While energy efficiency measures will not end the serious global climate change challenge, adopting such measures would buy time to further the development of alternative low-carbon energy resources. White roofs can cool buildings, cities, and even the planet. Implemented worldwide, cooler cities could bring the world 5 percent closer to avoiding future climate disaster.
2011 Global Energy Prize recipient and Distinguished Scientist Emeritus at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Rosenfeld, spoke at Carnegie about the impact of the energy efficiency concepts around the world and the potential of white roofs to slow global warming. Carnegie’s Adnan Vatansever moderated.
The Global Energy Prize was instituted in Russia in 2002. Rosenfeld received Russia’s pre-eminent Global Energy Prize for his pioneering work in energy efficiency. He shared the award with Professor Philipp Rutberg of Russia.
Rosenfeld said that the devastating forest fires in 2010 and their coverage in Russian media also contributed to this change in attitude. However, he cautioned that even after the fires, the government in general may not share Russian academia’s outlook on climate change or President Medvedev’s apparent concerns for climate issues.
To illustrate the success and widespread impact of increased energy efficiency, Rosenfeld presented examples from China and the United States:
Rosenfeld explained that roofs and roads comprise the majority of surfaces in urban areas worldwide, absorb over 80 percent of incoming sunlight, and create urban heat islands due to the fact that most roofing and paving materials are a dark color. Summertime temperatures in downtown areas can be up to nine degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient air temperature. He said that white roofs reflect up to 80 percent of sunlight, which helps reduce the heat island effect. In addition, white roofs have a number of other environmental, economic, and health benefits:
Rosenfeld admitted that national acceptance of energy efficiency concepts has been rather slow. But increased corporate interest in the potential financial benefits of adopting energy efficiency standards makes him hopeful. Like all good ideas, Rosenfeld believes that this concept will eventually be applied universally.
The Carnegie Energy and Climate Program engages global experts working on issues relating to energy technology, environmental science, and political economy to develop practical solutions for policymakers around the world. The program aims to provide the leadership and the policy framework necessary to minimize the risks that stem from global climate change and to reduce competition for scarce resources.
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