A Sci-Fi Macroproject That Globalizes 'Room Temperature' Earth Climate
Richard Brook Cathcart
An outside-the-box, essentially science fictional, deliberate thermal pollution macroproject is offered that injects a distinctly different 'anthropogenic climate change' forcing factor into the ongoing global climate change controversy. We suspect several critical factors have not yet been fully examined in the worldwide debate on the Earth-biosphere's future. Here, we focus on one factor, direct thermal pollution of the atmosphere by humankind's heat production. We calculate the energy required to raise the ground-level air temperature from its average, ~15°C, to room temperature, ~22°C, by using a fictitious nuclear breeder reactor, the Super-N.U.K.E.E. macroproject. We use this literary device to illustrate dramatically the too-often-ignored thermal pollution factor in climate change recently stressed with new emphasis by Bo Nordell and his protégé, Bruno Gervet. Such an outlook is engendered by humanity's new group supervisory role as Earth-atmosphere Management.
The air surrounding our Earth has an importance for all life that is absolute. Over the planet's unique geologic time there is zero heat flow to the Earth since incoming solar energy is reemitted at the same rate. Global warming of our air is, thus, caused mainly by a nearly constant1 or slightly inconstant2 geothermal heat flow and an increasing anthropogenic heating factor, especially since the commencement of mankind's Industrial Revolution during the late-18th century.
Geothermal energy flow in the Earth's crust during our homeland's early geologic time was, very probably, the condition that might have been the most important cause for life's development within the planet because life's initiation and organization was the best release for that planetary geothermal energy. Since 1997, it has been alleged that "cosmo-climatology", which is influenced markedly by the Earth's fluctuating magnetic field, can affect the amount of cloud cover, thus affecting Earth's air temperature3.
Nordellian climate perspective
The national and regional organization of air pollution control and the international control of air traffic suggest that the Earth-atmosphere has been gradually enclosed. As a science-fiction novelist might, let us imagine all of our planet's breathable air – a human requires ~15 kg of a cost-free gas mixture just to survive for a day4 – compartmentalized in a gigantic shell-shaped version of Murten, Switzerland's famous artwork "Floating Monolith"5. Macro-engineers, during 2006, provided the basis for such a singular scenario – a macroproject limiting the Earth's air to a hermetic tent-formed planetary shell approximately 8.4 km thick6; Earth was projected to become a rogue planet no longer orbiting the Sun. Hence, it was apprehended as totally reliant on geothermal and anthropogenic heating to maintain a livable air temperature for universally nude people7.
Such a postulation allows us to review and extend Nordellian theory that boldly asserted in 2003 that thermal pollution causes global warming. Two June 2007 reports instigated this particular scientific effort: (1) Stephen E. Schwartz's "Heat capacity, time constant, and sensitivity of Earth's climate system" at the USA's Brookhaven National Laboratory and (2) Bruno Gervet's "Global Warming is mainly a result of Heat Emissions" published by Sweden's Lulea University of Technology. Gervet reports that nuclear power plants emit approximately 1.5% of all heat lost from human infrastructure sited atop Earth's crust.
The 1974 science fiction novel penned by Don Widener (1936-96), N.U.K.E.E., was centered on a huge humanized robotic breeder reactor-powered electric power plant. N.U.K.E.E. symbolized "Nuclear Universal Keystone of Enormous Energy". It is, conceptually, a technical follow-up, not spin-off, of the USA's pioneering Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1) technology that creates more plutonium than it uses. Plutonium is sometimes dubbed the "world's most dangerous element".8 Regulation of the N.U.K.E.E. is totally controlled and secured from any possible human interference by two humanized artificially intelligent computers.9 The installation was built as a complete replacement when all of the world's faulty-design fission nuclear reactors are finally shutdown. Once the breeder reactor is commissioned, N.U.K.E.E.'s operation cannot be terminated by anyone! Naturally, plaguing mega-problems and many macro-surprises arise as Widener unfolds his somewhat bizarre story.
There is a Doomsday Device – as in the commercial movie Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1963) – buried beneath N.U.K.E.E. and, even worse for all humans, it is belatedly realized by its few electronically monitored human servants that the two regulating computers are programmed to, ultimately, demand people everywhere use (in any way they can) 5% more electricity than N.U.K.E.E.'s ever-increasing yearly generation capacity (output).
