There has been a lot of press coverage of the decision by the National Academy of Science to study the feasibility and safety of large-scale geoengineering as a means to address climate change. It is hard to believe that we are at a stage where we must consider such drastic strategies.
Much of the conversation has revolved around the idea of albedo modification — that is, increasing the amount of solar energy reflected into space rather than absorbed by earth. Conceptually, this is the same process that keeps light colored roofs and pavements cooler. However, the scale of the geoengineering being considered is staggering — we are talking huge swaths of the earth brightened by man-made clouds. Since only 1% of earth’s surface is urban, even a wildly successful global cool roofs and pavements campaign would be nearly 70 times smaller in scale than what is under study now. There really is no comparison.
And yet, focusing efforts of deploying more cool roofs and pavements would have a tremendously positive impact on the planet. They help cut cooling energy and peak electricity demand, improve heat resiliency of people living in unconditioned buildings, and cool down communities and help reduce air pollution; all while safely offsetting the warming effect of atmospheric greenhouse gases.
The scientific debate is on about whether we have reached a point where we must consider drastic measures to combat climate change. Either way, we should be taking the simple and affordable first steps to improve our buildings, communities, and planet by installing cool roofs and pavements anywhere it makes sense to do so.