Global Warming, Part One

26 Apr

From .Copyright © 2013 Michael H. McGee. All rights reserved. Please feel free to share or re-post all or part non-commercially, hopefully with attribution.

At this time in history we live on a “New Earth,” a planet which has conditions which have never before existed in human history. Current environmental problems come from many natural changes in the earth’s environment. One very significant natural change is population. The current population of the earth plays a major part in the explanation of the presence of all our environmental excesses and disturbances, including the rise of mega-corporations and huge polluting factories, water shortages, the extinction of species, deforestation, and the huge islands of plastic bags floating in the North Pacific.

This is an explanation which per se does not allow any solutions of any kind which do not include the bare fact that five billion more people have been added to the population since 1927. Reducing the population by five billion is not even remotely within the realm of possibility. Current initiatives in “population control” are like using a wine cork to stop Mauna Loa. Even if the rigorous efforts at population control now used in China were extended world-wide, there would be no decrease in population, only a slowing of the increase.

I feel that many of the post-apocalyptic, alien invasion type movies and novels are metaphors for that which we cannot ever say: at some level we wish we had five billion fewer people on the planet. Even the current fear of earth being hit by a meteor could be a form of unspeakable wish-fulfillment. It’s not every day you can actively imagine billions of people being destroyed by a faux-scientific means you can’t do anything about.

The purpose of this essay is to show that all our efforts to stop global warming and pollution with our present technology are doomed to failure. All the talk and all the effort is no more than dust in the wind. Further, the only way to move forward is to admit that we cannot really control the natural changes brought on by massive population growth, and to find ways to live with the changes in our planet. These changes have been a natural phenomenon brought about by the burgeoning numbers of humans using the same amount of space and resources as were formerly used by a great deal fewer persons.

I choose to look at the situation not with gloom, but with hope. The hope is that our efforts at managing the changes in the atmosphere and temperature and pollution of the earth will take into account the incredibly massive increases in population as a given fact. As long as we ignore this simple fact, we will not be able to learn to live with and master the new atmosphere and temperature and pollution of the earth. If we accept this truth as a bottom line, we will find better ways to move forward and live with the “New Earth” and its changing environment. The sudden increase in population is a phenomenon never before seen on our planet. We can’t look at history; there are no precedents. Yet what is happening is natural and is real.

Let’s look at the numbers and do some simple math. According to Time magazine the population of the world as recently as 1927 was only two billion people. The few environmental advocates at that time were mostly concerned with stopping the dumping of poisons and caustics which were the by-products of manufacturing. There were no global warming activists, and frankly, there was no need for them.

Here’s one chart which shows the absolutely stupendous and phenomenal growth of human population. The black dot showing the passing of two billion is right close to the year 1927. Before that time there had never been even as many as two billion people on the planet. The black dot showing the passing of seven billion is right close to the year 2011.


As of the end of 2011 the population of the world was seven billion people. This works out to an increase of five billion people in only 84 years’ time. Of course the environment is going through major changes; and of course people are screaming that we need to stop these changes in our planet. Unfortunately we cannot stop these naturally occurring changes unless we are willing to exterminate five billion people, which of course we cannot and will not do. We can, however, discover ways to live with the changes which now exist on the “New Earth.”

To begin this analysis, let’s forget about the industrial and sewage and plastic bag and CO2 pollution. Let’s start by looking at the people themselves, the inhabitants of the planet as human bodies only, without reference to what they do. Further, let’s concentrate only on the five billion people who’ve been added in the last 84 years.

Each human being maintains a body temperature of 98.6 degrees F, making each human body a little furnace of its own. A resting person puts out about 100 watts of energy at any given single moment of time, dispersed around the whole of the body. If you want a clear picture of what this amount of energy feels like, put your hand close to a 100 watt light bulb, where the same amount of energy is concentrated in a very small globe. Thus our five billion new inhabitants produce heat at the same rate as if there were five billion 100 watt light bulbs burning all at the same time, all the time.

Boron & Boulpaep’s Medical Physiology says that the body’s rate of heat production can vary from approximately 80 calories per hour at rest to 600 calories per hour during jogging. So let’s conclude conservatively, including children, that the average heat production of each human body is about 90 calories per hour, or 2160 calories per day, released into the atmosphere.

Since the calorie is not the standard measure of heat, we have to convert the calorie into heat energy, as measured in scientific standard “joules.” We start with the statement: The calorie approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kg of water by 1 °C. This is about 4,184 joules of heat.

