The Greenhouse Effect

by DAN VOS
Vos Energy Concepts

Dan Vos

Back in college (early ‘80s), one of my writing projects was to research and report on what was then called the “greenhouse effect.” This term changed to “global warming” and is now called “climate change.” They all refer to the same thing, yet I like the original term because it explains why we are warming. Weather (I know this is the wrong spelling, but I could not resist) this is caused by us or is a natural occurrence is not scientifically provable either way, so you will believe what you want no matter what I say. I only want to describe to you the process in basic terms so you can see how the Earth retains heat so life can live.

OK, let’s say it is a hot summer day and you parked the car in the sun, left the windows up and were gone for an hour. It is hot in there, right? In fact, it is against the law to leave kids or pets in the car under those conditions. Well this is a perfect example of the greenhouse effect. The full spectrum energy from the sun hits the car interior through the windows and continually warms it up. This heat is released to the air in the car and tries to get back out those same windows. The key here is that a greater percentage of this interior heat is reflected back into the car. This raises the temperature of the car’s interior.

The sun’s energy has a different wavelength ( much shorter and intense) than the heat reflected from the car’s interior (longer and more relaxed wave), and the glass lets more of the sun’s energy through while reflecting more of the heat from the interior. This same thing is happening to our Earth.

The atmosphere acts as the car window and, if the make-up of the atmosphere changes, then the Earth’s average temperature changes.  This is why we are so concerned about carbon dioxide. It is a greenhouse gas; one which increases our average temperature. It is certainly not the worst greenhouse gas, but because we produce so much of it on an ever- increasing basis, it could very well be a major reason our Earth’s temperature is increasing.

Carbon dioxide(CO) is a good thing, our plants breathe it and give us oxygen in return. As more people cut down trees and don’t replant, less of this occurs. CO is a product of the combustion of fossil fuels; 50,000 more people are driving every day in developing countries. Can we blame them for wanting to be like us? Our population has reached six billion and is still increasing dramatically; this is the biggest issue of all. How many people can Earth support? I sure don’t know.

These issues are why I got into renewable energy. It really doesn’t have to pay for itself in 10 years to be worthwhile if you look on a larger scale, because it replaces high carbon-producing energy with a zero carbon-producing energy. It just plain makes sense.

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