Chairman Chu is at it again.   I really shouldn’t look at the news.

Steven Chu: Obama's green guru calls for white roofs
U.S. energy secretary, Steven Chu Photo: BLOOMBERG

Speaking at Cambridge University this week, Dr Chu suggested we paint the roofs and pavements of our towns and cities white, as it will help the planet reflect, rather than retain, heat from the sun. “You change the albedo of the Earth,” he explained. “The sunlight comes down and it actually goes back up. There is no greenhouse effect.”

Of course the light goes back up, it’s even fair to say more light goes back up from a white roof than from a dark one.  Consider what that means for CO2 in say THE NORTH.  I rather like a black roof on my house. It saves energy.  In Illinois, a large percentage of our electricity is good old fashion nuke power.   Considering that means any AC I use (one month per year) is evil carbon free.  Painting my home or office roof white would result in greater (natural gas) heating cost in the winter increasing CO2 and less of the already minimal cooling cost which is carbon free. Perhaps we should make our roof’s black — oh yeah WE ALREADY THOUGHT OF THAT!

Government’s can’t do a damn thing right.

According to Jake Hacker, a senior scientist in the built-environment physics department of the world’s largest architectural engineering firm, Arup. “There are lots of people looking in to ways of reducing the ‘urban heat island’,” he explains.

“The cooler the town, the less air con used, which would reduce CO2 emissions. It’s not clear, however, if white is the best way of achieving that. Lots of reflecting surfaces in one place could cause horrible glare. And maintaining white on pavements and roads would be expensive.” He paused, then said, encouragingly: “But white surfaces definitely have a part to play. It’s just…”

“Well, the surface of the earth receives on average around 280 watts of energy per square metre, and only 1.5 per cent of the surface is cities or towns. I think we’re going to have to look at other things.

It’s like these ‘scientists’ can’t figure out that urban heat island happens in the winter too.  What are they going to do to cities like Chicago and New York where the heating bills are usually worse than the cooling bills.  Governments need to stay out of these decisions, when Chairman Chu pretends businesses don’t already follow the best available cost savings my blood pressure goes up.  It’s just another baby step in the cycle of fear and control.

Source article link HERE.

32 thoughts on “Whitewash

  1. The primary white pigment is titanium dioxide (unless we want to go back to white lead oxide…). There is a limited supply of TiO2, and it costs lots of carbon to mine and process it. Government folks and politicians are not known for thinking about complex, long-term issues, and it looks like that even includes some who have won scientific prizes. He probably drives a Prius, too!

  2. Chu is a good example of what happens when you take otherwise good academic scientists out of the lab.

  3. The Daily Telegraph has picked up on this.
    (No link, bloody mouse’s “Right Click” has packed up)but has an article on “Are you allowed to paint your roof white?”
    A few draw-backs.
    Insurance for the man painting the roof if it’s over 60 feet above ground level (Health & Safety, don’t you know!) [I can detect yuor blood pressure rising here Jeff!]
    Local Council approval (Might not fit in with the look of the area)
    Biggest damper? That only 1.5% of the Earth’s surface is built upon, so it’s not going do a great deal really.

  4. Adam Gallon,
    “That only 1.5% of the Earth’s surface is built on..”.
    How did you get that number?

  5. How could this have any effect at all. Since we know (or have been so told and verified in the published literature) that there is no effective discernible Urban Heat Island effect, surely altering the heat retention properties of urban areas will also have no discernible effect ?

    Or is Chu saying that although there is no effective UHI, urban areas can be cooled relative to non-urban areas by such methods ?

  6. Chu has just admitted that UHI is important and that CO2 is not the main driver of climate.
    AGW is a scam.

  7. MIT has studied ways to reflect excess radiation before this. Here is an important study about a method they tested.

    I think every AGW believer should participate in this. It would clearly show they care about the impending climate catastrophe.

  8. One thing that amazes me is how an entire globe can get caught up in foolish thought. We, of the enlightened 21st century, look back at the rubes in history and wonder how anyone ever thought “leeching” was a good idea. Or how anyone could really think the sun circles the earth. Or this, or that. We now believe that we are much smarter, and couldn’t possibly accept as fact that which is foolishness.

    It seems that we have advanced this to a new level. Not only do we accept foolishness that will make people a couple hundred years from now laugh at our silliness, but we are on the brink of doing stupid thing after stupid thing, costing us untold billions, reducing efficiency, and destroying our freedoms – all in the name of something that will be proven false (my conjecture of course, but I’d bet a bundle on it). People will not only laugh at our foolishness, but will be utterly amazed at our willingness to destroy ourselves in the process during a period of time where we could be expanding prosperity to unimagined levels.

