James Hansen Interview: Tar Sands, Jail – and the Energy Imbalance

September 2, 2011

James Hansen makes the point that the planet is in an energy imbalance of about 3/4 of a watt per square meter, planet wide.

I asked some very competent scientists to break that down for me in understandable terms. Here are some answers.


3/4 W / m2 = 382 terawatts globally

 A typical space heater puts out about 1500 W of heat.

This is equivalent to running 36 space heaters for every man, woman, and child on Earth (all 7 billion of us).

Those 250 billion space heaters would just be capable of warming the Earth at the same rate that the excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are warming us.


0.75 * 5 * 1014 = 3.8 * 1014  = 380 * 1012  = 380 TW (terawatts)

380,000 GW =

380,000,000 MW =

380,000,000,000 KW =

380 billion 1000W hairdryers, 24/7; about 55 hairdryers per person for all 7 billion humans.

2 Responses to “James Hansen Interview: Tar Sands, Jail – and the Energy Imbalance”

  1. otter17 Says:

    I wish we knew the aerosol dimming portion of the net forcing more accurately. The prospect that the net forcing could increase by 3x if the global dimming effect were removed scares the hell out of me. I sincerely hope Sophie’s guess is right and Connor’s is wrong.

  2. […] James Hansen Interview: Tar Sands, Jail – and the Energy Imbalance […]

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