I am amazed that I still have the ability to be amazed when reading about various research in relation to anthropogenic global warming (AGW).
Recently, the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research issued a white paper describing the challenges and technical feasibility of building a dam for the North Sea.
Yes. The entire North Sea.
Why would anyone do this? To protect cities from the potential of rising sea levels expected in the coming decades. The authors realize that the proposal is not "really" feasible, but want to warn or frighten people into thinking more about the consequences of AGW.
Of course these dams will never be built, which makes me wonder about the best use of research money. If the planet continues to warm by another degree or two by mid-century, then there will likely be some problems, but building big dams across entire oceans is not the solution and even thinking about it is a waste of resources.
What are some real solutions for reigning in pollution and producing cleaner energy?
We should live more efficient lifestyles and waste less, of course, but it is hard to convince people to be less wasteful.
Current renewables are helping out, but most serious economic and environmental analyses illuminate the limitations. It will be impossible to convert completely to biofuel, solar panels, or wind turbines. The logistics are near impossible.
What would be a good way forward - a good use of resources? Many people - even James Hansen - think more effort should be put into nuclear power. A lot of people are frightened of current nuclear power because of radiation concerns and waste storage, but these are easily managed, and some scientists are working on ways to render the radioactive waste harmless. Nuclear power is the most efficient way to deliver a stable source of electricity while using up the least land. It generates the least waste as well (by far).
Not everyone can be convinced that nuclear fission will ever be safe enough to expand beyond what we already have. Thus, it is a good thing there is a lot of research and development going on in nuclear fusion (which doesn't generate any waste). Here is a recent sampling of some developments in this area.
- MIT and Commonwealth Fusion Systems are working on miniaturizing the ITER reactor design by using high-field magnets.
- China is working on their own version of ITER (Tokamak nuclear reactor) and recently reached an important milestone.
- Australian start-up HB11 says they have developed a new process that will make it easier to generate nuclear fusion.
- Rolls Royce is working on miniature modular nuclear reactors.
- More people are pushing for more government funding of nuclear fusion research.
- General Fusion hopes to have a prototype reactor up and running by 2022.
- Researchers at the University of Washington have produced nuclear fusion on a much smaller scale the previously possible.
- Several Universities are even investigating cold fusion once again. This area of inquiry has been plagued with less-than-scientific efforts over the last couple of decades, but maybe there is some hope yet.
It is great to see resources being used in the pursuit of win-win solutions for our energy future, better than building trillion-dollar dams.