Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Your Hourly Emissions Will Trap an Atomic Bomb's Worth of Heat

The CO2 emissions you emit in the next hour will trap over an atomic bomb's worth of heat.

Thanks a lot.

As I noted before, the CO2 from just one gallon of gasoline will ultimately trap, over the course of its atmospheric lifetime, 100 billion kilocalories of heat, according to David Archer's book The Long Thaw: How Humans Are Changing the Next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate (Science Essentials)

Since a gallon of gasoline emits 8.92 kg (19.6 pounds) of CO2, and the average American emits 16.9 metric tons of CO2 a year (2009), a year's worth of emissions from that person traps an incredible 8 × 1017 joules. The Hiroshima bomb had an energy of 63 terajoules (= 1 "Hiro"), so annual US per-capita emissions will trap 12,500 Hiros of heat.

And they try to say CO2 is a miniscule portion of the atmosphere.

In other terms, that year's worth of one person's emissions will trap as much energy as impinges on the Earth in 5 seconds.

It's as much energy as all of human civilization consumes in 15 hours. (1 "Civ" = 474 exajoules (2008)).

Last year the world's emissions were 31.6 gigatons of CO2, from fossil fuel consumption. That will trap 24 trillion Hiros, or 3.1 million Civs, or 269 year's worth of the sunlight that hits Earth.

Since the Industrial Revolution began, humans have put about 539 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere. That will ultimately trap almost 1,500 trillion Hiros, or as much energy as the Sun puts out in 4 minutes.


Anonymous said...

so in an hour the sun puts out 15 x as much "energy" as humans have in that period, in a day 360 x, in a week 2600 x, in a year 130,000 x, in a hundred years, 13 million x and since the industrial revolution, about 25 million x.
So the sun is 20 million x more powerful than 15 billion humans who have existed for the past 170 odd years.
And yet we haven't burned to a crisp. Your math works against your argument, as it is.

David Appell said...

Keep calculating. There is a wide gap between "no heating" and "burned to a crisp."

Jack said...

I am really scared! What should I do?

Is that the reaction you want?

Tom Gray said...

I'm not sure what reaction David wants, but yes, I think being scared is appropriate.

What to do? Strive to reduce your long-lived carbon footprint and that of other people and organizations you come into contact with.

Jonathan M said...

Who came up with the "hiro" unit of power measurement?

David Appell said...

Jonathan, I don't know. I saw it on Skeptical Science.