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Everything We do Emits Heat – Bad in the Long Run, or Not?


solar-heatI don’t know what to believe anymore, sometimes. We seem to run of global warming, we reduce pollution and try to “green” ourselves through electric cars, solar cells and wind mills, yet scientists (as if all this global warming mess is all on their football field) say there will still be global warming due to the heat our machines, as a whole, emit in the ecosystem.

Who says that? Nick Cowern and Chihak Ahn of the School of Electrical, Electronic and Computer Engineering at Newcastle University, UK say that within 40 years the global warming done by the carbon dioxide and coal usage will vanish, because we will already be using electricity to move and heat. Yet, 100 years from now, they envision a warming started by the actual energy usage increase. If we consume about 1% more energy per year, which is lower than the current growth rate, the heat we would produce will cancel the benefits of not using coal and fossil fuels.

Cowern and Ahn enlist the “clean” sources of energy that endanger most our existence: nuclear power is the worst, because it releases energy otherwise kept locked, followed by solar cells and wind/tidal power. Solar cells are, in their opinion, bad, on the one hand, because they gather new energy from the Sun. On the other hand, they are good because the energy would still come down to Earth to heat it, otherwise. If we use it, we can generate motion, which is not necessarily transformed into friction and hence heat. My guess is that solar energy is neither good or bad, because it simply “is” there. The Earth has used solar energy to evolve and transform, so it can’t be a “new” damage on such a short term (100 years).

Harnessing wind and tidal power is clean, good, but it also requires maintenance costs, which most of the times impose the usage of  “dirty energy”, for the moment. Added to that, wind and tidal are not as efficient converters of energy as harnessing the light directly is.

It all depends on what scale the technology is used. You can build cheaper wind turbines as big as skyscrapers, but you could also build efficient solar panels as big as a house, and three times more efficient than wind turbines of the same size. The same goes with tidal power. They are all good for the environment, but only in certain conditions and with limited applications, while the Sun is everywhere a direct source of energy. The water and the wind are only intermediate processes. If used incorrectly or abusively, they would probably unbalance the Earth’s natural flow of cold/warm air, and that could lead to other unpleasant (natural) phenomena.

After all, the idea is to use the oncoming energy, not the stored energy – that one caused harm to the environment, as we see. The energy coming from the Sun is the same, whether we use it or not.

So, are we going to save the world, or live peacefully within its borders? Sometimes, I don’t know. All I know is that now we don’t have any alternative than to stop burning things.

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  1. If were burning 1 billion gallons of oil a day we are creating 135,000 BTU’s x’s 1,000,000,000 every day. Add some coal fired power plants, nuclear power plants some forest fires and it becomes aparent that global warming is more than traped heat. It’s traped heat both from the suns present energy and its stored energy. We are in a vertual preasure cooker, 6 billion lobsters in a pot. What happens as we turn up the gas and the pot gets 8, 10, 12 billion of us in it? We must think about limiting growth and development and consider a transistion to clean electric energy, mass transet and agrilculture.


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