Wood vs fossil fuels bad for climate warming???

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Thomas Maxwell

New Member
Jul 5, 2020
9
Florida
This researcher here in this opinion piece says burning wood is twice as bad as coal/fuel oil for the climate warming -attributed to increases in co2. Most of us wood burners understand that we can't burn and expect the same heat energy as equivalent fossil fuels- coal simply has more energy per mass. I think the professor doesn't give the wood burner enough credit. Left to the natural world, and given enough time, all wood biodegrades and releases all the stored carbon as free co2. With wood burning, if two trees are planted for every tree burned- one to replace and continue the co2 storage of the original tree- and a second tree to replace the stored carbon that was burned, after a long time the tiny amount of charcoal created by wood burning would eventually catch up and make wood burning carbon nuetral. Considering most of us burn a lot of wood that would otherwise biodegrade naturally, is the second tree really required?
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,078
SW Virginia
Apparently, some of the new legislation coming out of Washington, DC is defining wood burning as "carbon neutral" and this is causing controversy.
As someone who likes the climate as it is, I've strived at home to minimize our carbon footprint. Part of that strategy has been to efficiently burn wood that grows on our 5 acres.
I've always done this under the assumption that it's better than consuming energy derived from coal-burning. I thought I was harvesting carbon and sunshine to make biomass in a relative carbon-neutral way (minus the FF energy used to harvest it of course).
According to the article linked above and below, I'm wrong.
I'm curious what others here think?

 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
This debate has been going on for quite some time.

I'm new here and not sure what constitutes "politics".
But I can read and have a fair understanding of the scientific process and statistical methods.
Politics is a different animal and in my opinion is more about being "politically correct".
I believe most scientific work has become political and gets spun to support an agenda.
The scientific hypothesis that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for first global cooling, then global warming and now climate change is in my opinion not close to a proven fact and one day the evidence will show that trillions were wasted and many lives lost trying to control the temperature of the earth by limiting our output of the life giving gas CO2.
Not looking to offend anyone.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,263
Downeast Maine
This debate has been going on for quite some time.

I'm new here and not sure what constitutes "politics".
But I can read and have a fair understanding of the scientific process and statistical methods.
Politics is a different animal and in my opinion is more about being "politically correct".
I believe most scientific work has become political and gets spun to support an agenda.
The scientific hypothesis that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for first global cooling, then global warming and now climate change is in my opinion not close to a proven fact and one day the evidence will show that trillions were wasted and many lives lost trying to control the temperature of the earth by limiting our output of the life giving gas CO2.
Not looking to offend anyone.
Are you saying that increased carbon output is not causing climate change? What is your evidence to support this claim?
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
6,599
Northern NH
As Massachusetts learned with the flawed Manomet study on biomass for fuel the devil is in the details and details do not fit into headlines. The driver for that study a political way of shutting down forest residual power generation in Western Mass where the supply was there but the summer folks did not want to see "industrial operations" with the conclusion predetermined before the study started. Even the authors of the report subsequent admitted publically that their study was for a type of biomass power generation that was not done in New England and that they were prescribed some boundary conditions that optimized CO2 output of biomass.

In my prior career, I worked on small biomass power generating stations in New England (15 to 25 MW) and they were totally fueled by forest residuals. Biomass plants can burn even the stuff that pellet mills do not want. The economics did not make sense to cut trees for biomass as most of the cost to the plant was the chipping and transportation with the actual value at the yard being down in the $10 a ton range. In California there is large supply of agricultural wood and forest residuals and the state actually encouraged biomass power plants to be built for many years as the alternative was open burning by farmers or landfilling.

I do agree that the British and to lesser extent German approach of importing wood pellets made from landscape level plantations grown specifically for biomass production is really a big game of NIMBYism on a continental scale. That the economics line up is strictly a function of a flawed carbon market that doesnt exist in the US yet. A carbon market only works as a worldwide market with every party following the same rules and then shipping pellets from plantation grown trees in the Southeast US will rapidly fail.

I did convert a coal fired biomass plant to wood about 15 years ago in the middle Atlantic and it had plenty of residual fuel from forestry operations including decades of dumped railroad ties that were slow motion ground water polluters. The plant did pretty well for a few years until Duke Energy convinced the state that they would shut down grandfathered coal plants and build new gas fired plants as long as they were awarded subsidies equivalent to renewable fuel.

No doubt the Collins amendment was a way of supporting a forest residual market in her state and surrounding states. Maine and NH used to supply a lot of dispatched renewable power from biomass to southern New England but those markets have been effectively closed or diluted to drive up demand for far "sexier" renewable like "faux hydro" from Quebec via a very expensive powerline, high local incentives for local generation to keep the local voters happy or offshore wind which has a lot of big money behind it.
 

blades

Minister of Fire
Nov 23, 2008
3,679
WI, Leroy
There you go in the last line -- Follow the Money.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,406
SE PA
The scientific hypothesis that anthropogenic CO2 is responsible for first global cooling, then global warming and now climate change is in my opinion not close to a proven fact and one day the evidence will show that trillions were wasted and many lives lost trying to control the temperature of the earth by limiting our output of the life giving gas CO2.
Not looking to offend anyone.

Aside from the science and the politics is history.

1.
As soon as scientists figured out the nature of heat and light, and developed instruments for measuring them (which was in late 1800s) they figured out that the amount of sunlight hitting and absorbed by the earth was not sufficient to account for its warm temperature. If all the heat radiated to space through a transparent atmosphere, the average temperature of the earth would be about 30-35°C colder than it is, and the Earth would be frozen over completely.

Those same scientists in the 1800s figured it out, they measured the IR absorbance of the atmosphere, and found that it blocked just enough heat to account for the anomaly, to within some uncertainty.

In other words, the existence of the Greenhouse Effect, and its role in warming the earth by a rather large amount ~50°F has been scientifically accepted for more than a century. The relevant calculations are given as homework problems in college-level physics classes.

The math of the claim is simple. CO2 is a major contributor to that +33°C warming of the Earth (its IR absorbance is easily measurable). The estimate being about 25% of the total IR blocking, or about +8°C of the warming. The amount of CO2 in the Earths Atmosphere has DOUBLED since the pre-industrial level (the level has been and is measured directly). Combining these two facts, we could imagine that the effect of such doubling (already completed) would be an extra +8°C of warming! But it is obvious that the effect of adding CO2 is **sub-linear**, increasing CO2 by x% increases the temp by a LOT less than x% of 8°C. This is bc of diminishing returns. When we increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, much of the IR/heat was already blocked by the CO2 that was there before. So, rather than a naïve 8°C warming, doubling CO2 only leads to about 1°C warming. Estimates in the 1970's were 1.5-3°C. Estimated in the 2000s were 1-1.5°C. Current estimates are right around 1°C, which matches what is currently observed on global-decadal average, to within uncertainty. There is no scientific case for the correct answer being +0°C.

Thats it. This HUGE 8°C climate effect from CO2, even when CO2 is doubled, is a rather small 1°C, bc the Earths climate system is remarkably stable to perturbation.

2.
In the 1970s there was a minor prediction of an impending Ice Age (or global cooling) which was popularized by a cover article in Time magazine, during a period of unusually cold winters, in order to sell magazines. Data from ice cores and computer models of the earths orbit and tilt (which drive periodic ice ages) were relatively new then, and some researchers were making their prediction based upon this new science. It had nothing to do with global warming. It was also never accepted by the scientific community. Were it not for a single Time article, which was subsequently blown up by Climate Deniers to make climate science seem less certain than it it, this little 1970s hypothesis would be completely forgotten.

Ironically, the best of these model predict that we SHOULD be in an Ice Age now. This is taken by Deniers as evidence that the models are flawed (despite capturing over 100,000 years of climate DATA from ice cores, up to a few thousand years ago). The current hypothesis is that increased CO2 and methane in the atmosphere (which started a few thousand years ago) are the source of the difference. These gases are attributed to human activity: deforestation of Europe for agriculture (CO2) and the mass cultivation of rice in Asia (methane). IOW, humans have been warming the climate for millennia.

3.
The change in language from 'Global Warming' to the more general (and ambiguous) 'Climate Change' was started as a euphemism by Climate Deniers. Who then subsequently accused scientists of changing the terminology to cover the supposed fact that warming had not been observed. In reality, warming matching modern models HAS been observed and scientists have been referring to the phenomenon as Anthropogenic Global Warming AGW for years.

4.
It is now known that scientists at Exxon Research (the Bell Labs for polymer and chemical engineering) in the 1970s, building computer models determined that burning all the recoverable oil on the planet (as estimated at that time) would wreck the climate. That is, that their parent companies' business model would eventually endanger life on a global scale. The response by Exxon mgmt was to bury the result and hire the **exact same** legal firms and ad companies--who previously had argued that the science of tobacco causing cancer was not settled--to make similar arguments against climate science. Complete with a small number of science shills who they could quote. By the early 2000s, Multiple US congressmen were proffering this pseudo-science on the floor of the Capitol, blocking renewable energy and climate science. All of these congressmen were heavily funded by Oil Companies. By 2010 the Oil companies, faced with lawsuits and rebellion from their own share holders, and a raft of new climate science models and a clearly warming planet, threw in the towel and stopped funding Climate Denial campaigns and their paid congressmen.

5.
In 2020 The Climate Denial movement is widely understood to be a massive, corporate paid disinformation campaign. The buying of congresspeople is seen as a disgraceful example of crony capitalism in US govt, on a par with Tobacco in the 1980s. Surveys of people around the world show that Climate Denial ideas are only believed by a non-trivial fraction of people in a handful of countries....Russia, The Persian Gulf States and the US. The fact that all of these countries are the biggest oil producers....probably a coincidence.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,406
SE PA
As for the original post....what seems obvious is not.

Case 1: Obviously, if you could remove trees selectively (and sustainably) from a forest, while keeping the total biomass content of the tree, forest litter and topsoil the same, energy from burning those trees would be carbon neutral.

Case 2: If you clear cut a forest for energy, an the forest doesn't grow back, and the litter decomposes, and the topsoil washes into the sea, then the carbon penalty is HUGE.

Case 3: If the forest was going to die from AGW 20 years from now, and burn in a forest fire, and the soil run into the sea, then clearcutting it NOW for energy is, sigh, carbon neutral.

Case 4: If President Greta Thurnberg ten years from now has us undertake a massive reforestation campaign cutting forests and replanting them with warmer climate adapted species, and the soil doesn't get washed into the see, then the energy harvested is carbon NEGATIVE.

In my humble opinion, the carbon impact of industrial wood burning in 2020 is unknown, bc it needs to be measured to an unknown future baseline. Period.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,263
Downeast Maine
As for the original post....what seems obvious is not.

Case 1: Obviously, if you could remove trees selectively (and sustainably) from a forest, while keeping the total biomass content of the tree, forest litter and topsoil the same, energy from burning those trees would be carbon neutral.

Case 2: If you clear cut a forest for energy, an the forest doesn't grow back, and the litter decomposes, and the topsoil washes into the sea, then the carbon penalty is HUGE.

Case 3: If the forest was going to die from AGW 20 years from now, and burn in a forest fire, and the soil run into the sea, then clearcutting it NOW for energy is, sigh, carbon neutral.

Case 4: If President Greta Thurnberg ten years from now has us undertake a massive reforestation campaign cutting forests and replanting them with warmer climate adapted species, and the soil doesn't get washed into the see, then the energy harvested is carbon NEGATIVE.

In my humble opinion, the carbon impact of industrial wood burning in 2020 is unknown, bc it needs to be measured to an unknown future baseline. Period.

