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

The impact of electricity generation facilities on the environment has been a problem since the dawn of the electricity business. However, since about 1980 it has been widely recognized that new electricity generators must obtain their prime energy from sources other than fossil fuels. Combustion of fossil fuels is causing a serious environmental problem known as Global Warming.

Steady state solar radiation absorbed by the Earth is normally approximately balanced by steady state infrared radiation emission.

The recent extensive use of non-renewable energy by mankind has caused the average temperature of the Earth's lower atmosphere to increase to radiate part of the extra heat into space.

The combustion of fossil fuels by mankind has increased the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, which has made the atmosphere more opaque at infrared wavelengths. The increase in infrared opacity has caused a further increase the lower atmosphere temperature.

The increase in lower atmosphere temperature has caused ongoing thermal absorptioon by the oceans and an increase in atmospheric water vapor pressure and hence an increase in atmospheric water vapor concentration. The water vapor is itself a greenhouse gas which amplifies the aforementioned average temperature increases.

The total increase in lower atmosphere temperature and the ongoing thermal absorption by the oceans are known as global warming.

The increase in lower atmosphere water vapor concentration has increased the frequency and violence of storms.

The increased atmospheric CO2 concentration has increased the acidity of dew and rain water, which causes corrosion that decreases the working life of exposed structures made from steel, concrete or limestone.

Ongoing thermal absorption by the oceans has melted most of the floating Acctic Ocean ice. Removal of this ice has substantially changed the climate in polar countries such as Canada and Russia. A major issue is failure of ice roads that are required for delivery of bulk supplies to remote communities.

At high latitudes and high elevations global warming causes melting of land borne ice. Melting of land borne ice reduces the supply of fresh water available for summer irrigation and causes a gradual increase in sea level.

The cost of protecting low elevation property from sea water damage is rapidly becoming prohibitive.

The increased average atmospheric water vapor concentration causes clouds and mist that reduce the average solar radiation at ground level and hence reduce agricultural productivity per unit of land area.

The increase in lower atmosphere temperature increases the amount of summer irrigation water required per unit of agricultural output. The arable land area has decreased due to lack of summer irrigation water.

The ongoing increase in the cost of fossil fuels increases the demand for agricultural carbohydrate as a transportation fuel feedstock which, along with the other agricultural effects, increases the cost of food.

The increasing cost of food is gradually forcing human population reductions via starvation in the most affected countries.

Fully addressing these problems, while maintaining a reasonable average standard of living, requires an orderly reduction in the Earth's entire human population and requires a major reduction in fossil CO2 emissions.

Most industrialized countries have successfully reduced their birth rates but have failed to adequately reduce their fossil CO2 emissions. Most non-industrialized countries have failed to adequately reduce their birth rates and their fossil CO2 emissions. The combination of these political failures is leading to to human population reduction by starvation, war and pestilence.

There are a number of significant hurdles to achieving the fossil CO2 emission reduction goals contemplated on this website.

Technical Hurdle: Development of efficient processes for producing liquid fuels from biomass and non-fossil electricity.

Social Hurdle: Orderly reduction of the Earth's human population.

Public Policy Hurdle: Implementation of an enforceable world wide fossil carbon tax.

Electricity Utility Hurdle: Displacement of fossil fuel electricity generation with non-fossil fuel electricity generation and energy storage.

Misinformation Hurdle: Defeat of vested interests that deny physical facts and spread misinformation regarding the effects of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

Educational Hurdle: Convincing voters of the economic advantages of leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

Expense Hurdle: For much of the human population the immediate utility of relatively inexpensive fossil fuel energy over rides rational long term environmental considerations. Hence, it is essential to minimize the cost of non-fossil fuel energy.

This web page last updated May 29, 2013.

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