The complexity of climate change is poorly understood. Urban areas are often thought to contribute to global warming by acting as ‘heat islands’.
- Painting roofs white within an urban centre was expected to reflect more sunlight thus cooling urban centres. Research suggests that urban heat islands contribute only 2-4% of global heat, whereas greenhouse gases are responsible for 79% and dark particulates 18%.
- The researchers suggest that if all the world’s roofs were painted white the reflected light would be absorbed by the particulate matter thus increasing heat levels even more. These findings do not consider energy reductions resulting from cooler buildings.
Though narrow in scope, this research exemplifies the complexity of climate change and the interdependency of solutions. For policy makers, tackling climate change may benefit more from solutions providing small incremental gains rather than those attempting to offer a global panacea.
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