online editions of this book

Three books (in English) that are 21st century publications (technically outside our 20th century time frame) but are entirely focused on the 20th century (and largely written during it) are the following.

Written by Tony Judt (1948-2010):

Postwar: A History Of Europe Since 1945,
(2005; writing began in Eastern Europe in 1989, during the year of revolutions).

Reappraisals: Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century,
(2008, republication of essays that first appeared in journals between 1994 and 2006).

Thinking The Twentieth Century,
(with Timothy Snyder, completed 2010, published 2012).

Other 20th century books that were originally non-English, but are essential cultural artifacts are:

Relativity, by Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
(1916, expanded and revised up to 1952); written for the general public.

Most of the works by Primo Levi, like:

Survival In Auschwitz,

The Reawakening,

The Periodic Table
(a memoir with chemistry),

The Drowned And The Saved,

all written and published between 1945 and 1987.

These are the books that first came to my mind after reading Jeffrey St. Clair’s “top 100 books in English” article.

Some of these books may be more political while others are more scientific or ecological or artistic or philosophical or psychological, yet I think they all help illuminate facets of the collective consciousness of alert and concerned late 20th and early 21st century minds.


Living in Cadillac Desert

The American West is a land transformed by an immense network of water projects that cannot be indefinitely maintained. When will this land accumulate too many people (and salt) and lose too much water (along with the accompanying salmon and trout) to continue maintaining the present industrialized paradise? Marc Reisner explored this question in depth in his superb book Cadillac Desert. This book reminds me of Thucydides’ History Of The Peloponnesian War because even though Cadillac Desert focuses on the history of water development projects in the American West it reveals the essential (and fatal?) political flaw of the American republic, which is based on the all-too-common human failing of short-sightedness in self-interest.

The following books and videos can help one appreciate the natural history of our Cadillac Desert, and both its allure and potential danger to so many.

Desert Solitaire, A Season In The Wilderness
Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire is a wry, witty and poetic evocation of life in the high desert, immersed in unbounded nature and remote from civilization. It is as if Abbey had tried to conjure up for himself the sense of John Wesley Powell’s experiences on the Colorado River a century earlier. Beautiful, but I suspect today only an unrepeatable echo of the past.

Cadillac Desert, The American West And Its Disappearing Water
Marc Reisner
1986, revised 1993, Penguin Books
ISBN 978-0-14-017824-1 [paperback]

A masterpiece of Thucydidian timelessness, a tomogram of the American republic taken from the West. Read it [the videos are not enough].

Cadillac Desert
“jkoomjian” states:
Cadillac Desert, Water and the Transformation of Nature (1997), an American four-part documentary series about water, money, politics, and the transformation of nature. The film chronicles the growth of a large community in the western American desert. It brought abundance and the legacy of risk it has created in the United States and abroad. The first three episodes are based on Marc Reisner’s book, Cadillac Desert (1986), that delves into the history of water use and misuse in the American West. It explores the triumph and disaster, heroism and intrigue, and the rivalries and bedfellows that dominate this little-known chapter of American history. The final episode, is drawn from Sandra Postel’s book, Last Oasis, (1992) which examines the global impact of the technologies and policies that came out of America’s manipulation of water, demonstrating how they have created the need for conservation methods that will protect Earth’s water for the next century. This recording [of the series] comes from old VHS tapes, and the quality is messed up in places. But, it is nearly impossible to find copies of the original series anymore. Just a single copy of the first episode is for sale on Amazon, and the guy selling it wants $1000!! Or you can watch it here for free :) [thanks jkoomjian]
Episode 1, Mulholland’s Dream (part 1)
All subsequent segments of video for the entire series can be linked from here. Also, all the video sequences are listed at jkoomjian’s video grid at:
Episode 1 is divided into 9 segments of 8 to 10 minutes (90 minutes).
Episode 2, An American Nile (in 6 segments, 1 hour)
Episode 3, The Mercy Of Nature (in 6 segments, 1 hour)
Episode 4, Last Oasis (in 6 segments, 1 hour).

Introduction To Water In California
(California Natural History Guides, 76)
David Carle
2004, University Of California Press
ISBN 0-520-24086-3 [paperback]

All the details about the water systems of California, from the mountains (Nature) to the taps and irrigation pipes (Man).

The Making Of A Continent
text and photographs by Ron Redfern
1983, Times Books
ISBN 0-8129-1617-4 [big beautiful paperback]

Ron Redfern used photography to tell the story of the geologic history of the North American continent. His book accompanies a six-part series of one-hour television programs broadcast in 1986 [I think expanded from a 3-part series with episodes 4, 5 and 6 from 1983]. I was fortunate to make VHS copies from TV broadcasts received with an aerial in 1987 and 1988, which I would aim just so for best reception, that requiring I climb onto the roof of my house repeatedly to aim the antenna before each broadcast. This is my favorite TV series, of which episode 4, “Corridors of Time” is my favorite hour of television. The photography, graphics and narration of the video series are all fascinating. Ron Redfern’s text in his book is very good also, informative and engaging. Episode 2, “The Rich High Desert,” describes the Ice Ages and shows some of the geologic and climate history related to Marc Reisner’s Cadillac Desert, and Episode 4, “Corridors of Time” is about the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, whose shameless exploitation for irrigation Reisner recounts in detail. One source for the video series, on DVD, is shown next.

