Burning a billion years of sunlight

Dr Andrew Glickson has released a paper and a book on this topic
Dr Andrew Glickson has released a paper and a book on this topic

A new paper, released last month, measures the impact of burning fossil fuels on a geological timeframe.

Doctor Andrew Glickson’s paper, Fire and Human Evolution, measures the amount of energy, carbon and oxygen stored or created by plants in early geological ages and its rate of release throughout human history.

“Human respiration dissipates 2 to 10 calories per minute, a camp fire covering one square metre releases approximately 180,000 Calories per minute, and the output of a 1000 megawatt/hour power plant expends some 2.4 billion calories per minute, namely some 500 million times the mean energy level of individual human respiration.”

It breaks the era of human intervention in the Earth’s systems (the Anthropocene) into three distinct phases.

  1. Early Anthropocene” ∼2 million years ago, when fire was discovered by Homo ergaster.
  2. Middle Anthropocene” when extensive grain farming developed.
  3. Late Anthropocene” with the onset of combustion of fossil fuels.

Glickson concludes that the discovery of fire leads directly to the consequence of runaway climate change.

“ It would take a species possessing absolute wisdom and total control to prevent its own inventions from getting out of hand.”

This provides academic rigour for the simple contention that by burning a billion years of sunlight in a little over a century we are inevitably going to warm the earth enough to lead to climate chaos.