No Easy Fix

November 1, 2011

One of the scary parts of climate change — and there’s a shitload of scary parts — is the unknown, stuff beyond what the science can reveal, or even if some particular action actually does more harm than good.
No matter what all the experts say, the planet earth and all its now-7 billion inhabitants are traveling down-and-dirty in brand new territory.

From NewScientist on what we really don’t know about this whole situation: A warmer, wetter Earth with higher CO2 levels could support more life — if there were time to adapt to it. The problem for the plants, animals and people living today is that they and we have adapted to the unusually stable climate of the past few thousand years.

(Illustration found here).

Two years ago, Steven Chu, the US Energy Secretary, quipped that if people painted roofs, streets and all kinds of things the color white, it would reduce global warming — it would reflect the heat backwards.
Chu: “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.
Seemed reasonable — wrong!

From Climate Central yesterday:

But a white roof does just the opposite.
It bounces sunlight right back into the sky, just as light clothing helps you stay cool in the summer. Cooler buildings need less air conditioning, which translates to fewer emissions of heat-trapping gases.

Unfortunately, what seems obvious is not always true, and a new study available online and soon coming out in the Journal of Climate reveals some bad news for white roofs.
When Stanford University engineer Mark Jacobson, and his grad student John Hoeve modeled the total climate response to white roofs and other urban surfaces, they found the lightening may actually cause more global warming.
Here’s why: the sunlight that bounces off white roofs doesn’t all fly out into space.
A lot of it is absorbed by particles of soot and other dark-colored pollutants that float around in the atmosphere (those same particles are already responsible for a good portion of global warming).
The particles heat up, just like your house would have, and the net result is a warmer atmosphere.
You house might be a bit cooler, but it would be at the expense of heating the planet.
In short, says Jacobson in a press release:
“There does not seem to be a benefit from investing in white roofs. The most important thing is to reduce emissions of the pollutants that contribute to global warming.”
So much for trying to take the easy way out.

Add information like this to the recent report from the World Resources Institute: The latest science summarized below suggests that the impacts of climate change in many areas of the world are not advancing linearly: profound changes are already occurring and models project even greater changes for the remainder of the 21st Century.
A review of the WRI study can be found at Climate Progress: As a whole, the literature paints a bleak picture. We are continuing to see accelerating change in many systems, with some changes happening much faster than initially envisioned.

The WRI study also found: Based on physiological estimates, a global average temperature increase of 7° C, which is toward the extreme upper part of the range of current projections, would make large portions of the world uninhabitable to humans.

The great problem facing mankind right now, by a long, long shot is climate change, but making the situation worse is all the bullshit floating around by people who are hardcore assholes — global warming is NOT something a person “believes” in, like religion or something.
Bad news on the door step and there ain’t no easy way out.

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