Thursday, March 30, 2006

Hey, who turned up heat?

Despite what the president of the United States and others outside the scientific community say, the Earth is getting warmer and there's scientific proof to back it up. If you think it's not, you're probably one of those that still believes the world is flat.

Everyday around the world stored energy in the form of fossil fuels, gases, oils, and radioactive materials are being used to generate electricity, move our cars, heat and cool our buildings, and power everything else you can imagine. All of these forms of stored energy release heat. Some additionally release carbon dioxide gas and other greenhouse gases that trap heat. All of that heat has to go somewhere.

If you remember back to your school science class you might remember something about the laws of thermodynamics. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The second law of thermodynamics states that in all energy exchanges, if no energy enters or leaves the system, the potential energy of the state will always be less than that of the initial state. This loss of energy dissipates as heat.

This second law of thermodynamics is the most relevant when we discuss global warming because it means that anytime you transfer energy from one form to another, such as conversion of gas to the motion of your car, some of that energy is lost in the form of heat. Over the years the amount of energy that we have been releasing through the use of more and more cars and more and more machines has led to the release of a vast amount of heat energy.

Lucky for us the earth has it's own air conditioning system. It's called the great ocean conveyor belt and I wrote about it in one of previous blogs. The problem is not that the air conditioner is broken. The problem is it's overwhelmed just like when you leave your shades up during a hot summer day.

So what's the point of all this? The point is global warming is real and getting much worse. We need to come up with solutions now to reduce the amount of our heat emissions and greenhouse gases before it's too late.