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What Can Cities Can Do to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Paint roofs white & install boom boxes - With all the emergencies hitting the world right now, thank goodness there are also some amazing new solutions, both high tech and low. In order to make skyscraper roofs reflect sunlight, rather than absorb it, so we don't need so much air conditioning (or we can make sure they absorb sunlight in the right way), we can paint their roofs white. Or we could go high tech and use "boom boxes."

These boom boxes nothing like the loud portable radios of the past. It's a box about the size of an alarm clock and several of them can power your home or a tall skyscraper. The Bloom box, which was recently seen on the TV show "60 Minutes," is a fuel cell that produces electricity by combining oxygen in the air with any fuel source, such as natural gas, bio-gas or solar energy. It creates clean energy without burning or combustion and thus produces no greenhouse gas emissions. They're expensive now, but will soon be affordable: the inventors are aiming for a price of $3,000 or less in 5 to 10 years.

If we could sell these to industrializing countries such as China, which are now burning heavily polluting fuels like coal, we could not only fix our balance of payments, we could do a lot to correct global warming as well.

Manufacturing jobs are what will dig us out of this recession, but we can't manufacture things without elements like silicon, which transformed Silicon Valley and helped create the age of computer technology. Silicon is a common element, but it's the rare elements that are now needed in order to create things like hybrid cars and wind turbines, and a shortage of elements like europium and tantalum is in our future, threatening to KEEP our economy in jeopardy. Once again, China is the problem.

LiveScience.com reports that, while there are rare earth elements in the US, Canada and other countries, only China's government supports the mining and refining industries capable of processing them from start to finish, and it wants to keep them for its own manufacturing needs, rather than export them, since it's much more lucrative to export the finished products instead of the raw materials (especially if you have a monopoly on them).

Meanwhile, we can paint our roofs. A computer modeling study simulating the impacts of white roofs on urban areas worldwide suggests that white roofs can be an important tool to help society adjust to climate change.

Researcher Keith Oleson says, "Our research demonstrates that white roofs, at least in theory, can be an effective method for reducing urban heat. It remains to be seen if it's actually feasible for cities to paint their roofs white, but the idea certainly warrants further investigation."

Cities are particularly vulnerable to climate change because they are warmer than outlying rural areas. Asphalt roads, tar roofs, and other artificial surfaces absorb heat from the sun, creating an urban heat island effect that can raise temperatures on average by 2-5 degrees Fahrenheit or more compared to rural areas. White roofs would reflect some of that heat back into space and cool temperatures, in the same way that wearing a white shirt on a sunny day can be cooler than wearing a dark shirt.

In addition, white roofs would have the effect of cooling temperatures INSIDE the buildings. As a result, the amount of energy used for space heating and air conditioning could change, which could affect both outside air temperatures and the consumption of fossil fuels such as oil and coal that are associated with global warming.

But cold cities might WANT to absorb heat during the winter, so perhaps changeable roof panels could be designed for new (or old) buildings, that could be changed according to the season. They have designed kitchen appliances with panels that can be changed to match the wallpaper, now they have to extend this technology to the roofs of buildings.

It's a long path to wisdom and to figuring out how to solve the climate change problem, but we're making progress. Now if only we could solve the problem of how FEW of the readers and listeners who claim to love us so much are willing to support us. It costs about $4 a month (less than a single latte) to give us the help we need so subscribe today. And please click on the "donate" tab on our homepage too!

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Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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