Therefore with a bodily heat production of 2160 calories per day, multiplied by 4,184 joules, we come to the individual human body giving off about 9,037,440 joules of heat a day. Thus the five billion people added to the planet since 1927, as human bodies and nothing more, are giving off or radiating 45,187,200,000,000,000 joules of heat a day. That’s 45 quadrillion joules a day.

According to, the power P in watts (W) is equal to the energy E in joules (J), divided by the time period t in seconds (s): P(W) = E(J) / t(s). There are 1,440 minutes in a day, and 1 joule of heat per minute equals about 1.6 watts of energy per minute, or 2,304 watts of energy per day.

So multiply 45 quadrillion joules by 2,304 and divide by 100. The five billion new people on earth since 1927 thus naturally radiate from their bodies every single day the heat equivalent of 1,036,800,000,000,000,000 hundred-watt light bulbs. That’s the heat energy from a little more than one quintillion light bulbs a day.

Multiply that number by the 365 days of the year, and you have a natural human body radiation of the equivalent of 378,432,000,000,000,000,000 hundred-watt light bulbs of heat a year into the atmosphere of the Earth. That’s 378 quintillion hundred-watt bulbs a year of heat generated by the five billion extra human bodies added to the planet since 1927.

Now you have the tip of the iceberg (a bad metaphor, I know) of global warming. This heat radiation is a totally natural phenomenon which is not subject to change by legislation or good intentions.

Next, let’s look at the external heat generated outside the natural heat of their own bodies by the activity of each of these five billion human beings added to the earth since 1927. Assume only the minimum: each of these persons has a cooking fire and a single electrical light fixture, and each person in temperate or cold climates has a single heating stove. I won’t bore you by computing the additional amount of heat generated by these natural activities outside each human body. Multiply five billion by whatever number seems appropriate to you.

Now you have the second element of global warming. This normal use of heat by humans is also a totally natural phenomenon which is not subject to change by legislation or good intentions.

Moving on, it is a commonly held scientific assumption that one of the drivers of global warming is the increase in levels of greenhouse gases including carbon, CO2, in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases trap heat inside the atmosphere and prevent it from radiating back into space as it has done throughout human history.

I have here a chart which was created by another blogger, Dave Munger of Davidson, NC. The graph tracks government scientific surveys regarding the rise of carbon levels in the atmosphere over time. Overlaying this graph is a standard data graph plotting the rise in population over time. The two graphs follow an almost identical trajectory:


Make up your own mind after studying this graph. In my humble opinion it speaks for itself. There is no doubt that there are many other factors affecting global warming, yet deliberately ignoring the increase in population as a major factor is working with blinders on. And we must assume that the population will never decrease. The most we can expect is that at some point population will begin to increase at a slower rate.

The “New Earth” will always from this point on remain a very populous earth. Thus population must be taken as a given, an unchangeable natural factor with which we have to deal in discovering better ways to live on our “New Earth.” There’s no going back, and no pretending that we don’t have all these heat and carbon emitting souls on our planet.

Simply changing our ways by herculean efforts to reduce carbon emissions and stop industry from polluting is not going to make even a small difference in global warming. “Changing our ways” to save the environment is a little like trying to empty Lake Champlain by dipping it out with a teaspoon. We must instead focus on ways to live with the new environment which has developed around us, and new technologies which will enable us to prosper as a species in light of the non-reversible changes which have overtaken us.

According to James Famiglietti (UC-Irvine) et al. (2012), one of the other factors scientifically demonstrated to contribute to the rise in sea levels related to global warming is groundwater depletion. Fresh water, up until recently locked in the land, is being pumped out all over the world to irrigate crops and mitigate droughts. That extracted groundwater runs off into rivers and is ultimately added to the oceans, increasing the sea level by meaningful amounts. Groundwater depletion is without question entirely a product of the vast increase in population on the planet.

The same goes for carbon emissions from giant electrical utilities, factories and internal combustion engines. The greater the population, the greater is the need for larger and more electrical production utilities, larger and more factories to produce goods, and more and more vehicles with internal combustion engines.

In China and most third world countries, greater populations mean more carbon-rich wood-burning fires for cooking and heating. On any given day at least two billion wood-burning fires are started world-wide in hearths where these fires are the only means of cooking and staying warm. It would be very difficult to make a case for these people to stop making the fires which are necessary for their daily survival.

This is part one of a four-part series.

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