How to Beat Global Warming … Or a New Ice Age

George Washington's picture

Whether you are worried about global warming, a new ice age, or just want to save on your electric bill … here’s a big part of the answer.

Everyone knows that – on a hot day – you stay cooler in light clothes than dark clothes.

We know that dark colors get warmer than light ones.

That’s because light colors reflect sunlight, while dark ones absorb it. That’s why solar panels are always black: it helps collect the sun’s energy.

This is one of the untapped keys for handling climate change.

As the Independent noted Friday:

Painting roofs white and using light-coloured materials to surface roads and pavements would not only make cities cooler in summer, it would save the same amount of carbon as taking all the cars in the world off the roads for 50 years, a study has found.


One of the simplest, yet most effective, ways of engineering the urban environment to cope with global warming is to increase the reflectivity of the cityscape so that more of the incoming sunlight is directed back into space, scientists said.


City buildings in warm climates with “cool coloured” surfaces that reflect infra-red radiation would also be cooler than traditional buildings and so would conserve energy – and carbon – that would otherwise be used on air conditioning.


Increasing solar reflectance or “albedo” has been suggested as a way of combating the “heat island” effect of towns and cities, where summers are made unbearably hotter in built-up areas by Tarmac roads and dark buildings that absorb sunlight.


Two years ago, Barack Obama’s top man on global warming, Professor Steven Chu, the US Secretary of Energy, suggested at the Royal Society in London that one of the most effective engineering measures to tackle rising temperatures is to paint roofs.


“If the building is air-conditioned, it’s going to be a lot cooler, it can use 10 or 15 per cent less electricity… you also do something in that you change the albedo of the Earth – you make it more reflective,” Professor Chu said. Now scientists, led by Professor Hashem Akberi, of Concordia University in Canada, have studied this in detail and found that it can have a significant impact.


They estimate that a city or town where the roofs and the pavements and roads have light-coloured surfaces can increase their albedo by about 10 per cent, which globally would provide a CO2 offset of between 130 billion and 150 billion tonnes – the same as taking every car in the world off the road for 50 years.


“Increased albedo can decrease atmospheric temperature and counter some of the anticipated temperature increases from global warming,” the scientists say in the journal Environmental Research Letters.


Albedo is measured on a scale of zero to one, where 1.0 is totally reflective and zero absorbs all sunlight.


The researchers believe that it would be cheap and easy to increase the albedo of cities by applying the reflective materials when roofs and roads are routinely resurfaced, rather than doing it as a special measure

Last year, Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza wrote in Reuters:

Painting black tar roofs with a white, solar-reflective coating is a low cost, quick and tangible way to reduce the risk of power grid ‘brown-outs’, save millions of dollars in energy costs, and curb climate change. The statistics are as simple as they are staggering: A roof covered with solar-reflective white paint reflects up to 90% of sunlight as opposed to the 20% reflected by a traditional black roof. On a 90°F day, a black roof can be up to 180°F. That heat has a major impact on interior building temperature, potentially heating your room to between 115 – 125°F. A white roof stays a cool 100°F. Plus the inside of the building stays cooler than the air outdoors, around 80°F in this example, reducing cooling costs.


White roofs also reduce the “urban heat island” effect in which temperatures rise in dense urban areas because of the proliferation of heat-radiating, black tar surfaces. For example, the Urban Heat Island effect causes New York City to be about 5 degrees warmer than surrounding suburbs and accounts for 5 to 10 percent of summer electricity use.


In New York City alone, 12% of all surfaces are rooftops. It’s estimated that implementing a white roof program in 11 metropolitan cities could save the United States 7 gigawatts in energy usage. That’s the equivalent of turning off 14 power plants, and a cost savings of $750 million per year.




If we were to coat 5 percent of rooftops per year worldwide, we would be finished by 2030. This would save the U.S. 24 billion metric tons in CO2. That happens to be exactly how the world as a whole emitted in 2010. So, in essence, this would be like turning the world off for an entire year — while also saving some money on the energy bills while doing it.

But many top scientists and government agencies have worried for over a 100 years that the real danger is a new ice age … not global warming.

Couldn’t painting all of the roofs and roadway surfaces white accelerate any cooling trends which threaten to freeze us?

