Over the years, I’ve found that there is a pretty widespread lack of familiarity with how climate change actually works and what contributes to it. So I decided it was worth putting together something of a primer on the subject, centered on how it is measured.
The natural place to begin is by explaining how the warming process works.
If you live in a house in a cold-weather climate, you are probably aware that your attic is insulated. That’s to keep heat in your house and prevent it from escaping into the outside air. The Earth is not similarly insulated, so heat often radiates off the planet’s surface and into space.
Sometimes, though, that heat radiates into the atmosphere, where it is absorbed by one of the countless gas molecules floating around up there, a layer of protection that has an insulating effect. Some of those molecules, excited (literally) by the absorbed energy, then release the energy back out. Sometimes it’s released up toward space. Sometimes it strikes another molecule. And sometimes it heads back toward Earth.