Posted by Richard Adams
Question: If global warming leads sea levels to rise, and if population growth over-taxes our water supply, would building more and better desalinization plants solve both problems at once?
Can our bladders do the job of polar ice?
Ok, so you're gonna' use desal plants to control the ocean level, and provide fresh water for the world's population?
So a couple of questions...
First, that's a lot of water! To control a one-millimeter rise in sea level, you would have to remove from the oceans over 50,000 liters for each man, woman, and child on Earth. Where do we put all this water we've removed from the oceans? And if we have a place to keep it, how do we get it there?
Second, who's gonna' pay? Even the cheapest desalination technologies are not all that cheap, and to lower the earth's oceans by just a tiny millimeter would cost something like 140 trillion dollars (assuming a best-case total desalination cost of under $500 per acre-foot).
Finally, how are you going to power this grand project? That's a LOT of energy! The current total world energy consumption is estimated to be about 15 Trillion watts. That includes ALL types of energy. If that entire amount of energy consumption was put towards desalination (making the poor assumption that all forms of energy are equally suitable for desalination use, and that nobody minded living in unheated homes, without lights, and getting around without any mechanized transportation while we are lowering our ocean levels), it would take over 5 years to lower the ocean level by that one little millimeter through desalination. If we further assume that average sea levels continue to rise at just .2 mm per year (the lower estimate of the global ocean level trend during the 20th Century) the entire worlds current energy consumption would have to be diverted permanently to desalination just to keep ocean levels roughly static.
Just my $.02
Dave K. has this about right. (There are a couple of other technical problems with desal that limit its potential that can be mentioned.) I was wondering if Richard was having fun with us with this question, hoping to provoke some of the NLT trolls to embolisms.
Don't worry about it Rich, the enviros intend to cull the herd, through man made famine, harsh anti-population growth measures, and continued restrictions on drugs like DDT, that can save millions.
They're going to reduce the carbon footprint by reducing MAN'S footprint. Consider it the enviormentals version of "preemption."
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