Painting Rooftops White Would Slow Global Warming

Study: If we painted every rooftop in 100 major cities white, it would offset the entire planet’s carbon dioxide emissions for one year. That’s nearly 44 metric gigatons.

Going green just turned white.

It makes sense. We all know white reflects heat (that’s why we wear white shirts and dresses on hot days), and we even knew that painting rooftops white lessens the need for air conditioning. But until now, we didn’t know that changing darkcolored surfaces to white would help fight against global warming.

The news broke yesterday at California’s Climate Change Research Conference. Hashem Akbari, attending the conference from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, announced that replacing dark shingles on an average-sized household rooftop with a lighter color would offset 10 metric tons of carbon dioxideβ€”comparable to taking two mid-sized cars off the road for a year.

Speaking of roadways, they’re part of the problem too. Because of its cheap nature, most roads are paved with black asphalt instead of light grey concrete, which causes roads to absorb an inordinate amount of heat. Repaving roads with lighter-colored materials would have a similar impact to painting rooftops.

California already mandates that newly-built large buildings have light-colored rooftops, but the law was intended to decrease air conditioning costs. Akbari hopes to enlist the United Nations in an effort to convince major cities to make their roadways and rooftops more pale.

Read a full summary of the report here.

Photo Credit: Robert Whitlock on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Written by alexfelsinger

8 Comments

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  1. as an architect i am quite familiar with this concept of reducing heat-island effects from dark materials such as asphalt – though this phenomena as i understand it is a micro-climate effect. if we looked at the effect of painting all roofs white, i would be surprised if it would have a positive effect globally…that head must go somewhere, no? i don’t think its leaving the atmosphere…and that’s fundamentaly the problem (cause) of climate change.

  2. The huge paradigm shift in American lifestyle, dictated by the great repuglican depression, and being delivered to the American people as we speak and post partem, in form of and astounding fall in the dollar, world wide, and an unbelievable inflation to follow,and the upcoming ‘Financial derivatives” holocaust, combined with the Asian factorhas changed the American situation forever.
    It will significantly reduce the amount of beef consumed in America. when in conjunction with rising oil prices, Obama’s Universal Health care taxes and the astounding Trillions of dollars being printed by government kick in and inflation hits the roof!
    Americans eat possum out of necessity in Detroit City today, and scratch in humanured, composted, garden plots by shanties, and live in unspeakable third world conditions in slums, where before, the mighty American Automotive manufacturing industries prevailed!
    America is “Morphing” into a less polluting society as we speak, and witnessing the Ohio Vally , now a non-polluting rust belt of human despair, I for one am not so sure we see improvement!
    Global Warming, true or false, is not an American responsibility! China does more damage in a day than we do, white roofs or not! India a close second! We are struggling, floundering, and folks on our continent are hurting! This is a global problem requiring Global regulation, and local efforts are frivolous fancy, relatively ineffective, in scale with “Global” regulations!
    Super insulations, the technologies updated, released by NASA and made public to community colleges can do more for the environment and fuel savings than any other single act, and we paid for this info and these new space age materials to be developed! Give it to us Washington!
    Depleted Uranium research must be made open to the public! Super battery potential exists here! Cold Fusion potential exists here! For “Defense Purposes” we are being held back! restricted to access to possibly the greatest field of science ever! goddammit! By Us!

  3. Those cities don’t really cover as big a chunk of earth as you probably imagine. This sounds like wishy-washy BS that will never happen.

  4. I think the Idea of using white paint is retarded, it should be a moss, lichen or algae roof with a waste water recycling solar powered self watering green roof & walls that would at least put off 02 and clean the air look nice and consume solar radiation. what cha think ?

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