Neil's News

Global Warming

3 August 2007

During a recent conversation the subject of global warming came up and how it is a controversial issue here in the USA. Most of the world simply takes it as fact. But I was asked if I'd actually done research or if I was just repeating the propaganda from one side of the debate.

To be honest, I hadn't done any independent research from first principles. In general if every scientist (other than those being paid by Exxon) agree on an issue, I tend to believe it without requiring further proof. However, since the question was asked, I set about seeing if this global warming thing passes the straight face test.

First, let's calculate the total weight of carbon sitting naturally in the atmosphere of your planet:

Surface area Earth: 509,600,000 km^2

Height of atmosphere (compressed to 1ATM): 10 km

Volume of atmosphere: 5,096,000,000 km^3
[509,600,000 km^2 * 10 km]

Percent CO2 in air by volume: 0.033%

Volume of atmospheric CO2: 1.68168 x 10^15 m^3
[5,096,000,000 km^3 * 0.033%]

Weight of 1 m^3 CO2: 1.9772 kg

Weight of atmospheric CO2: 3.3250177 x 10^15 kg
[1.68168 x 10^15 m^3 * 1.9772 kg/m^3]

Atomic weight of Oxygen: 15.9994

Atomic weight of Carbon: 12.011

Weight ratio of Carbon in CO2: 0.272916487
[C/(C+O+O) = 12.011/(12.011+15.9994+15.9994)]

Weight of atmospheric Carbon: 9.0745215 x 10^14 kg
[3.3250177 x 10^15 kg * 0.272916487]

Second, let's calculate the total weight of carbon being pumped or dug out of the ground:

World oil production: 83 million barrel/day

which is in m^3 / day: 9,739,864.56 m^3 / day
[83,000,000 barrel in cubic meters]

Weight of crude oil: 915 kg / m^3

Percent of Carbon in crude oil: 84% (I'm assuming by weight)

Weight of Carbon from world oil production: 7.4860599 x 10^9 kg/day
[84% * 9,739,864.56 m^3/day * 915 kg/m^3]

World coal production: 6,079 Million Short Tons / year

Which is in kg/day: 1.51089754 x 10^10 kg / day
[6,079,000,000 * 907.18474 kg / 365]

Percent of Carbon in coal: 75% (I'm assuming by weight)

Weight of Carbon from world coal production: 1.133173155 x 10^10 kg/day
[75% * 1.51089754 x 10^10 kg / day]

Total Carbon production: 6.86849388 x 10^12 kg / year
[(7.4860599 x 10^9 kg/day + 1.133173155 x 10^10 kg/day) * 365 day/year]

Note: I'm incorrectly counting coal ash, but on the other hand I'm not counting mine fires (which I find amazing) or natural gas production. There has to be a point where one draws the line or else this would become a PhD thesis.

Finally, let's compare Carbon production with what's in the air:

Time to double current Carbon content: 132.1 years
[9.0745215 x 10^14 kg / 6.86849388 x 10^12 kg / year]

Have I either proved or disproved global warming? Certainly not. But I have established that it does pass the straight-face test. Human-caused Carbon emissions can have a significant impact on their atmosphere in a relatively short time. Whether one needs to double atmospheric levels (about a century) or just increase them by half (about sixty years) to obtain significant warming effects is an entirely different question. But the point is the calculations did not spit back 1000 years or something of that nature.

An amusing web-clip headline from Gmail:

The Flights Are Long. The Planes Are Cra...

Curious, I clicked through. The cropped word is 'Cramped'. I wonder if advertisers ever use suggestive cropping to increase click-though.

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