Global Warming 101

Global Warming 101.
Peter Maier
November 2016

The Global Warming discussion is presently mostly conducted by scientists, while the general public has to decide who to believe. People in general would like to make up their own mind, if they can understand what is going on. Looking at weather conditions and temperature changes, based on records and computer models, clearly are too scientific for most individuals. We therefore need a different approach to explain and understand what is causing global warming and the more severe weather conditions.

This first requires that we understand that we live in the earth’s biosphere maintaining the symbiosis of two life form, autotrophic life (using carbon dioxide) and heterotrophic life (using organic carbon).
Autotrophs (plants), using photosynthesis, split water into hydrogen and oxygen and use carbon dioxide with the hydrogen (and nitrogen) to form organic matter, whereby oxygen is released in the atmosphere.
Heterotrophs (animals) use the organic matter as a food source and recover the energy in the organic matter by breaking it apart, while using oxygen to form carbon dioxide and water (with the released hydrogen).
The result is that within the earth’s biosphere we have different ecosystems, where element (C,H,O and N) recycle processes are happening naturally.

The earth’s atmosphere is essential for life as some of the element recycling processes are done by some of the molecules making up the air of the atmosphere, especially oxygen, carbon dioxide and reactive nitrogen. Reactive nitrogen is a single nitrogen atom, necessary to synthesize organic matter. Nitrogen gas in the air is not available as the two nitrogen atoms are strongly bonded to each other.

Humans are part of such ecosystems, as they also use organic matter as a food source and convert this, by using oxygen, back into carbon dioxide and water. The problem however is how we use organic matter to generate energy, by introducing large amounts of carbon and nitrogen dioxides into the atmosphere. Even a small car will use as much oxygen as 600 people.

To understand what all this has to do with global warming and severe weather conditions, we hopefully will first accept three physical facts:

1. The atmosphere consist out of molecules, about 80% nitrogen gas, 19% oxygen and 1% other molecules.

2. Molecules can absorb energy, while larger molecules can adsorb more energy than smaller molecules.

3. Smaller molecules do have larger molecular velocities, than larger molecules and the dispersion of energy depends on molecular velocities. Hard to believe, but the average molecular velocity of a oxygen and nitrogen molecules in the air is about 1000 mph.

Because of these three facts, we do have weather conditions in our atmosphere, while we also know that certain changes occur naturally, like smaller molecules being replaced by larger molecules and back again.
However, the problem with burning fossil fuels is, that many smaller oxygen and nitrogen molecules in our atmosphere are replaces with the much larger carbon and nitrogen oxide molecules, while there is less reversal. The result is that the composition of our atmosphere is changing, with higher concentrations of larger molecules, thereby not only increasing the absorption of energy, hence global warming, but also slowing down the dispersion of this energy, hence more severe weather conditions.
During the past 150 years the concentration of carbon dioxide increased from 280 ppm to 380 ppm and during the past decade, the concentration of nitric oxide (N2O) increased from 300 to 315 ppb. An increase that will only accelerate when more people like to benefit from energy and synthesized fertilizer.

For those not yet convinced, here is an even simpler explanation of global warming. Imagine you wear a cotton coat and the cotton threads are replaced with woolen threads. Replacing a few threads first, you will hardly be noticed, but there comes a point that you will notice and that you will take off the coat, because the heath becomes uncomfortable.
Unfortunately we can not do this with the coat the earth is wearing and if we keep replacing smaller molecules with larger molecules in our atmosphere, we will have to live with the consequences, like global warming and more sever weather conditions. Besides all the public health problems caused by air pollution.

High time to stop using organic matter to generate energy for our convenience and adapt our convenient energy needs to the same energy process, that sustained life for millions of years, by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, all without impacting natural ecosystems.