What wildly underfunded climate solution can achieve all of these goals simultaneously:
- Slow global warming by increasing the reflectivity of the Earth (geo-engineering)
- Reduce local temperatures in the hottest cities (adaptation)
- Reduce fossil CO2 emissions (mitigation)
- Save U.S. consumers and businesses billions of dollars in energy costs
- DReduce urban smog and hence cardio-pulmonary disease
- Create more than 100,000 jobs in two years?
The answer is a major effort to make roofs (and pavements) whiter and/or more reflective, which should be coupled with a major urban tree-planting effort. This “urban heat island mitigation” (UHIM) may well be the single most cost-effective energy and climate strategy.
[This figure is from EPA's excellent heat island website, showing how urban areas are relatively hotter where vegetation has been removed and replaced with dark, heat-absorbing roofs and pavements.]
UHIM will be the subject of a multipart series. Part 2 will look at a new analysis of the multi-trillion-dollar direct climatic/geo-engineering benefits of a global “cool roofs” initiative [and, no, I am still not a fan of what is commonly called geo-engineering, see here]
Part 3 will present a specific new proposal to use the economic stimulus package to jump-start the UHIM effort. A key benefit of a UHIM stimulus is that it does not require either highly-skilled labor or expensive, uncommon material. Thus, unlike many proposed elements of the stimulus package (green or otherwise), this one can be ramped up quickly.
The rest of this post is an introduction to heat islands, excerpted from a Technology Review article I coauthored, “Paint the Town White–and Green“: