Thursday, August 22, 2019

Carbon Dioxide Absorbs and Re-emits Infrared Radiation

CO2 and other large atmospheric molecules have the uncanny ability made possible by quantum mechanics to interact with infrared radiation (heat). In doing so, the rate of radiant heat’s escape into space is slowed down. Thus, the level of radiative energy present in the lower atmosphere is higher to the degree that these molecules are present.

Ways of Explaining the Greenhouse Effect:

Why Carbon Dioxide Is A Big Deal

Some people are of the opinion that the percentage of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is so small that their contribution to the greenhouse effect would be minuscule. I see their reasoning; however, the even smaller amount of carbon dioxide of the past has been sufficient to keep the planet from being a giant ball of ice. And with no carbon dioxide at all, the temperature on Earth would be below zero degrees Fahrenheit.

For perspective, if you could bring all the clouds and water vapor in the atmosphere to the surface, it would form a ‘liquid’ layer less than an inch deep, and clouds alone would create a layer no deeper than a coat of paint. If just this past year’s carbon dioxide emissions alone could be confined to an undiluted layer of pure CO2 at the surface of the Earth, the layer would be about 1.5 inches thick. 

“Nitrogen, oxygen and argon together comprise more than 99 percent of the atmosphere. None of these three gases absorb either visible or infrared light. It is as though, when it comes to the absorption and emission of light, the atmosphere’s three main players don’t exist.”

So, the only thing left to consider is the actual total amount of the greenhouse ‘trace gases’.

Water Vapor:

Carbon Dioxide and Water Vapor As Greenhouse Gases:

Past CO2 Levels:

Note: Carbon dioxide is the most important of Earth’s long-lived greenhouse gases. It absorbs less heat per molecule than the greenhouse gases methane or nitrous oxide, but it’s more abundant and it stays in the atmosphere much longer. And while carbon dioxide is less abundant and less powerful than water vapor on a molecule per molecule basis, it absorbs wavelengths of thermal energy that water vapor does not, which means it adds to the greenhouse effect in a unique way. Increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide are responsible for about two-thirds of the total energy imbalance that is causing Earth's temperature to rise.

How Alike Are Lemmings, Humans and Wile E. Coyote?

With the Arctic being in the news so much lately, I’m reminded of a film,”White Wilderness”, that I watched in 1958. It was about the Arctic and showed lemmings plunging ‘en masse’ over a cliff, into the sea and drowning as they desperately searched for fresh resources. Sort of a ‘mass suicide’ resulting from the pressures exerted from overpopulation.

It turns out though that this popularized belief about lemmings is entirely false. The Disney film crew had actually staged and forced the lemmings off the cliff. Cruel? Definitely. But this was 1950s Hollywood, where animal cruelty was common. So killing off a few dozen rodents for the amusement of theater-going audiences was no big deal.

Note: This is reminiscent of antics used today in order to grab viewership or to sway public opinion. Usually this is harmless, like when Wile E. Coyote defies the laws of physics in pursuit of the Roadrunner. However, when an overwhelming volume of “climate science denial” social media, YouTube videos and propagandistic media both big and small using pseudoscience are produced for the unwary, I’m reminded of myself as an 8 year old falling prey to an concocted untruth.

Comment: Though the truth is that lemmings don’t commit mass suicide, mankind is apparently capable of doing so by first overpopulating and then by proceeding to deny the physical reality described by the Greenhouse Effect. The ‘cliff’ we are approaching is real enough, and unlike the cartoon cliff that Wile E. Coyote’s falls off again and again while defying death and gravity using cartoon physics, our being suspended indefinitely in midair over the abyss is about to end whether we look down or not.

Truth thru humor: