The current "consensus" is that climate change - what used to be known as Global Warming, until it was found that the globe, in fact, was not warming - is a result of man. Our use of fossil fuels is the problem. Our use of electricity via hydro/wind/solar is the problem. Our mere existence is the problem. As Dave Forman, founder of Earth First! states: Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental. Or, a Pogo put it, we have met the enemy and he is us .
So I got to thinking. I took a stroll outside one day, and as I leaned back in the grass, a bright idea popped into my head. Maybe the Sun, that Mr. Fusion in the sky, is really the source of the problem?
So I went looking, and lo and behold found out this little nugget: the Sun's output has increased by 0.05% per decade since the late 1970s.
Now, that may not sound like a lot; in fact, a 0.05% change is downright tiny! But being the engineer that I am, and having some free time with my ancient-but-functional HP28S calculator, I started to figure out some numbers (follow along with the RPN calculations).
For starters, how much output does the Sun really give to the Earth? Well, apparently the Sun puts out about 1400W per square meter here on this ball we call home. Meaning an increase of 0.05% per decade amounts to (1400 0.05 100 / *) 0.7W per square meter additional over that decade. Not much, eh?
Well, let's see what that is when spread over the entire Earth. How big is that? Well, the surface are of the Earth is about 510 million square kilometers. But of course we DO have night, so that at any time half of that is radiated by the sun. Meaning we have (510 2
So, we have 1 million square meters per square kilometer. And we have 0.7W more output per decade per square meter. Meaning we have (0.7 1000 1000 * *) 700 kW more output per square kilometer per decade. Note that this is about the same as 700 US households. Or to use a more interesting reference, about 35 Goreholds.
Now, take that 0.7 MW of power increase per square kilometer, and multiply it by the 255 million square kilometers illuminated by the sun. We end up with (0.7 1000000 255 1000000 * * *) about 1.8 million Mega Watts of additional power; this is actually 1.8 Tera Watts of power, a rather rarely used prefix for a REALLY BIG NUMBER. For those in the Pacific Northwest, this is about 285 Grand Coulee Dams (with the dam doing 6300 MW peak output). That's a LOT of extra power.
And of course, that increase has happened for the last three decades, meaning that what we're receiving now is about 5.4 Tera Watts more power than we received in the late 1970s. Suddenly that little 0.05% change doesn't seem so innocuous, does it?
But how does that shape up compared to what the Evil Homo sapiens do? Surely we're a LOT worse! I mean, 5.4 TW is a lot of power, so how do we rate? Well, apparently not as good... Even with 6 billion of us doing our thing, we only consumed an average of 1.7 TW of power in 2001, meaning we're about 30% of what the Sun puts out. Oh, and that's TOTAL ELECTRICAL USAGE of the WORLD.
So apparently the Sun's small increase just over the last three decades has more than TRIPLED the total power delivered to the Earth than the evil Mankind uses. And note that there was considerable electrical usage prior to 1975 as well, so our actual increase since 1975 is a LOT less than what the Sun's done.
So leaning back on the grass as the warm rays of the Mr. Fusion in the sky fell on my pasty white skin (I am an engineer, after all), it became pretty clear to me. I guess we can argue about the CO2 belching cars or volcanoes or the number of termite farts, be my guest, but me? I think I'll just sit here and enjoy the extra output from the Sun right now and feel a little bit more at ease knowing that, barring some evil billionaire's attempts to block out the sun, it's that Mr. Fusion up there, and there's not much we can do about it.