is indeed a "weak" greenhouse gas - in the same sense that a hydrogen bomb is a weak star. The problem is that human existence is weak, too. We cover every hectare of habitable land, then some not so habitable land, then downright hostile land, and chew it up and make it worse. It doesn't take much to push marginal people over the margin. Sometimes pushed people push back. It isn't safe to share a planet with folks with nothing left to lose.
It's sad that most engineers don't make the effort to understand what CO2
does in an atmospheric column that stretches from 100KPa and 0-30C at sea level to -90C at the mesopause near the vacuum of space. Indeed, CO2
has weak effects in the well-mixed troposphere, but quite a lot of effect in the stratosphere and mesosphere where water vapor is gone, the column cools, radiative transfer dominates, and the CO2
shades from opaque to transparent as it thins out.
A significant contribution to modern understanding was made by Gilbert Plass, who studied infrared transmission through thin atmosphere at Lockheed, working with engineers designing heat-seeking missiles for high altitude aerial combat. Real engineers need to understand this stuff, both for finding targets and for finding practical alternatives to the ignorant fantasies of both the climate-ignorers and the economics-ignorers. I don't use the word "denier" because it implies some understanding of what is denied, and you have to ignore a lot of phenomena and physics to come to the conclusions most people of both "sides" come to.
I study atmospheric behavior, not to justify expensive nonsense like windmills and solar farms, but because some of the alternate alternatives I work on such as the Launch Loop
operate in the upper atmosphere and have to cool off. Another idea, Server Sky
, pushes signals through that atmosphere. My brain farts might not work, but somebody else's might. We need lots of engineers exploring lots of ideas, not because we fear the future, but because staggeringly profitable opportunities might compensate for our extreme laziness, and keep the party going for a few more million years.