Case 4 seems nice.
 
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Thomas Maxwell

New Member
Jul 5, 2020
9
Florida
Case 4 seems nice.
I like Greta. The idea of reducing co2 emissions is great but so far governments haven't really attempted to reduce the amount of co2 already in the atmosphere; so far just limiting the increases to the concentration. Scientists say the amount already in the atmosphere and future fossil fuel additions will most likely tip the balance to an increasing warm planet. I like the idea of plowing charcoal residue into the farm fields. The nation has millions of acres of marginal cropland that we subsidize for farmers to stay afloat financially. Carbon(charcoal) in the soils make for improved production. Burning wood in gasification plants to produce lots of charcoal. Why not dig that carbon into the ground in a big government program that subsidizes both the plant and the farmers who participate. Would that cost more than the billions we have given the oil companies?
 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
WoodGeek, SpaceBus, Thomas Maxwell and anyone else.
I'm willing to have a rational conversation about burning wood versus fossil fuels and the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis.
I might learn something.
You should know that I fit into the "Climate Denier" category as defined by those who think CO2 is bad for the climate.
I have been outback all day skidding ash out of our ravine and its time for a Premium.
In the morning, I will respond to your comments above.
Hopefully we can have a rational conversation, avoid name calling and learn something.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,078
SW Virginia
Apparently, some of the new legislation coming out of Washington, DC is defining wood burning as "carbon neutral" and this is causing controversy.
As someone who likes the climate as it is, I've strived at home to minimize our carbon footprint. Part of that strategy has been to efficiently burn wood that grows on our 5 acres.
I've always done this under the assumption that it's better than consuming energy derived from coal-burning. I thought I was harvesting carbon and sunshine to make biomass in a relative carbon-neutral way (minus the FF energy used to harvest it of course).
According to the article linked above and below, I'm wrong.
I'm curious what others here think?

Just FYI for continuity: I posted this as a new thread. I did not post this in response to @Thomas Maxwell
One of the Mods must have combined similar posts into this one.
 
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semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,078
SW Virginia
...Case 1: Obviously, if you could remove trees selectively (and sustainably) from a forest, while keeping the total biomass content of the tree, forest litter and topsoil the same, energy from burning those trees would be carbon neutral...
Some maybe not so obvious considerations for this scenario:
  1. Whether wood decomposes on the forest floor or in my woodstove it still releases heat.
  2. My use of that wood to heat my house will produce the same amount of CO2 but the energy captured to heat my house offsets my use of other energy sources (e.g. FFs). However, that heat energy still leaks from my house into the environment so no gains with respect to overall environmental heating other than through life-cycle aspects.
  3. When you look at the respective life-cycle costs of using different energy sources for heating a house these may have a significant impact on the carbon balances.
    1. For FFs there are exploration, mining, material transport, electricity conveyance losses, heat-electricity conversions losses on both ends, etc.
    2. For wood harvesting, there are losses for harvesting, transport, conversion to heat, etc.
  4. That seems complicated enough but then you need to consider energy spent enabling the renewability of an energy supply. That's really not realistic with FFs given the geologic time frame involved. It is realistic with sustainably harvested wood.
  5. Another complication is the consideration of the time for recovery of that carbon. If I cut down a tree and don't replant I'm removing the canopy and enabling the growth of upstarts. I can potentially accelerate the process by replanting seedlings. There is likely a difference in the carbon uptake rates of the tree I harvested, the upstarts, and those seedlings I might plant. There are also some lost carbon sequestration opportunity costs with some finite period of time to get back to where things were before I cut the tree down.
I guess my point is that this is complicated when life cycle costs are considered and maybe not so obvious. I'd go so far as to posit that when everything is taken into account the real differences in environmental impact lies within those associated lifecycle costs, not within the intrinsic carbon neutrality of whatever carbon-based energy supply you use.
 

semipro

Minister of Fire
Jan 12, 2009
4,078
SW Virginia
WoodGeek, SpaceBus, Thomas Maxwell and anyone else.
I'm willing to have a rational conversation about burning wood versus fossil fuels and the anthropogenic climate change hypothesis.
I might learn something.
You should know that I fit into the "Climate Denier" category as defined by those who think CO2 is bad for the climate.
I have been outback all day skidding ash out of our ravine and its time for a Premium.
In the morning, I will respond to your comments above.
Hopefully we can have a rational conversation, avoid name calling and learn something.
The Mods here are pretty good about not letting things devolve too much.

I'd like to know your thoughts about the content of this timeline graphic when considering mankind's potential impact on our world. (I realize it's a bit difficult to view because it's so tall but I think you'll find it's worth the effort).

 
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bholler

Chimney sweep
Staff member
Jan 14, 2014
26,115
central pa
Heating with wood is not carbon neautral. You guys are assuming wood that rots releases the same amount of carbon as wood that is burnt. But you are missing the fact that lots of wood decomposition is done by organisms bugs bacteria etc that consume the wood and the contained carbon. Also much of the carbon is just transferred into the earth.

Wood heat is pretty low net carbon output. But absolutely not neautral
 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
The Mods here are pretty good about not letting things devolve too much.

I'd like to know your thoughts about the content of this timeline graphic when considering mankind's potential impact on our world. (I realize it's a bit difficult to view because it's so tall but I think you'll find it's worth the effort).

I like the timeline and it puts into perspective what we know about the recent evolution of humans.
The graph compares temperatures of the earth over a 22,000 year period with a recent 30 year average.
It would be interesting to see how the temperature graph was pieced together from the 5 different sources and what the accuracy was of the temperature reconstructions.
Measuring "Earth's temperature" is a best quesstimate today using a combination of land and sea based thermometers, weather balloons and satellites.
Determining "Earth's Temperature" 22,000 years ago to within 1/10th degree Celsius with a high degree of accuracy seems unlikely to me.
 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
Are you saying that increased carbon output is not causing climate change? What is your evidence to support this claim?
I'm saying the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, currently 415 ppm, does have an impact on the biosphere. Pre-industrial levels were around 280. That was getting close to the minimum needed for plants to work. The increase of CO2 has resulted in the greening of the land areas on earth and contributed to significantly increasing crop yields per acre. I don't know what the right number is for CO2 levels, but I doubt 400, 500, 600 ppm will impact earth's climate in a way we can accuately measure. CO2's effect on warming decreases exponentially as the ppm inceases.
 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
Also, politics and science are inseparable.
I respectfully disagree.
Science and the scientific method are used to provide a confirmation thru experiment or observation of a valid hypothesis.
This guy explains it better than I can.

Politics from wikipedia
Politics (from Greek: Πολιτικά, politiká, 'affairs of the cities') is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The academic study of politics is referred to as political science.
 
Dec 14, 2020
173
Lisburn, PA
Aside from the science and the politics is history.

1.
As soon as scientists figured out the nature of heat and light, and developed instruments for measuring them (which was in late 1800s) they figured out that the amount of sunlight hitting and absorbed by the earth was not sufficient to account for its warm temperature. If all the heat radiated to space through a transparent atmosphere, the average temperature of the earth would be about 30-35°C colder than it is, and the Earth would be frozen over completely.

Those same scientists in the 1800s figured it out, they measured the IR absorbance of the atmosphere, and found that it blocked just enough heat to account for the anomaly, to within some uncertainty.

In other words, the existence of the Greenhouse Effect, and its role in warming the earth by a rather large amount ~50°F has been scientifically accepted for more than a century. The relevant calculations are given as homework problems in college-level physics classes.

The math of the claim is simple. CO2 is a major contributor to that +33°C warming of the Earth (its IR absorbance is easily measurable). The estimate being about 25% of the total IR blocking, or about +8°C of the warming. The amount of CO2 in the Earths Atmosphere has DOUBLED since the pre-industrial level (the level has been and is measured directly). Combining these two facts, we could imagine that the effect of such doubling (already completed) would be an extra +8°C of warming! But it is obvious that the effect of adding CO2 is **sub-linear**, increasing CO2 by x% increases the temp by a LOT less than x% of 8°C. This is bc of diminishing returns. When we increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, much of the IR/heat was already blocked by the CO2 that was there before. So, rather than a naïve 8°C warming, doubling CO2 only leads to about 1°C warming. Estimates in the 1970's were 1.5-3°C. Estimated in the 2000s were 1-1.5°C. Current estimates are right around 1°C, which matches what is currently observed on global-decadal average, to within uncertainty. There is no scientific case for the correct answer being +0°C.

Thats it. This HUGE 8°C climate effect from CO2, even when CO2 is doubled, is a rather small 1°C, bc the Earths climate system is remarkably stable to perturbation.

2.
In the 1970s there was a minor prediction of an impending Ice Age (or global cooling) which was popularized by a cover article in Time magazine, during a period of unusually cold winters, in order to sell magazines. Data from ice cores and computer models of the earths orbit and tilt (which drive periodic ice ages) were relatively new then, and some researchers were making their prediction based upon this new science. It had nothing to do with global warming. It was also never accepted by the scientific community. Were it not for a single Time article, which was subsequently blown up by Climate Deniers to make climate science seem less certain than it it, this little 1970s hypothesis would be completely forgotten.

Ironically, the best of these model predict that we SHOULD be in an Ice Age now. This is taken by Deniers as evidence that the models are flawed (despite capturing over 100,000 years of climate DATA from ice cores, up to a few thousand years ago). The current hypothesis is that increased CO2 and methane in the atmosphere (which started a few thousand years ago) are the source of the difference. These gases are attributed to human activity: deforestation of Europe for agriculture (CO2) and the mass cultivation of rice in Asia (methane). IOW, humans have been warming the climate for millennia.

3.
The change in language from 'Global Warming' to the more general (and ambiguous) 'Climate Change' was started as a euphemism by Climate Deniers. Who then subsequently accused scientists of changing the terminology to cover the supposed fact that warming had not been observed. In reality, warming matching modern models HAS been observed and scientists have been referring to the phenomenon as Anthropogenic Global Warming AGW for years.

4.
It is now known that scientists at Exxon Research (the Bell Labs for polymer and chemical engineering) in the 1970s, building computer models determined that burning all the recoverable oil on the planet (as estimated at that time) would wreck the climate. That is, that their parent companies' business model would eventually endanger life on a global scale. The response by Exxon mgmt was to bury the result and hire the **exact same** legal firms and ad companies--who previously had argued that the science of tobacco causing cancer was not settled--to make similar arguments against climate science. Complete with a small number of science shills who they could quote. By the early 2000s, Multiple US congressmen were proffering this pseudo-science on the floor of the Capitol, blocking renewable energy and climate science. All of these congressmen were heavily funded by Oil Companies. By 2010 the Oil companies, faced with lawsuits and rebellion from their own share holders, and a raft of new climate science models and a clearly warming planet, threw in the towel and stopped funding Climate Denial campaigns and their paid congressmen.

5.
In 2020 The Climate Denial movement is widely understood to be a massive, corporate paid disinformation campaign. The buying of congresspeople is seen as a disgraceful example of crony capitalism in US govt, on a par with Tobacco in the 1980s. Surveys of people around the world show that Climate Denial ideas are only believed by a non-trivial fraction of people in a handful of countries....Russia, The Persian Gulf States and the US. The fact that all of these countries are the biggest oil producers....probably a coincidence.
I found this article intersting.
I went to the study and my math is a little rusty, but it seems plausible that we are close to the maximum amount of warming from CO2 in the atmosphere.
 

Thomas Maxwell

New Member
Jul 5, 2020
9
Florida
I found this article intersting.
I went to the study and my math is a little rusty, but it seems plausible that we are close to the maximum amount of warming from CO2 in the atmosphere.

