Global Warming and that 2nd Law

I was resting and suddenly the 2nd law of thermodynamics came into my mind.  As is my wont I had to go to Google to clarify this law – to make it comprehensible to a non-scientific mind. Really it is quite simple.

If I set light to my bonfire it will rage with a fierce heat and then it will subside and eventually even the ashes will go cold. But why is that? Why does the fire simply not get hotter and hotter? Well, we all know the answer without even knowing the Physics. We all know that heat travels from hot to cold, but cold never travels spontaneously from cold to hot. It is as simple as that.

If I plug in my electric iron and throw the switch the resistance to the current will make the iron hot. If I switch the current off, does the iron get hotter and hotter? Of course, not! Any simpleton knows that. But why not? Why does it not get hotter and hotter and reach a tipping point? And get so hot that everything melts? But it does not happen – the iron gradually cools.

If I fill my electric kettle full of water and switch it on, it will take less then 4 minutes to come to the boil, when it will switch itself off. The kettle and the water will gradually cool down, the water retaining its heat for a long time. But it will cool, and it will cool by the 2nd law of thermodynamics.

The Flying Scotsman used to run between London and Edinburgh non-stop within 8 hours. How did it do this? It had a tender containing 9 tons of coal, and a special corridor to allow for a relief driver and fireman. You may imagine that poor fireman shovelling coal non-stop perhaps for 4 hours, before getting relief. Without the coal the fire would have died down and insufficient steam would have been produced. The heat was only maintained by the continuous addition of fuel.

We humans are also combustion units. We need sufficient oxygen in order to process the fuel we continually imbibe and eat. Without food and oxygen the fire would soon go out and we would be cold and stiff.

Once we understand this principle it is really quite frightening. Even a nuclear power station only has a life of 25 years. What about the sun?  An awful thought came to me and I had recourse to Google once again.  If combustion depends upon sufficient fuel, then will the sun itself burn out over the course of time?

The answer is Yes! In about 5 to 7 billion years the sun will have run out of its fuel and it will burn out. The exact scenario will doubtless be dramatic. After all the sun is a star and it is subject to the same laws of Physics.

Where does that leave us? Where does that leave us in respect of Global Warming? Well, the answer is simple – there is no such thing as Global Warming. There is only Global Cooling by the inexorable laws of Physics.

In fact we all know this. We all know that we on this Planet Earth are kept alive by that huge fireball in the sky. We do not have to be a scientist to feel the warmth of the sun as it rises in the morning. This huge boiler in the sky gradually heats us up as the Earth spins round. As night falls the Earth cools on that side farthest from the sun. The amount of heat that is received depends upon the angle of the Earth to the Sun. So we know that the tropics enjoy most of the heat, the temperate climes a fair amount in the summer months, and the Poles remain pretty cold year in and year out.

What else do we know?  We know that it is by a divine providence that we are at just about the right distance from the sun and with sufficient mass. We know also that we have an atmosphere; an envelope of gases, and this enables us and all life, animal and vegetable, to exist on the Planet. We know that 99% of the atmosphere is composed of Nitrogen and Oxygen, but a crucial 1% is composed of what are called the Greenhouse Gases – mostly Water Vapour 95% and tiny amounts of Carbon Dioxide, Methane and other minor trace gases.

Why are they crucial? Without these gases we would all fry by day and freeze by night. In fact that is well illustrated by those very dry regions like Morocco. The absence of water vapour means that they suffer extremes of heat by day, and extreme cold by night. One does not have to be a scientist to experience this. Neither does one have to be a scientist to experience the hot nights of Jakarta on account of the extreme humidity. Water vapour delays the exit of the sun’s heat from the Planet.

Let me ask you a simple question, or rather let me ask myself a simple question. If by some freak of nature, if by chance we were knocked off course by a comet and the sun did not rise, would the Greenhouse gases by themselves make us hotter? Would they keep the world warm?

You know the answer, and I know the answer. The gases in the atmosphere do not heat anything. The atmosphere only warms up from the heat of the sun, as do the waters of the oceans. Without the mighty sun we would get gradually colder and colder.

There is no such thing as Global Warming!!! There is only Global Cooling.

Anthony Bright-Paul

March 30th 2010

The Clausius Statement:

Heat generally cannot flow spontaneously from a material at lower temperature to a material at higher temperature.


Global cooling was a conjecture during the 1970s of imminent cooling of the Earth’s surface and atmosphere along with a posited commencement of glaciation. This hypothesis had mixed support in the scientific community, but gained temporary popular attention due to a combination of press reports that did not accurately reflect the scientific understanding of ice age cycles, and a slight downward trend of temperatures from the 1940s to the early 1970s. In contrast to the global cooling conjecture, the current scientific opinion on climate change is that the Earth has not durably cooled, but undergone global warming throughout the twentieth century.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. says

    I completely agree with you whatever you have tried to deliver by this post. i m very much familiar with energy consumption concepts.
    Thanks for sharing this valuable information with us by this post.

  2. says

    Today’s technology is changing and we should be careful about what we are teaching to the young generation. Don’t make a silly mistake when teaching a student about siphoning petrol from a car and transferring that petrol into a can and at the end tell him this was due to gravity.
    I am very much corncerned with GRAVITY for according to my research i have found that any body teaching about gravity is misleading both students and the world as a whole.

  3. says

    I do agree with what you have written to me. What i know is that energy comes from the sun; the type of grain you eat has energy in it and it got that energy from the sun. The fuel we use for fueling our cars has energy stored in it in form of chemical energy ( a potential type energy). This energy came from the sun and stored in fuel in form of chemical energy. To extract this energy from fuel addition of heat is required. The results is that Chemical Energy + Heat energy= Mechanical Energy which results into Mechanical Work.
    The question to do with flow of heat to the surrounding thermodynamically can will depend on the source of the heat. Do not tell me that small fire is the same as a big fire. There is no need of jumping into the fire but let the surrounding warm you. In this case the sorrounding is the air.

  4. says

    I grew up in West Texas way back in the 40s through the 60s and weather was as unpredictable as anything on earth. We went from 120 degrees to 40 degrees in a matter of a few hours. I once was surveying for a new highway in the heat of the summer with my shirt off and steaming hot. All of a sudden a cold front blew in and I nearly froze to death just trying to reach the van for shielding. In my life I have seen the weather do crazy things and I must say to Hell with the scientific side of me (former university administrator), I do not think we really have any edge on Global Warming, or Global Cooling from one sequence to the next. It will be exactly what it wants to be and I have never seen anyone but an Indian predict the weather and he was drunk. I have no confidence in anyone who is official anymore. I have been fooled enough. Get out of my face.

    Ron O.

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