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Friday, July 14, 2006

CADPI's solution to global warming

If the CO2 coming out the tailpipe needs to be taxed, then I see no reason to stop there. Anything that generates CO2 needs to be taxed, and we all know that every breath you take you are generating CO2.

My contribution to the debate would be to suggest less exercise and more laziness. At rest, the average breath expends one half liter of carbon dioxide whereas at full exercise the average breath might expend 3 to 4 liters of carbon dioxide.

A liter of carbon dioxide weighs approximately 0.001977 kilogram/liter. Therefore, if an individual exercises for thirty minutes and breathes at three times the normal rate of 14 to 18 breaths per minute this would translate to

30 minutes x 42 breaths x 3 liters CO2 x 0.001997 KG/L = 7.5 KG of CO2.

At rest, the same individual would expel

30 minutes x 18 breaths x 0.5 liters CO2 x 0.001997 KG/L = 0.419 KG of CO2.

Consider the 300 million people in the United States. If we assume approximately 20% are exercising 150 minutes per week, this exercise is expelling approximately

0.20 x 300 million x 5 x 7.5 KG of CO2 = 2.25 billion KG CO2.

If we did away with the exercise, these same 60 million people would only contribute 125.7 million KG CO2.

Each gallon of gasoline burned yields 19.8 pounds or 8.98 KG of carbon dioxide.

Hence, the exercise of just 20% of the U.S. population is the equivalent of 236,000,000 gallons of gasoline burned in the United States.

The United States consumes approximately 400 million gallons of gasoline a day. Therefore, if the 20 percent of the population who insists on exercising 150 minutes per week were to stop exercising, this would allow the rest of us to consume an additional one-half day's worth of gasoline.

My stop-exercise gains actually understate things because there are plenty of people who are exercising, say, thirty minutes or sixty minutes per week rather than the 150 minutes per week.

Moreover, if the rest of the world would simply quit exercising and breathing so hard we would have that much less carbon dioxide in the air and, more than likely, much less congestion on the roads.

Other gains could be had by ending all professional and college sports activities on the very serious grounds that they generate too much greenhouse gasses. Either ban the sports outright or tax the hell out of the activities.

Consider the following scenario:

Professional Football has approximately 60 plays per game with 22 men on the field at a given time, all of them going full out for a minute. The 22 players then put out 5.53 KG of CO2 per play. Let's say there are 60,000 people in the stadium and only 25% of them are yelling and screaming during any given play. I'll assume they are only putting out half of the full expiration of carbon dioxide. The fans in the stadium add another 1887.16 KG of CO2 per play. Over the course of the 60 play game, this is another 113,561 KG of CO2 per NFL game. There are sixteen weeks of 15 games per week - therefore the NFL season (not counting the post season where there is arguably more yelling and more CO2 being expended) adds up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 27,254,640 KG of CO2. I admit that I have not taken into consideration the additional heavy breathing that might be attributed to the cheerleaders or any wardrobe accidents during half times.

The NFL season is therefore approximately 3,035,037 million gallons of gasoline. That doesn't sound like much, but then again there are lots of different professional and collegiate sports. If we did away with them all, we might get close to another day's worth of gasoline burning. Plus, as many would agree, sports is a waste of time and society would be better off considering the merits of Nietzsche and the literature of Pearl Buck than watching the Jets or the 49ers.

Of course, this is tounge-in-cheek, but I wonder why someone else hasn't offered the same solution. Unless there is something fundamentally different about the CO2 coming out of the tailpipe and the CO2 coming out of my nose (chemistry is chemistry, no?), then this partial solution to the global warming issue should be welcomed.

I think your numbers need to be revised a bit. When someone exhales, it is not 100% CO2 that comes out. I think it's about 3%. My own guestimates for my bicycle commute say that I generate about 12g/km vs 130g/km when I drive. It's still a lot of CO2 from a stadium of people watching a football game, though!
I question some of the figures you use. I ran across this page, which mentions a USDA study finding that the average person exhales 445 liters per day of carbon dioxide:


Using your conversion factor of 0.001977 Kg/L (which you subsequently mistyped as 0.001997), this is equivalent to 0.880 Kg/day of CO2.

I think I see the error in your calculation. Your source does not actually say that the average breath expels a half liter of carbon dioxide. It says that the tidal volume is .5L. My source states that a human's breath contains 5% CO2 (probably due to the limited oxygen content of the air, the inefficiency of the lung, and other factors), while you appear to be assuming 100%.

-A human's respiration produces an average of 0.880 Kg/day of CO2.
-The burning of a gallon of gasoline produces 8.98 Kg of CO2.

If every human breathed the average measured in the USDA study, and if every human were responsible for the equivalent of 1 gallon of gasoline per day in fossil fuel combustion, then fossil fuel combustion would be responsible for 9 times as much carbon dioxide emission as human respiration.
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