The Making Of A Continent
The complete 1983 BBC/WTTV Chicago co-production chronicling the birth and development of the North American continent. All six hour-long episodes are packed into 2 dual layer All Regions DVDs.
Epi. 1: Collision Course | Epi. 2: Rich High Desert | Epi. 3: The Great River
Epi. 4: Corridors of Time | Epi. 5: Land of the Sleeping Mountains | Epi. 6: Price of Gold

Episode 6 of The Making Of A Continent is about California, and the following items all describe features of the state (also note Introduction To Water In California, above).

Faulting California
“Jere Lipps of the UC Museum of Paleontology & Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley explores California’s enormous diversity of geology, landforms, and biology which has been shaped by more than 200 million years of seismic activity. Series: “Uniqueness of California” [9/2005] [Science] [Show ID: 9522]” A one hour lecture (narration accompanying still and video visuals) from 2005, mainly about the San Andreas and Hayward and Calavaras fault systems, both their formation and present dangers.

A Dangerous Place: California’s Unsettling Fate
Marc Reisner
2003, Penguin Books
ISBN-13: 978-0142003831

Peggy Vincent writes (on December 14, 2003, link below): “Marc Reisner’s last book, dammit. What a great guy Marc Reisner was. He wrote A Dangerous Place: California’s Unsettling Fate as he was dying of cancer, and it’s not just a benchmark of California’s environmental history but also a profound and emotional valedictory effort. Living as I do within ¼ mile of the grumbling and growling Hayward Fault, I found Reisner’s projections of the cataclysmic effects of the Big One to be more than unsettling. Those of us who are priviledged or doomed to live in this glorious state cannot fail to take heed of the picture he paints of the likely events surrounding our upcoming tectonic hiccups, belches, and sneezes. The book is divided into 3 sections. The first retells California’s environmental history from the era of Junipero Serra’s mission system right up to our own freeway system. The middle section deals with the fundamentals of plate tectonics. But it’s that 3rd section that looks forward to (shudder) a hypothetical eruption of the Hayward Fault in 2005 that is most gripping. Yikes. Sayonara to a great environmentalist and author.”

“A Dangerous Place” by Marc Reisner [Salon book review]
Katharine Mieszkowski
5 March 2003
“Plunged into the Bay? Smothered in the superstore? Californians may have forgotten about their looming apocalypse, but eco-journalist Marc Reisner’s final work is here to remind them.”

Geologic History Of Middle California
(California Natural History Guides: 43)
Arthur D. Howard
1979, University Of California Press
ISBN 0-520-03874-6

Arthur D. Howard’s little book on the geologic history of California from King City to Point Arena from the Pacific Ocean to the Sierra Nevada Mountains is now out of print, replaced by Doris Sloan’s 2006 book (following). However, though more recent work has made some of Howard’s dating and sequencing of events a bit less accurate, his effort to give one fluid pocket-book sized narrative of 230 million years of California’s geologic history, for a popular readership, a noble and very engaging work. His numerous pen-and-ink (and watercolor) illustrations and perspective cutaway diagrams, especially his incredibly detailed, scaled high-altitude view of the entire territory under consideration (Figure 1, Physiographic diagram of Middle California) are just endlessly fascinating. The sixteen photographs of geologic features are all interesting and beautiful. I wish this book had been revised for greater technical accuracy given present knowledge, but with as few other changes as possible. It was a gem.

Geology Of The San Francisco Bay Region
(California Natural History Guides, 79)
Doris Sloan
2006, University Of California Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-520-24126-8

Doris Sloan’s book is a fat pocket-book, encyclopedic, profusely illustrated, describing the San Francisco Bay Area from Gilroy to Gualala from the Pacific Ocean up to the Central Valley, taken as seven regions (Marin County; San Francisco; The Bay and The Islands; The Penninsula: Coast, Redwoods and Bay; The South Bay; The North Bay; The East Bay). Detailed descriptions (and illustrations) are given for numerous locations within each of the seven regions. This book is a vast collection of detail logically organized and tightly packed. It is ideal as a guide book for visits to many points of geological and naturalist interest in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Roadside Geology Of Northern California
David D. Alt and Donald W. Hyndman
1975, Mountain Press Publishing Company (Missoula, Montana)

Alt and Hyndman’s book is a guide to the geology that you can see while traveling along California’s highways. The book divides the territory under consideration (north of San Francisco) into four regions: the Coast Ranges, the Sierra Nevada and Klamath mountains, the Great Valley, and the Cascades and Modoc Plateau (volcanic). The geology along highways running through these regions is then described in some detail with text, diagrams and photographs. This is a nice book to have as a passenger on a roadtrip in Northern California.

California is a modern paradise of uncertain water supply and shaky ground. Our best collective survival here must depend on a wider sense of appreciation of the land and each other.

The Life and Ideas of Charles Darwin

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin
Edited by Nora Barlow
1958, W. W. Norton & Company
The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, with original omissions [usually about religion] restored, edited and with appendices and notes by his granddaughter Nora Barlow.
ISBN 978-0-393-31069-6 [for the Norton paperback]

Darwin loved shooting wild animals and birds in his youth and early adulthood, and often did so. I think this damaged his inner ears because of the many concussions they suffered from the powder blasts, especially those from rifles whose chambers would be near the side of his head during aiming and shooting. Many of the symptoms of maladies he experienced from his college days through to the end of his life could have been caused, or at least exacerbated, by benign paroxysmal positional vertigo and/or labyrinthitis. For descriptions of these ailments see:

Darwin’s autobiography is charming, frank, unmannered, calm and fascinating. It is simple and casual in the most elegant sense of those terms.

“My habits are methodical, and this has been of not a little use for my particular line of work. Lastly, I have had ample leisure from not having to earn my own bread. Even ill-health, though it has annihilated several years of my life, has saved me from the distractions of society and amusement.

“Therefore, my success as a man of science, whatever this may have amounted to, has been determined, so far as I can judge, by complex and diversified mental qualities and conditions. Of these the most important have been — the love of science — unbounded patience in long reflecting over any subject — industry in observing and collecting facts — and a fair share of invention as well as of common-sense. With such moderate abilities as I possess, it is truly surprising that thus I should have influenced to a considerable extent the beliefs of scientific men on some important points.”

— Charles Darwin, 1809-1882.

Darwin Online
The world’s largest and most widely used resource on Darwin; edited by John van Wyhe.
• Darwin’s Complete Publications
Books: Origin of Species, Descent of Man, Voyage of the Beagle…
Articles: Darwin & Wallace paper…
Published Letters: Darwin and Henslow…
Published Manuscripts: Autobiography, Beagle diary: (audio)…
• Darwin’s Private Papers & Manuscripts
Notebooks, Journal, student bills, marriage notes,
Geological diary, Emma’s diaries, Annie Darwin…
• Supplementary Works (by other authors)
Reviews & Responses
Beagle specimens
Obituaries & Recollections
Works about Darwin Companion, Beagle itinerary…

The Voyage Of Charles Darwin
The 1978 7-part BBC series starring Malcolm Stoddard as Darwin, and Andrew Burt as Captain FitzRoy. Shot on location around the world using a sailing vessel similar in style to the Beagle [videos posted by chiswickscience]. A superb video series on Charles Darwin, his adventures and work and its meaning — essential viewing. Reading the Autobiography and watching this video series complement each other in a most satisfying way.

Part 1: “I was considered a Very Ordinary Boy”

Part 2: “My Mind was a Chaos of Delight”

Part 3: “How Wide was the distance between Savage and Civilised Man”

Part 4: “Can any Mountains, any Continent, withstand such Waste?”

Part 5: “I felt myself brought within reach of that Great Fact – that Mystery of Mysteries”

Parts 6 & 7: “Suppose that all Animals and all Plants are represented by the Branches of a Tree – the Tree of Life”
“In the Distant Future, Light will be thrown upon the Origin of Man, and his History”

Darwin’s Dangerous Idea [Part 1]
“In this seven-part series, Andrew Marr explores the legacy and contemporary influence of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. He travels the globe to reveal key moments and locations in the epic story of Darwin’s revolutionary idea. Each programme explores how Darwin’s idea broke out from the world of science and took on a life of its own. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea still has the power to inspire, challenge and disturb us.” Part 1 is a double-length episode and covers the essentials of the topic. Especially good are two stories on genomic evolution: how differences in human and chimpanzee gene sequences show that these species diverged 3 million years ago, and how medical doctors counter the rapid evolution of the HIV virus to develop drug resistance, by interrupting and varying the drug regimens of their HIV-positive patients.
For parts 2-7 see:

I wrote an essay on Charles Darwin in 2009 to celebrate his 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin Of Species. Also, this was an exercise to increase my knowledge of the man, his work, and its continuing impact on modern science. Finally, I found it interesting to map out the parallel lives of Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln who were born on the same day, 12 February 1809.

Darwin’s Living Legacy
6 February 2009

The Genius of Charles Darwin
Richard Dawkins on Charles Darwin, in a 2009 series (3 x 48 minutes):

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 1
Life, Darwin and Everything…

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 2
The Fifth Ape…

The Genius of Charles Darwin – Episode 3
God Strikes Back…


Peter Slote, Aikido

Aikido 2nd degree black belt (Nidan) test
at the Aikido Institute, Oakland, California, on 13 March 1988.

Peter Slote
(falls by John Clarke)

Panel (left to right):
Frank Doran, Hoa Newens, Kim Peuser, Kayla Feder, Tom Gambell

Peter Slote is currently a 4th degree black belt in aikido.

Slote1Slote2Slote3Slote4Technical details of original photographs:
Minolta XE7 (35mm SLR camera) with 50mm f1.7 lens
ASA 400 Kodak color print film
45 degree (up) bounce flash, synched at 1/90 second
Minolta 128 Flash in auto mode, for 50 foot distance
aperture set between f2.8 and f4
action (depth of field) at 25 feet, (+5, -10)
exposures from flash and existing light are comparable in each frame

See Peter in action as uke for Hoa Newens or Kim Peuser in many of these 1989 videos:

Hoa Newens, Aikido 1 to Aikido 8:

Kim Peuser, Aikido 9

Hoa Newens, Aikido 10 to Aikido 12

Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Hall, Aikido

Aikido 2nd degree black belt (Nidan) test
at the Aikido Institute, Oakland, California, on 13 March 1988.

Mary Elizabeth (Beth) Hall
(falls by Kayla Feder)

Panel (left to right):
Frank Doran, Hoa Newens, Kim Peuser, Kayla Feder, Tom Gambell

Seen in doorway with video camera:
Mark Miller, and Trung Dinh (behind).

Seen in randori:
Cyndy Hayashi (left), Deborah Maizels (airborne), unknown (behind Beth)

Beth Hall is currently a 4th degree black belt in aikido.


Technical details of original photographs:
Minolta XE7 (35mm SLR camera) with 50 mm f1.7 lens
ASA 400 Kodak color print film
45 degree (up) bounce flash, synched at 1/90 second
Minolta 128 Flash in auto mode, for 50 foot distance
aperture set between f2.8 and f4
action (depth of field) at 25 feet, (+5, -10)
exposures from flash and existing light are comparable in each frame

See Beth in action as uke for Hoa Newens or Kim Peuser in many of these 1989 videos:

Hoa Newens, Aikido 1 to Aikido 8:

Kim Peuser, Aikido 9

Hoa Newens, Aikido 10 to Aikido 12

Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

Manuel Garcia, Jr.
7 December 2011



Open Cycle Industrialization

- Defining Sciences of Heat in Continuous Matter
- Heat Engines, Thermodynamic Cycles and the 1st Law
- The 2nd Law, and the Heat Gradient Across a Cycle
- Waste Heat, and the Cold Point Infinite Heat Sink
- Disorganization, Irreversibility, Entropy and the 2nd Law

Chemical Thermodynamics of the Biosphere
- The Civilization-Producing Heat Engine
- Complete Heat Engine Cycle of the Biosphere
- Industrial Heat Engine Cycle

The Global Heat Balance
- Incident Solar Energy
- Conversion of Light to Heat by the Earth
- Radiated Heat Energy
- Converting Absorbed Radiation into Atmospheric Heat
- Biosphere and the Surface Temperature of the Earth
- General Equation for the Global Heat Balance
- Sources of IR Absorbing Gases in the Atmosphere
- IR Absorption Coefficient Depends on Temperature
- Defining Global Warming


Closing The Cycle: Energy and Climate Change

(Toward Naturally Stable Energy Cycles For Enduring Societies)



Global Warming is a fact. What are we going to do about it?
This article is intended to prompt responses to that question.

The plan of this article is to proceed through a sequence of topics:
- global warming is the environmental response to open cycle industrialization
- a combination of heat flow physics and chemistry produces global warming
- the politics of deciding on forms of energy between options with uncertain futures
- international energy-climate conflicts reflect disparities in levels of development.

Global closed cycle industrialization will require equalizing levels of development:
- assistance from “high” to “low,” of value comparable to reparations for colonialism
- move from “open cycle” politics to morally “closed cycle,” domestic & international
- global warming can be seen metaphorically as the entropy of economic warfare
- the inertia of self-interest will resist halting humans’ stimulation of global warming.

Open Cycle Industrialization

Industrialization concentrates energy into mechanized work to build up civilization.

Industrialization is organized as capitalism predominantly powered by fossil fuels.

Capitalism is open loop economics in either of two forms:
- “the free market,” financial speculation by massed private capital; or
- “communism,” state-directed centrally-planned economic investment.

Open loop economics is Resource, Labor, Social and Environmental exploitation:

Resource: the extraction or seizure of assets from the environment and society:
- mining, forestry, farming, herding, land seizures, water, air, public subsidies.

Labor: purchase labor at minimum cost by exploiting human survival needs:
- fragment work into small repetitive tasks, for efficiency with low-cost low-skill labor

Social: dump wastes on and shift liabilities to society, “socialize costs” as in:
- dumping wastes, instead of recycling the usable, and reprocessing the unusable
- avoiding taxes, even through buying political influence to weaken democracy
- evading regulations, increasing risks to the public, for privatized gains
- shielding owners from responsibility by legalism, corporate personhood (or state)
- bailing out corporate bankruptcies with public funds (or by nationalization).

Environmental: expect the environment to complete the industrial cycle, to:
- endlessly supply “natural resources”
- steadily maintain society that supplies labor & profits, absorbs production & costs
- have infinite capacity to disappear wastes, both material and heat; to be a sink.

The open cycle pretends to be closed by depending on the environmental sink as:
- “free”
- infinite
- unchanging.

Global warming disproves the infinite sink assumption about the environment.

The naturally stable alternative is closed cycle industrialization:
- closed loop economics
- mutually supportive resource, labor, social and environmental interactions
- full cycle responsibility coincident with cycle ownership.

“Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions.”

Energy and Climate Politics
is how we make collective decisions about closed cycle industrialization.


Defining Sciences of Heat In Continuous Matter

Thermodynamics is the science of:
heat causing, and being released by, the mechanics of chemically inert matter.

Chemical thermodynamics is the science of:
heat causing, and being released by, the mechanics of chemically reactive matter.

Thermodynamics: a full tea kettle heated so boiling water spills out, and steam flies.
Chemical thermodynamics: rocket fuel and oxidizer reacting to form a jet exhaust.

Heat Engines, Thermodynamic Cycles and the 1st Law

Heat engines produce mechanical work from absorbed heat.

A heat engine has a working fluid (gas, liquid) that makes a thermodynamic cycle:
- fluid temperate and pressure increase by absorbing heat from a heat source, it
- returns heat by doing work, exerting pressure against a movable surface (motion),
- finally, it rejects unused heat to the environment (cooling) to begin a new cycle.

Cyclic change in the internal energy of the working fluid equals the difference of:
- the heat absorbed, and
- the work done plus heat lost as waste.
- This is the 1st Law of Thermodynamics.

The 2nd Law, and the Heat Gradient Across a Cycle

Spontaneously, heat flows only:
- from higher temperature zones
- to lower temperature zones.
- This is an observable effect of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

In a thermodynamic cycle typical of industrial heat engines, the working fluid is:
- heated and compressed from an initial low temperature, low pressure state, then
- expanded as it does work, cooling to that low temperature and pressure state;
- work done (+heat lost) equals the heat flow from cycle’s high to low temperatures.

Heat engines operate in either a closed or open cycle:
- closed cycle: the same mass of fluid repeats the same thermodynamic cycle,
- open cycle: a fresh mass of fluid is used for each cycle, then expelled.

Engine efficiency and output increase with a larger cycle temperature difference:
- to release more heat, burn fuels with higher chemical potential energy,
- cool the low temperature site of the thermodynamic cycle.

Waste Heat, and the Cold Point Infinite Heat Sink

Not all the heat released from the fuel enters the working fluid:
- engine efficiency is always less than 100%, often much less,
- some of the heating is lost into the mass of the engine, and conducted away,
- some of the heating is lost with the expulsion of hot exhausts from open cycles,
- some of the heating is lost into the mass of passing external coolant streams.

Where does this waste heat “conducted away,” “exhausted,” and “cooled” go?
- to an infinite heat bath, or heat sink,
- also known as an infinite heat reservoir at constant temperature.

An infinite heat bath can:
- absorb any amount of heat from a hotter body, without a rise in temperature,
- release any amount of heat to a colder body, without a drop in temperature.

The environment is assumed to be the infinite heat sink for practical heat engines.

Global warming seems to show:
the environment is a finite heat bath to industrialization’s accumulated waste heat:
- but waste chemicals are crucially involved to produce observed global warming
- so, will show later that the environment is a finite chemical thermodynamic sink.

Disorganization, Irreversibility, Entropy and the 2nd Law

Consider a thermodynamic system with three elements:
- hot source at temperature T-hot, produced by combustion (internal or external),
- heat engine,
- infinite heat bath defining the cold point, T-cold, of the thermodynamic cycle.

In its initial state, this system is highly organized:
- only a few chemical forms of matter (fuel, air, working fluid if different), and
- potential energy is well-confined in the form of chemical bonds of fuel molecules.

System organization degrades through the thermodynamic cycle (1-4):

1. At the beginning of one cycle:
- a charge of fuel and oxidizer is injected into the engine
- the working fluid is in a cool relaxed state
- none of the chemical potential energy of the charge has been used or lost.

