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We Are So Screwed, Part II

The Obama Administration's latest proposal to fight "global warming": Paint roofs white.

I kid you not.

From the Telegraph.co.uk:

Professor Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, said the unusual proposal would mean homes in hot countries would save energy and money on air conditioning by deflecting the sun's rays. More pale surfaces could also slow global warming by reflecting heat into space rather than allowing it to be absorbed by dark surfaces where it is trapped by greenhouse gases and increases temperatures.

In a wide-ranging discussion at the three-day Nobel laureate Symposium in London, the Professor described climate change as a "crisis situation", and called for a whole host of measures to be introduced, from promoting energy efficiency to renewable energy such as wind, wave and solar.

The Nobel Prize-winning physicist said the US was not considering any large scale "geo-engineering" projects where science is used to reverse global warming, but was in favour of "white roofs everywhere".

He said lightening roofs and roads in urban environments would offset the global warming effects of all the cars in the world for 11 years.

"If you look at all the buildings and if you make the roofs white and if you make the pavement more of a concrete type of colour rather than a black type of colour and if you do that uniformally, that would be the equivalent of... reducing the carbon emissions due to all the cars in the world by 11 years - just taking them off the road for 11 years," he said.

This is from a man who won a Nobel Prize.

They just give the damn things away these days.

If "global warming" is caused by "greenhouse gases", how exactly would reflected heat from pale colored roofs escape our atmosphere. This is contradictory in itself.

I suppose we should consider dying the dark blue oceans white, as well?

Let's assume that this kooky idea has a shred of merit. While this may be fine for hot, summer months, wouldn't a dark roof be better to cut down on heating structures in the winter months?

If heat is absorbed by dark colors, would it not make more sense to "global warming" nuts to advocate for dark roofs? Thus keeping more heat out of the atmosphere?

Ah, what's the use.

You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.



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Comments (41)

that is one heck of an anal... (Below threshold)
plebe:

that is one heck of an anal extraction. it was probably early and he hadn't had breakfast yet or something. jeez, somebody get that man a cup of coffee and a granola bar, stat!

I wonder how much Obama got... (Below threshold)
hermie:

I wonder how much Obama got in contributions from Sherwin-Williams and Pittsburg Paints?

This is junk science at it's worst. Next he'll claim that we can reduce CO2 by having everyone hold their breath ten consecutive minutes a day.

I believe the environmental... (Below threshold)

I believe the environmental kook's point is that the white roofs would reflect heat in the summer, thereby reducing the cost of cooling during warm months of the year. However, the point you make about the dark roofs absorbing heat in the summer would reduce the cost of heating in the winter, effectively offsetting the intended purpose of the white roofs for the warm months.

On the other hand, I guess we could all paint our roofs white during the summer and then repaint them a dark color for the winter, then just repeat this every year.

This is about as crazy as the kook that proposed it (Nobel prize? - You've got to be kidding!)

In my previous post I meant... (Below threshold)

In my previous post I meant to say "the point you make about the dark roofs absorbing heat in the winter would reduce the cost of heating in the cold months" etc...

Shawn -Any decentl... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Shawn -

Any decently insulated house is going to have so much insulation in the attic (or crawlspace) to render any winter heat coming in from a dark roof negligible. (And besides, you want the attic ventilated to avoid moisture buildup and condensation.)

It's always puzzled me, though, that folks would use dark shingles in a warm climate. I heard one time that dark shingles lasted longer - couldn't say whether it was true or not. I remember as a kid in El Paso our house had a tar roof with white quartz pebbles to reflect the sun.

So this isn't QUITE as dumb-ass as it seems. You can bet there's going to scam artists out looking to slap a coat of cheap white paint on shingles and charge lots of bucks for it, though.

While I still question the ... (Below threshold)
marybel:

While I still question the premise of anthropologically-caused global warming, a white roof, despite being butt ugly, might make sense in lowering air conditioning costs a bit in warmer climates. However, here in the Northeast, where we had a bitterly icy-cold 2008 winter, I needed my roof to be even darker to absorb what sun warmth was available. When Obama causes my utility rates to "skyrocket" with his cap and trade scheme, I will simply just be really cold inside my home.

