CRUCIAL GLOBAL WARMING FACT #1
THIS is why cars get hot inside, if they sit in the sun
with all the windows rolled up
Lead-In to Crucial Global Warming Fact #1:
One of the first things voters should ask, of any candidate for Congress, is a basic, first-level question:
“How much do you actually understand,
about how and why CO2 emissions are changing the climate?”
However, if phrased in that way, it sounds both confrontational, and non-specific; so, it likely would be off-putting, to quite a few people in many audiences, and the answers it would get would be along the lines of, "Actually, I know a lot about it, but that's not what we're here to talk about, so don't ask me about any specifics. Yes, I think we should do something about it, but I don't choose to say what. Not during this campaign. But, I promise I'll work on it, if I'm elected."
So . . . the real question becomes, “How can a question like that be asked, in the most useful and productive way?”
Accordingly, I would plead with concerned voters, and environmentalists, to spend some serious time, thinking about (and, if possible, testing and trying out) various possible ways to ask that question, which will get useful and revealing responses, from political candidates who likely do not really understand climate change, but who DO have the skill of dancing around questions, and deflecting and side-stepping them, and changing the subject (or at least the focus), without ever really answering the question that was asked.
Here is one way that I would propose, to cut through that type of evasion, and get a useful answer. During a campaign event, a voter in the audience (or, a debate moderator) can approach a microphone that has been set up to ask questions, and ask this type of question:
“Mr/Ms _____ [candidate], many voters -- especially young voters -- are very concerned about global warming. Rather than simply asking about your position on it, they would like to know whether, and to what extent, you actually understand what it is, and how and why it happens, and why scientists say it is a huge threat, to all of us. So, I would like to start out this line of questions, with a basic, starting point question. Have you ever noticed that, if you leave a car sitting out in the sun for more than an hour, during the summer, with all the windows rolled up, that . . . when you open the doors again, the air inside the car, is hotter than the air outside the car? And, have you ever noticed the types of cardboard or reflective windshield screens which people put up, between the windshield and the dashboard, when they park a car that will have to sit out in the sun? Have you ever noticed those, and do you have any idea of how and why they work?”
(The questioner pauses, and the candidate answers. It is VERY doubtful that ANY candidate will claim, “No, I have never noticed any of those things," because that would be an admission that s/he is severely dense, and non-observant. The much more likely answer will be along the lines of, “Sure. I’ve seen that, lots of time. I’d guess everyone here in the audience has experienced that.” And, an affirmative answer will then lead to the real question:
“All right, then. Would you please explain, to the audience, in your own words, so that they can gauge how much you actually understand about global warming . . . WHY . . . does the air . . . INSIDE a car . . . get so much HOTTER . . . than the air OUTSIDE the car . . . if a car sits out in the sun . . . on a summer day . . . with all the windows rolled up?”
Okay, then. That question poses, and articulates, the central and basic problem of global warming . . . because what is happening to the earth’s atmosphere, is directly “analogous” (or similar, comparable, parallel, or any other suitable word) to what happens, inside a car that is left to sit in the sun with all the windows rolled up. If someone can understand why a car does what it does, when left to sit in the sun, then he or she can understand why the same thing is happening, to land and ocean surfaces.
And, it is NOT a trick question. Here is a direct and straightforward version of the answer; and, this version is offered – up front, and face-up, on the table – in the sincere hope that it will be passed around, to political candidates who are getting prepared and ready to try to answer questions at some public or debate appearance. There also are at least a dozen ways that this effect can be demonstrated, to an audience of non-scientists, in ways which anyone can watch, experience, and understand.
Okay, then; here is the basic reason why the air inside a car gets hotter than the outside air, if a car sits in the sun, with the windows rolled up:
(1) Since any non-tinted glass in the windows and windshield of any car or truck will be clear, that means that all of the visible spectrum of wavelengths, in sunlight, can readily pass that through that type of (clear) glass. If some type of glass is NOT clear, that means it is either absorbing, or reflecting off, at least some portion of the visible wavelengths. For example, if glass is tinted red, that means that at least some of the blue, green, and other "non-red" wavelengths are either: (1) reflecting off the surface of the glass, so that they cannot enter the glass and pass through it; or, (2) being absorbed, by the tinting substance which is either embedded within -- or, coating a surface of -- that red-tinted glass.
This picture is a simple depiction of how VISIBLE light will pass through CLEAR glass. It also shows -- for reasons described below -- that ONLY A SMALL FRACTION of any heat-carrying INFRA-RED wavelengths will pass through the types of glass that are used to make car windows and windshields, while MOST of that INFRA-RED energy will reflect off the surface of the types of glass used in automobiles.
(2) The "visible light" energy which is carried by sunlight INTO A CAR, through the windshield and windows, will `hit’ the dashboard, seats, steering wheel, and anything else in the car which is NOT clear. And, when visible light `hits’ an opaque surface, some part of the energy in that visible light will be absorbed, in a way which turns that energy, into heat. For example, if the top surface of a dashboard, directly under the windshield in a car, is a dark blue color, that means that the plastic or polymer surface of that dashboard will be reflecting off some portion of the blue part of the spectrum, while absorbing the other colors (and, the energy being carried by those wavelengths) within the visible spectrum.
(3) When the plastic, polymer, or other material which covers the surface of a dashboard, car seat, steering wheel, or any other item inside a car, becomes hot, then this is what happens – and, this effect and result is central, critical, and absolutely crucial, to understand “the greenhouse effect”.
When things become hot, they begin trying to get rid of that heat (to stay in balance with their surroundings), by emitting (i.e., sending out) their own energy-carrying radiation. However, any heat-carrying radiation will be strongly shifted to the “heat-carrying” INFRA-RED portion (or range, segment, etc.) of the spectrum of wavelengths.
Why? Because, plain and simple, INFRA-RED wavelengths are the wavelengths that carry the most heat energy. As a simple example and illustration, here's a picture of a "HEAT LAMP" bulb, of the type that is used to warm food. These types of specialized light-bulbs can be found at any large hardware store, or online by searching on Amazon, Google, etc., for "heat lamp".
They are standard equipment, in nearly all restaurants and fast-food outlets, since they offer the best way to keep food hot, after the food has been cooked. At fast-food places, they usually are positioned over baskets that hold hot food. In sit-down restaurants, they usually are suspended (pointing downward) from the top of a wide horizontal window with no glass in it, which passes through in a wall between the kitchen and the main rooms. A cook -- in the kitchen -- can set a plate of hot food on a stainless-steel shelf which forms the bottom of that window, and the food sitting on that shelf will stay hot (because of the infra-red lamps, shining their heat-carrying IR radiation downward, onto the food), until a waiter or waitress picks up that plate with the food on it, and carries it to a customer.
(4) But now, here is where the problem arises, inside a car sitting in the sun with the windows rolled up. Infra-red light can NOT pass through the type of glass that is used to make car windshields, and windows. Instead of passing through that type of glass, infra-red wavelengths will be reflected by (i.e., they will bounce off of) the inside surface of a windshield, or window pane, in a car. And, when that happens, they are trapped, inside that car. They will bounce off of the inside surface of a car window or windshield, in some direction created by the angle of the glass at that location, and that will send the reflected infra-red rays directly back toward the interior of the car – where they will then transfer the heat they are carrying, to whatever surface they happen to hit (such as, the dashboard, or a seat, or the steering wheel). And, when those infra-red rays hit that surface, they will heat up that surface, even more. And, THAT – the fact that those heat-carrying infra-red rays are bouncing off the inside of the glass, and are being reflected directly back into the car interior, causing anything they hit to become EVEN HOTTER . . . is why the air, inside a car that is sitting in the sun with the windows rolled up, will become substantially hotter than the outside air.
