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Greenhouse warming 100 times greater than waste heat

What the science says...

The contribution of waste heat to the global climate is 0.028 W/m2. In contrast, the contribution from human greenhouse gases is 2.9 W/m2. Greenhouse warming is adding about 100 times more heat to our climate than waste heat.

Climate Myth...

It's waste heat

"Global warming is mostly due to heat production by human industry since the 1800s, from nuclear power and fossil fuels, better termed hydrocarbons, – coal, oil, natural gas. Greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2 play a minor role even though they are widely claimed the cause." (Morton Skorodin)

When humans use energy, it gives off heat. Whenever we burn fossil fuels, heat is emitted. This heat doesn't just disappear - it dissipates into our environment. How much does waste heat contribute to global warming? This has been calculated in Flanner 2009 (if you want to read the full paper, access details are posted here). Flanner contributes that the contribution of waste heat to the global climate is 0.028 W/m2. In contrast, the contribution from human greenhouse gases is 2.9 W/m2 (IPCC AR4 Section 2.1). Waste heat is about 1% of greenhouse warming.

Radiative forcing from waste heat vs anthropogenic greenhouse gas radiative forcing

What does these numbers mean? They refer to radiative forcing, the change in energy flux at the top of the atmosphere. Or putting it in plain English, the amount of heat being added to our climate. Greenhouse warming is currently adding about 100 times more heat to our climate than waste heat.

Last updated on 27 July 2010 by John Cook. View Archives

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Comments 201 to 204 out of 204:

  1. Bob Loblaw @200,
    The craziness engendered in this thesis set out in both Bian (2019) 'The Nature of Climate Change-equivalent Climate Change Model’s Application in Decoding the Root Cause of Global Warming' and Bian (2020) 'Waste heat: the dominating root cause of current global warming' is profound. Other than having access to more recent data, the second account sets out nothing new that I can see, and there is little point in spending much time examining such madness.
    I note the citations made by the second account (which are quite sparce) include two to SkS webpages, this one and 'What does past climate change tell us about global warming?'.
    So from this SkS webpage the author does appreciate that the global primary energy use amounts to just 1% of the positive forcings from AGW. Indeed, this disparity he considered too small as, in the universe inhabited by Qinghan Bian the energy employed in "useful work" is somehow swept from the planetary climate system and will not contribute to a planetary energy imbalance. Given the "perspective of thermodynamics" invoked at this point in the narrative, the blundersome efforts of Qinghan Bian seem to know no bounds.

    You point to the climate being modelled as having a pond-depth of ocean and a similar height of atmosphere. Adopting such nonsense allows temperature increases to be equated to global Primary Energy Use (bar the 20% that magically disappears in "useful work").
    The earlier account gives annual values for the energy employed heating the various components of the planet. Thus in 2017 there is 1,500Kj x 10^14 warming the ocean surface layer. The OHC measurements give the 0-2,000m warming for 2017 as a little low relative to earlier years, averaging out at 7.8Zj annual. So in Bian-money, that is 78,000Kj x 10^14.
    Some may consider this comparison a little unfair given ΔOHC is usually seen as being perhaps 80% of the heating resulting from AGW. This would put the total planetary on-going warming at some 100,000Kj x 10^14 which would compate with the 4,000Kj x 10^14 of Bian but only if the global temperature rise so far is ignored. The +1ºC extra planetary temperature which requires maintaining. If this AGW-delivered-so-far is also factored in, the extra energy flux out into space would be balancing 3.7Wm^-2 of forcing/feedback (and presumably with a ration of perhaps  1:2) giving a figure for the global forcing (20Zj  balanced forcing+ 10Zj imbalanced forcing still heating) at 300,000Kj x 10^14. So very roughly the 1% value of [Primary Energy Use]/[AGW] appears again.

  2. MA Rodger:

    You dug further than I had the time to do. I did look at the web page for the 2019 article, and I saw that is has information on the review. I did not take the time to examine the article or the reviews, but it may be entertaining to do so.

    I did look at the editorial board for Environmental Systems Research and did not see a single name I recognized, so it's hard to know what their background is.

    The International Journal of Environment and Climate Change is also an unkown entity. Searching Beall's List of Predatory Journals there are 690 hits for "International Journal of" and 4 hits for "International Journal of Environment", but "International Journal of Environment and Climate Change" is not on it. BIan's article from 2019 is listed as being in volume 9, and the journal seems to go back to 2011. The publisher (Science Domain International) is on Beall's list, though.

  3. Bob Loblaw @202,

    There is, of course, the old SkS favourite when debunking nonsense like this - the identification of curve fitting. The grand modelling exercise carried out by Bian runs 1965-2018 and shows a pretty constant increase in FF+nuclear Primary Energy and also in surface temperature.

    Look more closely and, of course are we are familiar with this, the surface temperature was flat for the first few years of this period and indeed was effectively flat 1940-1970. But FF+Nuclear Primary Energy was rising at a costant rate from 1950 with a far slower rise prior to that. So pre-1965 Bian's curve-fitting would be looking a lot less than a good fit.

    Global Priamry Energy

  4. Yes. Another give-away is the use of the term "equivalent climate change..." in front of each "boundary layer" term in the text I quoted.

    Equivalent to what?

    Equivalent to Finnegan's Finnagling Factor, or Cook's Constant, or less formally, the Fudge Factor - the ratio between what he really got and what he wanted to get.

    "If I put these totally unrealstic coefficients into my model and label them like something real, I can fit global temperatures."

    Tamino's blog is full of take-downs of this sort of curve-fitting.

    Of course, we true curve fitters know that the real explanation is Pirates.

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