Not if we are smart.

The whole idea is to be able to adapt to whatever conditions come our way. Specifically, it would be simple to install roofs which change from light to dark and backbased upon the temperature … or at the flip of a switch.

We’ve had glasses for decades which automatically change from clear to dark when exposed to the sun’s UV radiation. We’ve got “electronic curtains” that go from clear to dark depending on whether the electric circuit is feeding them power. All we have to do is paint roofs white, and put a black electronic curtain on top.

Scientists have created materials that change to any color you want through the use of a magnetic field. As Popular Science noted in 2009:

In the future, signs will be instantly rewritable and walls will change color at the flip of a switch. A research team at the University of California at Riverside has created a new magnetically activated, instantly and reversibly color-changing material with potentially groundbreaking applications. The technology is based on that used by colorful birds, beetles, and butterflies: instead of static pigments, the material employs “structural color,” which depends on the interference effects of light.


Although other methods for creating tunable structural color exist, their color-changing processes are slow and complicated, and involve internal adjustments. This new material is composed of microscopic polymer “magnetochromatic microspheres,” or beads, whose structural stability allows for instant changes in color with “no change in the structure or intrinsic properties of the microspheres themselves,” according to Yadong Yin, who led the study.


The beads’ colors change in response to magnetic fields, which alter the relative orientation of the periodic arrays within them. This use of magnetic fields allows for “instant action, contactless control, and easy integration into electronic devices already in the market.”


The color-changing beads can also be used to create environmentally friendly pigments for inks and paints. Yin, an assistant professor of chemistry, and his colleagues, plan to work next on the wide array of applications for which this material is so promising. “Rewritable energy-saving display units such as papers and posters are our main interests,” says Yin in the announcement. “We will also try to develop a similar new material for chemical and biological sensors.”

Indeed, in 2009, MIT graduates created roof tiles which do exactly what is need … changing color depending on temperature:

The ideal situation … would be to get the advantage of white roofs when it’s hot and black roofs when it’s cold.


Now, there may be a way to have both. A team of recent MIT graduates has developed roof tiles that change color based on the temperature. The tiles become white when it’s hot, allowing them to reflect away most of the sun’s heat. When it’s cold they turn black and absorb heat just when it’s needed.


The team’s lab measurements show that in their white state, the tiles reflect about 80 percent of the sunlight falling on them, while when black they reflect only about 30 percent. That means in their white state, they could save as much as 20 percent of present cooling costs, according to recent studies. Savings from the black state in winter have yet to be quantified.




They use a common commercial polymer (in one version, one that is commonly used in hair gels) in a water solution. That solution is encapsulated — between layers of glass and plastic in their original prototype, and between flexible plastic layers in their latest version — with a dark layer at the back.


When the temperature is below a certain level (which they can choose by varying the exact formulation), the polymer stays dissolved, and the black backing shows through, absorbing the sun’s heat. But when the temperature climbs, the polymer condenses to form tiny droplets, whose small sizes scatter light and thus produce a white surface, reflecting the sun’s heat.


They are now working on an even simpler version in which the polymer solution would be micro-encapsulated and the tiny capsules carried in a clear paint material that could be brushed or sprayed onto any existing surface. The tiny capsules would still have the color-changing property, but the surface could easily be applied over an existing black roof, much more inexpensively than installing new roofing material.




Because the materials are common and inexpensive, team members think the tiles could be manufactured at a price comparable to that of conventional roofing materials — although that won’t be known for sure until they determine the exact materials and construction of their final version.

So if those worried about global warming are right, the color-changing roof materials will help. And if those worried about global cooling are right … the color-changing roof materials will help as well.

Isn’t that a necessary idea for a species which hopes to stick around for many thousands of years … no matter what the climate is doing?

Click here for more common ground on climate.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
skank's picture

an “Ahh, Bach!” concept:


Radar: Ahh, Bach!
Louise: What does that mean? “Ahh, Bach”?
Radar: Uh, just that. Ahh, Bach.
Hawkeye: I think once you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.
Radar: Ahh, Bach.

Bunga Bunga's picture

Painting roofs is only kicking the can down the road.

At 4% economic growth rate primary energy production will grow too.  In 200 years we have to shield earth from sunlight completely, if this insanity goes on, even without any carbon emissions.

