Below is a simple explanation followed by a 5-part lecture sequence on the Greenhouse effect. You may want to listen to the videos explanations more than once. There is one piece of inadvertently confusing information we wish to clarify. That is in regard to just how long excess carbon dioxide emissions from coal, petroleum and natural gas will persist in the atmosphere.
From the lecture sequence, you might think that were we to end fossil fuel emission tomorrow, the excess CO2 put into the atmosphere through man’s burning of these fuels will last only about 100 years at which point it will fully decay away. That is NOT true. The average single molecule may hang around that long but that is not the key point. It is the total amount of excess carbon dioxide that matters. CO2 as a whole is a LONG LIVED atmospheric gas.
A substantial percentage will persist in the atmosphere for not 100’s but actually many 1000’s of years. This represents a major problem for mankind. It means that we don’t get to take it all back when we finally realize that we have gone too far. In fact, we are now releasing into the atmosphere an amount of CO2 that took living organisms and the planet earth about 350 million years to sequester. NOT a bright idea and, as you might imagine, NOT quickly reversible.