From a reader:
Well, couple things.
Nit picky, and not one of your nits anyway, but I think Earth’s albedo
is 0.39. Maybe the land masses are 0.29, but the actual number’s less
important than the spirit of the thing.
Where to start? It’s kinda rambling, but here’s some things you might
want to noodle.
James Lovelock, the Gaia dude, prophesied that Mother Gaia will start to
cover her surface with dark poppies or suchlike to counteract the coming
ice age (yeah, I read the Gaia Hypothesis way back when we were doomed
to a frozen, wintery, snowball-like future). If Mother Gaia can
manipulate global climate by engineering darker plants, by golly we can
make ‘em whiter. Indeed, every percent of increased albedo can do some
good. We don’t need to engineer plants that will grow and create a mat
of 0.10 albedo. Just a few percent below 0.39, over larger areas is
The laws of unintended outcomes could easily come into play with
painting roofs though – large concrete metropoli actually affect local
weather somewhat, since they’re huge storage radiators. If you reflect
radiation (hopefully, if successful, it’ll ne a LOT of radiation),
you’ll reduce the storage effect, although I think you’d have to go
quite some way before you made the city less of a radiator than the
countryside. The microclimatologists would have to look carefully at
places like California where onshore breezes are vital to inland
agriculture, and the idea of passing more sunlight back up thru’ the
pollution could cause problems. Although the further degradation of air
quality in SoCal would be a small price to pay to save the planet, IMHO.
In overall terms, changing the albedo progressively over the course of a
decade or so sounds like the kind of process that would be relatively
straightforward to control, and at least as easy to monitor as watching
polar bears drown. And, if it doesn’t work, all we’re out is a couple
million tons of whitewash. The only question is whether whitewashing
roofs is work Americans Will Not Do (TM).
From the article, I’d link the libertarian method of adoption to a
modest tax-credit system that put money, even if only a few dollars, in
people’s pockets to thank them for saving the planet. I think Milton
The odd thing about the ‘darker ice’ issue is that it’s not really news
to geologists. They’ve been using some of these deposits to correlate
volcanic events. What they haven’t been doing is going out socializing
with the environmental guys who see *other* strata of ‘darker ice’ as an
indicator of increasing pollution. I’m sure there’s some kind of message
Lastly, more a geeky fantasy fiction/counterculture thing. Be careful
bandying ‘Gorean’ around, although I suspect Tigerhawk is well aware of
the subplot here. There’s a whole community of people who love the ‘Gor’
Fantasy Fiction series by a guy named John Norman. Cutting to the chase,
it’s a sort of Barbaric Lake Wobegone where all the men are heavily
muscled, beloinclothed and coated in baby oil, and all the women are
chained, subservient sex-toys. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorean
The problem now is that I *have* now merged the Gorean/Al Gore think in
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to sleep again.