White Roofs

CC photo by Sarey

CC photo by Sarey

David Farenthold writes in the Washington Post about the idea of painting the roofs of houses white to increase surface albedo and help counterattack the impact of climate change. My understanding of the issue is that the science behind this is perfectly sound and that we should do it. The article is prompted by remarks made by Energy Secretary Stephen Chu who’s reached the same conclusion.

This is, of course, a genre of “geoengineering” sometimes suggested by the more clever brand of right-winger as an alternative to reducing carbon emissions. It seems to me that when thinking about the entire topic, it’s useful to distinguish between “strong” and “weak” geoengineering methods. The weak ones, the kinds we should definitely do, are things like changing the color of our roofs. There’s a related issue having to do with black surface parking lots and the desirability of making them a different color and offering more tree cover. This kind of thing is, to my mind, all good and worth doing as much of as possible.

At the same time, we should be leery of “strong” geoengineering concepts that have to do with blotting out the sun or changing the structure of clouds. Those kinds of things could have extremely dangerous unintended consequences and pose all sorts of problems.