Mike Ault's thoughts on various topics, Oracle related and not. Note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are not contributing to the overall theme of the BLOG or are insulting or demeaning to anyone. The posts on this blog are provided “as is” with no warranties and confer no rights. The opinions expressed on this site are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

If you aren't part of the Solution, you are part of the Precipitate...

I am not one to complain about things unless I can propose solutions (generally speaking.) In my last blog I did a bit of complaining so in this edition let’s examine some possible mitigating ideas for the problems I brought up last time.

In my last blog I basically stated that the western nations could do little to reduce green house gas emissions and that even if we (we as the old established, stable nations) completely eliminated green house emissions that it would make virtually no difference in the long run.

So, what can we do? Well let me list a few items first.

Point 1: Melting of polar/glacial ice is reducing the albedo of the Earth (decreasing our reflectivity) because when the white snow/ice melts it is being replaced by dirt/water which absorb infrared and other energies rather than reflecting it, producing heat.

Point 2: The replacing of trees with manmade, usually dark structures is resulting in urban areas absorbing more heat

Point 3: The highest use of energy comes from air conditioning, heating, and heating of water in most homes.

Point 4: The major cause of global warming is the effect of the nearly circular orbit in this phase of the Earths 100,000 year cyclic dance with the sun resulting in the highest level of solar input to the eco-system in 100,000 years.

Point 5: Burning of fossil fuels for power generation and transportation adds millions of tons of green house gases to the environment.

Point 6: Developing third world countries and China and India have little incentive to reduce emissions.

Ok, what can be done about point 1? Well, we could paint the ground reflective white where the ice/snow has melted and construct large floating reflective surfaces in place of the missing ice, of course this would have to be done over and over again as the calving ice flows smashed down. In addition the angle that the Sun’s rays strike at the poles makes this very inefficient. So, what else could we do?

Hmmm, how about a tax credit for everyone in the USA that is willing to have their dark roofs painted with reflective paint? Since the sunlight reaching the USA (for the most part) is at a more oblique angle than the polar sunlight we would get more efficient reflection. This would also reduce the internal temperature of the houses reducing the cooling loads in the summer months, perhaps something could be done with high tech coatings that, when the temperature dropped below a certain level, these coatings would absorb heat? Hmmm…this also covers some of point 2.

Alright what about point 2? Require builders to not be able to take building sites to grade over 100 percent of the site. At least in Atlanta the first thing builders do to a new subdivision is knock down all of the trees, bushes and grass and scrape away the top inches of topsoil so they can “clear to grade”. Make builders have to justify every tree they remove. Give huge tax credits to “green” builders who build off the grid homes, build underground homes and homes embedded in hillsides. Make it worth their while to not knock all the vegetation to flinders when they build new homes. Penalize them heavily if they do clear to grade. Use of passive solar for water heating, solar panels, and other energy saving techniques should also give tax benefits to those who pursue them.

On point 3, use of the solutions for point 1 and 2 should handle most if not all of point 3. Use of proper passive solar designs can help heat the home, heat hot water and provide for cooling through proper use of convection flow.

On point 4, Ok, this one is tough. However, let me delve into my engineer, and radiation technologist background. The actual percentage of the suns energy that reaches us is quite small. By obscuring even a small (relatively speaking) percentage of this radiation nearer the source it could make a large difference in temperature rises on Earth. As you get nearer the sun the amount of area needed to be actually blocked becomes quite small (a small percentage of the Earths diameter actually.)

Think of a flashlight beam, the width of the beam at the flashlight head is much smaller than if you project the light onto a building 100 feet away. Now, if we assume the diameter of the Sun is equal to the diameter of that flashlight lens, the Earths diameter is 1/110 of that diameter. So, for ease of calculation let’s make the diameter of the lens 11 inches (a really big light!) in this case, the Earth would be roughly 1/10 of an inch in diameter. Now, place the 1/10 of an inch diameter Earth 28 feet away, how much of the flashlight beam is intersecting our 1/10 of an inch Earth? Not a whole heck of a lot, this is equivalent to the actual amount of Solar energy we get out of the ½ of the Sun’s total output (remember, half of the Sun’s output gets sent the other way.)

Everyone has seen or at least heard of total solar eclipses. A solar eclipse happens when the moon (roughly 1/4 the size of Earth) passes between us and the Sun. The moon completely covers the Sun’s disk when this happens. So, assuming that we wanted to block 2 percent of the Solar input we would need a disk roughly the same distance from the Earth as the moon is that is 1/50th the size of the Moon (21 miles in diameter). If we move it out to twice as far as the moons orbit this drops to 10.5 miles in diameter, at 4 times as far, to 5.25 miles in diameter and so forth and so on.

It would be a relatively stupid satellite, only needing to keep itself relatively stationary directly between the Earth and the Sun in a solar orbit, minimal thrusters to combat light pressure and do station keeping. Manufacture it out of used aluminum cans. At only an inch thick, that would require a little more than 685 tons of aluminum (or, make it inflatable out of mylar only a couple of millimeters thick…) you would be surprised how fast temperatures would go down. Build it with shutters so we could fine tune how much we let through, make it solar powered or use the entire thing as a parabolic disk to run a thermionic generator to provide the power to run it…When we didn’t need it anymore (in a couple of hundred years) nuke it into oblivion to restore the solar output, shoot, build in a self destruct after 100 or so years or just turn it edge wise or push it off solar axis in orbit using it’s thrusters.

On point 5, give big tax breaks for companies that show they really are going green. Utilize nuclear energy. Give breaks to companies that produce “green” hydrogen and breaks to consumers who utilize hydrogen burning cars.

For point 6, pay subsistence farmers to not cut down the rain forest. Provide food from all that we waste to feed them and their families. Only give foreign aid to countries that can prove they are doing everything possible to develop “green” technology. Put stiff import trade embargoes on anything that is not produced using green technologies world wide.

Just a few suggestions, and believe it or not, all of them doable and all of them would provide positive and lasting results. Let’s stop gnashing our teeth and solve the issues that we can.