I think the CO2 hockey stick measured rise in CO2 concentration is good science. Some of the temperature measures, ocean and atmospheric, are trending to indicate a rapid change in temperature is occurring. 1 degree centigrade over a century is rapid warming. In the past, such an increase is only known to have occurred over thousands of years as shown in semipro's very tall graph. The two researchers contending that current levels of CO2 in the atmosphere is "saturated" and no further warming is possible are wrong.

I burn wood. The whole idea of sustainable forests for energy production is appealing as the vast areas required would provide wilderness habitat, reduced population density, and a bettor environment for all.
 

woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,406
SE PA
I took a look at the preprint. Happer is a retired physics prof down the road at Princeton, a member of the NAS and a JASON (an elite post-war science advisory panel). I feel qualified to review the paper because I have a physics PhD, I was offered a job in that dept (which I declined), taught Optics at CalTech (yes, I'm Sheldon), have several older colleagues in the NAS who ask me to review their papers (a PITA) and did my undergrad research for a (different) JASON, who was a lovable, if cranky old bastage. I've never met Happer (maybe he saw my job talk, LOL), but I'm getting a vibe about how he thinks about things.

Everything in the paper looks appropriately done. The authors are looking at a 'one-dimensional' model of the earths atmosphere, with different altitudes exchanging energy with each other radiatively, and those layers of gas then warm up or cool off and expand or contract to reach thermal equilibrium. When the gases expand, this raises their altitude, and allows them to radiate heat more easily. This model is then repeated at different latitudes, and the results averaged.

While setting up such a model is non-trivial, it looks like a couple months work for a graduate student, tops.

There are several 'problem' assumptions with the model:

1. The model assumes that the atmosphere is 'well-mixed'. In practice, human created CO2 is mostly at lower altitudes, and will take decades or centuries to reach the mesosphere. Only the lowest layer (the troposphere) is relatively well mixed, bc it undergoes unstable convection, creating clouds and weather and precipitation. Above the tropopause, the stratosphere and mesosphere are stable, and have very little vertical mixing. This is NOT a quibble, since a lot of the 'saturation' effect they discuss is due to radiative heating and swelling, not of the lower atmosphere, but of the atmosphere on the edge of space. At best this means is that the model is a model for AGW at some far future date (centuries in the future?) where the emitted gases have made it way up there. Does something similar happen when the gases are lower? Happer doesn't compute that or tell us, but since energy flow in the troposphere is mostly non-radiative, it seems unlikely.

2. The model assumes the atmosphere is completely transparent...that is, there are NO clouds. This is not bc it is a good assumption, it is bc there is no easy way to include the effects of cloud formation, evaporation and opacity in the model Happer has formulated. Google seems to think that satellites say that cloud cover of the earth is 67% on a global average, vs Happer's 0% assumption. Clouds would block a lot of the IR that is assumed to be transmitted to the mesosphere, swelling it. I did not see any effort to account for this anywhere, like multiplying the radiative transfer by 0.33 somewhere as a fudge, etc.

These two points make the model hopelessly 'not serious'. That is, this is the sort of model that a scientist would've made in the 1960s (and which could be run on 1960s computers), and which might've been publishable back then. This is of course, Happer's heydey. The actual science of global warming is MUCH more complex than the radiative and ideal gas law physics in this 2020 preprint. It also includes a LOT of cloud physics and optics, and convective transport. Similar 'one-dimensional' models like the preprint, but with some cloud physics included, were the standard 'climate model' popular back in the 1980s. One of my classmates worked on one (he ended up stealing and marrying my prettiest girlfriend), now he is a grey-beard working on climate models at NOAA (and has two very beautiful and smart children).

Those were the 1980s models (more sophisticated than Happer's) which predicted about 2X as much global warming as current models. Improvements in computers (and modeling of cloud physics) have enabled climate models to become higher resolution and three dimensional, and the magnitude of the predicted effect, and I posted originally, has dropped by a bit less than half.

