The All Important 1%

It's a long way to the next place with air, but right now our air has a problem

It’s a long way to the next place with air, but now our air has a problem

250°  Air is a good thing. In fact, one might even say that if someone were off-Earth for business or pleasure, they might find air more important than even sex.

For those of us who don’t frequent outer space, air is almost taken for granted…but we shouldn’t.

Last night I had the pleasure of talking to a graduate student who is finishing up his doctorate this year. His field is atmospheric studies, in particular, the amount of infrared radiation (energy) being absorbed and re-emitted by particles or aerosols in our atmosphere.

Breakdown of our atmosphere

Breakdown of our atmosphere

He reminded me that 99% of the air around Earth is Nitrogen (78%) or Oxygen (21%.) Those two elements don’t absorb or transmit infrared radiation. Only 1% of our atmosphere is affected by infrared radiation. One percent controls the amount of energy retained or emitted in our air.

When scientists talk about global warming, they are talking about the mechanisms that drive and control the behavior of our atmosphere. One percent. It is the penny in our dollar that will determine whether our children and their children spend all their time and money on fixing what we screwed up, or on moving forward into a bright new future.

I would suggest that we literally and figuratively stop pouring coal (and other carbon-based fuels) into the engine that is energizing our atmosphere.