    Painting everything white may not destroy us, but it would be a mighty testament to our stupidity.

    And good luck with winter driving on white roads.

    What a moron.

  9. #9 Hunter


    Alert MIT researchers immediately about the potential albedo benefits of tin foil hats! Make them stylish and put a little polar bear on them and it will be an instant fad.

  10. Makes great sense to me! My father was a lighting engineer who rented the top floor of an old tar-roof building for his photometric laboratory in Boulder. He had to keep the temperature constant, had to pay the heating and cooling bills himself, and was well aware of IR emissivities and such. He did the math and immediately mopped the roof with aluminum paint.

    The fact that IPCC and Al Gore never mentioned this money-saving alternative, that I am aware of, made me wonder right away whether they were really concerned about GW, or if they instead had a hidden agenda to control energy use and spend tax moneys.

    Of course, there’s a summer/winter tradeoff, so that the advantage of a light roof depends on how far north you are. But if your roof is covered with snow in the winter anyway, a dark roof won’t help much. In fact, it may cause the snow to melt faster, thereby removing its insulative effect.

    It should be remembered that white and aluminum paint are not necessarily white to IR, and their near and far IR properties may differ. So check all the angles before you paint. Painting shingles doesn’t make sense, but there are many light colored shingles (some with mica content) that are worth looking into as alternative to the traditional dark look. It would be essentially costless to amend housing codes to permit energy efficient and eco-friendly light shingles.

    Even if roofs are such a tiny fraction of the earth’s surface that lightening all of them would make no difference for global albedo, just cooling the cities will make global warming more bearable, since the UHI gets added in on top of any GW. And lightening your own home is as good-neighborly as growing a tree, since if the neighborhood is cooler, your neighbors won’t have to spend as much on their own AC bills (and CO2 production).

    I remember reading in “My Weekly Reader” back in the 1950s that Pittsburgh’s renovation of its downtown included lightening existing surfaces and encouraging light materials for new buildings, as a deliberate effort to hold down oppressive summer temperatures.

    Light roofing materials may have only a token effect on global temperatures, but such token efforts would at least have had a publicity effect to make people think about the climate. So why doesn’t everyone who voted for Gore in 2000 and has had to reshingle since then have a light roof, if only to prove they’re environmentally correct? It seems that it’s because it’s more fun and profitable to coerce others to cut their fuel consumption.

  11. If Chu is getting into the habit of throwing out proposals without the benefit of a cost analysis or reference to such, I suspect he does not take his political position very seriously.

    It would not be surprising to me for a Nobel prize winning scientist in an unfamiliar political position to react this way. Of course, a physicist is not necessarily going to be aware of some of the economic consequences of his off-the-cuff proposals.

  12. Hu: You make sense. I nominate Hu to replace Chu-Chu the Guru of Btu!

    I live at about 45 N. Latitude. I really doubt that my roof color makes a joule’s worth of difference.

  13. We live in a subtropical region. Our summers are infamous for their heat, and the heat season goes easily from May to late September. Our roof is flat. The roofing material is what is called ‘modified’. It is essentially a rubber membrane with fine white gravel embedded in it.
    There is no attic.
    One year, I experimented and painted the roof with an aluminized tar. When it is applied, it is silver and highly reflective.
    The years that it was up, before it washed off, we had noticeably lower cooling bills.
    I may apply it again this year.
    Chu was right, imho.
    But he is right about this, while ignoring the important implications of what he is right about.
    If he is right that we can take reasonable, immediate low cost steps to change important climate forcings, then he is absolutely wrong about his official policy positions.
    Shame on him.

  14. The Greek islanders have long gone in for whitewash to keep their dwellings cool in the hot sun:

    If above Santorini-scape doesn’t come up, it’s at http://www.vazeos.gr/layout/oia-santorini.jpg, with photo credits to Vazeos car rentals.

    Anthony Watts could tell us all about the thermic properties of whitewash versus white latex paint. They’e different, but I’m not sure which would be “better” in this context.

    Personally, I find whitewhite, as above and at http://www.walletpop.com/blog/2009/05/27/white-house-white-roofs-obamas-low-cost-plan-to-cut-electric , to be a little stark. Perhaps an albedo of .3 (versus the popular circa .9 slate-look shingle) would be pleasant.

    An article by Akbari, Menem and Rosenfeld supposedly providing some data about this (which I haven’t read and can’t vouch for) is to appear in the 5-6/09 issue of Climatic Change, and is online at
    http://www.energy.ca.gov/2008publications/CEC-999-2008-020/CEC-999-2008-020.PDF .

