World of Thermo… Story 10…Arrhenius

Story 10                                    Arrhenius

As much as Carbo was encouraged by what he saw the humans doing with oil and automobiles, he soon discovered that not every human was blind to the effects of excess carbon dioxide. In the late 1890s Carbo got this information from an unlikely source: two recently released carbon dioxide molecules who called themselves Roasty and Toasty. Carbo tried to see them as friends and equals, but in fact they were more like minions. That’s because the pair, like most of the trillions of carbon dioxide molecules that had been released in the atmosphere, were not what you would call smart. But in them Carbo saw a willingness to do his dirty work for him, spying on humans and helping them create more machinery fueled by oil and coal. Though blundering and unskilled in most areas, Toasty had the uncanny ability to read human minds, though admittedly, he didn’t usually understand what he read. Roasty’s only known abilities were following orders and darting quickly from one place to another, though he performed even those talents inconsistently.

One day while Carbo was relaxing, floating on a light breeze, Roasty abruptly rushed up to him.

“Toasty has some news,” said Roasty, out of breath.

“What sort of news?” asked Carbo, looking down his nose at the wheezing molecule.

“Uh…big news,” replied Roasty, not sure of what else to say.

“Okay, where is he?” Carbo asked, growing impatient.

“Where is who?” Roasty asked, confused.

“Toasty! Where is Toasty!” yelled Carbo, now growing irritable.

“Uh…yeah. Uh, I don’t know. Do you want me to find him?” Roasty asked.

“That would be a good idea,” replied Carbo with a sigh.

“Okay, I’ll go look for him,” Roasty said, and dashed away at near supersonic speed.

Carbo wondered whether it was a good idea to employ help from any of his molecule friends, let alone these two. Surely, he thought, there must be others out there brighter than this.

Just then, Roasty returned, dragging Toasty after him. “I found him! I found Toasty, Carbo!”

“Thank you, Roasty.” Then turning to Toasty Carbo asked, “What is this news you wanted to tell me?”

Toasty obviously had something he wanted to say, but was having trouble putting it into words. “I know I need to tell you this, Carbo. I know it’s important, but I’m not sure why. I think it’s bad news, but I’m not sure. I think it’s important that you know.”

“That’s right,” added Roasty, nodding vigorously. “It’s important. Real important.”

Carbo was trying to hold his exasperation in check. “Important that I know what?” he said slowly and with great self-restraint.

Toasty explained, “I just got back from Sweden where I saw a scientist named Savant Arrhenius. He has been studying the universe. At least I think that’s what it’s called. Yes, that’s it, the universe! Anyway, I read his mind.”

“Yes, go on Toasty,” prodded Carbo as if he were talking to a child. “I’m listening.”

Toasty continued. “This scientist, Savant what’s-his-name, is interested in all the chemicals that make up the atmosphere. He even has a theory to explain ice ages, whatever those are.”

Carbo’s patience was running very thin. “And why is that important to me?” he asked Toasty, his irritation beginning to surface once more.

“Because,” began Toasty, taking a deep breath and then suddenly spilling his words out all at once, “He’s calculating how changes in the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might alter the Earth’s temperature through the greenhouse effect.”

There was silence. Roasty, looking puzzled, stared at Toasty, having no idea of the meaning of what his companion had just said. Toasty continued to look at Carbo expectantly, waiting for a reaction. Several seconds passed, then Carbo spoke evenly.

“He knows about us?”

Toasty looked blank. “I guess so.”

“And he knows about the greenhouse effect?”

“Uh…apparently,” answered Toasty, not making the connection.

“So,” Carbo said, articulating each word, “You’re telling me that a climate scientist has discovered our strategy?”

Toasty was flustered. “Uh…yes. I mean, no. Uh…do we have a strategy?

Roasty looked back and forth at Carbo and Toasty, totally befuddled “What’s a strategy?” he asked.

Carbo sat deep in thought for a moment, darkness crossing his face. Then catching himself, he brightened. “Not to worry. One lone human scientist isn’t going to make a difference. No one will believe him. Relax guys, and have some oxygen soup. I made it fresh today.”

Food was something Roasty and Toasty could understand. Carbo handed them each a molecule-sized bowl and the two dove in, slurping loudly.

Carbo sat back down, contemplating, wondering. Then he shook it off. “No, not to worry,” he murmured.

But something told him not to be so sure.


In the real world, climate scientists praise and admire the early work of Savant August Arrhenius, a Swedish physicist and chemist. In 1896, as part of his development of a theory to explain the ice ages, he is credited with calculating how increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase Earth’s temperature because of the greenhouse effect. In 2016 documents were discovered that indicated the first scientist to identify the greenhouse effect was Eunice Foote in 1857. Irish physicist John Tyndall is commonly credited for discovering the greenhouse effect in 1859, which laid the foundation for the science of climate change, but it would appear that Eunice Foote beat him to it.

The text and artwork are copyright by Guy Walton. I would like to get this book published. Please drop me a note if you are willing to help.

To see the rest of the World of Thermo stories click:

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