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Heat Engines got us into Climate Change's hot water.
- Why we manufactured and are running as many as 2 billion heat engines.
Mechanical energy from horses, windmills, and waterwheels simply are not sufficient anymore.
Only heat engines provide as much mechanical energy, i.e., work, as needed, when it is needed, for as long as it is needed.
Mechanical energy made from heat first began to replace wind, waterwheels, draft animal energy, and human slave energy over 300 years ago. Thomas Newcomen invented and built the first steam engine in 1712.
While that first steam engine delivered the power, in many respects it was
(Newcomen steam engine animation at right from Wikipedia.)
About 70 years later, in 1781, James Watt patented a far more efficient steam engine that produced continuous rotative motion. This machine could replace water wheels, windmills, etc., and soon led to the invention of railroad locomotives which brought the age of steam to every corner of the world. Later, horses were replaced by the mobile internal combustion engine. All this new energy from coal, oil, and heating gas ultimately enabled the building and powering of the industrial and economic world as we know it today
Machines amplify greatly the work a single man can do. The steam engine made horses and slaves obsolete. The song "John Henry" was about machines outperforming horses and humans. The steam engine made the Bible's paradigm of slavery obsolete.
Combustion of fossil fuels - mostly coal - has been the only way to power industrial heat engines until the relatively recent advent of obtaining heat from nuclear fission.
Like that first steam engine, while nuclear delivers the power, in many respects today's water cooled nuclear reactor is grossly unsatisfactory.
Today, after about 70 years, that first generation of commercial nuclear reactors - the massive water cooled reactor - has entered the dawn of its obsolescence, soon to be replaced by molten salt cooled nuclear power.
What Heat Engines Did For and To The Human Race
The dramatic increase in the world's population came largely as a result of having heat engines rather than horses, wind, sails, and waterwheels do much of life's labors. (Left)
5 billion people use heat engines to grow food, transport, and comfortably shelter themselves. This has resulted in increased life expectancies. (Example: Japan, 84.6 years.)
2 billion people are not able to take advantage of heat engines. Their average life span is short. (Example: Central African Republic, 48.5 years.)
It has been speculated that there is a heat engine or a fire for every two humans on earth. That would mean perhaps as many as 4 billion fires. It is understandable that this number of fires, burning more or less continuously, would add a substantial amount of fire's major combustion product, carbon dioxide gas (CO2), to the air.
Some industrial fires such as power plants - can be massive and burn several 100-car coal trains every day for many years.
The fires in the heat engines of electricity power plants can be thousands of times larger than the fires found in residential heating furnaces.
It so happens fire's carbon dioxide emissions are also one of Planet Earth's major thermostat gasses, controlling how much heat the planet obtains from the sun.
The graph at right shows how the large numbers of fire powered heat engines have changed the air over the last 200 years. If the CO2 is not removed from the air with air scrubbers, these changes will persist for thousands of years.
Even small changes in temperature pose a big threat to our food supply.
Heat Engines make most of Climate Change.
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