Abstract: It has long been accepted that the “greenhouse effect”, where the atmosphere readily transmits short wavelength incoming solar radiation but selectively absorbs long wavelength outgoing radiation emitted by the earth, is responsible for warming the earth from the 255K effective earth temperature, without atmospheric warming, to the current average temperature of 288K. It is also widely accepted that the two main atmospheric greenhouse gases are H2O and CO2. What is surprising is the wide variation in the estimated warming potential of CO2, the gas held responsible for the modern concept of climate change. Estimates published by the IPCC for climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 concentration vary from 1.5 to 4.5°C based upon a plethora of scientific papers attempting to analyse the complexities of atmospheric thermodynamics to determine their results. The aim of this paper is to simplify the method of achieving a figure for climate sensitivity not only for CO2, but also CH4 and N2O, which are also considered to be strong greenhouse gases, by determining just how atmospheric absorption has resulted in the current 33K warming and then extrapolating that result to calculate the expected warming due to future increases of greenhouse gas concentrations. The HITRAN database of gaseous absorption spectra enables the absorption of earth radiation at its current temperature of 288K to be accurately determined for each individual atmospheric constituent and also for the combined absorption of the atmosphere as a whole. From this data it is concluded that H2O is responsible for 29.4K of the 33K warming, with CO2 contributing 3.3K and CH4 and N2O combined just 0.3K. Climate sensitivity to future increases in CO2 concentration is calculated to be 0.50K, including the positive feedback effects of H2O, while climate sensitivities to CH4 and N2O are almost undetectable at 0.06K and 0.08K respectively. This result strongly suggests that increasing levels of CO2 will not lead to significant changes in earth temperature and that increases in CH4 and N2O will have very little discernable impact.
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