N.U.K.E.E.'s nasty ace-in-the-hole is the blackmailing Doomsday Device detonation threat. All humankind is worn to a frazzle finding ever more wasteful ways to use the increasing surplus of electricity supplied – demand/consumption is never stagnant or life could end in the Earth-biosphere via a poisonous atmosphere-permeating plutonium fumigation event! One of the near-final macroprojects instituted to consume power is a gigantic neon sign constructed in the vast unpopulated Sahara that serves to notify passing extraterrestrials that our planet is named "Earth"! The berserk and schizophrenic artificially intelligent computer-reactor machine is eventually unceremoniously shut off in a surprise finale to Don Widener's black-humor novel.
Here, it is imagined a humanly controllable Super-N.U.K.E.E. is available to future people inhabiting a rogue planet Earth enduring the absence of sunlight that will generate electricity to heat-redden the non-insulated conductive metal or carbon nanotube wires strung from pole to pole on a single line of longitude in the New or Old World. In essence, we are following a gedanken-experiment devised by those wishing to rid Earth's air of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide gas, substituting an undetermined number of strung electric heating wires for a contiguous Arctic-to-Antarctic chemical sequestration pond harvesting carbon dioxide gas from worldwide winds.10 The Global Energy Network International models long-distance grid connections.11
According to Q = mc ΔT; Q = (5.148 × 1018 kg) (1000 J/kg °C) (7°C). It is supposed, then, that to increase the Earth's air temperature from ~15°C to ~22°C would require at least 36.036 × 1021 J. C. M. R. Fowler, in The Solid Earth: An Introduction to Global Geophysics (Cambridge University Press, NY, 1993) alleges that the total energy used by our imagined rogue Earth over a period of but a single year is approximately 1.3 × 1021 J. This energy is obviously best exampled by regional volcanism, sporadic earthquakes and near-constant global heat flow from the planet's crust. In other words, to raise the temperature of a rogue Earth's air would require supplemental energy caused by the planet's human residents, by almost 27 times! We'll need the Super-N.U.K.E.E. since 3.7% just won't do the job.
Before the Industrial Revolution, the human capacity to modify the Earth-biosphere was restricted to the availability of human and animal muscle power. Electrical power provides an excellent estimate of the technological development of a region – nighttime light pollution12 as well as its temporary absence13 is the most obvious visible-from-outer space representation of that networked power use: "So great is the prevalence of electrical infrastructure that at times our powered devices might seem like part of the environment. The grid may as well be a geological formation".14 Today, at least 10% of the Earth's area is permanently affected by anthropogenic urban heating.15 The five leading World Wide Web computer search engine corporations shed ~600 MW of heat yearly and 50% as much electricity is needed to cool >2,000,000 World Wide Web-connected computer servers, with the total of electricity consumed by search engines probably >5 GW . The ~6.5 billion humans living today in the Earth's biosphere shed their metabolic heat constantly.
Super-N.U.K.E.E. would, undoubtedly, become a new entry in Alex and James Turnbull's Off the Map: The Most Amazing Sights as seen by Satellite (2006). Functioning both during daytime and nighttime, the N.U.K.E.E.-powered neon "Earth" sign would illuminate a large segment of the infamously climatically hostile Sahara.
Neon gas – from the Greek neos meaning new – was discovered during the late-19th century. It comprises ~0.065% of Earth's air. The first successful neon signs were fabricated circa 1902-1910 in France by Georges Claude (1870-1960). High-brightness lamps are filled with pure neon gas. When a starting voltage of 55-110 volts AC (or 90-140 volts DC) is applied, the neon gas ionizes and glows. However, once the gas has been ionized, a lower voltage – usually 10-20 volts below the starting voltage – will maintain the lamp's operation. Neon lamps are sturdy, not easily affected by vibration (such as earthquakes), mechanical shock (such as wind) and often function properly over a wide temperature range (from -40°C to +150°C). The durability of a lamp, currently >20 years, does increase as soon as the operating current is lowered from its initiating ionization voltage. The typical light output for clear glass lamps filled by pure neon gas is in the orange-red range of 600 to 700 nanometers. In other words, the Sahara could become an illuminated look-alike Mars!
