Domestic Cooling

December, 2010

Contents List:

Personal Comfort
Home Improvements and Economies
Lessons Learnt
My Future Prospects
Political Misdirection
Climatological Terrors
Our Collective Future

Return to:

World Views
Ardue Site Plan

See also:

"Climate Change"
Global Warming
Looking Backwards and Forwards
CO2 Science

Personal Comfort

In direct contradiction to current political propaganda about "global warming", one of my most pressing personal concerns is "domestic cooling". During normal waking hours, my wife and I like the temperature of the air inside our house to be near 20 deg. C. because, like most people I know, we like to keep comfortably warm. If the body gets too cold, it dies of hypothermia. My body is now too old to be of much use to third parties merely as a body: but after long and varied experience allied to a mind which seems to have lost little of its pragmatic reasoning powers, I flatter myself that I can still be of use as some sort of mini-sage. Hence I want to keep warm for a little longer.

As I write these words on 19 December, the temperature of the air outside is about -6 deg. C.; there is is a 5-inch layer of snow on the ground; and, despite all my efforts to reduce the rate of heat loss to the atmosphere, the dials on our gas and electricity meters keep turning too rapidly for financial comfort.

Our main source of heat is a gas-fired central heating system which also supplies domestic hot water. We have a fridge-freezer for extending the life of perishable foods. This is kept in an otherwise unheated annexe to the kitchen to make its task "easier": the freezer itself emits a little heat because of the electricity it uses, and the heat it extracts from its contents has to go somewhere.

I can cope with rare summer "heatwaves" which do not normally require much cooling beyond opening windows; but maintaining something close to 20 deg. C. during most of the year requires artificial heating. Despite all the fuss about "greenhouse gases", the carbon dioxide which my wife and I and our visitors habitually breathe into the house makes no measurable contribution to keeping us warm.

Home Improvements and Economies

In an effort to keep the cost of house-warming bearable without succumbing to unbearable cold, I have in the last two years installed:

Despite a small grant under the Government's "Warm Front" scheme and the Old Age Pensioners' "winter fuel allowance" (the last of which seems contrary to the Government's declared desire to "combat global warming" or to "reduce emissions of 'greenhouse' gases") I should not have been able to effect the above improvements unless I had previously saved enough capital to cover the cost. Although it is doubtful if I shall live long enough to recover all of the outlay through reduced expenditure on gas and electricity, I shall at least leave to the world a more energy-efficient house than that which I purchased 41 years ago.

In addition to the work listed above, I have also investigated the potential value of installing solar water-heating and electricity-generating devices on the roof, but have decided against doing so because I doubt the cost-effectiveness of current state-of-the-art devices.

I also have an 11-year-old car which seldom leaves the garage because of the high cost of fuel — which is due more to taxation than to the combined costs of production, refining, storage, and delivery. I therefore use the car only for occasional shopping and on occasions when its use can help neighbours or family members out of a difficulty.

I must emphasise that in all these things, my object is only to keep my home warm and to maintain a satisfactory standard of living as economically as possible. I give no thought to "emissions" of illusory "greenhouse gases" or to notional "carbon footprints".

As a consequence of adopting this pragmatic attitude, I have learned a few lessons which I am happy to pass on.

Lessons Learnt

  1. Have a very clear idea of what you wish to achieve.
  2. Do your homework, using the Internet and/or whatever other sources of information or advice may be available to you. Apply your own common sense to assess the cost-effectiveness of every means that may be suggested to you.
  3. Bear in mind that when any fad becomes sufficiently "fashionable" to be adopted by politicians, there will be no shortage of "savvy" entrepreneurs to take advantage of political approval by charging unreasonably high prices for devices which may not yet have been sufficiently tested in severe operational conditions.
  4. While "belt-and-braces" solutions may be attractive from the point of view of reducing exposure to failure of any one source of supply, "hybrid" combinations harnessing different forms of energy may give rise to technical and contractual problems unless they are foreseen and guarded against.
  5. If you must borrow to cover the cost, remember that every pound you borrow limits your freedom to do your own thing, and you will thenceforward have to keep going cap-in-hand to some third party until you have saved up enough personal capital to spend as you wish.
  6. When you have decided on a course of action, use local contractors to do the work: they have a vested interest in sustaining a good reputation and obtaining enthusiastic reports from local customers.
  7. Be aware that national energy suppliers enhance their profits by selling equipment and maintenance contracts, and that the sub-contractors they use to do the actual installation and maintenance work may be drawn from far and wide. They may then treat your home and property as just another temporary "workplace" in which your presence is a nuisance.

My Future Prospects

The financial cost of both gas and electricity has been rising rapidly, if erratically, in recent years, and I have every expectation that it will continue to do so as world supplies dwindle while demand grows because of the continuing world population explosion. The drying up of the oil will probably trigger a much-needed collapse in the human population of Planet Earth.

I see no prospect that global warming will come to my aid before I leave my present body. Indeed, I foresee a long period of domestic cooling when hardly anyone in the colder parts of the world can any longer afford to pay for burning the fossil fuels which produce carbon dioxide as an inescapable consequence of their combustion. I cannot understand why some "scientists" suppose, or pretend to suppose, that carbon dioxide is a cause of heating rather than an effect.

Political Misdirection

Earlier this week, BBC TV ran a series of three broadcasts under the heading Earth: the Climate Wars. The first programme, entitled The Battle Begins, contained two examples of blatant misdirection with regard to what they call "climate change".

  1. A graph was presented to show the annual variation in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the lower atmosphere as measured at some location I don't now recall. The graph showed an overall increase from about 315 parts per million to about 386 parts per million between 1950 and 2008. I have no quarrel with the figures.

    The origin chosen for the graph was at 310 parts per million for 1950. This serves to highlight the magnitude of the annual variation and the overall rise: but it conceals the part of the graph between 0 and 310 parts per million. I accept that to draw both parts on the same scale would compress the graph into the upper quarter of the paper; but cutting off the bottom three-quarters does tend to exaggerate the magnitude of the rise in concentration in the mind of the unthinking reader. Even in 2009, there is very very little carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by comparison with the 780,000 parts per million of nitrogen and the 210,000 parts per million of oxygen. To make a fair graphical representation of the whole atmosphere on the scale used for carbon dioxide would require a sheet of paper as long as a roll of wallpaper. We should also remember that it is the oxygen in the atmosphere that enables us to burn hydrocarbons in our boilers and carbohydrates in our bodies to keep our blood warm.

  2. Later on, the presenter used a thermal imaging device to picture the heat rising from a candle burning in a glass tube. He then opened a flask of carbon dioxide over the tube, and the thermal imager showed how the heat given off by the candle diminished until the candle went out altogether. The accompanying commentary used phrases suggesting that the carbon dioxide "effectively trapped the heat"; that the heat had been "absorbed by the carbon dioxide inside the tube"; and that "the more carbon dioxide was used, the more heat was trapped".

    What actually happened would have been much better explained as follows:

    Carbon dioxide is much heavier than air and therefore tends to concentrate low down in the atmosphere. It has long been used as a fire-extinguisher because it displaces the oxygen which makes burning possible. As the oxygen is effectively removed fron the vicinity of the fire, the fire goes out because the candle flame is suffocated. Sure, the carbon dioxide warms up — as would anything else placed near a flame; but that is in this case an effect, not a cause. We should also notice that the local concentration of carbon dioxide achieved in the TV experiment was incomparably higher than the mere trace contained in the normal atmosphere.

    Carbon dioxide is particularly effective as a fire extinguisher in confined areas where there is a risk from flammable liquids. As it is non-toxic and leaves no residue, it will not harm food, fabrics, machinery, or electrical equipment.

Neither of these examples of misdirection would have misled anyone who had been properly educated in elementary mathematics and science. It is a most regrettable fact that after decades of politically controlled schooling, the UK has been left with a preponderance of mathematical and scientific innocents.

Climatological Terrors

I pass over the second of the BBC series. The third, entitled Fight for the Future, drew attention to the use of computer models which attempt to predict the effects of major climatological changes. The program made much of one "successful" attempt to model the broadscale effects of the Mount Pinatubo, Philippines, eruption of April, 1991. My immediate reactions to this were:

  1. "one swallow doesn't make a summer", and
  2. a volcanic eruption that violently projects millions of tons of gaseous and particulate matter into the upper atmosphere, preventing the Sun's rays from reaching large tracts of the Earth's surface and thus having a marked cooling effect, has little in common with a gradual release of hot gaseous products of combustion into the air near the ground and thus producing a warming effect.
I confess to being extremely sceptical about the value of computer-aided long-range climate modelling. Despite sixty years' worth of fairly good data, the reliability of local weather forecasting diminishes almost to zero beyond about one week. The strong possibility that the theory underlying the models is less than perfect should also give us pause before we act prematurely on the utterances of prophets of doom who spread rumours of forthcoming climatic calamities.

A current favourite scenario is that water from melting glaciers and polar ice gaps will cause sea levels everywhere to rise.

There are three incontrovertible natural facts that would tend to reduce such a rise:

  1. Water expands when it freezes. Liquid water is therefore less "bulky" than ice.
  2. If the atmosphere warms, a larger amount of water will be held in the air in the form of water vapour.
  3. Some of the water will occupy the spaces in the Earth's crust vacated by the extraction of fossil fuels and mineral ores.
I doubt very much if current climatological models are able accurately to incorporate all of these and other complexities,

A personal anecdote may help us here. I was born in a crofter's cottage just a few feet above the normal high-water mark on a promontory of the NorthWest Highlands of Scotland in April, 1933. I have often heard it repeated that the time of my birth coincided with an unusually high spring tide. The sea was lapping around the doorstep, and those attending my mother's labour had to wade through it. When my father could afford it, we moved to a better house on higher ground.

After nearly 80 years of presumed "global warming", one might reasonably suppose that the cottage in which I was born would long since have been left to the mercy of the sea. Nevertheless, when I went back to my birthplace earlier this year, not only was the cottage still standing but no-one currently living in the village could recall a repetition of such a high tide.

Our Collective Future

A solitary instance like the above may not bring much comfort to the inhabitants of Bangla Desh, the Maldive Islands, or even the low-lying Thames Estuary (which has somehow been chosen as the venue for the 2012 Olympic Games). Nevertheless, they should not allow themselves to be persuaded to cataclysmic conclusions and anticipate disasters which may not happen.

Even if parcels of land have to be evacuated, many evacuations have for various reasons taken place in the history of humanity, and the initial pain has in many cases turned to previously unimagined prosperity.

However, the present is not a good time to think of evacuating unless and until it becomes mandatory. Sheer pressure of population is currently producing an unprecedented rate of migration, and there are few remaining habitable locations which are not already uncomfortably full. When the oil finally runs out, these presently habitable locations shall surely shrink in number and size.

Even in the best of all possible worlds, we know without any computer modelling that all our present bodies will eventually have to make room for new ones. If we can surmount our tendency to identify only with our bodies, we may reasonably expect the essence of our personalities (or, to use an old-fashioned term, our souls) to appear in other bodies in new circumstances and with fresh problems to solve.

If we can learn to trust in ourselves and in The Absolute or whatever we recognise as "God", we can confidently disregard the utterances of the "princes of this world" who have just spent two weeks arguing with each other to little purpose in Copenhagen. We might reasonably conclude that the dire pictures they paint are designed mainly to frighten us into paying ever higher taxes to swell their sense of self-importance.

Should we not begin to teach politicians that even compulsory taxes are not inevitable if we can muster enough collective resistance to them?