    Why weren’t IPCC and Gore talking about this a decade ago, as at least a token gesture against warming? No one but Chu is going to change their shingles just to reduce their albedo, but when they do wear out every 25 years or so, why haven’t people been urged to ask for tan or light gray instead of traditional slate tones?

  15. Hu,
    You ask why this wasn’t promoted as a first step?
    The first answer is because there is no significant problem to actually solve.
    The second is because there is not enough money for the AGW promoters in white roofs.
    The third is that there is not enough power transfer to AGW promoters by way of white roofs.
    If we actually were on the verge of an apocalypse, and the AGW promotion actually believed it, they would actually seek to take steps to do something about the source of the risk.
    AGW is not about climate science. It is about power.

  16. The solution to the winter-summer roof color dilemma is a black and white checkerboard pattern. Then at least you’re half right all the time.
    Of course a medium gray would be just as effective. Hey, maybe Sherwin-Williams could eliminate the whole global warming problem by changing the color in their “Cover the Earth” logo (http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangecats/467857391/) from red to a new shade called “albido gray”.

  17. In #20 above, I said

    Perhaps an albedo of .3 (versus the popular circa .9 slate-look shingle) would be pleasant.

    Make that “Perhaps an albedo of .7 (versus the popular circa .1 slate-looking shingle) would be pleasant.”
    Albedo is the amount of radiation it reflects, not the amount it absorbs.

    Although the black tar/silver tar choice is probably important for a flat-roof building’s own heating and cooling bills, I doubt that shingle colors make much difference for the temperature inside a house with an insulated attic. But they do heat the neighborhood and the city, making the UHI more unpleasant for all. So the appeal here should have been, “Be a good neighbor — next time choose light shingles.” This doesn’t cost anyone anything, yet improves the city, and makes everyone aware of global temperatures.

  18. But don’t give them a mirror finish, or that pilot you blind with them might crash into them. 😉

  19. How come when you guys don’t even know enough school level physics to know whether a black or white roof will reduce your energy bills, you think you are in a position to use your mickey mouse, back of envelope one-factor models to somehow make your prejudged conclusions better science than professionals who unlike you are not grinding an axe, but trying to establish what is really going on.

  20. #25, As I said above, in cold climates a black roof helps. In warm a light color roof is preferable. You should be careful with concluding too quickly. Half the people who commented above are scientific professionals. You should see the stuff Hu writes for entertainment 😉

  21. #25 – have a look at what goes on in building and archtecture around the globe and over the ages. Properties of colour, building layout, airflow management, materials and other factors have been used to very good effect in many different environments.

    Try googling (for example) “sustainable building design” for some starters on what is going on from a wide range of people with a wide range of qualifications.

  22. we maybe are talking only about 1.5% of surface here,but thank you ,I keep wearing my white shirt and hat here in Florida.

  23. Just wanted to add my little bit of generic input here, because I see so many people criticizing AGW-fighting tactics. I just want to point out that those in the field of ecology have for years been ranting doom and gloom about ecosystem destruction, food chain collapse, water toxification, and all that jazz, but no one’s listened. Although in the big picture, these things will eventually come to have a large impact on humanity, the connections to everyday life are too tenuous, and so no one can force themselves to care. The good thing about AGW is that the premise is simple — “S*** IS GETTING F***ED UP. ORGANISMS ARE DYING. HUMAN HABITATS WILL CHANGE DRASTICALLY.”

    So the point I want to make here is that in the eyes of many who see themselves as activists, it doesn’t matter whether AGC is real. I personally wouldn’t be troubled at all if AGW turned out to be exaggerated. It’s lighting the fire under us, and forcing us to consider factors outside our simple monetary bottom line. It’s helping business to accept the idea of accounting for externalities.

    Many of the actions called for are important and long overdue regardless of the final verdict on AGW. No matter how you look at it, we need to reduce our impact. AGW is a damn good reason, and one that many laypersons can easily embrace and see the implications of.

  24. That’s nonsense. It’s about controlling our lives through the control of the energy we use, period. It’s about totalitarianism. AGW is a terrible reason, it is merely and excuse for those in power to exert even more control over our lives than they already have. Yes, we can see the implications: 1984.


  25. Many of the actions called for are important and long overdue regardless of the final verdict on AGW. No matter how you look at it, we need to reduce our impact. AGW is a damn good reason, and one that many laypersons can easily embrace and see the implications of.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s