Solution to Global Warming: Paint the Town White

According to a recent article by David Adam, environmental correspondent for The Guardian,

[Hashem] Akbari is poised to launch a campaign to paint the world white. He wants dozens of the world’s largest cities to unite in an effort to replace the dark-coloured materials used to cover roads and roofs with something a little more reflective.

It sounds simple, but the effect could be dramatic. Study after study has shown that buildings with white roofs stay cooler during the summer. The change reduces the way heat accumulates in built-up areas – known as the urban heat island effect – and allows people who live and work inside to switch off power-hungry air conditioning units.

Read the whole article here.

downtown-aerialThe new Land Development Regulations for Northfield are still undergoing revision. What about the idea of articulating requirements or providing incentives so that all new buildings with a footprint larger than X should have reflective/light-colored roofs..? Now, we’re not an urban heat island (yet), but this can’t hurt, might help, and could have minimal negative economic impact. Why not?


  1. norman butler said:

    Though there appears to be a high degree of political consensus regarding global warming, there is no scientific consensus; so I would hesitate before we start painting the world white.

    February 2, 2009
  2. john george said:

    Seems it would be more fun and increase the economic base of Northfield if we painted the town red. (Oops! I’m really dating myself with that one!)

    February 2, 2009
  3. Bright Spencer said:

    We actually lightened the color of our roof when we had it replaced soon after the hail storm. My roofer did confirm that the temps are a few degrees cooler, and I did do some other research and was told that world wide, it would not much matter, but when you are flying in a small plane over roads and feel the heat bumps from that, it makes you know that there would be some difference, but enough to noticeably affect anything in a short amout of time, prolly not. I did however slight sense a ‘coolness’ about the house this last summer, but it may have been selective thinking on my part.

    February 2, 2009
  4. Paul Fried said:

    The hot roof is a green, growing roof it seems — instead of merely reflecting light as a white roof would, it does photosynthesis and helps with greenhouse gasses.

    Norman, you wrote, “there is no scientific consensus.” This is actually not true: There’s a great deal of consensus, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to the mainstream media, which is always trying to appear “fair” by interviewing one scientist who represents the global warming skeptics who are in the minority, and one who represents the growing consensus, in the majority:

    “Journalistic Balance as Global Warming Bias
    Creating Controversy Where Science Finds Consensus”

    Meanwhile, as the scientists become more sure, and as most claim they don’t feel pressured by other scientists to toe the scientific politically correct line, conservative propaganda claims otherwise and seems to be winning among only the GOP:

    “The Deniers are winning, but only with the GOP”

    As part of the propaganda, some conservative sources claim that “the same” scientists who warned of a coming ice age in the 1970’s now warn of global warming… but this is a complete myth. It was a minority opinion in the ’70’s that an ice age was coming, and the media latched onto it for its sensationalism. There was no consensus then as there is now about global warming:

    Study debunks ‘global cooling’ concern of ’70s
    Updated 2/22/2008 2:10 PM
    By Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

    Was There Consensus for Global Cooling in the 1970s?
    February 28th, 2007 by Stephen

    It’s not about science; it’s about big money defending profits and conservative dittoheads run amok, repeating propaganda for the echo-chamber.

    February 2, 2009
  5. norman butler said:

    Check out “Apocalypse? No!” – you can view it on U-Tube. Its about 80 minutes long and is an excellent antidote to Gore’s scary movie. I also have a DVD of it (if Bruce Morlan ever gives it back!).

    Also, try “Scared To Death: From BSE to Global Warming: Why Scares are Costing Us The Earth”, a book by Christopher Booker & Richard North.

    February 5, 2009
  6. Peter Millin said:

    I heard this story on NPR this morning. It’s about a giant snake found in the Amazon. On first glimpse it has nothing to do with global warming.
    Read carefully, because it does.

    Scientists are amazed by this find, because they never thought that the rain forest can actually become this hot????

    I find it somewhat arrogant of us humans wanting to predict the impact of global warming for the next hundred years, when we can’t even predict the weather for tomorrow.


    February 5, 2009
  7. Bright Spencer said:

    Let’s not forget that even if global warming is not an event of concern, pollution still is one.

    February 5, 2009
  8. Peter Millin said:


    Not sure how old you are, but I am old enough to remember when pollution was a lot worse then it is today.

    This deosn’t mean we can sit back and relax…but it also doesn’t mean we have to push the panic button and make foolish decisions that will hurt us in other ways.

    February 5, 2009
  9. john george said:

    Peter- Thanks for the snake link. I’m not sure we have a good understanding of the historical climate fluctuations and their effects upon the environment. They are different from day to day weather changes. We are talking about long term trends over the whole globe, not local storm tracks or intensities. But the article does raise a good question- is the environment able to adapt to these long term fluctuations better than we presently think it can? Perhaps there is more to be learned from history than we presently know. In the mean time, I think I’ll keep my present roof color. It is light enough to reflect some heat in the summer but dark enough to absorb some in the winter when I need it. It is called a medium value. You should know what that means, Bright.

    February 5, 2009
  10. Bright Spencer said:

    John, Here is how I see it..the sun ray angle in the summer is more straight above the roofs and therefore beats down on them harshly. In the winter, the sun travels lower in the sky and that is where we can expect four hours or so of heating time through our southern windows. The sun doesn’t really influence the winter roof at all, and especially when the roofs are covered with snow. That’s the short version of it all.
    Yes, Peter, there used to be a LOT more urban pollution and panicking is never a good thing.

    February 6, 2009

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