Say "No!" to
Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS)

by The Editor

28 October, 2011

Contents List:

Warming and Cooling
Latent Heat of Vaporisation
Heat Capacity
The Atmosphere
Carbon Dioxide and Heat Capacity
Carbon and "Climate Change"
Economic Madness

Return to:

World Views
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

Global Warming
Climate Change
Looking Backwards and Forwards
Domestic Cooling

Warming and Cooling

I am becoming increasingly exasperated by the neanderthal level of discussion of this subject in political circles and in the media. I shall in this essay make one final attempt to remind readers of some facts of Nature such as used to be taught in school physics.

It is an incontrovertible fact that heat energy naturally flows from whatever we call "hot" to whatever we call "cold". If anyone can persuade me that it ever flows in the opposite direction without being artificially forced to do so, I shall publicly renounce all I have ever written about so-called "global warming" and give up any right to call myself a meteorologist — although I practised as such for about ten years.

Degrees of hotness and coldness can be measured by thermometers. In this essay, I shall use the Celsius scale in which the temperature of water at its freezing point (when liquid water is in the process of turning into ice) is taken as zero degrees (0°C) and the temperature of water at its boiling point (when liquid water is in the process of vapourisation into steam) is taken as one hundred degrees (100°C). The Kelvin scale (°K) is an extended Celsius scale in which Absolute zero (0°K) is taken as approximately -273°C. I shall use K instead of C to avoid confusing temperature with specific heat (see Heat Capacity below).

I shall take my unit of heat energy to be the calorie, which is the quantity of heat energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of liquid water by 1°K.


If you have a thermometer graduated in °K (or °C) from, say, -10 to +120, then you can verify some facts for yourself.

Take a block of ice from your freezer and crush it in a pan at room temperature. The ice will begin to melt. Insert your thermometer into the mixture of ice and liquid water and confirm that it reads something close to 0°K.

Now transfer the pan to the hob of your cooker and begin to heat it. Once all the ice has melted, you should see that the temperature of the water begins to rise. It continues to rise until the water boils and begins to turn into vapour or steam. Notice that the temperature of the liquid water is now 100°K and remains at that level so long as there is sufficient liquid safely to cover the thermometer bulb.

Latent Heat of Vaporisation

Ask yourself why, despite continued heating, the temperature of the boiling liquid water does not rise above 100°K. It can only be because all the heat energy being supplied is used up in converting the liquid into vapour (a gas). In a more scientific laboratory than the family kitchen, it can be shown that although only one calorie is required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of liquid water by 1°K and only 100 calories are required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of liquid water from 0°K to 100°K, no fewer than 540 calories are required to convert 1 gram of liquid water into vapour. This is called the latent heat of vaporisation of water.

Heat Capacity

We should note here that the amount of heat energy acquired by a given mass of a substance when its temperature is raised by a number of degrees is exactly the amount of heat energy released by the same mass of the same substance to its environment when its temperature falls by the same number of degrees.

Different substances show a wide variation in heat capacity. An additional complication arises in the case of gases which expand when heated and contract when cooled. Much may be learned by looking up "Boyle's Law" on the Internet.

The specific heat capacity (C) of a substance is the amount of heat required to change the temperature of unit mass of the substance by one degree. In the case of liquid water, we have seen that its specific heat capacity is one calorie per gram per °K.

When the water is vaporised, the "gas laws" apply.

If the specific heat of a given mass of gas is measured when the gas is contained in a space whose volume is constant, it is called the specific heat at constant volume, Cv.

If the gas is allowed to expand when heated, the measured value is found to be somewhat different. It is then called the specific heat at constant pressure, Cp.

The heat capacity ratio is defined as the ratio of the specific heats of a gaseous substance at constant pressure and constant volume, Cp/Cv.

The Atmosphere

I have lazily cribbed the following from an article on the Internet, and believe it to be sufficiently true for my present purpose.

"The earth is surrounded by all kind of gases. This layer is called the earth's Atmosphere. Without this atmosphere life on earth isn't possible. It gives us air, water, heat, and protects us against harmful rays of the sun and against meteorites.

"This layer around the earth is a colorless, odorless, tasteless 'sea' of gases, water and fine dust. The atmosphere is made up of different layers with different qualities. It consists of 78 percent nitrogen, 21 percent oxygen, 0.93 percent argon, 0.03 percent carbon dioxide and 0.04 percent of other gases.

"The Troposphere is the layer where the weather happens. Above this layer is the Stratosphere and in between them is the Ozone layer, that absorbs the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. Above the Stratosphere is the Mesosphere, the Thermosphere - including the Ionosphere - and the Exosphere. The atmosphere measures about 500 miles (700km).

