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Markus Dirnbacher's picture
Director ENcome Energy Performance

AMA - I‘ll be happy to answer all questions. For information upfront please check my LinkedIn profile. All the best, Markus

  • Member since 2020
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  • Oct 18, 2021

Global warming continues to rise, with greenhouse gases (GHG) polluting the atmosphere. Concerningly, a commonly overlooked GHG is plain old water vapour. Astonishingly, water vapour accounts for roughly 97% of the total GHG.   


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Oct 18, 2021

Markus, that water vapor is causing climate change is a common misperception. Climate change deniers tend to offer this theory as proof that the phenomenon is a hoax.

But water vapor is not a cause of climate change, it's a temporary effect. If it were possible to magically reduce atmospheric concentration of CO2 to its pre-industrial level of ~250 ppm, global average humidity would return to its pre-industrial level, too (after several months of rain).

That doesn't mean it isn't making climate change worse - it is. Overall, climatologists believe increasing humidity in the atmosphere is a positive feedback of climate change - that it's amplifying its effects. However, it's not that simple. More water in the air also increases the Earth's albedo, or reflectivity, as clouds reflect more sunlight into space.

Whether albedo will ultimately slow or accelerate global warming as weather gets cloudier is unknown. But increasing the level of atmospheric CO2 will continue to warm the Earth, with or without water in the air.

Markus Dirnbacher's picture
Markus Dirnbacher on Oct 20, 2021

Bob, you are right. Increasing humidity is not causing climate change, but it is instead an effect caused by climate change. To put it more precisely, increasing emissions levels in the atmosphere cause an increased level of water vapour to be stored in the air.

Indeed, there is still an active debate on whether the positive or negative feedback effects have a more significant impact. From what I have seen, there is a tendency towards a stonger positive feedback effect. 

It all comes down to one thing: rerducing carbon emissions!

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