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I wonder if instead of desalination plants, there exists "de-acidification" plants that can in turn use the acid for electricity generation or something like that?

Whenever I see these articles, unfortunately my first thought is "we're too far gone, we can't turn around now" in terms of climate change. But! I think that instead of trying to reverse the situation (for instance, by convincing the largest carbon emitters like China to stop - which they won't), we should try to make use of the situation.

Too much carbon being released? Free carbon! How can we use it to make something else / convert it to something else? Too much acid in the ocean? How can we extract it and use it for something? Rising temps? How can we make use of this to grow crops that need warmer environments, or use it for better solar generation, or use thermal power generation in these areas. Our best hope it to adapt to the new norm rather than fight a losing battle. I know it's fatalistic, but I think we will last longer as a species if we adopt this approach instead.




Trouble is, rising acidity at alarming rates is still only a 0.21 decline in pH over a 100 year period. Whilst that might be more than enough to upset no end of shelled animals and other issues. A de-acidifcation plant faces the same issue as carbon capture and storage away from the huge emitters -- you're going to have to process a colossal volume to capture enough of the pollutant you're removing.

While we're at it, how much overhead do we add to global power requirements for all these de-acidification plants, desalination plants and CCS contraptions? How about we stop pouring it in the top and just fucking decarbonise, and leave all those tar sands alone... :)


It is not enough still. But processing such huge volumes with current technology is out of reach.

Might be easier to devise a biotech solution, but messing with ecosystems is quite risky nonetheless. An example would be putting carbon fixing bacteria or algae in the water, additionally replacing the plankton that died due to change in pH. We have similar technology for cleaning up oil spills and some chemicals, so why not dilute carbonic acid as well.


I think our best hope is a multi-pronged approach that includes reusing the output (as you suggest), as well as reducing the output. This has a dramatically better chance of overall success than any single-pronged approach.

As such, I heartily endorse your 'how do we make use of that?' attitude, but I also will never agree with your assertion that our best hope is to accept it as a new norm, or to accept it's a losing battle.

It's just like how in business you want to get new customers, but you also want to reduce costs. Any company that chooses to care about only one of those things is doomed in the long-run.


Unfortunately the "free carbon" is in the form of a very dilute gas that is very hard to do anything useful with.


You aren't taking into account the energy cost of separating substances from each other (understandable, since this isn't widely taught outside of chemical engineering). You can't get electricity by separating dilute carbonic acid from water, or CO2 from air. It's like trying to take the salt out of soup after you've oversalted it. Much better to stop before adding too much.


> Too much carbon being released? Free carbon!

"Unlimited free mildly poisonous garbage" isn't really a great deal.

The best approach to making use of it appears to be from US Naval Research: electrically driven extraction of CO2+H2 which can then be combined into fuel. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/312163311_Developme...

But that requires inputting more energy than you got from burning the fuel in the first place. So after California is fully converted to electric cars and the vast desert solar PV fields have a big surplus in the day, you could use that process to extract fuel from the ocean at prices somewhat higher than drilling it out of the ground.


This project looks pretty compelling as a cost-effective way to both remove C02 from the atmosphere and de-acidify the ocean: https://projectvesta.org/


There's not enough olivine to even make a dent in CO2 levels. So this, while useful addition to arsenal against global warming, is nowhere near enough.


On the page I linked to, they address the amount available, and it sounds like there's more than enough. Do you have other information?

> Is There Enough Mineable Olivine?

> Yes!

> There is more than enough olivine for global scale CO2 removal for the foreseeable future. Olivine is the most abundant mineral in the upper mantle, making up over 50% of it. There large reserves all over the world found near the surface, in a formation called dunite, which consists of greater than 90% olivine. The current price is also attractive, at $25 a ton with the ability to go below $10 a ton with increased mining.


I think this is the right attitude really. What else is there ?

It’s the same way I see politicians doing nothing helpful, people are just going to have to work around them to get the situation under control or at least make use of it.


No. Before investing money in solving a problem, you have to at least have some estimate of how severe the problem is, typically measured in dollars. We don't have that. Instead, we have people shouting "the end is neigh", which isn't actually a reason to take any action. I think the right approach is to do nothing about it until we have predictions. Then compare the cost of coping with the problem to the costs of preventions.


"Nobody does anything until it’s too late. We put the stoplight at the intersection after the kid is killed." (Michael Crichton, Prey)

The issues associated with an acidified ocean are well known. The issues associated with an excess of carbon in the atmosphere are well known. The cost of coping with most of these issues has been compared to the cost of working to prevent or reduce their effect with respect to lives, quality of life, and dollars.

I don't claim to be a climatologist, an economist, or a policy expert, but I can read a wikipedia page.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attribution_of_recent_climate_... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_global_warming_on_h... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_global_warming https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean_acidification


I had a look at all your references but didn't find any cost estimates or clear predictions of serious harm. One problem it mentioned was that already depleted shellfish stocks might not recover if we stop overfishing them. We're already doing more harm to those particular fish from fishing than ocean acidification is expected to, so that suggests something about the cost being comparable to the cost of fishing less.

To use your analogy, put a stop light in the middle of the road, just in case a kid happens to run out at that point.


This kind of fantasy reminds me of people wanting giant escape slides and parachutes for the occupants of skyscrapers right after 9/11. Just because a journalist writes a shock-inducing story doesn't mean we need some extreme inventions to do anything about it. Like 9/11, it's not actually a big problem.


>Our best hope it to adapt to the new norm rather than fight a losing battle.

The next stage in climate denialism is climate nihilism: thinking that it's too late now to do anything to directly confront the problem so why bother. All it does is protect and entrench existing extractive interests. We can accomplish amazing things (landing on the moon, overthrowing the nazis and winning WW2) when we align our society and focus the right incentives.

Anything we do to adapt along the margins won't mitigate the next great mass of people opening the spigot on high carbon lifestyles. Political systems will buckle under the weight of human migration away from the vulnerable coasts[1] and once-fertile land now too chaotic to farm[2]. We need to fund and develop the next wave of low-carbon tech to make it good enough and cheap enough to satisfy people's needs now, not piddle around looking for ways to monetize the fall.

1. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12808-z

2. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-28/crazy-mid...


What migration?

"up to 630 M people live on land below projected annual flood levels for 2100, and up to 340 M for mid-century, versus roughly 250 M at present"

250 million people already live in those annually flooded regions, so that's only another 400 million by the year 2100. You think political systems can't cope? China has 300 million migrant workers, most of whom re-migrate every year!! They're coping already. We just need a lot of trains.


About three million Syrians have become refugees in Europe, and the xenophobic politics that resulted have caused a lot of problems. I'm not sure where the Bangladeshis are going to go; India isn't going to take them.




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