So yeah, bottom line, the preprint is 'not serious' because it literally leaves out all the HARD parts of climate models. It only includes the radiative transfer parts, which have been know since the 1800s. But it does those PERFECTLY.

If I were reviewing the paper, I would also flag several 'fishy' things they did.

3. The comparison to satellite data is qualitative. I couldn't see what they wanted me to see.
4. They describe the magnitude of the saturated global warming effect in very ambiguous ways. They say it is 'four orders of magnitude smaller than the linear term'. This is meaningless. Everyone knows that the forcing is sub-linear in additional CO2. If they are saying that the effect of a new CO2 molecule is 0.0001 relative to the FIRST CO2 molecule added to the atmosphere, that is a ridiculous comparison, and IMO intentionally misleading. They also talk about the change in forcing from doubling CO2 being a 'few percent' of the total. So ambiguous. What does that mean? The default I posted above says doubling CO2 changes the temp 1°C out of 35°C of total greenhouse effect. That is 3%. Is Happer saying he agrees with other climate models? Or does he mean doubling from current levels (quadrupling historical levels) and thus is saying quadrupling CO2 would only give another 1°C warming? Its unintelligible. Why?
5. Their model seems to predict that the saturation effect would be stronger over the poles, and that AGW would be weaker there. Maybe I misread it, but this is contrary to all other (modern) models, which show (along with satellite data) much stronger warming over the poles. He seems to throw this out there without discussing it. This seems fishy....since it is contra actual well-known data that would undermine confidence in his model.

Taken together 1-5 make him look like a crank with an agenda, tbh. Wake me up when the paper gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, rather than posted on a free database (with no peer review) and promulgated on 'wattsupwiththat'.
 

SpaceBus

Minister of Fire
Nov 18, 2018
6,263
Downeast Maine
I feel lucky you deign to post on this forum!
 

ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,202
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
We have a considerable number of biomass power plants in the area. All of them burn waste residues from forestry operations. Here in lies a crucial difference, these residues exist anyway as a by-product of lumber, OSB and pulp making processes. Instead of burning them or landfilling these residues it makes sense to create another product in the form of electricity, the leftover heat from electricity generation is then used in one case for the lumber kilns, another for steam in the pulping process, and another to heat the OSB presses and chip dryers.

Cutting trees specifically for energy is a foolish endeavor. I believe most of us here don't even cut healthy green trees for firewood, I know I cut already dead trees, or ones that have to come down for another reason, or birch that is cut and left for us firewood collectors by the loggers as the local mills can't process birch.

I don't think there is a logical comparison between fossil fuels and wood burning in these cases, cutting dead standing trees opens up the canopy and allows the next generation to grow faster, removing carbon from the atmosphere sooner. It also really depends on the areas trees are cut from, in some areas we have very sandy soils where no organic matter seems to last more than a few years, it rots quickly and is gone. We have other areas of Muskeg (peat bogs) where dozens of feet of organic matter can accumulate, where carbon from a fallen tree would be stored for hundreds but likely many thousands of years. For firewood collection it is much easier to collect from sandy soils, which doesn't store carbon as readily anyway, traversing the Muskeg areas is quite difficult. The exception being to loggers in winter while the muskeg is frozen, and even in these cases the roots are still left behind for their carbon to be stored long term.
 
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woodgeek

Minister of Fire
Jan 27, 2008
4,406
SE PA
Did a bit more googling....

My complaint 1 is not well founded...turns out that the stratosphere and mesosphere are mixed adequately by diffusion (which works better at lower pressure) and gravity waves. There is a small gradient, but it is not centuries. ;em

BUT, I also realized that the fossil record makes it clear that the earth has been 5-10°C warmer on a global average basis than it is now, back in dinosaur times. Think palm trees and alligators at the poles. Since the solar output was the same then as now (or maybe slightly lower), if CO2 and H2O greenhouses 'saturate' at the current level of greenhouse effect (conveniently), how would such high global temps come about?