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By Charles Rhodes, P.Eng., Ph.D.


For many middle aged Canadians the most obvious impact of the increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is diminished skiing and outdoor skating. From 1959 to 2013 the atmospheric CO2 concentration increased 25.5%. There was an accompanying increase in atmospheric water vapor concentration. The 2.44 degree C increase in annual average temperature that occurred in the Greater Toronto Area between 1965 to 2005 almost eliminated natural outdoor ice skating. There is a pronounced increased summer electricity consumption due to higher summer temperatures which have triggered an increase the air conditioning load.

Increasing the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration from 280 ppmv to 560 ppmv (twice the historic norm) while holding other parameters constant causes a theoretical increase in atmospheric emission temperature of 3.15 degrees C.

Thermal runaway, which occurs at an atmospheric emission temperature of 273.15 degrees K, causes a step increase in atmospheric emission temperature of about 17.5 degrees K due to a decrease in planetary Bond Albedo from 0.30 to 0.10.

A world wide increase in average atmospheric temperature of 3.15 degrees C with a constant albedo will cause the snow line altitude to increase by about 360 m.
Graph of Temperature versus Height

However, the increased snow line altitude reduces the local albedo which further increases the temperature and hence further increases the snow line altitude. This problem is magnified by a further increase in temperature due to an increase in average atmospheric water vapor concentration. The increase in snowline altitude has already devastated the ski industry in both North America and Europe.

Remote northern communities rely upon winter ice roads for inward transportation of heavy supplies such as diesel oil, construction materials and canned food. The same winter ice roads are used for outward transportation of heavy items such as mineral concentrates. Even a small increase in winter average temperature significantly reduces the effective working life of a winter ice road.

The Canadian forest industry relies on severely cold winter temperatures to limit the populations of insect species that attack trees which are important for lumber and pulpwood. Even a small increase in winter temperature strongly impacts this insect control process.

The fishing industry relies on the salmon run, which has been severely reduced by rising river water temperatures and increasing ocean acidity.

In recent years, as a result of Global Warming, the forests and fisheries of British Columbia (BC) have been so damaged by by global warming that heavy oil producers in Alberta may find that it is impossible to obtain consent for new pipelines through BC for the purpose of increasing fossil fuel exports. This issue has been aggravated by compensation delays and payment refusals by oil producers relating to tanker oil spills and by over fishing off the BC coast by US Fishing boats. As a result of this combination of circumstances, the people of BC are acting to protect their remaining natural resources and have voted to prohibit new fossil fuel pipelines through BC.

The loss of fresh water storage on mountains due to an increased snow line altitude and depletion of lakes and aquifers during dry seasons due to increased evaporation are already devastating agriculture and livestock production in countries such as Kenya, that do not have major dams and sophisticated irrigation infrastructure. There are indications that food production in the US southwest is also at risk. Snow, in addition to holding water itself, keeps the ground underneath it frozen. This ground is usually saturated with rain in the autumn before the ground freezes. The loss of fresh water storage associated with a substantial snowline altitude increase is disasterous for both farmers and livestock producers. Both categories of food producers rely on the snowpack and underlying frost feeding rivers, lakes and aquifers to provide critically needed fresh water late in the following dry season. Addressing this problem will require many billions of dollars in capital for construction of fresh water reservoirs. The agricultural problems are compounded by the need to commit a large fraction of the agricultural output to synthetic fuel production.

There are already massive crop failures and livestock production failures due to fresh water shortages arising from increased evaporation. If the majority of fossil fuel use is not stopped almost immediately, much of the present younger generation will perish from starvation or from food shortage related conflict.

In order to provide sufficient fresh water during the dry season it is often essential to use nuclear power for desalination. However, desalination is not as simple as simply making distilled water. In oder for the resulting water to be non-corrosive and suitable for human/livestock/plant consumption some remineralization of desalinated water is necessary.

Global warming is increasing the electricity requirements for air conditioning, especially in tropical countries. In proximity to open water global warming causes an increase in the wet bulb temperature, which causes a major increase in air conditining requirements.

In addition to meeting greater sensible and latent heat loads, mechanical cooling systems must run much longer because the temperature at night does not drop enough to permit free cooling. A major concern is that the projected increase in tropical air condioning will be powered by electricity generated by combustion of coal.

A global warming increases the frequency and size of local hot spot atmospheric emission temperature transitions above 273.15 K (0.00 degrees C). which increases the frequency and violence of major storms. Shown below is a graph prepared by NOAA showing the gradual increase in annual violent storm damage.

According to the Insurance Journal during the year 2017 the hurricane damage in the USA attributable to climate change exceeded $202 billion USF and the fire damage in the USA attributeable to climate change exceeded $8 billion USF.

The increase in global average ground level temperature causes more evaporation from dry land, leading to formation of deserts.

Warming of the oceans causes thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of floating ice. Melting of floating ice does not change the sea level. However, melting of floating ice decreases the local albedo which in turn accelerates warming of the polar oceans. The heat of fusion relating to the phase change between ice and water prevents the polar ocean temperature rising as long as floating ice is present.

Melting of the floating ice bordering Greenland and Antarctica has consequences that may affect many people now living. When the floating ice bordering these land masses melts, there will be nothing preventing the high pressure fluid under the Greenland and Antarctic glaciers from flowing into the adjacent oceans. In the ocean this fluid will reform into ice but will keep melting due to the net absorbed heat caused by global warming. This mechanism will cause continuing loss of land borne ice which in turn will cause a relatively rapid rise in sea level which will continue for at least 1 century after use of fossil fuels is completely stopped. This rise in sea level will inundate low level countries, existing seaport cities and farms located on river deltas.