Below is a picture which attempts to create a visual image, which attempts and hopes to illustrate, reinforce, and support (and drive home, and make memorable) the verbal description above.
In the hope of helping more people understand what is happening, here is an analogy: to get a mental grasp of what "infra-red rays" can do, think of them as analogous to a swarm of angry and unpleasant little insects we'll call "heat bugs" -- worse than gnats, not as bad as hornets, somewhere on about the same level as a bunch of hungry mosquitos. When they feel threatened, disturbed, angry, etc., they will flap their wings, to try to get away from the problem. But, when they flap their wings, that ends up generating -- and releasing -- some level of heat. That is not some bizarre science-fiction fantasy; whenever energy is burned, to turn it into mechanical power, the process is never 100% efficient, and some that energy will be converted into unwanted heat. That happens whenever any kind of engine is run, such as a car engine, diesel engine, jet engine, steam engine, or any other kind of fuel-burning engine; and, even electric motors get warm, and sometimes hot, when they are run. So, assume, for the sake of the analogy, that when "heat bugs" flap their wings, some portion of the stored biochemical energy that is being converted into mechanical energy (i.e., the movement of their insect muscles) will be turned into heat.
So, if these "heat bugs" are trapped inside a car which is sitting in the sun, with all the windows rolled up, then they will feel threatened, and they will get upset and angry, when the inside of the car starts to get warm. So, following their insect-level instincts, they will begin flying around, inside the car, trying to get away from the heat. The problem is, when they start flying around, they begin generating, and releasing, even MORE heat . . . and, since they have become trapped, inside that car, because all of the windows are rolled up, THAT process makes the inside of the car even HOTTER. And, THAT makes the insects get EVEN ANGRIER -- which causes them to begin flapping their wings EVEN HARDER . . . which releases EVEN MORE HEAT, at an even faster rate . . . which makes the inside of the car EVEN HOTTER, STILL . . . which makes the bugs even angrier, still . . . which makes them . . .
Hopefully, anyone reading this will have realized, by now, that a "vicious circle" situation would be created, if "heat bugs" were real, and if swarms of them happened to get trapped inside of cars with all the windows rolled up, sitting in the sun. That type of "vicious circle" problem is described and illustrated, in these two slides:
Shifting back out of that analogy, it is entirely serious and reasonable to refer to heat-laden infra-red rays as acting like "heat demons" when they are trapped inside a car, with all the windows rolled up. As the seat, dashboard, and other solid surfaces inside a car get hot, the infra-red rays become even more intense, and carry even more heat energy, and yet, they still remain trapped inside that car. So, they begin heating up the interior surfaces, inside the car, EVEN MORE! And, THAT causes the next round of infra-red radiation to carry EVEN MORE (!!) HEAT . . . and THAT causes . . . well, it creates exactly the type of "vicious circle" that is illustrated above, using hypothetical "heat bugs" instead of infra-red rays, to help people develop a stronger and more solid mental grasp and understanding of what actually happens, and why, inside a hot car on a summer day.
That EXACT SAME PROCESS, AND PRINCIPLE, explains how and why greenhouses – made of glass window panes mounted on a frame made of thin metallic supports – are widely used in the northern climates, to grow flowers and sometimes crops. Sunlight (with wavelengths that spread across the entire visible spectrum) enters a greenhouse (because the glass panes are clear, which means that the entire visible spectrum can pass through them). That sunlight warms up anything that the visible-spectrum radiation hits, which is not clear (such as the leaves of the plants inside the greenhouse, any wood or steel which was used to make any shelves which hold the plants, and the mulch, rubber mats, or whatever material covers the walking surfaces, inside that greenhouse). When those things warm up, they send out infra-red rays . . . and THAT is where the plot thickens, and things become both active, and interesting. THOSE rays – because they have a new, shifted, and different wavelength which can NOT travel back out of the greenhouse, through its glass windows – get trapped, inside the greenhouse. The infra-red rays reflect off the insides of the glass panes, and go back inside, in some inward direction, until they hit something else. That transfers their heat energy to whatever they happen to hit, inside the greenhouse. Plain and simple, that heat energy – which is being carried by infra-red radiation – is trapped inside the greenhouse, and cannot get out through the glass panes; and, so, that heat energy warms up whatever the infra-red rays hit, inside the greenhouse.
