How Screwed Are We in Terms of Climate Change?
The living room in the house is hot even at night. I couldn’t explain why is this feeling of discomfort exists. But it does seems like a high — efficiency LED light bulb that uses only seven watts of power could emit radiation strong enough than an inefficient seven watt incandescent bulb that I haven’t seen in the wild since grade school. Perhaps it was a year 2005 I guess since I’ve last seen it? Just look at this LED bulb. It is really bright and how warm I felt. Everywhere I look, this seven — watt LED bulb diligently basking the living room on four corners of its white light that I couldn’t write on the glass table inside the living room because it’s uncomfortable writing there. Look just how strong the emitted light is, hence its radiation, emanating from an efficient light source. Since we don’t have an air conditioner (we’re really poor!) at home, we have to rely on cooling ourselves by turning on the electric fan for twelve hours on the day and turning on another electric fan for twelve hours at night. I wonder how our only beloved planet named Earth would fare whenever I turn on those appliances and sort of things like electric fans, lights, television, computer and what nots, unless I created a successful nuclear fusion reactor that could power a house and replace fossil fuels for good which is very remotely possible. But by the looks of it it’s possible. One percent possible and ninety — nine percent impossible. So you think we have a chance?
Philippines is now approaching the so — called summer months, or should we say, really dry months because technically Philippines has only two climates, three months of dryness and nine months of extreme wetness. And these climates are slowly becoming worse because of the news of climate change and global warming. Oh…global warming. We couldn’t do something about that. I have seen some a couple of global warming documentaries on YouTube for the past couple of months, most notably the PBS and DW documentary one and it’s kind of getting concerning. I have been thinking about them for some time and the deeper my thought goes, the more it became apparent that I couldn’t do something about it. I don’t have an idea either on how to comfort Earth knowing that whenever I turn on any conveniences, the Earth moans in pain. Now that I have some sort of understanding about the idea of carbon footprint is (which was ironically popularized by the company known to pollute the environment, the BP oil), it is imperative that we must be conscientious in using all our conveniences in order to lessen the affliction of Mother Earth. Save water, save electricity, save the seas, and save energy mantra that has been drilled into our heads since we were young. But despite these efforts to be efficient in using the nature’s vast but finite resource, we have made Earth hotter than we imagined.
We humans are woefully inefficient. Even starting from a biological standpoint, a human body is only twenty percent efficient in converting energy into motion and metabolic processes. So it means that about only twenty percent of energy went to do actual work while the remaining eighty percent was wasted as heat. I have some sort of idea of what those preceding sentences meant and that’s awfully inefficient. If a worker took eight hours to do one task that supposedly would take 1.6 hours, he’s gonna have a bad time at his company (except working in offshore gas fields where taking work slowly but surely is a norm). On the other hand, if you and your crush seated beside each other for hours in the middle of the cold night, both of you will be able to survive the night and avoid the harsh winter because of heat generated by your bodies and there is a bonus of you and your crush getting closer to each other. How sweet! In terms on how efficient we do things, we don’t fare better either. I remember watching a video of ElectroBoom (a famous YouTuber) saying that we are inefficient on how we do things in life. We use more energy and more tries to execute something at work so it means we need to do too much to get the desired effect and get the tasks done. An inefficient worker might need to work for a total of eight hours before wrapping up while a slight efficient one might take four hours to do the same work. The remaining four hours would be spent in idleness but never underestimate idleness because we cannot create a bright idea if we are too busy in our work. No one creates a mind — blowing idea when someone is too busy. How inefficient you say? It’s about sixty percent. I don’t know where ElectroBoom get that figure but it seems realistic enough. Common processes love chaos and a lot of side effect of proper use of motion is the generation of mostly heat. Internal combustion engines are only twenty percent efficient. Electric motors fare better at sixty percent but they are weaker compared to internal combustion engines. The maximum theoretical efficiency of a gasoline engine that uses a Carnot cycle is only sixty percent and most real gasoline engines couldn’t achieve even a half of that, that’s why we need to use more fuel in order to produce relatively useful but quick work on the pistons most of the time. And imagine that this piston would be moving up and down and exerting effort on the crankshaft several hundred times a second. Internal combustion engines are really inefficient that it is a better heater than a running a car.
With the kind of lifestyle we have that we need too waste too much power on something easy, we didn’t realize that we contribute much to climbing temperature of the Earth. We used too much power on doing normal things because we ourselves are inefficient and that’s human. We can’t even maintain efficiency on ourselves because of our own inefficient nature. Perfect efficiency is not for inefficient beings unless we are robots who are devoted to do one thing and only one thing repeatedly over and over in our lifetimes who only needed a shot of 12 volts DC and a couple of future maintenance engineers in the year 5507. We barely have time for that. Just hook a thermometer outside your house. This lifetime of inefficiency is what makes Earth hotter. But wait, there’s more! We can blame ourselves and other people because of this fiasco even if most companies pump out way more carbon dioxide than us in the air. Companies are also run by people too!
