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How to convince the public of the danger of anthropogenic global warming

How to convince the public of the danger of anthropogenic global warming

Last year, the vagaries of life led me to chair a commission charged with examining the candidates for the admission to the Italian Chemists Association. It was a rather formal exam that was supposed to provide the successful applicants with the legal status necessary, for instance, for certifying chemical analyses. Overall, the applicants did poorly, but one of them, a young lady, did much better than the others. So much that I thought I could encourage her to do even better. So, let me tell you about a question I asked her during the examination.

Me. Dear candidate, I would like to conclude this exam with a question that may be a little outside your area of expertise, but which I think will give you a chance to show your understanding of some basic concepts of chemistry. The question is: can you propose an experimental test that would prove that human-generated greenhouse gases are warming the Earth?

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. It is not such a difficult question. I am only asking you to apply to the problem what you know of chemistry and of spectroscopy.

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. Let me help you. Maybe you can start by telling me something about the thermal effects occurring when you expose an infrared active gas to infrared radiation.

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Me. I am sure that you heard about global warming. Can you tell me what is the mechanism of the so-called “greenhouse effect”?

Candidate…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Me. Well, I guess that it is time for the commission to retire to examine your application. You did well with the other questions, so don’t worry.
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