2. During the cycle’s transition from heat absorption to working:
- chemistry produces heat by breaking up fuel molecules into numerous species
- the working fluid is hot, compressed, in motion and agitated
- waste heat has been released to the environment.

3. At the end of performing work:
- combustion has produced many species with less total chemical potential energy
- the working fluid is too cool and expanded to produce more work in this engine
- any remaining heat in the engine walls and working fluid is lost as waste.

4. The rejection of waste heat and mass to the cold infinite sink resets the cycle:
- closed: the working fluid is cooled and expanded to initial conditions,
- open: the working fluid of warm combustion products exits, replaced by cool air.

This cycle is not perfectly reversible (5-8):

5. It is not possible to recreate the initial degree of organization of:
- chemical energy stored in a well-defined single molecular species of fuel mass,
- a charge of cool air,
- working fluid in a cool relaxed state…

6. … By “starting” with:
- the end products of combustion drawn back from the cold infinite reservoir
- through the engine operating in reverse
- by applying an equivalent amount of work to it, as was produced earlier,
- (remember the losses to waste heat)…

7. … And compressing the working fluid:
- so as to convert the work being applied into heat,
- which the working fluid is to release to the hot source point
- by a sudden and spontaneous cooling, so it returns to its initial cool relaxed state.

8. Some reversibility may be possible (work into heat), but never completely:
- some of the “organization” or “information” of the initial state is irretrievably lost
- we can never recreate the initial state by a reverse cycle given the same energy
- to reconstitute the initial state from the final products requires more energy
- a reversible cycle is one with no heat lost to waste (or work lost to friction).

Entropy is the thermodynamic property that quantifies system disorganization:
- the more disorganized the state of a system, the higher its entropy.

The increase of entropy over a cycle quantifies its degree of irreversibility:
- there is zero net entropy change over a reversible cycle.

For every thermodynamic cycle of any thermodynamic system:
- the entropy always increases,
- or at a minimum remains unchanged; it never decreases (macroscopically).
- this is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.

One lesson in irreversibility, preserved as the memory of a famous “top egg,” is:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Chemical Thermodynamics of the Biosphere

The Civilization-Producing Heat Engine

Humanity is a Heat Engine that Digests Energy to Produce Civilization.

Parallel statements of the civilization-producing heat engine (1-6):

Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use (1), degrading from its pristine state of sharply defined natural organization (2), as (primarily) fossilized storage and photosynthetic cycling (3), as it cascades through our industrial forms (4), to wash out into a stagnant and disorganized global heat sink (5). It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source, to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions (6).

Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use (1), entropy increasing (2), from a “hot” reservoir and/or an initial state of concentrated energy/information (3), through humanity’s motor (4), exhausting to global warming, the “cold” reservoir, high entropy end of the cycle (5). It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source, to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions (6).

(1) Natural energy is tapped to flow down the gradient of human energy use,

- degrading from its pristine state of sharply defined natural organization
- entropy increasing,

- as (primarily) fossilized storage and photosynthetic cycling
- from a “hot” reservoir and/or an initial state of concentrated energy/information,

- as it cascades through our industrial forms
- through humanity’s motor,

- to wash out into a stagnant and disorganized global heat sink.
- exhausting to global warming, the “cold” reservoir, high entropy end of the cycle.

(6) It is left to Nature to be both an infinite waste sink and infinite fuel/heat source,
to absorb the waste output, and reset the cycle to its initial conditions.

Complete Heat Engine Cycle of the Biosphere

The Life Cycle has 2 complementary processes that are the reverse of each other:
- photosynthesis
- aerobic respiration

Photosynthesis (simplified reaction):
6CO2 + 6H2O + light (energy) -> C6H12O6 (sugar) + 6O2
carbon dioxide + water + solar energy -> sugar (food) + oxygen

Aerobic respiration (simplified reaction):
C6H12O6 (aqueous) + 6O2 (gas) -> 6CO2 (gas) + 6H2O (liquid) + energy
sugar (food) + oxygen (breath) -> carbon dioxide + water + metabolic energy

Autotrophs (self-feeding organisms)
- like plants, algae and many bacteria
- carry out photosynthesis
- producing organic compounds (food) from inorganic matter (CO2, H2O)
- by absorbing sunlight; or
- carry out geochemical synthesis
- producing organic compounds (food) from inorganic hydrogen compounds (H2S)
- by absorbing heat and, e.g., hydrogen sulfide from vents submerged in darkness.

Heterotrophs (organisms that feed on others)
- like animals, fungi and many bacteria
- carry out aerobic respiration
- releasing food energy and then storing it as adenosine triphosphate, ATP,
- while also producing organic and inorganic (CO2, H2O) wastes;
- ATP is stored metabolic energy, which can drive cellular processes like:
– biosynthesis (the formation of more complex molecules, like enzymes),
– locomotion (the movement of structures, like proteins, within cells), and
– transportation of molecules across cell membranes.