Heat injection at synoptic climate scale
In 1970, Tor Bergeron (1891-1977) proposed a macroproject to inject humidity into the monsoon air moving over the tropical savannah and hot desert of North Africa. He opted for a thermonuclear energy generated aquatic heat plumes in the ocean offshore be created by explosive hydrogen devices or perhaps from submerged nuclear fusion reactors. These, he alleged, "...could be used for heating, or even boiling, the surface water at the coast of the Bay of Guinea, where the SW monsoon enters Africa".17 Bergeron's desire was, obviously, to increase precipitation (mostly rain) on northern Africa's most arid landscape, the Sahara. Such a macroproject, if realized, would be one of the few humankind has organized to specifically increase the water vapor content of the air18 and, thusly, to increase the carbon dioxide gas anthropic enhanced greenhouse effect markedly! As of 2007, the world's known reserves of uranium were ~3,300,000 tonnes, sufficient for about a 30-40 year use period at existing rates of consumption; as of 2007, the estimated worldwide electricity generation solely by nuclear power plants – fission only of course since fusion plants are not extant commercially – amounts to ~2619 billion KWh and, by 2030 it is guessed, generation could be as much as 3619 billion KWh. The function of an artificial breeder nuclear reactor is to produce more fuel than it uses. In the USA, the Experimental Breeder Reactor-1 (EBR-1) is now a Registered National Historic Landmark located at Idaho National Laboratory, State of Idaho. Its construction began in 1949 and on 20 December 1951, it first generated usable amounts of electricity from nuclear power. By early-1953, EBR-1 was creating one new atom of nuclear fuel for each atom it burned – more nuclear fuel could, therefore, be continuously created in a breeder reactor than was burnt during operation! What might be the technical specifications of the Super-N.U.K.E.E built just to heat the membrane-enclosed rogue Earth which no longer receives any sunlight?
1. Bo Nordell, "Global Warming is large-scale thermal energy storage",
pp. 75-86 in H. O. Paksoy (Ed.) Thermal Energy Storage for Sustainable
Energy Consumption – Fundamentals, Case Studies and Design (2006).
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3. Henrik Svensmark, "Cosmo-climatology: a new theory emerges", Astronomy & Geophysics 48: 18-24 (2007).
4. Y. T. Prairie and C. M. Duarte, "Direct and indirect metabolic CO2 release by humanity", Biogeosciences 4: 215-217 (2007).
5. Philippe Menetrey, "Floating Monolith, Murten, Switzerland", Structural Engineering International 14: 264-267 (2004).
6. R. B. Cathcart and M. Cirkovic, "Extreme Climate Control Membrane Structures: Nth Degree Macro-engineering", pp. 151-174 in V. Badescu, R. B. Cathcart and R. D. Schuiling, Macro-Engineering: A Challenge for the Future (2006).
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8. Jeremy Bernstein, Plutonium: A History of the World's Most Dangerous Element (2007).
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11. P-M. Dekker, P. Meisen and A. B. Bruton, "The GENI Model: The Interconnection of Global Power Resources to Obtain an Optimal Global Sustainable Energy Solution", Simulation 64: 244-252 (1995).
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13. D. A. Hansen et al., "The 2003 North American electrical blackout: An accidental experiment in atmospheric chemistry", Geophysical Research Letters 32: L10813 (2005).
14. Phillip F. Schewe, The Grid: A Jouney Through the Heart of Our Electrified World (2007).
15. A.T.J. De Laat and A.N. Maurellis, "Evidence for influence of anthropogenic surface processes on lower tropospheric and surface temperature trends", International Journal of Climatology 26: 897-913 (2006).
16. George Gilder, "The Information Factory", Wired (October 2006) pp. 178-202.
17. Tor Bergeron, "Cloud Physics Research and the Future of Fresh-Water Supply of the World", Proceedings of the International Conference on Cloud Physics, August 26-30, 1968, Toronto, Canada.
18. B. D. Santer et al., "Identification of human-induced changes in atmosphere moisture content", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 104: 15248-15253 (2007).