Carbon Dioxide and Heat Capacity

There are many sources on the Internet that compare the relative specific heat capacities of gases. The following table refers to the tropospheric gases mentioned above. [The units given are in kilojoules per kilogram. 1 kilojoule is the energetic equivalent of 239 calories.]

Carbon Dioxide0.8440.655

The table shows very clearly that the heat capacity of carbon dioxide by either measure is somewhat less than that of the far more plentiful nitrogen and oxygen and, indeed, of atmospheric air as a whole. The only reason for calling carbon dioxide a "greenhouse gas" while excluding oxygen and nitrogen from that category is that it is less transparent to infra-red radiation and thus reduces the rate at which the atmosphere cools at night. As this is the effect we seek to produce when we insulate our domestic lofts and cavity walls, I cannot get too worried about it. The rate at which deserts such as the Sahara cool after sunset suggests that carbon dioxide and other trace gases are very inefficient insulators.

Carbon and "Climate Change"

What I wish to emphasise here is not only the relatively small insulating capability of carbon dioxide and the relatively small proportion of carbon dioxide in the troposphere — which is where we experience the weather we British are always going on about because our weather is so variable. As I have pointed out elsewhere, there is, strictly-speaking, no such thing as "climate" because it is only a retrospective statistical analysis of historical weather observations. Hence I cannot place much confidence in climatological tables produced in advance of the weather to which they are supposed to refer.

When politicians and the media indulge in "baby talk" using meaningless expressions like "carbon footprint" and "carbon capture", they refer not to the element carbon itself (which is most commonly recognised in the forms of soot, diamond, or graphite) but to carbon dioxide (CO2), a compound in which one atom of carbon is combined with two atoms of oxygen. This is a relatively heavy, odourless, non-poisonous gas which is produced when compounds of carbon and hydrogen (i.e. hydrocarbons) constituting fuels such as coal, oil, food, etc., are burnt in air or oxygen and when animals such as human beings breathe to keep themselves alive and warm. We should not forget that the same reaction also produces water vapour which, when it cools in the atmosphere and condenses into water droplets (i.e. clouds), releases not only its specific heat of 1 calorie per gram per °K but also its 540 calories per gram of latent heat of vaporisation.

If in burning hydrocarbons the supply of oxygen is restricted, combustion may be incomplete and produce carbon monoxide (CO) which is extremely poisonous when inhaled.

The versatility of carbon in the formation of compounds with other elements is the basis of "organic" chemistry, meaning that all living organisms depend on it, and all of us organic creatures naturally "capture" it from our food. When living bodies die in Nature, organic compounds decompose and gradually produce the hydrocarbons we have traditionally used as the sources of energy we call "fuels". I have elsewhere drawn attention to the importance of carbon dioxide as plant food through the process of photosynthesis, and from this it may be deduced that most of the energy stored in fuels has been derived from the energy radiated to Earth from the very hot Sun over countless millions of years.

The Sun still radiates to Earth an amount of energy which is incomparably greater than that produced (or, rather, reconverted) by burning fuels or erecting windmills. The wind is itself a result of inequalities in the distribution of solar heat in the troposphere.

I concede that there may be a short-term small contribution to atmospheric warming because of the unprecedented rate of consumption of fossil fuels by a grossly swollen human population addicted to ease and luxury; but that cannot last much longer. The present global economic crisis shows very clearly that careless over-consumption of any commodity ends only in irrecoverable debt. Further, we must expect that the oil which has for so long sustained our "dream holiday" will soon run out. Because a drastic cull of the human population is unlikely to be politically acceptable in any foreseeable democratic regime, I guess we shall just have to wait for Nature to take its course. See Looking Backwards and Forwards and Global Warming.

Economic Madness

I have never disputed that the atmosphere as a whole reduces the rate of loss of heat from the surface of the Earth and thus keeps much of the Earth habitable by us humans as well as other animals. What I wish to make clear here is that carbon dioxide plays only a very small part in what we might more reasonably call a "greenhouse atmosphere" — although this implies a very large greenhouse. Hence attempting to "capture carbon dioxide emissions" and to "store" the gas at great expense in underground caverns or elsewhere is economic lunacy designed only to increase the cost of so-called "green" energy while simultaneously decreasing the supply of plant food.

Such an irrational policy may be intended to encourage us to economise in our consumption of "fossil fuels" — which are in any case going to run out in the not-very-distant future. But if that is the true object of the exercise, why not just say so instead of trying to delude the unthinking among us with high-fallutin' stratagems which can only be interpreted by thinking people as the kinds of nugatory "make-work" schemes beloved of short-sighted socialists? Carbon capture and storage is as irrational as aircraft carriers without aircraft to fly from them.

For a more pragmatic approach, please see Domestic Cooling.