I always wondered what is the limit Earth can take from our abuses before breaking down. I once read somewhere that three million years ago, from the Pliocene era, Earth is 2 °C to 3 °C warmer than today. It was so hot back then that Earth didn’t have polar ice caps like now, there were forests and horses in the Antarctic and the sea level was twenty meters higher that it is now. Mass extinction was common in that period that it took thousands of years before life recovered and now scientists are seeing that change of temperature within our lifetimes, projecting a 1 °C to 2 °C rise in temperature in the year 2100. A 1 °C rise of temperature won’t sound that much but it means the corals in the oceans would die due to ocean acidification, the water was too warm for these corals to survive and stronger typhoons would be more common. The lessons we got from this ancient global warming is a reminder of what would happen to Earth if he will be heated too much. Just as we get fever to kill off the viruses in our body, Earth will be heated too in order to kill life in it, probably including us. We really dislike heat, aren’t we?
The more extreme case of ancient global warming experienced by Earth was the Paleocene — Eocene Thermal Maximum that happened about 55 million years ago. The 5 °C to 8 °C rise of temperature in Earth that lasted for thousand years was so high that ice didn’t exist anywhere on Earth even at the poles, sea level was about a hundred meters higher that it is today and killed vast species of animals and plants during that time. The tropics could have been uninhabitable at that time so animals and plants can only be seen near the poles. The Paleocene — Eocene Thermal Maximum was triggered by continuous volcanic eruptions over the course of thousand years, releasing several thousands gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and killing all those life forms that couldn’t survive the heat. Though humanity won’t be able to match the carbon dioxide levels released in the Paleocene — Eocene Thermal Maximum even if we burn all our world’s fossil fuel supplies, we would be able to conceivably recreate the climate three million years ago if we continue to burn fossil fuels at the current pace. But at least we could imagine what a 3 million year old ago climate feels like in the year 2200.
Now that the global economy is slowly being opened and life would resume to normal in the next few years after controlling the spread of the COVID — 19 virus for two years, Earth will be screaming in pain again. We would live again as if nothing bad will happen to us and all those people that have been born in the 20th century will cease to exist in the 22nd century, never have cared what would happen to those people who will be born in the next century or beyond because we have been leading wasteful lives. We waste our lives away by getting ahead in life. We wasted our lives just to be number one. We wasted our lives in the pursuit of growth. We even have wasted our life by adding misery on Earth and we never spent our time comforting Earth’s pain. We’re too busy in our lives and careers that we don’t have a time to plant a tree.
The alternative energy sources really sucked too. We don’t deserve perfection because we aren’t perfect ourselves. Even the Bible says that perfection can only be clothed in perfect beings, no wonder there is no such things as a perfect partner. Why do we deserve a perfect partner if we are not perfect ourselves? The best we can do to love others is to be a complement to the future loved one who will be complementary to our needs. Our weakness will be augmented by the significant other’s strength and her weakness will be filled by our strength. Find a man or a woman that complements you.
Let’s look at wind energy. It seems infinite, right? If there’s air, there’s also wind. There’s wind all over the place. Wherever there’s a place that has air, there must be a wind there too. Even a living room has some wind but not that strong. I wish the wind turbine could function everywhere that has air in it but too bad because wind power needs a steady supply of not air but wind. And there are very few places in the Philippines that meet that criteria for electric power generation. That sucks.
Let’s look at solar power. We once used it during the almost month — long blackout in Cebu City and it really worked wonders. The solar — powered light was pretty expensive but it was worth the money because we are still using for outdoor lighting until now even if the electricity has returned months after. It was easy to use and sun is there. But what grinds my gears is that sun will be there for half a day but only six to seven hours of sunlight will be usable to recharge a solar — powered floodlight, beginning from 10 AM in the morning to 4 PM in the afternoon. What happened to the remaining four to five hours of sunlight? Well, at the extreme ends of our day, the sunlight would be too weak for the solar panel to operate. Worse, the solar panel operates best on cold but sunny climates. It means that solar panels could achieve their full potential better when installed in Norway than on the middle of the Sahara Desert. The solar power too is not that reliable either because it only works when the sun is overhead so it struggles to generate electricity in an overcast day. That sucks.
What about nuclear power? There was a talk on using nuclear power in the Philippines after the fuel prices has shot up for several weeks in a row, affecting not only the people who uses transportation but also goods that uses fuel directly or indirectly. Hell, even the Cebuano delicacy “bulad” became more expensive because you need to transport them to stores in order to turn a profit. The last time an oil price hike that amounted to five pesos per liter happened was way back in year 2004 and now it was repeated in 2022 because of the lack of supply of oil in the world market and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. I could feel the effects too because my money could buy fewer things than before. Nuclear power, compared to combustion, can produce a million times of energy. It means that a kilogram of fuel — grade uranium can produce the energy as burning thousands of kilograms of coal that could power Metro Manila for few weeks. I really think that nuclear power is the future because burning a fossil fuel is just barbaric. Burning a fossil fuel is just a sophisticated version of burning a wood and burning a wood sounds cavemanlike so we really are just advanced versions of cavemen but we are still cavemen. A real, modern civilization will emerge if we were able to master the power of the nucleus, especially nuclear fusion, where we smash two hydrogen atoms into helium, thereby releasing tremendous amounts of energy. The fuel for nuclear fusion is unlimited (look at seawater!), isn’t prone to nuclear meltdown ala Chernobyl, very clean (because we don’t burn a dirty fossil fuel) and we can see an example of nuclear fusion like the sun. The catch? It’s very difficult to achieve. Do you know how sun reached nuclear fusion? Very simple. You only need a temperature of 15 million degrees °C and pressures 250 billion times the Earth’s atmosphere to trigger nuclear fusion. Isn’t that easy?
Now we’re doomed.