The Stable Energy Cycle of the Biosphere (the Life Cycle):
Autotrophs process inorganic matter and heterotroph waste into food and O2,
- food is solar energy captured in organic chemicals (carbon-hydrogen bonds).
Heterotrophs consume food and O2 to produce metabolic energy stored as ATP,
- waste products are CO2, H2O and organic matter.

Industrial Heat Engine Cycle

Industrial use of heat is loosely analogous to aerobic respiration by heterotrophs.

Combustion of methane (CH4) is shown here as a representative heat source:
CH4 + 2O2 + ignition -> CO2 + 2H2O + heat
- actually, create many C, H and N oxides, and nitric acid, by burning CH4 in air,
- we depend on nature (autotrophs) to reprocess industrial CO2, and supply fuel,
- there is no re-organizing/re-concentrating of waste heat: entropy only increases.

The Global Heat Balance

Incident Solar Energy

Insolation: solar constant (source)

Milankovitch Cycles (distance and local incident angle):
Describe the collective effects of changes in Earth’s movements on climate.
Gravitational interactions in the Solar System cause long-term periodic changes of:
the distance and orientation of the Earth with respect to the Sun:
Orbital Shape (eccentricity)
- change in the elliptic shape (variation from circular) of Earth’s orbit
- with an approximately 100,000 year period (cycle).
Axial tilt (obliquity)
- a 2.4 degree shift of angle between Earth’s axis and orbital plane, and a return,
- with a 41,000 year period.
- trend in the direction of the axis of rotation relative to fixed stars,
- with a 26,000 year period.

Transmission (filtration of insolation by atmosphere):
- atmosphere is transparent to visible light (radiation)
- absorption of ultra-violet (UV) in the high altitude ozone layer

Reflection (Earth’s albedo, its net reflection coefficient for visible light):
- ice sheets and snow (extent of the area has long term stability; Milankovitch cycle)
- clouds (extent of the area is highly variable over very short time; unpredictable)

- oceans and land absorb visible light (reflectivity is low)

The Conversion of Light to Heat by the Earth

- Atoms and molecules absorb incident light, and redistribute it in matter as heat.
- Matter holds heat as the agitation, rotation and vibration of molecules (& atoms).
- Motions of positive and negative parts of molecules launch electric waves.
- Wavelengths are set by molecule sizes and deflections: infrared radiation (IR).
- IR radiation is that portion of the electromagnetic spectrum we sense as heat.
- IR radiation is emitted by the surface of the Earth (land, oceans and organisms).
- Typical frequency of thermal radiation increases with the emitter temperature.
- Quantity of thermal (Black Body) emission increases with emitter temperature.

Radiated Heat Energy

Transmission through the atmosphere:
- gases made up of symmetric molecules (N2, O2) are transparent to IR radiation
- gases made up of atoms (Helium, Neon, Argon) are transparent to IR radiation

Absorption by the atmosphere (reflection is negligible):
- gases of asymmetric molecules (have positive and negative ends) absorb IR
- IR absorbing gases also emit thermal radiation characteristic of their temperature
- IR absorbing gases are: H2O, CO2, NOx (pollution) and volatile organic vapors
- trapped IR is continuously absorbed and radiated within the mass of atmosphere
- the greater the mass of IR absorbing gases, the greater the capacity to store heat.

Converting Absorbed Radiation into Atmospheric Heat

Kinetic theory of gases:
- Gases are mainly empty space with a huge number of small particles in motion.
- These particles are the atoms & molecules of gaseous elements & compounds.
- The faster a particle’s speed, the higher its kinetic energy, its energy of motion.
- The sum total of particle kinetic energy in a gas volume is its heat content.
- Temperature is defined as the ratio: [heat content in volume]/[mass in the volume].
- Temperature is a measure of the average kinetic energy of the particles.
- Moving atoms and molecules in a gas collide frequently, randomizing directions.
- Particles transfer kinetic energy by collision, from energetic to lethargic particles.
- Collision frequency is high, so most particles have comparable kinetic energy.
- Also, the high collision frequency diffuses a “hot spot” into a larger volume.

The positive & negative poles of asymmetric molecules make them IR antennas.
Received (absorbed) IR radiation can be stored:
- internally: bending and vibration of the atom-to-atom chemical bonds
- internally: rotations of the entire molecule (rolling, spinning, flipping)
- kinetically: linear motion through the space between particle collisions.

Molecules can transfer some of their internally stored energy during collisions:
- internally stored IR energy can be transferred into kinetic energy by collisions
- one species’ internal energy can be spread kinetically to all other gas species
- collisions distribute IR radiation absorbed by one species into uniform gas heat.

Adding vapors to the atmosphere that increase IR absorption will cause it to heat.

