As an example, I know a leaf looks green because it absorbs red and blue light, but reflects green light*. My question is how the red and blue light are absorbed, not reflected. And conversely why the green light is reflected, and not absorbed. (I know that transmission of light can also occur, and if you can explain transmission as well that would be great, but not necessary for the answer.)
My first assumption was that the absorbed light is being converted to thermal energy, since objects that appear black to us absorb most (or at least relatively more) visible light, and these surfaces become the warmest in sunlight. So one potential answer to my question will explain how EMR in the range of visible light is converted to thermal energy. However, maybe this isn't the process, and maybe coincidentally the black surface also happen to absorb a lot of IR light, and that's why the surfaces warm up.
Maybe the process can be explained in terms of filtering: red and blue light are filtered out, and green light isn't, so it's reflected....? But that seems too simple, and 'filtering' is a very vague word. If the red and blue wavelengths are absorbed, conservation of energy must happen, so that energy needs to go somewhere. Where? And if this is the case, then how does the filtering occur?
I've done a lot of searching on this topic, and have found many explanations of absorbtion and emission of light with gasses such as neon, as per Niels Bohr's work. I don't believe this example applies to the leaf, which reflects light, not emits. However the example with neon gives the style of answer I am looking for, because a physical process is described, resulting in the perceived color (electrons absorb photons with specific amounts of energy, and then emit at that wavelength of light, and the combination of those wavelengths stimulate the retina and result in the perceived color).
*I'm using 'green light' (for example) as a shorthand to mean 'the wavelengths of EMR that stimulate M cones in the retina, and result in the perception of green.' I know that the light itself physically isn't green, but the 'greenness' arises from our perception of it.