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Nowadays, everyone talks about it: climate change, and more importantly, how to stop it from happening. Although there's a lot of debate around the topic, the conscensus is that by inventing a way of generating clean energy, we can slow down (and maybe even reverse) the effects global warming has on the planet. Using energy that was created without burning millions of years worth of stored carbon, we can not only power our everyday lives, but also capture the carbon we've been blowing into our atmosphere using the energy-intensive process of carbon capture.

But there are still some problems. Currently, photovoltaic cells are pretty much useless during winter when it comes to fueling the homes of millions (at least where I live). We want to warm our homes, but there's not enough clean energy during those months, so we fall back on nuclear.

Wouldn't it therefore be better to have a small rise in global temperature? I mean, a higher temperature means you don't have to warm your home during winter (as much). During summer, you can use the extra energy generated by the photovoltaic cells to power airconditioners in order to cool buildings and (maybe) use some excess energy to stop the snowball effect that those higher temperatures would have on the climate and keep it at a constant level. Even though cooling requires more energy than heating, might it break even?

I don't have the knowledge nor the means to calculate if this is the case.

I know that climate change is a thing and that it's really, really bad. I'm not a guy that doesn't believe the effects it has on our surroundings. I just don't have the means to investigate this idea, that's why I ask you: will the rise in temperature have a positive effect on our energy production and the ability to satisfy energy demand?

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  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget air conditioning - that works the other way around... $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Jul 23 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ This question may fit better on Sustainable Living. Technically, there is no need for any home to need any active heating or cooling, except in extreme climates. $\endgroup$ – gerrit Jul 23 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ Re Currently, photovoltaic cells are pretty much useless during winter when it comes to fueling the homes of millions (at least where I live). That will remain the case regardless of how warm the planet gets in the next hundred years. Photovoltaics are pretty much useless during winter where you live because the Sun is at too low of an angle in winter (at least where you live). $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jul 24 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ Re We want to warm our homes, but there's not enough clean energy during those months, so we fall back on nuclear. Wait, what? What's wrong with nuclear? The problem is electricity generated from fossil fuels. The number of people killed by nuclear power is much smaller than the number already killed by fossil fuels, by a very, very wide margin. $\endgroup$ – David Hammen Jul 24 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidHammen But if it gets warmer, will we still need to warm our building during winter? If not, other sources of clean energy may be enough to cover the other energy demand. Except for the nuclear waste and the tiny chance of meltdown, there's indeed nothing wrong with nuclear fission. But for some reason, our politicians are deciding to close these power plants and want to go 100% renewable. And that might be more feasible if temperatures rise a bit. Again: It's just speculation, I can't run the numbers. $\endgroup$ – TVASO Jul 24 at 7:39
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The real problem, of course, is that it's not going to be limited to a small rise in temperature.

However, WRT energy generation in particular, most forms of generation become less efficient as temperature increases. For thermoelectric generation - fossil fuel, nuclear, & geothermal - that's obvious thermodynamics.

Photovoltaic cell efficiency also decreases with increasing temperature (e.g. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876610213000829 ). The drop in energy production during winter is a product of factors like the shorter day and lower sun angle, not the temperature.

Unless I've missed something, that leaves just hydroelectric & wind generation. AFAIK, they aren't directly affected by temperature. Changes in weather patterns might produce more or less precipitation and stronger or weaker winds in any particular location, but I don't think the effects are predictable, or necessarily a net increase.

Finally, increased temperature affects the efficiency of power transmission. Electrical resistance increases with temperature, so an increase in temperature leads to increased transmission losses, and a decrease in the effective capacity of the lines: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/11/11/114008

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  • $\begingroup$ I have been reading about Global Warming ( or whatever the new name is ) , for 45 years and this week in Houston we are having record lows. I guess you need to be a BELIEVER to understand. $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Jul 24 at 19:36
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    $\begingroup$ @blacksmith37 hopefully your 45 years of reading has enabled you to understand the difference between climate and weather, and hence that it being cold this week in Houston is irrelevant to the question of whether global warming is happening. $\endgroup$ – Semidiurnal Simon Jul 24 at 20:12
  • $\begingroup$ @blacksmith37 when cold air is moved from one place to another it will be replaced by potentially warmer air so your understanding of climate change is a little limited. $\endgroup$ – trond hansen Jul 25 at 4:06
  • $\begingroup$ @blacksmith37: Whether you are a "believer" or not is absolutely irrelevant to the question of how increased temperatures would affect power generation. If you dislike thinking about global warming, consider the well-known difference between summer and winter. Or maybe you don't believe in that, either :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 25 at 5:26
  • $\begingroup$ I have heard the climate has nothing to do with the actual temperatures for decades , a new excuse is needed .I am a simple engineer ; if I can't measure it or count it or weigh it or see it , I can't understand it. $\endgroup$ – blacksmith37 Jul 26 at 14:57
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A recent study says:

