Global Warming and the Albedo

At this point, it's pretty much undeniable that global warming is bearing down on us. There are a lot of people out there that think people are causing global warming but there are also a lot of people out there that think people are not causing global warming and, quite frankly, I don't care which side of the fence you're on. Whether global warming is our fault or natural doesn't matter; what matters is what we're going to do about it. If it's our fault, we need to fix it; if it's natural, we want to impede it because the planets climate works best for our species where it was a few decades ago (at least as far as I'm concerned). I really don't want my kids or grandkids to live in a world without glaciers or snow outside the polar circles.

So now that we've established that we need to do something, what? There's the standard suggestions of stop killing rain forests and produce less carbon dioxide but, let's face it, humans are too pig-headed and stupid for that to ever happen. Since we're not going to do that, let's take a different approach; let's look at the Earth's albedo.

You might be wondering at this point, what is albedo? You might do well to ask Wikipedia but, in short, albedo is a unitless measure of an objects reflectivity. As a noteworthy point, the albedo of snow and ice is much higher than that of just about everything else on the Earth's surface. Snow and ice are diminished by higher temperatures, their loss lowers the albedo and lower albedos raise the temperature, therefor albedo decrease and temperature increase are self-reinforcing. So here's where things get interesting conceptually, let's try to raise the Earth's albedo and do what we can to get things going in the other direction. If you want to drive a gas-guzzling monstrosity of a car, go for it but get the car in white, not black; paint your house in a light or pastel color, lobby your legislatures to use concrete or light tarmac instead of standard dark tarmac; put mirrors on your roof.

Forget emissions, let's work on our albedo. Well, don't completely forget emissions, but you get the point.