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Home / Impact / Sustainability / Can white paint be a part of the solution to combat climate change?

Can white paint be a part of the solution to combat climate change?

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By Suzanne Potter, Producer

A new super-white paint in development may be a tool in the fight against climate change.

Researchers at Purdue University are hoping to bring to market a highly reflective paint that bounces heat off the surface, keeping things cooler, which reduces energy consumption.

Emily Barber, a Ph.D. candidate at Purdue University who is working on the project, noted since energy is often produced by burning fossil fuels like natural gas, energy efficiency leads to fewer carbon emissions.

“Especially in warmer climates, if we can keep that roof cooling, keep the building cool,” Barber urged. “Therefore, we don’t have to use much HVAC, we can reduce greenhouse gasses that way.”

The paint, which may be available to consumers as soon as next year, has been shown to keep outdoor surfaces 8 degrees cooler than surrounding temperatures on a sunny day, and up to 19 degrees cooler at night.

Jeremy Munday, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California-Davis, said the basic issue with global warming is the earth is absorbing more energy than it is emitting. So in order to keep up with the pace of humanity’s carbon emissions — which cause the earth to absorb heat — we’d have to put highly emitting white paint on 1% to 2% of the earth, and it would harm wildlife and alter weather patterns.

“CO2 levels are still rising. And so we’re gonna continue to be trapping more and more heat in. And we’re going to continue to rise and we’re gonna have to keep putting more and more of these emitting surfaces up,” Munday outlined. “So unless we actually get to the root problem and bring CO2 levels back down this is definitely not a long-term solution.”

Researchers are working on making the paint more durable and better at resisting dirt, so it will not have to be constantly repainted in order to remain effective.

This story was produced with original reporting from Sonora Slater for the Sacramento Bee.

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