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The Heat Is On!

March 4, 2012

The men and women of ancient times were not much interested in the fields of science, survival being their most immediate need they had no need to understand the transition between heat, the development of power and its relationship to other forms of energy and work as explained in the field of Thermodynamics. For the ancients the burning of one fuel source or another meant nothing more than the ability to keep warm and survive one more day or night in what to them was a very dangerous world and it is a matter of history that even with the discovery of fire the most humanity could achieve for thousands of years after our coming into being involved no more than cooking our dinner over an open fire source, which in the scale of the universe is as insignificant as striking a match inside a volcano.

And so it remained that humanity’s global heat signature played no part in our evolution until the year 1698 when Englishman, Thomas Savery, invented the first of the so called “fire engines” which was soon followed in 1712 by the more refined “steam engine” developed by Thomas Newcomen. It is at this point in time that we began our progressive drive into the future bringing forth the development of our industrial societies which also involved the manufacture and wholesale of all types of heat producing devices designed to aid us in virtually all manner of applications. There were some machines before this period, notably the water wheel and the wind mill but the invention of steam engines culminated in not only the development of the industrial age but also the beginning of the “age of the machine” which is estimated to have started sometime around 1880.

Between the years 1750 and 1880 and well before the discovery of oil and gas as fuel sources it has been calculated that humanity managed to burn its way through some 20 million tonnes of coal while adding roughly 61 million tonnes of CO2 to our atmosphere but what is not even mentioned by our modern scientists is that burning so much fuel also produced some 50 billion “Mega-joules” of heat which was allowed to flow into our environment in an unmitigated fashion; and that was just in our first 100 years of fossil fuel burning, between the years 1750-2010 the total heat which flowed into our atmosphere from the burning of coal alone has been estimated to be a staggering 1,523 billion Mega-joules of heat.

You might not think much of this figure but when you consider that scientists today have managed to prove that the CO2 produced by our constant burning of fossil fuels is helping to trap solar radiation thus warming our planet then it doesn’t take much imagination to understand that this same CO2 is also trapping the heat we ourselves produce. And not only that, the amount of heat I mentioned above does not account for all the heat that we also produce through the use of many of our machines such as the heat that flows from our car engines, heated swimming pools, clothes dryers, refrigerator motors and so on.

Back in the year 1981 it was estimated that the consumption of energy in an average home was the equivalent to the muscle power of a force of twenty-four people working eight hours a day all year round, In small industries however the figure was even more staggering, without machines, each company would then need about two hundred people in order to replace a single man working with a machine. If we were to add the additional energy consumed by automobiles and the transport and manufacturing industries we might then begin to understand the tremendous amounts of heat produced by our human activities.

Since then our consumption of energy and therefore our production of heat that flows into the atmosphere has increased exponentially so that now, in the 21st Century, the increase is an incredible 750% “per person”;  this means that a great deal more heat  is  trapped in our atmosphere than what scientists are telling us.

It is all good and well to blame Global Warming on the companies and corporations that give us the energy to run our lives but at the end of the day …..

How much heat do you produce?

It will do no good transforming our societies through the use of alternative energy sources and the reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere if the public is never educated into understanding that unless we find ways to diminish our own individual heat signature both at home and in industry then we will simply continue killing the world for our future generations.

The two links below will help you work out how much blame you can apportion to yourself in helping to warm our world …. because all of us are a part of the problem.

Energy consumption per device                       Cost of running electrical appliances

If you care for our world and the future of our children then please do something about it, reducing our heat signature is something that would actually make a tremendous amount of difference in reducing Global Warming which does not require the involvement of politicians, government bodies or corporations, it is something we can all do by ourselves to help each other.

And remember … It is no coincidence that the world started warming at the same time as the beginning of the age of the machine.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2012 6:53 am

    … by the year 2010 the total heat flowing into our atmosphere from the burning of coal alone is estimated to be a staggering 1,523 billion Mega-joules of heat.

    Is that per year?

    … does not account for all the heat that we also produce through the use of many of our machines such as the heat that flows from our car engines, heated swimming pools, clothes dryers, refrigerator motors and so on.

    You missed out computers — I know it’s covered in ‘and so on’, but the heat generated from computers these days is not inconsiderable. I have an ongoing battle with friends, relatives and colleagues trying to persuade them to turn them off when not in use. Usually, the excuse for leaving a computer on is related to not wanting to wait while the computer boots up (with MS-Windows being the operating system ‘of choice’, so much for Bill Gates’ foresight in his book The Road Ahead, where he castigates a competing operating system for the time it takes until it’s ready — oops, how did I get onto that rant?).

    While I agree with your conclusion that we do all need to become more aware of our personal environmental impact, I think it’s a mistake to focus on this too heavily. Industry/ corporations/ politicians are, I’m certain, quite happy to help foster the belief that the solution to these problems is approachable at the level of the individual, because that serves as a distraction from industrial activities — which have a far greater impact.

    • March 4, 2012 8:00 am

      Thank you for your comment, Pendantry,

      Thank you also for pointing out the error in my blog; it is meant to be the total heat produced by coal between 1750-2010 and I shall amend it accordingly, I must also tell you that the amount of heat given for that period is a conservative one only, the true figure is much higher, maybe three times as much and possibly more.

      Yes, computers are definitely big spenders of energy and more so those with flat screens for monitors which produce some 200%-700% more heat than the older monitors. the servers and super-computers which run the internet are probably far worse which is not surprising when one considers they need to be air-conditioned.

      And again, yes, we should focus much more on corporations and politicians but never forgetting that the children we teach today will also be the corporate leaders and politicians of tomorrow … it’s up to us to show them the right way now; waiting until they are older will do them no good.

  2. March 9, 2012 3:44 am

    PS, came to this following you posting the link on Learning from Dogs. Would love to include the above as a Guest Post perhaps one day next week. Would that be OK? Paul

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