Global cooling: increasing world-wide urban albedos to offset CO2

Publication Type

Journal Article

Date Published



<p>Increasing urban albedo can reduce summertime temperatures, resulting in better air quality and savings from reduced air-conditioning costs. In addition, increasing urban albedo can result in less absorption of incoming solar radiation by the surface-troposphere system, countering to some extent the global scale effects of increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. Pavements and roofs typically constitute over 60% of urban surfaces (roof 20–25%, pavements about 40%). Using reflective materials, both roof and pavement albedos can be increased by about 0.25 and 0.15, respectively, resulting in a net albedo increase for urban areas of about 0.1. On a global basis, we estimate that increasing the world-wide albedos of urban roofs and paved surfaces will induce a negative radiative forcing on the earth equivalent to offsetting about 44 Gt of CO<sub>2</sub> emissions. At ~$25/tonne of CO<sub>2</sub>, a 44 Gt CO<sub>2</sub> emission offset from changing the albedo of roofs and paved surfaces is worth about $1,100 billion. Furthermore, many studies have demonstrated reductions of more than 20% in cooling costs for buildings whose rooftop albedo has been increased from 10–20% to about 60% (in the US, potential savings exceed $1 billion per year). Our estimated CO<sub>2</sub> offsets from albedo modifications are dependent on assumptions used in this study, but nevertheless demonstrate remarkable global cooling potentials that may be obtained from cooler roofs and pavements.</p>


Climatic Change



Year of Publication







0165-0009 (Print), 1573-1480 (Online)
Research Areas: