Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Big Global Warming Cover Up!

Alice showed me an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Hashem Akbari's cool anti-global-warming plan" by Justin Berton (Chronicle Staff Writer, Friday, February 20, 2009), that really had me puzzled.

After getting past the concept of cooling the Earth by painting roofs white and roads a light color, the first real puzzler was the claim of benefits from so doing.

In September, Akbari and his team published a study in the academic journal Climatic Change, which found for every 100 square feet of black rooftop converted to white, a building owner could offset about 1 ton of carbon dioxide.

Add to that all the world's paved urban surfaces (Akbari recommends converting black asphalt to an aged concrete color instead of white), and the team concluded enough cooling benefits to offset 44 billion tons of CO2.

Put another way, that's roughly the same amount of CO2 the planet emits every 18 months.

Where did the Akbari team get the above amount of CO2? Sources I've checked show the Earth emits 180 billion tons of CO2 per year, and mankind produces another 6 billion tons a year. Apparently Akbari is claiming his scheme would save all of mankind's CO2 emissions for over a seven year period. How does he do that?

About Akbari's suggestion to retard global warming by painting all roofs and roads a light color:
I don't think you can do anything about the color of the oceans, and they cover 70% of the Earth's surface. Ditto Antarctica - but it's already white anyway. A scan of a globe shows that the less than 25% of it that is neither ice nor ocean appears to be over 99% free of buildings and roads - and huge swaths of it, such as most of Canada, Greenland, and Siberia, don't require air conditioning (or much heating either, since hardly anyone lives there).

Almost all of Australia is uninhabited, and New Zealand too - plus its many glaciers and sheep are already white. Other huge, relatively uninhabited areas include the interiors of South America, North America, North Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the mountain, steppe, and desert regions of Asia.

Alice reminds me that many of the roofs that are candidates for painting already host solar panels. They won't work well covered with white paint, and Alice has forbidden me to paint over the 800 square feet of glass in our sunroom ceiling.

Which brings me to another point. The Sun spends little time directly overhead. In fact, for much of the year, particularly here in Northern California and more northerly, the Sun's rays strike the sides of houses as much or more than the roofs - and none of us have air conditioning - and it's been getting colder the past ten years.

I appreciate that Mr. Hashem Akbari is a big thinker, and he would be a boon to painting and road surfacing businesses. However, I don't think he's noticed how tiny an area he's dealing with in relation to Planet Earth.

I'm afraid Mr. Akbari has spent too much time out in the sunshine without his hat.

This is another solution in search of a problem.

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