A lay-person wondering out loud….
By Jerry A. Boggs
It’s said the earth’s average temperature is increasing about one degree Celsius per century.
Most climatologists seem to agree that at least the bulk of that increase stems from the carbon dioxide generated by the world’s rapidly growing, CO2-spewing industrial complex.
Disagreements abound, including the one claiming that a peak in sun spots has warmed the oceans, which in turn have released more CO2.
But I wonder if one possible cause of global warming has been overlooked. Consider: Weather reports regularly state, “Today’s high 90 degrees. Cooler outside the city.”
“Cooler outside the city” — how many times have we heard that? If we drive from the city to the countryside, we immediately notice the cooler air. That’s because we left an area that not only is less treed but also is heated up by countless black-topped roads and parking lots (which retain about 90 percent of the sun’s infrared emissions), office buildings and homes, and myriad other brick-or-concrete structures covering more and more of the earth’s surface – all of which absorb the sun’s heat and, like fireplace bricks, re-radiate it out into the surrounding area.
No doubt much if not most of the “fireplace-brick” heat re-radiated by sun-warmed structures escapes into space. But I suspect a lot of it may be trapped in the troposphere by green-house gases and is helping warm the earth overall, or at least helping warm the more populated land masses where many and maybe the majority of the temperature measurements are taken.
Since 100 years ago, when the earth was cooler by one degree Celsius, the human race has added billions of more structures that, in addition to displacing an unfathomable number of CO2-absorbing trees, equate to possibly millions of square miles of heat-absorbing/re-radiating surfaces. Hence these questions:
How much of the man-made structures’ and roads’ re-radiated heat (coupled with the heat of billions of engines that didn’t exist a century ago) has contributed to earth’s one-degree temperature rise?
How much of that re-radiated heat becomes trapped in our atmosphere by increased CO2?
President Barack Obama’s cap and trade program, aimed at curbing CO2 emissions, will be very expensive, as columnist Jeff Jacoby points out using Obama’s own words. Before we implement this program, shouldn’t these two questions and other similar ones be debated openly by climatologists? Unfortunately, the President, like global-warming activist Al Gore and the mainstream liberal media, believes the debate is over.
UPDATE April 7, 2010: The fireplace-brick effect is supported in the section “Urban Heat” of “A Superstorm for Global Warming Research.” The article should appeal to reasonable people on both sides of the issue.