Johann Becher in 1669 described the phenomenon of burning, now called oxidation, as caused by liberation of ‘phlogiston’ from combustible substances. The theory was accepted by scientists and at the beginning of the 18th century, Stahl extended it to include corrosion of metals. By today’s standards of objectivity, ‘phlogiston’ was an imaginary substance with magical properties.
A movie An Inconvenient Truth (2006) declared that the Earth is being heated by the action of ‘greenhouse gases’, mostly carbon dioxide. The theory has dominated climate science’s observation of and explanation for global warming ever since.
Measurements by Lavoisier recognized and named oxygen (1778) and hydrogen (1783). Priestley (1733-1804) also claimed discovering oxygen (1774). Joseph Black first identified carbon dioxide in the 1750s. There was no evidence corroborating phlogiston and Lavoisier’s account of combustion has gradually replaced the phlogiston theory.
Warming of 99.96% of Earth’s atmosphere by the 0.05% of greenhouse gases, enough to increase its temperature, has not been corroborated, as far as I know. There are alternative theories of global warming. I have published, in my satirical novel Animal Farm 2, an explanation of warming by thermal pollution, which is simpler. There are other theories and more than one may apply.
It remains to be seen whether the greenhouse gases theory will survive any better than the phlogiston theory has.
Animal Farm 2 is a fiction novel that sequels and updates George Orwell’s Animal Farm. The animals’ commune continues under totalitarian pig rule. The animals are employed to mine coal discovered on the farm for a power station. The animals learn climate science when global warming is associated with pollution and they discover that heat and water emissions from all sources are more culpable than carbon dioxide from their coal.
Guided by logic and science they plan to liberate their farm from pig and human control. The story is a satire that satirizes politics and some theories of climate science.
Energy was rationed in war-time to conserve scarce supplies. Less severe scarcity was dealt with by allowing the price to rise. A person’s energy consumption was mostly unregulated, without limits on demand.
The Paris Agreement in 2016 . . .
‘. . . set out a global framework signed by 192 nations to avoid dangerous climate change with a long-term goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels; to aim to limit the increase to 1.5°C, since this would significantly reduce risks and the impacts of climate change; the need for global emissions to peak as soon as possible, recognising that this will take longer for developing countries; to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with the best available science, so as to achieve a balance between emissions and containment in the second half of the century.’
Under this agreement, nations ‘volunteered’ to limit emission levels. A small number of nations emit most of the emissions and these high emitters would observe the same growth limits as low emitters. Nations causing most warming would have the same proportional restriction as those causing least.
The focus on so-called greenhouse gases, having warming qualities which are hypothetical, are associated with energy emissions from combustion, either by direct release in combustion or indirectly from intermediate products such as electricity, during and after use. Thermal energy emissions are more significant but not included.
The burden of emissions reduction would fall on developed nations with the highest per capita electricity consumption, with self-indulgent demand such as for air conditioning, whereas poor nations might possibly have no electricity connected and need the growth desperately? In developed countries, most energy is consumed as electricity and petrol.
In a developed country, the restriction of emissions growth could conceivably limit the use of a third family car, whereas in an undeveloped country, a carless family could have use of its washing machine limited, requiring more manual labour. Is this an equitable difference?
There is no precedent for the limitation by The Paris Agreement, of demand for energy, or any commodity, in order to make a contribution to reducing universal external costs of climate change. It is an unprecedented restriction of energy growth with disproportionate effect on developing countries. At best, it is a bold attempt to rein in emissions growth but heavily weighted against low energy users who need that growth to develop.
At worst, the regulation of emissions limits standards of living, because emissions are associated with combustion and energy consumption, as is the standard of living.
Do people have a right to limitless energy consumption, as they do to oxygen from the air? Per capita emissions in developed nations are much larger than in undeveloped nations who would be cutback proportionally. Could the developed nations cutback their emissions without preventing developing countries attaining a similar standard of energy use? Could emissions cuts depend on emissions, in the same way that income tax rates depend on income. Emitters should have to suffer greater cuts proportional to their high energy use. High polluters should have to compensate low polluters.
An energy consumption tax is needed, whose function is to penalize high personal consumption of high-emission energy and subsidise low consumption, low-emission energy.
If you agree, tell your politician.
My other writing on growth, energy and rights is at https://martinknox.com
Suppose countries’ heat energy inputs to the environment would be proportional to their electricity consumption. This is shown for a selection of countries in the table on a per capita basis. Their growth in electricity consumption is given over the past 35 years. Would the fairest way be to 1) assign cuts in electricity consumption to get an equal percentage reduction in per capita consumption or 2) for high consumers to pay compensation to low consumers? My purpose is to demonstrate thermal pollution can be fairly assigned by arbitrary reduction of growth in per capita electricity consumption.
Source: ourworldindata.org My writing on growth is at https://martinknox.com