2010-08-30 14:47:32A misconception about burning fossil fuels?
Jim Meador


I read something recently (can't find it now) to the effect that someone believed that burning fossil fuels was warming the planet...directly...by releasing chemical energy, rather than indirectly by way of the insulating effect of combustion by-products.

Can any one point to some study or calculation of the heating caused by burning some coal versus the heating resulting from the CO2 released by buring the coal?

If people believe that the burning itself causes the heating, it would lead them to believe that the only solution to global warming would be to essentially return to pre-industrial society. I can see that this would not be popular. Anyone have any insights as to how widespread this belief might be?

If it seems to be widespread, it seems worthy of addressing, not as a skeptic argument, but simply as a misconception. 





2010-08-30 15:35:28


KIR, see this: Waste heat versus global warming.

Short answer: AHF (anthropogenic heat flux) liberates about 1/100th the amount of heat trapped by C02 and knockon effects, 0.028W/m^2 versus 2.9W/m^2. Key ref is Flanner 2009, cited in John's writeup.

Follow the subsequent 230+ comments to see how stubbornly determined some folks are to avoid conceding this fact, a grim reminder of the ultimately intractable nature of some dead-enders.

2010-08-30 16:40:37My intermediate rebuttal
John Cook


Hmm, just looking back at my "intermediate" rebuttal on waste heat:


In hindsight, now we're doing multi-level rebuttals, this is really a Basic level rebuttal. So if anyone wants to have a crack at an Intermediate version of this (perhaps reading through the comments to the blog post to glean subtleties to the argument), they're very welcome to!