Just do the numbers - simple math.

Flakmeister's picture

Humans have a real hard time with the exponential function.....

irie1029's picture

This is the first really dumb post I have seen on this site.  

Yellowhoard's picture

Just spitballing here but what if we made all of the homeless people dress in all white clothing?

I mean , we've already turned them into mobile hot spots in NY.

Let's use the homeless as efficiently as possible for expanded bandwidth AND cooling the planet!

WTF_247's picture

Even if everyone did this it would NOT save any money.  In fact, 100% of all buildings could install solar and you would not save a dime.  The power companies are guaranteed by law to make a certain amount of profit (ROI).  If you cut demand by 50%, rates will just double.  Any savings will not be realized.  Short term you might save some money but over perhaps 5+ years the rates will just adjust so that the little power you do use will cost you way more.

Even if 100% of households went in full bore and eliminated the need for the power companies, a tax would be initiated to keep them in business.  It would be deemed a matter of national security.  The tax would be to keep them around "just in case" demand outstrips other methods ability to supply it or something else happens which would cause a sudden need for much more energy.

Also, there is no way that 100% of every individual and business could ever use solar - there are many areas in the US that do not receive enough average sunlight per year to pull it off.  Given that the government is about "equality of outcome" do you actually think they would let some states (or areas of a state) "suck it up" while other areas pay nothing for electricity?

MrBoompi's picture

Go long Titanium Dioxide.

rhaan's picture

The painted roof BS has long been debunked, see WUWT and so is CAGW.

No need to paint your roof black against the cold when it's covered by snow.

(same goes for freaking solal panel BS)

How much idiocy do we have to bear.

This moronic article has no place at this blog.



Herkimer Jerkimer's picture

I'll take a piece of you on that comment.

I've got a little cottage on the Great Lakes, a Panabode, made out of cedar construction.


It was hotter than hell in the summmer. No insulation. Just cedar 2x4's on the roof with black shingles.


I finally convinced my old man to get another colour when it came time to re-roof.


It never gets hot in the summer in the inside like it used to, since we switched to a light grey shingle.


Do you want to sit down on a black leather car seat, or a light blue cloth in California?


Go for walk in White Sands down in New Mexico. It's 110F in the shade. You can walk in your bare feet, because the sand is white. It's acually cool.


Been there, done that.



Flakmeister's picture

If you are relying on WUWT for any form of information, you are deluded....

Flakmeister's picture

GW... the new Ice Age is hooey and aside from being overhyped by Time and Newsweek, it was never a serious issue...The paper referred to  Rasool and Schneider (1971):  with their global cooling projection based on a quadrupling of atmospheric aerosol concentration. That may have been possible, but it was unlikely and DOA once S02 emissions were cut (remember Acid rain)

This summarizes it as well as anywhere:

Here is an excerpt:

In the 1970s, the most comprehensive study on climate change (and the closest thing to a scientific consensus at the time) was the 1975 US National Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Report. Their basic conclusion was "…we do not have a good quantitative understanding of our climate machine and what determines its course. Without the fundamental understanding, it does not seem possible to predict climate…"

This is in strong contrast with the current position of the US National Academy of Sciences: "...there is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring... It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities... The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action." This is in a joint statement with the Academies of Science from Brazil, France, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United Kingdom.

In contrast to the 1970s, there are now a number of scientific bodies that have released statements affirming man-made global warming. More on scientific consensus...


It closes with this:

So global cooling predictions in the 70s amounted to media and a handful of peer reviewed studies. The small number of papers predicting cooling were outweighed by a much greater number of papers predicting global warming due to the warming effect of rising CO2. Today, an avalanche of peer reviewed studies and overwhelming scientific consensus endorse man-made global warming. To compare cooling predictions in the 70s to the current situation is both inappropriate and misleading.  Additionally, we reduced the SO2 emissions which were causing global cooling.  The question remains whether we will reduce the CO2 emissions causing global warming.

Transformer's picture

And so, how do you explain at least 11 years now with no warming?    Global temps actually starting to go down?  Where's all the sea level rise that was predicted?  Did you know that there's more ice in the arctic this winter than in any year since we've been able to track it with satellites?  Did you know that Anchorage just had the most snow since 1955?  Did you know that last year, they had the most snow in the Sierra's since the 40's?   Did you know that the last 3 years have had 5 of the most severe winters on record in both hemispheres?   Did you know that cherry picking data from weather stations is not real science?  Especially when they are close to urban areas?  Did you know NASA is predicting greatly reduced solar activity for the next 50 years?  Did you know that the last time that happened was during the little ice age, and it is called the Maunder Minimum?  Did you know that the IPCC uses undergraduates to write large portions of the Global Report?  Did you know that the IPCC uses lots of  data that is not peer reviewed, even though they lie about it all the time?   Did you know that Polar bears are thriving, their numbers are at the highest level since first estimated in the '40's?  Did you know that Polar bears are so numerous that they regularly become a problem at small towns in Alaska, and have to be killed by the police?  Did you know that most people who parrot the AGW mantra are fools and wouldn't know the scientific difference between their own butt hole and a fishing hole in the ice?

Winston Churchill's picture


How much did these studies cost ?

Roofs have been painted reflective white in Florida for

as long as I've been here(20 years).

Try finding something we do not already know.

narapoiddyslexia's picture

How many tens of thousands of miles of black roads are there in Forida? How many tens of thousands of acres of black parking lots?

eddiebe's picture

The planet is constantly trying to balance itself out no matter what occurs. The way I understand it: As the planet warms the atmosphere holds more moisture. From there more clouds, from that more reflection into space until the cloudcover reflects so much light that the atmosphere cools and the clouds drop out their moisture as snow. The surface of the earth itself then becomes reflective and pronto: New ice age.

 As far as reflective man made surfaces. A great idea, but like all the rest of them: Where is the political will?? 40 million plus people unemployed and plenty of resources, but we can't even put together a decent affordable public transportation system in the USA. Pathetic!

Ljoot's picture

Why worry? Either way, it's bullish.


wang's picture
wang (not verified) Apr 16, 2012 6:56 AM


Himalayan glacier region 'gaining ice' Study finds some glaciers in Karakoram mountain range are growing in mass, despite ice-melt caused by global warming.
Keith Piccirillo's picture

Year's ago I remember reading about the colour of cars being produced primarily in lighter shades.We've come a long way from Ford's "You can have any color as long as it's black".

Production mixes, or chameleon paint in our future?

Element's picture

Maybe, but have a look at the latest 2012 Prius model. It has gone from dark grey to a jet black dashboard, with a long sloped windscreen open to the sun most of the day.

It's like a freckin oven in one of these new Prius's in Summer, you need the aircon on full blast during the day, just to stop sweating -- I'm not exaggerating..

Now put a white-ish fabric mat over that black dash (and get some polaroids, as you'll need them) then it's way too cold to leave the aircon on full blast all the time.

This car is supposed to be dedicated to efficiency and economy ... but it's clearly given-in to the interior stylists.

On top of this the top-line model has a black solar panel on the roof ... and get this ... it's primary purpose is to run an exhaust fan to evacuate the hot air, as you are walking up to a car that's parked in the sun, to try and cool down the interior air before you get into it.

That's a pretty fucked-up sort of eco fashion-statement.

Other than that they're a great car to drive ... just piss off that shit traction-control system, and maybe fit a polarised windscreen and a lighter dash next time.

flattrader's picture

Your analysis is dead-on.

A friend just got one of the new models.  Quite proud of course.

I hardly knew what to say.  They will be sweating thier asses off in about a month.

Dark interiors suck.  Nuetral...beige, putty the way to go.

Spouse bought a Toyota once with a nearly all black interior.  It was like a solar oven on wheels with the AC full blast. 

After a serious accident...I fought with the insurance company for days to total the car rather than reapair...and won.

Had I known, I would have crashed the thing myself much earlier in the game.

bank guy in Brussels's picture

Some interesting reading developing some major GW themes, from an offbeat site in Ireland which claims sources in 'Russian intelligence' ...

Tyler D. sez, do not take this site seriously, after it ran a story about Strauss-Kahn being arrested because he discovered there is no gold at the US New York Federal Reserve ...

So certainly not to take this as 'true' ... but quite interesting anyway:

« Russia Stunned After Japanese Plan To Evacuate 40 Million Revealed ...

Japanese diplomats told their Russian counterparts that they were, also, “seriously considering” an offer by China to relocate tens of millions of their citizens to the Chinese mainland ...

Foreign Ministry experts in this report note that should Japan accept China’s offer, the combined power of these two Asian peoples would make them the largest super-power in human history with an economy larger than that of the United States and European Union ... »

Colonial Intent's picture

It's in exchange for the kurile islands which china will swap to russia in exchange for an enginerre who knows how to assemble the J20* properly.

*them vortices are a bitch in attack angle stabilty calcs.

Element's picture

You seriously think the Chinese people are going to allow 40 million Japanese immigrants taking their land and resources?

Now, if you said 40 million nubile Japanese girls, well, that's different.

I'm sure the 40 million partnerless Chinese males would get over their WWII nostalgia-trip angst rather quickly, if that were the case.

flattrader's picture

When I chased it down late yesterday via EU Times, I noticed the name of the author.

>>>By: Sorcha Faal, and as reported to her Western Subscribers<<<

Not a credbile source.

If true, it would have been a game changer.

lamont cranston's picture

WDIM is the ultimate whacko website. To wit: Several years ago they said that when the last governor of South Carolina (Mark Sanford) was supposed to be in Argentina with his mistress he was really at The Kremlin arranging for SC to secede from the US and join the Russian Federation. 

Great fun reading along the lines of the sadly lamented, now departed Weekly World News. 

flattrader's picture

Global warming seems trite at this point given what is happening in Japan.

narapoiddyslexia's picture

That's warming, too, though, isn't it? As in, warming the cockles of your fuel rods.

User 3461's picture

We can't keep a sand & asphalt roof in tact for more than 15 years. Adding plastic to the mix seems like trouble.


A dozen or more years back, some kid (on 60 minutes, I think) had faceted cones that were black / white. They would be fitted such that the black side faced more southerly; they were seasonally optimized.

flattrader's picture

That makes perfect sense.

Black side absorbs rays in the winter warming the house, white side reflects rays in summer reducing the need for cooling.

The faceted "cones" themselves would likely not have to be more than a couple of inches high.  If they were made out a durable material, they would reduce the frequency for roof replacement.

Do you remember the name of the kid or product?

Colonial Intent's picture

But ZH told me there was no such thing as climate change (hot or cold) ,nothing human's do can ever affect the planet, it's all god's will.

I'm Confussed......................IS GW saying ZH is wrong?

Element's picture



Colonial Intent

But ZH told me there was no such thing as climate change (hot or cold) ,nothing human's do can ever affect the planet, it's all god's will.

I'm Confussed......................IS GW saying ZH is wrong?


Can you link even one example where anyone at zh has said what you are asserting, within the past year, which you so confidently claim is the case?

I have seen multiple debates on this topic, and not once have I seen anyone claim that earths climate doesn't change, rather, the point is that it is ALWAYS 'changing' (if you want to call it's long-term repeating cyclic nature a change), irrespective of whether humans are present in large population numbers, or not.

Which is THE point.

Which means you are completely ignorant, and/or else you are just making shit up.



Colonial Intent's picture

"irrespective of whether humans are present in large population numbers, or not"

woohoo, lets all buy humvees and build mor nukr plsnts coz fukishima didnt affect our climate in any way whatsoever......


Element's picture

I thought you had better things to do?  You could have been searching for something to back your false assertion.

If you can't link anything to back up your misrepresentation, then just admit you're talking lies simply to dis zh, and move on.

Colonial Intent's picture

Can you link even one example where anyone at zh has said what you are asserting, within the past year, which you so confidently claim is the case?


I have seen multiple debates on this topic, and not once have I seen anyone claim that earths climate doesn't change, rather, the point is that it is ALWAYS 'changing' (if you want to call it's long-term repeating cyclic nature a change),


irrespective of whether humans are present in large population numbers, or not.

Which is THE point.

No, Humans have an effect on the planet's climate, to say other wise is to deny science.

Which means you are completely ignorant, and/or else you are just making shit up.

Possibly a bit of both but not with malice.


"I have seen multiple debates on this topic"

So have i and the number of commenters who think humans have no effect on the climate are astounding, our argument is academic, either im wrong and my investments go tits up in the global economy as AGW is proven false or i'm right and our kids run out of clean air and the climate becomes hostile to human life, i would love to be wrong.....




Colonial Intent's picture

ZH claimed Monckton was a climate change "expert" the same guy who tried to have all gays in the UK sent to interment camps.

Kinda like those FEMA ones in denver...........

First it'll be the gays, then the muslims, then union members then freemen, then preppers hoarders

But it'll never be you, honestly it wont , you're a good little sheeple.



Colonial Intent's picture

"Can you link even one example where anyone at zh has said what you are asserting, within the past year, which you so confidently claim is the case?"


I could but i have better things to do with my time,

seriously? have you not read the tone of disbelief and contempt woven into every article posted on ZH that has owt to do with climate,

ZH is now naught but a partisan site for repubs to come and have their delusions confirmed and dems to troll and take the piss.

Its a shadow of what it was, and it pisses me off, coz when it was good i couldnt comment i and now i can most of the challenging commenters have left due to the rabble of blue team/ red team wallahs posting here.

Colonial Intent's picture

Jeez element, you been on ZH long enough to know that gw is just another evil plan by the obomber muslim socialists who want to take your guns.


Stick to the three golden ZH comments rules please

God beats science,

Guns beat the rule of law

Greed beats honesty.

It's the american dream folks.


Junkers, to you too.

Colonial Intent's picture

Guys, i had him at the above post, :=_}]

bank guy in Brussels's picture

Well, archaeologists and historians do say the earth was hotter at times during the Roman Empire and the mediaeval era than any time recently ... C02 from fires in ancient China perhaps ...

And some of the mountain glaciers are getting bigger again, despite the alleged 'global warming' ... video news story here ...

hardcleareye's picture

I think you missed a key sentence at the bottom.....

"The Karakoram glaciers are also unusual because they are covered with thick layers of rock debris, which means their patterns of melting and mass gain are driven by changes in that debris as well as in the climate."

Two other points, the gain was between "0.11 to 0.22 meters per year between 1999 and 2008" and "The mountain range's remoteness had made it hard to confirm its behavior.".

So there needs to be another study to see if the results can be replicated and confirmed.

An interesting read.

Dr Benway's picture

Good article. I wonder about the cost-effectiveness of chameleon paint though. Might be cheaper to go with the "paint white" idea, and if we get real cold repaint everything black.

MachoMan's picture

Even if it isn't chamelion paint, my electric bills (on an all electric house) running AC full blast or the heat full blast probably average around $120/mo.  10% of that is $12/mo.  So I'm supposed to install different exterior colors (brick/siding/garage door, etc.) and also paint the roof to save $12/mo.?  And then turn around and do it when the seasons change proper? 

The other problem with colored asphalt is that the dark color, that retains heat, helps de-ice the roads in the winter...  for moderate climates, this is a really, really big deal and cuts down on marginal costs of cities and counties (who don't budget for the cleanup costs).


narapoiddyslexia's picture

The cost of electricity is going to go up, possibly way up, in the near future. At what point will it become economical to you?

MachoMan's picture

At present technology levels...  time constraints...  and all things considered...  somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1000% increase?  My municipality also owns part of a power plant, thus giving us a core competency (and thus why we're adding jobs).

I also think that the "grid" will largely be unnecessary in the not too distant future, as most electrical production will occur at the home level...   (it doesn't make any sense to run lines).  I think increases in the cost of electricity will be met with decreased demand...  and it's not exactly as transportable as oil if you catch my drift.

narapoiddyslexia's picture

Bullish for paint manufacturers.

And, since titanium dioxide is the colorant in white surface coatings, time to buy stock in rutile miners, since that route doesn't pollute as much.

Like Sierra Rutile Ltd?

Hmmm, maybe too early. As we learned yesterday, early is the same as wrong.

Overflow-admin's picture

This is a little out of the subject, but I think it's important:



P.S. Oh yeah, there is more ClimateGate sausage coming.

Colonial Intent's picture

Hello Again,

STFU and get back to playing with your ddos software, white hat my arse, you dont even deserve a hat, ya little script kiddie...........