A type 1 civilization is defined as a civilization that can utilize the maximum amount of energy equal available to its entire planet, roughly 1017 watts for Earth.

This is equal to the amount of energy that the Earth receives from the Sun. Assuming that the Type 1 civilization doesn't cover its home in solar panels (and instead got the 1017 watts from other energy sources, like fission/fusion), how would the civilization avoid boiling its own oceans and destroying its planet?

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    $\begingroup$ Why would a type I civilization be stuck on their home planet? $\endgroup$ – Gary Walker Mar 22 at 18:34
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    $\begingroup$ Irradiation, naturally. Earth had been receiving these 10^17 watts of energy for millennia, and somehow had avoided being cooked. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 22 at 18:37
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander If you want to get 10^17 watts of energy without covering your planet in solar panels, you have to generate the energy by burning uranium in a fission reactor or hydrogen in a fusion reactor. This would be energy in addition to what you get from the sun already. $\endgroup$ – Nikhil Murali Mar 22 at 18:42
  • $\begingroup$ More irradiation. However this would be becoming an increasingly more complex engineering problem. $\endgroup$ – Alexander Mar 22 at 18:46
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Comparing a civilization that consumes 10,000X more energy than we do planet-wide to our technology is comparing apples to coconuts

You (and some of your commenters) are assuming that by the time our civilization advances to Kadashev Type I status that we haven't improved the efficiency with which we consume power. That's a little short-sighted.

A good example of the problem is comparing a simple AM radio from the good old days (say, 1950s) to the transistor radios of my youth (1970s) to the iPod-ish stuff of the late 2000's.

  • You could literally cook an egg on those old radios (I've had the joy of repairing them. Sing it with me, children! We love radio tuuuuuubes!).

  • My transistor radio (emblazoned with a lovely red, white, and blue "76" denoting that banner year) fit in the palm of my hand (if not in my pocket) and ran on a 9v battery. By comparison it created no heat at all (although it did a bit).

  • And the iPod was basically a device an inch square and a quarter of an inch thick using a 1.5v lithium button battery that could play music forever compared to my transistor radio, clear music to boot, and its heat generation was basically nada, zilch, (almost) zero.

Efficiency is one of the hallmarks of technological advancement. The assumption that tomorrow's fusion reactor will generate as much heat-per-kilowatt compared to yesterday's Three Mile Island is ludicrous.

So, how do they keep from boiling their oceans and igniting their atmosphere?

By using power a whole lot more efficiently than we do. We can speculate that this will include things like room-temp superconducting materials, molecule-thin insulators on micron-sized metal windings for motors, much lower conducting resistance and much higher insulating resistance in our semiconductors, etc., but the reality is we have no blooming idea how this will happen (any more than we know how to practically generated 10,000X the energy our planet uses today). But, you didn't (and shouldn't) ask how...

Technological efficiency would increase with all other kinds of technology, allowing the consumption of ever greater amounts of power without burning up the planet.

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    $\begingroup$ first of all there are theoretical limits of efficiencies, in some processes; Second entropy grow - and all the energy you use will end up in waste heat. 3rd - you can do more with the same amount of energy, but perfection of technologies isn't the point of scale - it more in and out of energy flow - and if you need k1 inflow it does not matter how much you do with the energy, you replenish your losses which is waste heat losses. do you 100 times more with the energy or less it does not matter. The right answer is - they just use it off the planet, it where they actualy have chances to get it $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Mar 25 at 8:42
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg (1) please provide a citation for those theoretical limits, (2) With the exception of drying apparatus (e.g., a hair dryer), please cite any functional device that releases 100% of the energy it uses as waste heat, (3) the only way to do more with the same amount of energy is to lose less of it to waste heat. You should post your "right answer" as an answer, not as a comment to another answer. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 25 at 14:07
  • $\begingroup$ idk, comments are not for discussion and considering your questions it requires one, you can try your luck in a public discussion with me at discord if you really need that. Addressing another comment, generally, K1 as certain aspects of it, is field of my interest, but not interested to provide the "right" answer in the case, the question is too basic and too lightweight. $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Mar 26 at 11:45

A Type I civilization can utilize the amount of energy that's available to their planet, but that doesn't mean they're actually utilizing the specific energy that reaches their planet.

They could have moved their entire civilization out into artificial space stations fed by an array of solar receptors in orbit around their sun, while their home planet was cleaned up and reclaimed as an uninhabited nature preserve. As long as the amount of energy those space stations were able to utilize happened to add up to at least the same amount of energy that their home planet receives from their sun, they're a Type I.


There's two things you can do.

1) Don't make so much heat in the first place. Other answers have covered this pretty well, especially JBH's, so I won't get into it.

2) Make your civilization radiate that heat away faster. We already have metamaterials which radiate heat extremely effectively. Check out this Ted Talk about them. So what you do is you build your cooling systems out of these metamaterials. They radiate heat in specific infrared wavelengths such that as little as possible is absorbed by our atmosphere. Imagine the cooling pond of a nuclear reactor, but none of the heat stays in our atmosphere. Some of it will get absorbed by the ground though.

If you need to avoid heating the ground as well, you can use a Space Fountain, using your coolant as the supporting fluid. By letting the coolant cool off high in space, less of the heat will be radiated towards the ground. It may be possible to also use convection to "pump" the water up the fountain, so you don't even need additional pumps. Space fountains kill two birds with one stone, too, because a Type 1 civilization will likely want a lot of orbital infrastructure as well, and a space fountain makes a good launch platform if it's tall enough.

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    $\begingroup$ Let's add to this improvements in thermoelectric generators that capture the waste heat and stuff the power back into the power grid. It's the least looked at form of green power/renewable energy on the planet, but I expect it'll play a big part along the lines of your answer. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 23 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ @JBH "perpetual motion machine of the second kind", okay, yeah, why not - release Maxwell demons $\endgroup$ – MolbOrg Mar 25 at 8:48
  • $\begingroup$ @MolbOrg, Do you not realize that thermoelectric generators actually exist and are sold commercially? Like all motor/generator devices, they work in both directions. Their most common application is cooling. 1, 2. $\endgroup$ – JBH Mar 25 at 14:23

You get "cooking the oceans" from heat, more specifically waste heat. Not all uses of energy result in waste heat, not all uses of energy result in waste heat in places we care about, and then even if it does there are countermeasures.

We use antimatter generators to create any level of energy. We use Star Trek transporter technology to "create" matter itself. Then we connect the two with superconductors. It would take absurd levels of energy to create matter itself, but that matter isn't going to be heating the planet.

If you don't like Star Trek then that civilization could be using high levels of energy to push stuff around in space. At it's absurd extreme, pushing a planet from one orbit to another (or blowing one up), wouldn't affect another planet's temperature.

If you have serious problems with waste heat on the planet then there's geo-engineering, i.e. blocking out some of the sun, or even absurdly large energy pumps releasing/radiating heat/energy into space.


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