White roofs everywhere" is, pure and simply, moronic.

So... anyone care to ask th... (Below threshold)
ExSubNuke:

So... anyone care to ask this guy just how many square feet of roofage (is that a word?) it'll take to offset... oh... the Island of Hawaii, with it's 2 volcanos, both of which are dark black from the lava.... and growing each day.

Or is that asking too much of our leaders?

Technically the guy is righ... (Below threshold)
Mac Lorry:

Technically the guy is right. White roofs reflect more sunlight back into space without converting it to heat than dark roofs. The greenhouse gases don't absorb light in the visible range so the reflected light passed back out into space. A dark roof converts more sunlight into heat which is radiated in the infrared and which the greenhouse gases absorb. If someone believes global warming is caused by human produced greenhouse gases then the white paint scheme offsetting car exhaust makes sense.

The problem with white roofs is that they get dark over time from dust, algae, tree sap, and bird droppings. In cold climates in the winter nature provides white roofs, lawns, and fields in the form of snow, so painted roof would only have an effect part of the year.

I don't buy the AGW argument, so I won't be painting my roof white anytime soon.

Always do some research for... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Always do some research for yourself before biting at these things. There is actually some hard science behind this. The added benefit of this system is that it doesn't destroy a lot of American industries and it is easy to reverse when the next global cooling cycle really kicks in.

Which may be this year, tyr... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Which may be this year, tyree.

I don't think I'll buy any roof paint just yet...

The interesting part is why... (Below threshold)
tyree:

The interesting part is why it took the Obama administration so long to discover this method. They were probably concerned that it wouldn't bankrupt the coal industry.

My flat roof is silver and ... (Below threshold)
epador:

My flat roof is silver and the peaked roof black and I'm keeping it that way.

There is actually some h... (Below threshold)
Jay Guevara:

There is actually some hard science behind this.

Listen to yourself.

Jay,What was that su... (Below threshold)
tyree:

Jay,
What was that supposed to mean? I work at a University and one of our research teams wrote about this years ago. Attack the Obama administration when he is wrong, but if all of the heat gain caused by hundred years of oil and coal use can be offset by white roofs, we are saved. There is now no reason to destroy all American industry.

There really is some scienc... (Below threshold)
Matt:

There really is some science behind it during the warm months, but it really does not work the rest of the year.

The bigger problem is that the amount of CO2 produced by making paint for every roof (and continuously cleaning and repainting to keep them white) would far outweigh any benefit from the roof being white.

The idea that white roofing... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

The idea that white roofing (which effect is only marginal, even in tropical climes) is going to offset the "greenhouse gas" effect of all the cars in the world for 11 years means somebody misplaced a decimal point. By a lot.

Please note also that ALL "global warming" benefits are from the estimated energy savings on cooling the structures painted white, since the net "savings" from the actual reflected heat would be close to ZERO, as that is merely diffused into the atmosphere instead of absorbed into the structure. The difference in amount "lost" into space is negligible.

Probably adding 4" of insulation to every structure would yield significantly larger savings at a comparable cost.

They say Chu won a Nobel Prize. I'm guessing it wasn't in mathematics.

Here is the premise - becau... (Below threshold)
Chris:

Here is the premise - because I've thought about doing this myself: The reflected rays do not heat your house and so you burn fewer fossil fuels cooling it.

Make sense?

Now think about it: in the winter, your house will be reflecting the same rays that will now NOT be heating your house, and so you burn more fossil fuels to heat your house.

In the end, it really only does any good in places like Florida or Texas or Phoenix, etc.

White roofing will make it ... (Below threshold)
davidt:

White roofing will make it easy to tell who is or isn't living green.

Sorry, guys. I'm as contemp... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

Sorry, guys. I'm as contemptuous of Obama as the rest of us, but in this case Chu's proposal makes sense.

If "global warming" is caused by "greenhouse gases", how exactly would reflected heat from pale colored roofs escape our atmosphere. This is contradictory in itself.

Good grief, Shawn, do a little research before you embarrass yourself and make the site look stupid. Put simply. white objects on the ground reflect visible light back through the atmosphere and into space, so the energy doesn't stick around on this planet. Dark objects absorb visible light and re-radiate it as heat into the local environment.

While this may be fine for hot, summer months, wouldn't a dark roof be better to cut down on heating structures in the winter months?

No, because your roof is insulated -- or at least it had better be If your house is warmed appreciably during the winter because you have a dark roof, you don't have enough insulation to keep out the cold at night.

If heat is absorbed by dark colors, would it not make more sense to "global warming" nuts to advocate for dark roofs? Thus keeping more heat out of the atmosphere?

Ah, what's the use.

Gah. Shawn, I like many of your posts, but you screwed the pooch on this one.

Chris wrote:

Here is the premise - because I've thought about doing this myself: The reflected rays do not heat your house and so you burn fewer fossil fuels cooling it.

No, that's not the premise. The premise is that the reflected rays do not heat the air around your roof. Remember, Chu was also talking about promoting light-colored concrete roadways instead of dark-colored asphalt roadways -- do you think he was worried about the amount of energy we spend air-conditioning asphalt roadways and parking lots?

There probably is a small cooling advantage to white roofs in summer, but that isn't why Chu was promoting them. White stuff on the Earth's surface reflects light back into space without heating the atmosphere. (For that matter, so does white stuff above the surface -- that's why volcanic dust cools things off.) The white stuff can be anything, including snow -- scientists think that the Ice Ages were to some extent self-perpetuating, with all those glaciers increasing the planet's albedo (look it up) and reflecting away the sunlight that would have warmed things up if it had been absorbed on the ground.

Now here's the part where you should think: If you want to paint stuff on the ground white, what would you paint? Crops? Grassland? Lake Michigan? The surface of the ocean? Nope! You paint things that occupy area but don't otherwise interact with any ecosystems -- the tops of buildings and the surfaces of roadways and parking lots.

And if you don't believe me, go read Instapundit.


JLawson wrote:S... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

JLawson wrote:

So this isn't QUITE as dumb-ass as it seems. You can bet there's going to scam artists out looking to slap a coat of cheap white paint on shingles and charge lots of bucks for it, though.

Bingo!

Matt wrote:

The bigger problem is that the amount of CO2 produced by making paint for every roof (and continuously cleaning and repainting to keep them white) would far outweigh any benefit from the roof being white.

Numbers, please. Chu's papers have them. Do you?

We just had our roof replac... (Below threshold)

We just had our roof replaced and spoke with the roofer regarding different colored shingles. He said that decades ago, all shingles were white, in order to reflect light and not cause heat buildup in the attic.

However, today's shingles are thicker, the roofs are built better and the insulation is of a better quality that the color of the shingle has little to do with the temperature in the attic.

He said proper airflow through the attic is the largest factor in lowering cooling costs for a house. He told us he hadn't seen a white shingle in decades, until this year when some company started selling them as eco-friendly.

I think we need to follow the money on this one to find out who is behind it.

If I paint my roof green, w... (Below threshold)
marc:

If I paint my roof green, will it make me "green" in the ecco-wennies eyes?

Gee I hope so, 'cause that's about as far as I'll go in following this, what was he... oh yeah a nobel prize winner (lowercase intentional)like arafaht and gore.

How about we plant trees on... (Below threshold)
TGOBG:

How about we plant trees on the side of the house that recieves the most sun (usually southern in the USA) that way the trees can shade your house in the summer and reduce the effects of the suns heating. In the winter the sun will shine through the bare branches and warm the house up... but wait that would make sense. and probably violate some homeowners association policys too

Effective immediately, all ... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

Effective immediately, all references to "global warming" will be revised to "manmade summer vacation weather".

The use of term "global warming" is officially deemed a Class D Act of Disloyalty.

Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. Submit.

The solution here is so ama... (Below threshold)
Sheik Yur Bouty:

The solution here is so amazingly simple I can't believe it hasn't been suggested yet.

As part of his Cap and Trade plan, TOWHABWF simply needs to add snow to the plan. Mandate that from now on it will snow in June, July and August and not in December, January and February. All that snow will really reflect that summer sun and have the added benefit of reducing ambient temparature everywhere in the hottest months of the year!!!11!!1!

See. It's so simple. You're welcome.

-syb

"Experts at the University ... (Below threshold)
tyree:

"Experts at the University of California, Irvine, say reflective plants could send more of the sun's heat back into space, and even reverse temperature rises in parts of the world."

Articles like this were published years ago, way before President Obama was elected. Like a stopped watch, Obama has to be right some of the time.

What we need is some of tha... (Below threshold)

What we need is some of that paint they used to put on Hot Wheels, that changed color with the temperature. That way our roofs can be white (or some light color) during the warmer months and black (or some dark color) during the cooler ones.

"If "global warming" is ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

"If "global warming" is caused by "greenhouse gases", how exactly would reflected heat from pale colored roofs escape our atmosphere. This is contradictory in itself."

Actually, no it's not at all contradictory. Your statement shows that you don't understand the theory behind the very poorly named "greenhouse effect". (It poorly named because the effect is nothing at all like a green house, but more like a rechargeable battery-- but for the sake of this comment I will use that term anyway.) Now I'm not saying I believe in the theory of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, but if you understand how the "greenhouse effect" works you'd see why there is no contradiction.

All matter that is above absolute zero in temperature gives off thermal infrared radiation (IR). The warmer the object the more thermal IR it emits. It is this thermal IR that is absorbed by the "greenhouse" gases (primarly water vapor, with minor amounts being absorbed by a few other gases).

Visible light is not absorbed by the "greenhouse" gases, but it is aborbed by matter on the ground. The darker the object, the more visible light absorbed, so the warmer the object gets and the greater thermal IR it emits. So painting surfaces white will cause them to absorb less visible light which will cause them to absorb less visible light and thus emit less thermal IR, thus cause less of the poorly named "greenhouse" effect.

Actually changing the color of the surface of the Earth could substancially affect the "greenhouse" effect, whereas decreasing the anthopogenic CO2 emmisions would have essentially no effect.

Actually, I think they now ... (Below threshold)

Actually, I think they now put the Nobel Prize in special boxes of Cracker Jack. ;)

At the end of comment #28, ... (Below threshold)
P. Bunyan:

At the end of comment #28, I should have written: "whereas decreasing or increasing anthopogenic CO2 emmisions would have essentially no effect."

Also the Nobel Prize is a joke. They should call it the Anti-capitalist of the Year award. Or the Anti-Freedom & Liberty Award.

However as a move towards energy independence, they should dig up Nobel and attach magnets to his body then wind copper wire around the casket before re-burying him. The actions of the modern Nobel prize committee surely having him spinning in his grave, so we could use that to create electricity.

I thought there was scienti... (Below threshold)
Zelsdorf Ragshaft III:

I thought there was scientific evidence climatic temperature change was caused by solar activity usually indicated by the number of sun spots. there have been times when the atmosphere contained much more CO2 than it currently does. It appears life was abundant during those times. We must remember most of the living things on earth depend on
CO2.

So I had to replace my roof... (Below threshold)
Dave:

So I had to replace my roof that was 30 years old and have had friends that has to do it at 20 years due to moss build up and other effects degrading the roof. The least of my worries was that my old roof looked dirty. It was more that it leaked in the rain and winter melting. So how often will you have to replace your "white" roof because it got dirty and is no longer as efficient as it was say a year ago? Anyone ever had a white car? Wash it on a sunny day, go for a drive later and its dirty already! Sounds like a real money maker to me.

I think the reason you had tar and stone roof in El Paso Texas JLaw was because that was the style of the house. Sure it offers some very little cooling effect, but you dont have REAL climate change ie Seasons on TX compared to the North East and I think it was all about the style of the house you grew up in. You know there was a time when people built a house for a particular style and not because it was "green."

This is another example of govt trying so hard to simplify a very complicated problem to try and make people think they are working on fixing it and see how easy it is? Look at me I'm a genius! White roofs!!! So simple! Reality check is that turning your A/C off when you go out for the day in the summer or I cant believe Im about to say it... Wearing a sweater in the winter will do far more to save you money and reduce energy costs than painting your roof white every year.

Zelsdorf Ragshaft III -... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Zelsdorf Ragshaft III -

Check over on WattsUpWithThat - it's a climate blog, and the evidence is pointing HARD toward global cooling.

It doesn't help, either, that apparently the Arctic ice sensor in a weather sat was malfunctioning and showing less ice than was actually there - and has finally failed. Other sources are showing there's a LOT more ice than last year, and Canada's running about 16 degrees cooler than normal.

Best get your long-underwear orders in early, I think.

And Al Gore - he's going to be worshipped by snake-oil salesmen and scam artists 'till the end of time. He ALMOST pulled it off - announce global warming during a normal period of solar upswing, convince people to buy his 'carbon credits' to 'save the planet' - and live the friggin' chilly high life while us lowly peons sweat for fear of bringing the planet to a boil if we turn the air conditioning below 80.

Dave -Possibly you... (Below threshold)
JLawson:

Dave -

Possibly you're right. It was a standard ranch-style, low peak roof. And in Google Earth it looks like it's been shingled sometime in the last 40 years... with light-colored shingles.

Could be one of the owners got tired of sweeping up the rocks that fell off the roof and throwing them back up there...

If heat is absorbed by d... (Below threshold)
mantis:

If heat is absorbed by dark colors, would it not make more sense to "global warming" nuts to advocate for dark roofs? Thus keeping more heat out of the atmosphere?

That makes sense if you're incredibly stupid or don't have a clue what you're talking about. My guess is both are true in your case.

Light colored shingles or w... (Below threshold)
Dave:

Light colored shingles or white shingles? Light colored shingles have been used for sometime in warm climates. Dark colors were picked not so much for their eco effects, but for their visual appeal and possibly economic constraints. Shingling a roof is expensive. Mine cost 20Gs 15 years ago!

Recently designers have designed a dark colored shingle that reflects solar energy. So it looks like a traditional roof but you get the benifits of the light color. Also I think alot of people are forgetting that shingles arent dark black. They are really gray. I havent looked at my roof since it was finished 15 years ago, but its not a really dark color. Its gray really. Some of the pictures of houses Ive seen of "dark shingles" look very light to me.

Light colors have almost always been used in areas like SoCal, Texas and other places where the weather is mostly sunny and you dont get the seasonal changes. But then again I dont see houses like the ones in El Paso Texas being designed to look like the houses I see in Greenwich CT.

I would also imagine that a tar/stone roof is cheaper than a shingled roof. There is just alot more work in redoing a traditional shingled roof. Believe me Ive done it. That's why I paid someone to do it the last time. The tar/stone was done on Dirty Jobs. Once you are prepped its a pretty simple process to tar and stone a roof.

Again I think that the design of roof, especially one over 40 years ago has more to do with visuals, style and money and less to do with being green. A house built in El Paso, even 40 years ago wouldnt look right on the block next to mine and mine wouldnt look right in TX.

Anyway I think there are easier ways to save yourself money and conserve energy. This discussion of roofs is fine, but what if you dont need a new roof? Im not spending 20Gs on a new roof until I have to. What if my house wont look right with a "light colored" roof? Am I not allowed to make my property look the way I want it to so long as its in code? What ever happened to the mantra of if everyone does their little bit it will make a bog difference? Now we are expected to buy new roofing materials? Doesnt matter because if the good Dr had done his research he would know that the color of your roof doesnt matter anymore if you buy the right shingles.

>If "global warming" is cau... (Below threshold)
Tom:

>If "global warming" is caused by "greenhouse gases",
>how exactly would reflected heat from pale colored
>roofs escape our atmosphere. This is contradictory in
>itself.

No it's not. Check the wikipedia article on "greenhouse gas" for basic explanations (hint: reflected light is not infrared radiation).

You don't seem to have any clue regarding this subject. Take Wittgenstein's advice and keep quiet.

Recently designers have ... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

Recently designers have designed a dark colored shingle that reflects solar energy.

Got a link to that? Otherwise a dark shingle that reflects most of the light that hits it sounds about as plausible as a bucket of dry water.

Doesnt matter because if the good Dr had done his research he would know that the color of your roof doesnt matter anymore if you buy the right shingles.

Yeah, Chu's just a dumb fart who knows nothing about physics.

Al Capp's Li'l Abner used to say, "As any fool can plainly see, I can plainly see ..."

This is from a man who won a Nobel Prize.

They just give the damn things away these days.

Also the Nobel Prize is a joke.

More ignorance in action. The Nobel Peace Prize is a joke -- that's what Al Gore and Yasser Arafat won. The Nobel Prizes for Chemistry and Physics are a bit harder to win. Give it a try some time, why don't you?

They say Chu won a Nobel Prize. I'm guessing it wasn't in mathematics.

Good guess, Jim! There is no Nobel Prize in mathematics.

Look, it's fun to spout off, point fingers, and go "Neener neener neener!" ... but some of you guys might just as well be jp2, Hyperbolist, or Herman as far as how freakin' stupid your comments are. Whether you realize it or not, you're trashing the reputation of this site.

Bwahahahaha! Last week he ... (Below threshold)
Tammy:

Bwahahahaha! Last week he wanted us to drive double-seater, closed in lawn mowers to work every day. Now he wants us all to have white roofs. He truly is from Planet Zongo. Believe me, that's the nicest thing I can say on here. Anything else would get me censured, or to the most extreme, investigated by the DHS.

It is easy to lose perspect... (Below threshold)
evenhand:

It is easy to lose perspective when something like this is tossed out there, especially when just thinking in terms of our own lives, in our own little spaces.

The Earth is covered by 75% water. That leaves 25% land. Half of that land is still wilderness. That means approximately 13% of the Earth is inhabited by humans.

How much of that is actually developed?

Not all is developed equally.

How much is agricultural? Rural? Suburban? Urban? Third world? Paved, not paved, shacks, buildings, houses, plots of land that have grass, trees, whatever?

It sounds like a nice, neat, simple idea that everyone could understand, but, really, the percentage of viable structures is so small I would think it would effect but a fraction of actual land mass.

Add that to the seasonal offset, and it is meaningless.

It sounds like a nice, n... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

It sounds like a nice, neat, simple idea that everyone could understand, but, really, the percentage of viable structures is so small I would think it would effect but a fraction of actual land mass.

But the effects that the Anthropogenic Global Warming True Believers are claiming also are relatively small compared to the total heat budget of the planet.

OK, let's try a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Say that one percent of the planet's surface is covered with roads and rooftops. Maybe it's more, maybe it's less, but that's in the ballpark.

Reducing the energy absorption of roads and rooftops from 90 percent to 30 percent -- raising the reflectivity from 10 percent (asphalt) to 70 percent (white paint) -- means that several hundred watts per square meter of energy is not being absorbed and converted into heat ... and that's on a bunch of square meters. Put as percentages, increasing the albedo (reflectivity) from 10 percent to 70 percent on that one percent of the Earth's surface means you've lowered the amount of energy absorbed by the entire surface and troposphere by 60% x 0.01, or 0.6 percent. That may seem small, but it's comparable to the energy gain for the amount of warming predicted by the greenhouse gas True Believers.

Then there's the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect to consider. Cities are much warmer than surrounding countryside, for a variety of reasons, but albedo is a major factor. More than half the surface of urban areas is paved or roofed, and suburban areas aren't far behind. UHIs typically are 5 degrees Fahrenheit or more warmer than their surrounding areas, according to the link. How much energy would a city use for air conditioning on an 85 degree day? How much would the city use on an 90 degree day? Substantial difference, no?

The interesting thing about Chu's suggestion is that, although he seems to accept the dire predictions made by the AGW True Believers, he's proposing solutions to mitigate the perceived problem that don't call for socializing the American economy and tripling the cost of energy. Isn't that kind of a good thing?




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