Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009

By David E. Henderson; Susan K. Henderson | Go to book overview

Appendix 1. Green house Gases

Much of what we know about atoms and molecules was discovered from the interaction of matter with light. The light we see with our eyes is only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum shown in Figure 17.

Electromagnetic radiation can be described in terms of the frequency of the waves, the wavelength of the waves, or the energy they carry. Frequency is the number of waves per second passing a fixed point and is reported in Hertz (Hz). If you were standing on the beach and could count the waves that came ashore in a fixed time, that would give you the frequency of the waves. Wavelength is the distance between wave crests. Looking out at the ocean, the wavelength would be the distance between waves.

Scientists use metric units for wavelength in meters and fractions or multiples of meters. Light moves much faster than ocean waves, and it is not possible for you to observe frequency or wavelength directly with your eyes. But the principle is the same. Wavelength and frequency are inversely related, so high frequency light has short wavelengths, and low frequency light has long wavelengths. Shorter wavelength, higher frequency waves have more energy that longer wavelength, lower frequency waves.

The energy of electromagnetic waves determines the kind of work the waves can do. We will see how this plays out in the interactions with matter.

The shortest wavelength electromagnetic radiation has wavelengths even smaller than the dia meter of an atom. These are cosmic rays and gamma rays that result from radioactivity. At the other end of the spectrum are waves that are hundreds of miles long. These very long wavelength waves are used by the military to communicate with submarines.

The scale in Figure 17 is logarithmic. Every mark on the scale corresponds to waves that are ten times longer or shorter than the one next to it. The total range of the scale is on the order of the range from one penny to the national debt of the United States.

We will focus our attention on the range from infrared (IR) through ultraviolet (UV). This is the range that comes from the sun and is easiest to use for the study of atoms and molecules. The behavior of visible and IR light will be especially important to our discussion of climate change.

Atoms and molecules interact with light in a variety of ways. They can absorb light, in which case the energy of the light is transferred to the atom or molecule and does work on it. When UV light is absorbed, it moves an electron from one shell in the atom to a higher shell. The absorption of light allowed scientists to map to the energy levels of electrons in atoms and molecules. Ultimately, the observation of these interactions between light and atoms led to the field of quantum mechanics, which describes the behavior of electrons in all atoms and molecules.

Light in the IR part of the spectrum has a different effect when it is absorbed by molecules. Chemical bonds behave like springs, and the atoms in molecules vibrate constantly like weights connected by springs. When light in the IR spectrum is absorbed by a molecule, it causes the vibration to change if either of two things are true.

Case 1. Molecules with two or more different types of atoms have a more positive atom on one side and a more negative atom on the other. Bonds between atoms of different elements, whether C–H or C–O, have a small positive charge on one atom and a small negative charge on the other. These charges create a property called dipole moment. The dipole moment depends on the difference in

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Environmental Science and International Politics: Acid Rain in Europe, 1979-1989, and Climate Change in Copenhagen 2009
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Note to Instructors viii
  • How to Play These Games 1
  • Contents 8
  • Figures and Tables 11
  • 1 - Historical Background 14
  • 2 - The Game 35
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 41
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 44
  • Bibliography 106
  • Acknowledgments 109
  • Appendix 1- Introduction to Environmental Philosophy 110
  • Appendix 2- Introduction to Environmental Economics 116
  • Appendix 3- Using Numbers to Make Arguments 119
  • Appendix 4- Study Questions for Reading Assignments 121
  • Contents 124
  • Figures and Tables 127
  • 1 - Historical Background 129
  • 2 - The Game 153
  • 3 - Roles and Factions 159
  • 4 - Core Texts and Supplemental Readings 162
  • Acknowledgments 164
  • Appendix 1- Green House Gases 165
  • Appendix 2- Chemicals in Fossil Fuels 168
  • Appendix 3- Quantitative Look at Combustion Reactions 172
  • Appendix 4- Leaked Draft Document by Danish Delegates 180
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