Now . . . why is any of that important, to understanding climate change, global warming, and "the greenhouse effect?”
Because EXACTLY that same process is occurring, in the earth’s atmosphere, where carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere performs EXACTLY the same role as a pane of glass, in a car windshield (or in a greenhouse).
Here are the facts, about how and why that happens: When sunlight passes through our atmosphere, and hits the surface of the earth, it will warm up whatever land, water, ice, or other surface it happens to hit, in exactly the same way that sunlight passing through a car windshield will heat up any dashboard, seat, or other surface it hits.
Then, when the surface of the earth (land, ocean, etc.) grows warmer, it tries to stay “in balance” by emitting some of that heat, BY MEANS OF RADIATION WHICH WILL BE IN THE (HEAT-CARRYING) INFRA-RED PART OF THE SPECTRUM.
BUT . . . those infra-red rays cannot travel back upward, through the atmosphere, and dissipate out into the vacuum of space, IF THE ATMOSPHERE CONTAINS TOO MUCH CO2 (or certain other gases, notably including methane). instead of being able to go back out into space, and dissipate into the black vacuum of deep space, a portion of those infrared rays will be bounce off of the CO2 and methane gases, in the atmosphere, and will be trapped inside our atmosphere, and will be reflected back downward, to the earth’s surface once again – where, those infra-red rays will transfer their heat energy to whatever they happen to hit, on that “second pass”.
In exactly the same way that a set of glass windows, enclosing the air inside a car, will cause the air inside that car (as well as any solid surfaces, inside that car) to get hotter . . . in exactly that same way, a layer of gas having too much CO2 and methane, which completely encircles this planet, will create what becomes, effectively, an “enclosed system” that can no longer get rid of heat in the same way (and to the same extent) it previously did (i.e., by sending infra-red radiation out into deep space).
So . . . THAT is the FIRST essential fact I would like to put on the table, for discussion by any and all candidates for Congress, and for questions by any and all voters who must choose between candidates.
If anyone believes they can describe and explain that fundamental fact, in a better, more clear, more understandable way, to non-science audiences, then, please -- post a video, of you explaining whatever you are trying to explain, on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.
Or, regardless of whether you think you can do BETTER, if you would like to add YOUR voice, and YOUR face, and YOUR efforts, to the chorus, in the hope of making it a bigger and better chorus . . .
Either way, the challenge is this: "Give it YOUR best shot." My goal is plain and direct: I'm trying to start a process that will require political candidates to either learn about, recognize, and acknowledge a specific set of facts, or to openly try to deny or sidestep those facts. My goal is to enable voters to see and hear what the candidates actually do, and say, when confronted with the assertions of fact set forth herein, so that either way, voters will know what that candidate did, how much that candidate actually knows about the biggest problems he or she will ever have to face, and whether that candidate has enough courage and integrity to actually face up -- squarely, honestly, and as a true `public servant' -- to those facts. I am NOT advocating massive programs, massive spending, or massive anything else. Instead, I am simply trying my best to put forth and explain a set of facts, in ways people that people can either acknowledge, or try to reject. That is my only -- my true, and sincere -- goal, for the 2022 election cycle.
Because I have become convinced that the severe failures of scientists and environmental advocates, over the past 30 years, to be able to create and drive any actual and genuine progress, within Congress, to even recognize and understand the problem (let alone, trying to actually solve it), has been largely due to the failure of scientists and others to set forth a carefully-selected and carefully-explained set of actual, demonstrable facts, in convincing and hopefully even compelling ways that politicians would have to face up to, and either accept, or try to evade, in ways they can be held accountable for.
If you think you even MIGHT be able to help, then, please, at least try.