in temperate zones, a warming climate will increase the energy used for cooling during summer but reduce the energy used for heating during winter.
"In the tropics, we see a positive effect—energy increase—but as you move away from the tropics, we see a positive and a negative effect," he says. "When you add up the two positives and the negative, you could in principle get a negative.. .but what we actually see is a substantial positive"—a significant net increase in energy usage.

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Currently, photovoltaic cells are pretty much useless during winter

That may be true if you live at a high latitude, but it isn't universally true. Fortunately, solar is not our only source of low-carbon electricity, and in many climates, wind farms and wave generators become more effective in winter.

We want to warm our homes, but there's not enough clean energy during those months

[citation needed]

so we fall back on nuclear.

Do we? There may be some country where this is the case, but it's not common anywhere that I'm familiar with.

Wouldn't it therefore be better to have a small rise in global temperature? I mean, a higher temperature means you don't have to warm your home during winter (as much). During summer, you can use the extra energy generated by the photovoltaic cells to power airconditioners

A higher temperature means less heating needed and more cooling needed. I don't know how it will balance out globally, or on a per-country (or per-electrical-grid) basis. I think you're hoping that the extra cooling isn't a problem because of getting more power from photovoltaics, but I think you're assuming that higher temperatures mean more sunlight. This isn't necessarily the case.

will the rise in temperature have a positive effect on our energy production and the ability to satisfy energy demand?

The rise in global average temperature, in itself: I don't know, and I don't know if anybody knows. Different energy sources will be affected differently, and much will depend on regional weather responses to changes in climate.

The socio-economic effects of global warming, IMHO, will almost certainly have a net negative effect on our ability to satisfy demand - unless we have a full-on collapse of civilization in some areas and demand crashes.

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We are going to get climate change whether we like it or not. Climate change has been happening throughout the last 4 billion years, and it is highly improbable that mankind is suddenly going to stop dead it in its tracks in the 21st century. It can't be denied that human activity is very gradually increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, but up to a point this process is self regulating. The higher the concentration of CO2, the more vigorously plants will grow and extract it again, but this self regulation could be overwhelmed if the amount of CO2 increases too rapidly. The present warming phase began 12,000 years ago, long before human activities contributed to CO2 levels, so there must have been some other cause. It isn't known for sure whether the sun's radiation is constant and never varies. We are now in an interglacial, which if we go by the geological record is due to end in about 5,000 years time, then it's back to the ice ages again. There was a 450 year Little Ice Age between about AD 1350 and AD 1810.

Higher temperatures don't necessarily mean more sunlight for your solar cells, but the prospect of serious climate warming provides an incentive to develop non-polluting sources of energy, of which fusion power is the most promising (yes, I know fusion produces small amounts of radioactive pollutants, but nothing by comparison with fission). I'm a bit puzzled by your snowball effect of higher temperatures. I would have thought a snowball effect would be more likely with lower temperatures.

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    $\begingroup$ The sun's radiation does vary and has been measured varying - therefore it is easy to take it out of the observed temperature changes over the last couple of centuries. It does not explain the warming we've seen over the last century. $\endgroup$ – winwaed Jul 23 at 13:25
  • $\begingroup$ I'm not talking about the 11-year sunspot cycle, I'm talking about a much longer and possibly erratic dimming which might, for example account for the Little Ice Age. $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Jul 23 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ I am talking about variations over the last century or so. $\endgroup$ – winwaed Jul 23 at 14:03
  • $\begingroup$ What I mean with the snowball effect is that once temperatures rise to a certain point, there's no need for humans anymore in order for rapid climate change to continue. Simplified: higher temperature means less ice, less ice means less reflective surfaces for light to travel back into space, which causes a higher temperature. Or is that incorrect? The term "snowball effect" might not be right. $\endgroup$ – TVASO Jul 23 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ I see what you mean, but your choice of words could have been better. Yes, snow and Ice do reflect energy back into space. $\endgroup$ – Michael Walsby Jul 23 at 14:14

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