The Biosphere and the Surface Temperature of the Earth

Biosphere is from the top of the stratosphere (50 km above sea level) down to:
- about 5 km below the surface of the land (at 124°C, too hot for bacteria), and
- about 11 km below the surface of the oceans (just below the deepest ocean floor).

The heat content of this outer region of the Earth is affected by Milankovitch cycles.

Earth’s temperature increases with depth (land) at an average rate of 22.1°C/km
- but the flow of interior heat out through the Earth’s surface is negligible.

Global Warming refers to the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans:
- assumed here: a layer of the biosphere bracketing “the elevation at sea level”
- from 20 km up, the top of the troposphere, including nearly all atmospheric mass
- to 10 meters below ground, which day/night and seasonally temperature cycles,
- and also the fluid mass of the oceans, whose currents redistribute heat energy;
- this layer’s temperature is set by the balance of solar heating and radiant cooling.

Earth’s average surface temperature during 1901-2000 was 13.9°C = 57°F.


T = average surface temperature of the Earth
H = the heat content in the surface layer (the essential layer of the biosphere)
C = the heat capacity of the mass of the surface layer (average material property)
ΔH = a change in the heat content of the biosphere layer (a gain or loss)

The relation of heat content to temperature is:

H = C•T

When a quantity of heat ΔH is added to the surface layer then:

H(new) = H(old) + ΔH

T(new) = T(old) + (ΔH)/C

When, in the above:
ΔH is positive, heat was added, and the new temperature is higher,
ΔH is negative, heat was lost, and the new temperature is lower.

General Equation for the Global Heat Balance

Global warming is determined by the balance of solar heating and radiant cooling.

The general equation for this global heat balance is:

ΔH = S•(1-A) – Q•(1-F)

ΔH = change in the heat content of the biosphere/surface layer
S = incident solar energy (light reaching the top of the atmosphere)
A = albedo: reflection coefficient of the Earth (0 < A < 1)
Q = radiated heat energy (infrared emitted by Earth’s surface)
F = IR absorption coefficient of the atmosphere (0 < F < 1).

A (albedo), F (IR absorption), Q (thermal emission) depend on Earth’s temperature.

Change in Biosphere Heat Content =
(Incident Solar Energy) • (1-Albedo) +
- (Radiated Heat Energy) • (1 – IR absorption coefficient of the atmosphere)

Heat flow from Earth’s interior to the surface is negligible, equal to about S/10,000.

During a period of stable climate:
ΔH = 0, incoming (light energy) and outgoing (heat energy) flows balance.
Q•(1-F) = S•(1-A), thermal emission into space = solar irradiation at Earth’s surface.

For an interval during which climate changes:
ΔH ≠ 0, incoming (light energy) and outgoing (heat energy) flows are not balanced.
Q•(1-F) > S•(1-A), thermal flux to space > solar irradiation if the Earth is cooling
Q•(1-F) < S•(1-A), thermal flux to space < solar irradiation if the Earth is heating.

Sources of IR absorbing gases in the atmosphere

Aerobic respiration
Terrestrial emission of organic plumes from:
- volcanic and geothermal venting
- methane outgassing caused by rising temperature (tundras and oceans)
Industrial emission of organic plumes from:
- chemical, mining and manufacturing facilities
- concentrations of agricultural and livestock activities
Air pollution from combustion-derived heat energy for industrialized civilization.

IR absorption coefficient depends on temperature

Evaporation of liquid H2O, and organic vapor plumes increase with temperature:
- cloud dynamics and distribution is the most contentious aspect of climate models
- terrestrial outgassing of IR absorbing gases increases with Earth’s temperature.
Hotter wetter eras may also be cloudier with both higher albedo and IR retention,
- compensating effects, which slow rate of heating.
Colder drier, large ice sheet eras may have higher albedo and lower IR retention,
- mutually amplifying effects, which accelerate rate of cooling.

Defining Global Warming

“The environment” is the 20-31 km thick surface-of-the-Earth layer of the biosphere.

Global warming shows that:
- the environment is not an infinite chemical thermodynamic sink,
- it cannot endlessly absorb waste heat and IR absorbing chemicals isothermally.

Global warming is:
- the increase of entropy in the environment.
- the degradation of organization of the environment.


The above is the outline of the physical science half of my never-to-be-finished book on the politics of climate change. Some of the energy-use policies and technologies that could be implemented in response to climate change were described in my article

The Economic Function Of Energy
27 February 2012

“The Economic Function Of Energy” covers the topics listed as the third and fourth lines itemized in the preface (at the start).

The last four lines itemized in the preface are discussed in a haphazard fashion in several of my articles posted on the Internet (see or, most recently in “AGW And Malthusian End Times.”

I think that today everybody understands that Anthropogenic Global Warming will not be addressed, nor resource and energy conservation practiced, until capitalism is rejected globally, and that humanity will never reject fossil-fueled capitalism.