Human heat generation and global warming

A few months back I wrote a piece on noise pollution and pondered how much quieter the world would generally be if every combustion engine was turned off. I still wonder if in really remote locations whether the sounds of man are still prevalent, but we’ve just grown so used to them that it’s “silent” to us. How quiet were these places 300 years ago?

Thinking more on combustion engines, actually, in relation to a lot of human activity, it dawned on me the amount of heat we  generate in our various pursuits must be quite significant when thinking globally. For starters, there’s 6.6 billion of us on the planet now – that’s a lot of body heat in itself. Combustion engines generate a stack of it as well, as do power plants, our electrical appliances, general heating and cooking, smelting, forest fires etc. etc. etc.

Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect whereby carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap the sun’s heat in our atmosphere; causing the planet to warm.

Could all this extra heat we produce, not just the level now but increasing amounts in the future, be an extra wildcard in global warming and perhaps accelerate temperature increases even more? Has this been factored into projections when estimating temperature rises in the future?

Our atmosphere is incredibly thin when compared to the planet. I’ve read it being likened to a thin layer of lacquer on a billiard ball. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year we’re cranking not just greenhouse gases, but heat into the atmosphere.

– 35 million cars are added to our roads each year
– Hundreds of new coal-fired power plants begin operations annually
– Countless millions of new heat generating devices are produced and used
– Hundreds of thousands of new factories start production each year

And that’s only barely scratching the surface of anthropogenic (human activity) related heat sources.

The mind boggles. It makes me think of the situation being a little bit like a pressure cooker, with greenhouse gases being the lid and the flame under the cooker our activity; and we’re gradually turning up the dial. Pressure cooker is probably an exaggeration – a crock pot is probably closer to the mark; slower, but with the same end result.

Planet Earth Casserole anyone?