An Overview of My Issue With Climate Change
For me, it's hard to take climate change seriously because of how it seems many advocates and politicians tackle it. And by that, I mean that I hear and see an awful lot on reducing carbon emissions, particularly carbon dioxide and methane.
The Greenhouse Effect Analogy
The analogy for how gases like carbon dioxide and methane affect climate change has generally been that the change in climate is similar to how a greenhouse works. In that analogy, a greenhouse is made of glass (which the greenhouse gases are analogous to), which allows light from the sun to pass through it mostly unimpeded. That light then strikes a surface, whether the ground, plants, or something else, that converts the light into another form of light, heat.
The heat form of light cannot so easily pass through the glass as it is radiated from the ground warmed by the incoming sunlight. So, the glass traps the heat inside, only letting it slowly warm the glass and then eventually radiating to the outside. The glass is able to trap and slow the converted sunlight so well that there usually is a significant to substantial temperature difference inside the greenhouse as compared to outside of it in the natural environment.
This is how greenhouse gases and vapors, like carbon dioxide and methane are generally thought to behave. Or at least they are thought to create a similar effect that the glass does in trapping generated heat.
Climate Change Advocates Seem to Favor Heat Trapping Over Heat Generation
I asked myself a question. What temperature will I likely find a greenhouse at on a cold, dark winter day? If there is no sunlight or external heat source, I'd expect the greenhouse to be about the same temperature as the surrounding environment as long as I gave it a little time. The warming effect only works if there is incoming light to convert into heat and then be impeded from leaving the system by glass or some other substance. So, it makes sense to try to take steps to reduce the heat generated in the first place.
Unfortunately, I don't hear much about taking that kind of approach to things. I'm not saying I never have seen efforts into trying to combat how much of the sunlight is converted to heat. In fact, here is an article showing how California, at least in parts, are putting down a lighter colored coating to help take the sunlight absorbing capacity of the asphalt roads from around 90% to around 60%. Less sunlight absorbed and converted to heat means less heat to be generated, radiated, and trapped. That should aid in creating a cooler environment.
What I usually hear in the news, regulations, reading online, and other sources, is that we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you don't believe that there is significant focus on reducing greenhouse gases, at least in the United States, how about you check out these articles on the subject: EPA Regulations. The primary reason I hear given for this is so that we don't trap as much heat, thus allowing for lower global temperatures. That looks like the equivalent of removing some of the glass in the greenhouse, or in your car given that it can work much like a greenhouse itself.
Now it's true that I see some people leave their car windows open on hot days. This can allow some airflow and release heat that would otherwise be trapped. But what I see more often is people putting up some kind of reflective materials in their windshield and sometimes windows to reflect the sunlight away. I've tried using one of those windshield reflectors and that can make the car interior noticeably cooler. I see there being evidence that perhaps there should be more focus on reducing heat generated than on trapping materials.
Potential Climate Change Mitigating Factors
In my experience, there are a significant number of politicians, activists, scientists, and institutions purporting climate change to be an existential threat to the whole world. Perhaps it is. But if it is, I currently think that focusing so much on greenhouse gas emissions is not the way to go. The exception being if some of the heat trapping emissions are immediately hazardous as well.
Reducing Roadway Heat
I'm more in favor of doing things to reduce the amount of heat available to be trapped in the atmosphere where possible. Sure, essentially any form of fuel will ultimately turn into a heat, with some of it being released into the environment. But that doesn't mean we can't do something about the approximately 4 million miles of road ways in the United States. Don't believe we have that many miles of road ways? Check this out.
I want to add that a large amount of that appears to be paved with asphalt. You know, that very dark heat generating material? With many lane widths being at or near 12 feet wide, and even rural roads tend to be at least one lane in either direction, for two total lanes, that would make at least around 18,181.82 square miles of road to soak up the sunlight. I'm thinking we do something about that on a consistent basis. I mentioned earlier that California was putting down a lighter coating on the road to help reduce the heat. Putting down concrete is another way to help reduce heat generated since it is usually a lighter shade, color wise, than asphalt is. If you'd like to see some tests you can run to see how much of a difference surface shades can affect heat generated, check out this video.
Changing Building Material Colors
It seems pretty solid that some sunlight that hits a surface is converted into heat. This is dependent on its color, at least for visible light. If we want to reduce some of the "passive heat" generated by surfaces, a way to do that would be to use materials that reflect more light than they absorb. I've seen roofing shingles. They are quite dark. There are many homes across the United States and the world that have roofs that absorb a lot of heat through their roofing material and its color.
Now, if you are taking steps to utilize that energy in some way, such as perhaps to warm water for use in your home, then it actually can make good sense to use darker colors if coupled with a useful heat sink like water. Otherwise, you would want your roof and your home to be a light color. There's probably good reason why some of the much older historical houses were often colored white. No air conditioning meant you had to try to reduce the heat load. White does that pretty well.
There is still a fair bit of debate, at least among non-experts (if not the whole scientific community), on whether or not climate change is real and what portion is contributed to by people. What ever the case may be, we should take note of the simple things we can observe to be the case and test and be open to tackling the issue from multiple sides.
Regardless of whether or not climate change is real and a real threat to mankind, we can definitely get better at utilizing the energy provided by the sun. We can also reduce unwanted heat by taking pretty simple measures, such as lighter colors for roads and buildings. Look at the problem and make use of what's available to you. The solutions will somewhat depend on what you want to achieve and what you are prepared to do. Don't forget about the simple concepts you learned about and still observe. Don't be afraid to ask questions and consider things for yourself.