Atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming

A favorite canard of climate change denialist trolls is to trivialize the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; how could something that is only 0.04% of the atmosphere drive global warming? Well, Google is your friend:

“About 99 percent of the atmosphere is made of oxygen and nitrogen, which cannot absorb the infrared radiation the Earth emits. Of the remaining 1 percent, the main molecules that can absorb infrared radiation are CO2 and water vapor, because their atoms are able to vibrate in just the right way to absorb the energy that the Earth gives off. After these gases absorb the energy, they emit half of it back to Earth and half of it into space, trapping some of the heat within the atmosphere. This trapping of heat is what we call the greenhouse effect. Because of the greenhouse effect created by these trace gases, the average temperature of the Earth is around 15˚C, or 59˚F, which allows for life to exist.

“CO2 makes up only about 0.04% of the atmosphere, and water vapor can vary from 0 to 4%. But while water vapor is the dominant greenhouse gas in our atmosphere, it has “windows” that allow some of the infrared energy to escape without being absorbed. In addition, water vapor is concentrated lower in the atmosphere, whereas CO2 mixes well all the way to about 50 kilometers up. The higher the greenhouse gas, the more effective it is at trapping heat from the Earth’s surface.”

So (1) carbon dioxide *is* a greenhouse gas, while the dominant gases in the atmosphere aren’t, and (2) it’s not the percent of the atmosphere that is carbon dioxide, but the total amount and how it’s distributed.

Ask questions, but don’t forget to listen for answers.

how atmospheric carbon dioxide drives global warming