Ambient Air

THE MESSY CLIMATE DEBATE

Climate change denial proponents seem to have a point after all.

Its hard to understand how gases could lead to elevated atmospheric temperatures.

But on the flipside, resistance is expected especially from those who will lose out if the climate change crusade is taken seriously namely…

The multibillion dollar coal mining businesses…

Industries which care less about treatment of effluents and emmissions…

Irresponsible fossil fuel use advocates, the real voices of the big guns who take home the cash as they leave our air worse than they found it…

And to top it all up, political hijackers of the climate change debate who rope in their pet subjects such as the LGBTQ and pro choice crusades.

I wouldn’t dare try open a pandora’s box in this regard because I’ll start what I cannot finish.

But these are the murky waters the people who speak against the destruction of our environment find themselves in.

A conundrum that forces them on the defensive without first considering the facts that they bring to the table.

Climate change is apolitical and therefore affects us all albeit in different ways.

But since gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are earmarked as key culprits in this regard, it pays to understand their culpability.

GREENHOUSE GASES (GHGs)

Greenhouse gases trap heat energy from the sun preventing it from being released to the atmosphere.

This leads to elevated surface temperatures over time, a phenomenon known as global warming.

But how do gases increase the amount of heat in the earth’s atmosphere?

INFRARED AND SUNLIGHT

When sunlight hits the surface of the earth, it is naturally reflected back to space for maintenance of the energy balance…energy in-energy out…kind of thing.

This happens when no greenhouse gases are in the picture.

But what happens if the atmosphere is loaded with carbon dioxide?

CHEMICAL NITTY GRITTIES

Being composed of two atoms of oxygen and one of carbon, the carbon dioxide molecule is composed of flexible bonds which are sensitive to Infrared energy carried by sunlight.

Though oxygen has a higher electronegtivity compared to carbon, there is a balanced charge distribution in the carbon dioxide molecule…which is straight in appearance: O-C-O…

But not when the gas is exposed to infrared energy which sunlight carries.

If that happens, its bonds absorb part of this energy destabilizing it’s molecular structure which regains stability as it dissipates the excessive energy as heat.

As this happens, the released heat is tranferred from one molecule to another in a chain event which retains heat in the atmosphere proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide present.

Greenhouse gases therefore trap the heat energy from the sun by preventing its reflection back to space.

See video

GLOBAL WARMING

The higher the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the higher the amount of heat retained…

This is the genesis of global warming.

This sudden heat turn-around in our atmosphere affects the climate with the hot seasons becoming hotter…the genesis of climate change.

It must be said that a number of other gases also fall into this category…

Methane, sulfur oxides, nitrous oxides, water vapour etc. from various sources such as agriculture and industry.

With most of them being industrial gases, its no surprise that their presence in our atmosphere is a subject of key concern especially with regard to climate change.

Increased greenhouse gas levels elevate surface temperatures ‘sucking up’ moisture all around us resulting into famine and drought in inland zones.

But not only that…

It also alters weather patterns in the oceans with rising warm air pockets leading to extreme weather systems such as hurricanes and flash floods.

IN CONCLUSION

Our choice to believe or disbelieve climate change must be based on facts…

Facts that can be proven scientifically.

Absorption of infrared energy by gases such as carbon dioxide is a well known principle of chemical analysis in the scientific community.

Our role as scientists is to lay the facts on the table in order to influence decision making.

The issue is therefore not about accepting or denying climate change but about doing so based on facts.

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