Opinion

The Great Debate

Painting Bill Clinton’s “white roofs” into reality

By Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza
The opnions expressed are his own. White Roofs Project volunteers paint the roof of the Bowery Mission in New York City. Photo courtesy of David Epstein.

If you’ve been outside recently, you probably realize that this summer is hot. With the latest heat wave now spreading across the country, it’s worth pointing out that many Americans are unknowingly contributing to the soaring temperatures. How? Millions of rooftops in America are made of black tar; and they absorb and trap an enormous amount of heat during the summer months. It’s also worth pointing out that there’s an easy fix to the black roofs problem that people of all political stripes can get behind: paint the black roofs white.

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.

Recently, former President Bill Clinton wrote in Newsweek, “Every black roof in New York should be white; every roof in Chicago should be white; every roof in Little Rock should be white. Every flat tar-surface roof anywhere! In most of these places you could recover the cost of the paint and the labor in a week.” The former president regularly touts the white roofs as one of those win-win scenarios that could also help create jobs and stimulate the economy.

Obama, Moses and exaggerated expectations

-Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own-

President Barack Obama is close to the half-way mark of his presidential mandate, a good time for a brief look at health care, unemployment, war, the level of the oceans, the health of the planet, and America’s image. They all featured in a 2008 Obama speech whose rhetoric soared to stratospheric heights.

“If…we are willing to work for it, and fight for it, and believe in it, then I’m absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs for the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last best hope on earth.”

The date was June 3, 2008. Obama had just won the Democratic Party’s nomination as presidential candidate. He was also winning the adulation of the majority of the American people, who shrugged off mockery from curmudgeonly Republicans who pointed out that the last historical figure to affect ocean levels was Moses and he had divine help when he parted the Red Sea.

Business must take the lead on carbon management

APOTHEKER

Léo Apotheker is CEO of SAP. The views expressed are his own.

Most people who followed the Copenhagen climate talks in December will have been disappointed.

While the agreement brokered by the group of countries that included the United States, Brazil, China, India and South Africa and ratified by most of the attending countries is being touted as a success of sorts, it fell far short of the expectations that had built up, and achieved very little in concrete terms.

Now with the World Economic Forum approaching, the issue of climate change and sustainability will once again dominate discussions among the business and political leaders who attend the annual gathering in Davos.

from The Great Debate UK:

Beyond Copenhagen: sub-national solutions are now key

Julian Hunt.jpg- Julian Hunt is visiting professor at Delft University and formerly director general of the UK meteorological office. Charles Kennel is distinguished professor of atmospheric science, emeritus and senior advisor to the sustainability solutions institute, UCSD. The opinions expressed are their own. -

The non-legally binding "deal" agreed at the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen among the U.S., China, Brazil, South Africa and India, has brought to a conclusion what has proved an extraordinarily complex set of negotiations.

The outcome has been criticised on numerous grounds and, in U.S. President Barack Obama’s own words, “We have much further to go”.

Climate skeptic: We are winning the science battle

- Dr. Fred Singer is the President of The Science & Environmental Policy Project and Professor Emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia. The views expressed are his own -

The International Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) charter states that the organization’s purpose is to look for human induced climate change. The Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) does not have this problem. If we find support for human induced climate change, we say so. If we do not find support for human induced climate change, we say so. In fact, the first NIPCC report, of which I was a lead author, was called ‘Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate’.

We see no evidence in the climate record that the increase in CO2, which is real, has any appreciable effect on the global temperature. IPCC relies heavily on the surface temperature data, which is distorted by a deletion of a number of surface stations. The ‘best’ stations were kept – the ones around temperature islands and by airports.

from The Great Debate UK:

John Reid on climate change and global security

johnreid- John Reid MP, formerly UK Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Defence, is the Chairman of the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College, London. The opinions expressed are his own. -

Barack Obama’s announcement that there will be no all-encompassing protocol agreed at Copenhagen underlines that climate change is perhaps the most complex issue facing the world today.  In part, this is because it involves long-term thinking and modeling which our existing political, financial and economic institutions and governance frameworks are ill-designed and configured to grapple with and resolve.

With uncertainty building over what, if anything, the Copenhagen Summit can still achieve, now is therefore the time to remind ourselves about some of the larger stakes in play next month at what has been billed by some as the most important environmental summit in world history.

from The Great Debate UK:

A freakonomic view of climate change

Ahead of a U.N. summit in Copenhagen next month, scepticism is growing that an agreement will be reached on a global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012.

The protocol set targets aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are believed to be responsible for the gradual rise in the Earth's average temperature. Many scientists say that reducing carbon dioxide emissions is key to preventing climate change.

But authors Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner argue in their new book SuperFreakonomics that humanity can take an alternative route to try and save the planet.

Change the climate narrative

birdsell-subramanian– Nancy Birdsall is the president of the Center for Global Development. Arvind Subramanian is a senior fellow at the Center and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a regular columnist for the Business Standard, India’s leading business newspaper. The views expressed are their own. –

Efforts to cut emissions of the heat-trapping gases are gridlocked over a misunderstanding about what is fair. This misunderstanding is hindering climate change legislation in Congress and threatens to torpedo international negotiations in Copenhagen next month.

We propose a new way of thinking about climate fairness that focuses not on emissions cuts but on meeting developing countries’ energy needs in a climate-friendly manner. This simple narrative can provide a framework for U.S. legislation and open the way for international collaborative efforts to avert climate catastrophe.

from The Great Debate UK:

We Need a Fresh Approach on Climate Change

Bjorn Lomborg
- Bjorn Lomborg is adjunct professor at the Copenhagen Business School. He is the organizer of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, which brings together some of the world's top economists, including 5 Nobel laureates, to set priorities for the world. The opinions expressed are his own. -

In this blog, I would like to share with you some of the best – and worst – ways to fix climate change. This is important because the Earth is warming up, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide are contributing to this warming, and humankind is dumping ever-increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Of course, this is a point that is made by many campaigners, politicians and the media every single day. But I think that in our discussions on global warming, we actually often miss a really important question: not if we should do something about global warming - but rather how best to go about this. Just like with any other problem we face, there are many possible remedies, and some of them are a whole lot better than others. Not just cheaper (although cost is one very important criteria), but more effective, more efficient and - crucially - more likely to actually happen.

What will the climate change bill do to your job?

diana-furchtgottroth–- Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. The views expressed are her own. –-

Next Thursday, just in time for the July 4 holiday weekend, America’s unemployment rate is forecast to rise from 9.4 percent to 9.6 percent, well above rates in other industrialized countries.

Yet today the House of Representatives is rushing to pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, even though the bill was incomplete yesterday and congressmen have not yet had the opportunity to analyze it. The bill would send America’s unemployment rate even higher.

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