In recent years coral reefs have exhibited bleaching as the coral life dies when the ocean water temperature exceeds 85 degrees F (29.5 degrees C). Many other marine species are potentially affected by high ocean temperatures and by changes in the acidity of ocean water caused by the ocean taking into solution excess carbon dioxide from combustion of fossil carbon. Each ton of fossil carbon burned ultimately converts 8.3 tons of insoluble calcium carbonate (limestone) from the ocean floor and from marine shells into water soluble calcium bicarbonate. This consumption of exposed marine calcium carbonate is having a profound effect on marine ecology.

If there is insufficient exposed calcium carbonate the oceans soon saturate with dissolved carbon dioxide, so that carbon dioxide is no longer removed from the atmosphere. Under these circumstances the half life of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere rises and the rate of increase of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration due to combustion of fossil fuels also rises. Hence the time available for taking remedial action before the transient atmospheric CO2 concentration reaches 618.52 ppmv falls.

One of the most insideous effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is accelerated corrosion due to the decreased pH of rain water. This issue affects the maintenance costs and working life of materials and structures that are exposed to rain water. This issue is causing more rapid deterioration of major infrastructure items. There are four major failure mechanisms:
1. Direct corrosion of exposed steel;
2. Accelerated deterioration of steel protective coatings including: zinc galvanizing, paint, sacrificial electrode (magnesium), plastic;
3. Accelerated deterioration of the CaCO3 binding layer between cement and reinforcing steel in concrete.
4. Accelerated deterioration of limestone (marble) stairs and building facing due to conversion of water insoluble CaCO3 into water soluble Ca(HCO3)2.

Major components of the economy seriously affected by accelerated corrosion by rain water include:
1. Railway track and rolling stock;
2. Structural steel used in buildings and bridges;
3. Steel natural gas and oil pipelines;
4. Reinforcing steel used in buildings, bridges, dams, airport runways and other concrete structures;
5. Corregated steel used in roofing;
6. Nails used in roofing and siding;
7. Steel used in cars and trucks;
8. Galvanized steel electricity transmission towers;
9. Steel used in utility poles;
10. Cast iron storm sewer grates;
11. Cast iron water and sewer pipes;
12. Marble used for outdoor stairs, building facing and monuments.

The combined recreational, agricultural, fish, forest product, livestock, comfort, sea level, transportation and corrosion consequences of combustion of fossil carbon are causing major human population migrations, such as from Africa to Europe, which migrations by themselves lead to many difficulties.

Many people, both in Canada and abroad, are facing loss of their life savings, loss of farm or ranch production capacity, loss of sea food, inundation of their land or starvation as a result of the gluttonous ongoing use of fossil fuels by North American electricity generators, Canadian tar sands oil producers and Norh American vehicle owners. Both electricity generators and oil producers have alternative non-fossil fuel energy sources available to them at a higher cost. If the electricity generators, oil producers and their regulators do not voluntarily cease use of fossil fuels for prime energy production, their executives may soon become assassination targets. The message that Canadian and American electricity generators and oil producers should not be doing things that deprive persons in other coutries of critical resources necessary to sustain human life will likely be driven home with bullets if the responsible persons fail to act voluntarily.

Persons who authorize further major long term use of fossil fuels may in effect be signing their own death warrants. The threat is not just Arab countries. The threatened countries include but are not limited to the UK, Netherlands, Italy, Bangladesh and the Philipines, all of which are facing near term tens of billions dollar expenditures to prevent inundation due to rising sea levels. The threat also includes North American owners of ski resorts, farms, ranches and ocean front properties. Many parties that own land in the Fraser delta in British Columbia, in Florida, on New York - New Jersey coast and on the US gulf coast are also at risk due to the rising sea level.

The problems triggered by combustion of fossil fuels will continue until governments of industrialized countries world wide accept that the extra costs caused by combustion of fossil carbon exceed the cost savings achieveable via combustion of fossil carbon, and act on that information by imposing fossil carbon taxes that are sufficient to prevent prime energy generation by combustion of fossil carbon. A reasonable estimate of the size of the fossil carbon tax that is required to prevent use of fossil carbon for prime energy generation is about $54.54 per tonne of extracted fossil carbon or about $200 per tonne of resulting CO2.

By John Rudesill

During our last hangout considerable discussion was focused on the failures of major construction and manufacturing in recent decades with Nuclear Power Plants and Boeing being held up as examples. Canada also seems to have similar difficulties. Our consensus was that this loss of prowess began in the 1980's and has gotten worse while developing economies like China are setting the standards. When big projects were done well and completed timely, there was always a chief engineer in charge with 40-50 years experience that was respected and heeded. What changed?

In the mid 80's, the USA was experiencing an assault on large staid old corporations by raiders bent on breaking up the conglomerates and selling off the pieces for big profit. Carl Icahn, T Boone Pickens, and many others come to mind. At the same time, the high salaries of CEO's were being targeted as egregiously unfair compensation compared to the average workers in high visibility national corporations.

A response was delivered in the new tax laws taking effect in 1986. Corporations were capped on how much direct compensation they could give an executive and still be allowed to deduct it as a salary expense. However, no such limit was placed on "deferred compensation".

The work around was to offer much larger stock options. This immediately changed the longer term performance metrics of sales/earnings growth and positive cash flow to short term tactics to influence the stock price to increase the value of the stock options! CEO employment cycles became 3-5 years terms followed by fat cash loaded retirements. This change brought on a sweeping focus on short term cost control that devalued senior personnel like experienced project engineers who collected worthy good salaries. Refineries for example thinned out many of their senior operations and project people and went to contract maintenance to cut overhead.

The key experience base was diluted everywhere to the point where we have no domestic infrastructure of people and physical supply pipelines capable of designing, building, and operating large systems timely and efficiently. It has all become a high tech software playground.

This web page last updated May 30, 2022

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