Let’s paint it white!

Can using lots of white paint really stop global warming?
White paint looks great in a bathroom and a hallway ... and on our planet? (ID 143141316 © Ezthaiphoto | Dreamstime.com )

These days, many places around the world are being hit by some especially powerful heat waves. There have been record-breaking high temperatures across Canada, the United States, and much of Europe.

We know that the cause of this climate change and the high amount of greenhouse gases being pumped into our atmosphere. But governments have been slow to stop the flow of carbon into the sky. So what are we to do?

According to a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of California, Davis, we could start by painting everything white!

Okay, not everything. But Prof. Jeremy Munday notes that covering around 1 to 2 percent of the Earth's surface in certain types of white paint would reflect enough heat energy back into space that it could stop climate change.

Sound like science fiction? Let's take a look.

Powerful paint

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Summer temperatures in places like Greece are hitting record highs. (Getty Embed)

Munday says that the paint could not just be any kind of white. He points to a paint developed at Purdue University in 2021 that is so white, it reflects back 98 percent of light.

The paint was developed to be used on the outside of buildings to reduce the temperature inside.

(White surfaces reflect light, black ones absorb it, as well as the heat that comes with it. That's why a road gets so hot in summer!)

So what could this paint do for the planet?

A LOT of paint

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A large paint factory produces around 1 billion gallons of paint a year. (Getty Embed)

Munday estimates that if about 1 to 2 percent of Earth was painted Purdue white, we'd be a much cooler world. It almost sounds like it could work.

But just how much paint are we talking about? Well, 1 to 2 percent of the world's surface equals around a country the size of Brazil. (Yes, the whole thing!)

You would need at least 526 billion litres (139 billion gallons) of paint. Because the average paint can is sold as a gallon, this works out to 139 billion cans of paint.

That is a lot of paint. Meaning this is not likely to solve our climate problems.

But it is a reminder that if you want a cool surface or building in the summer, then you know what to do. Paint it white!

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