Climate Change

Published on June 22nd, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


Geoengineering: Peru Paints Mountain White to Save Glacier

Painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red
We dare not stop
Or waste a drop
So let the paint be spread
We’re painting the roses red
We’re painting the roses red

“Would you tell me, please,” said Alice, a little timidly, “why you are painting those roses?”  Alice might ask a similar question if Wonderland was in Peru, and she happened upon Chalon Sombrero.  Geoengineers are painting the once snow covered mountain white in an effort to restore glaciers.

Photo by Team Traveller
Can painting mountains white save glaciers?

Can painting mountains white save glaciers?

The idea is simple.  Lighter colors reflect the sun’s rays, whereas darker colors absorb them. Think of your own experience wearing a black t-shirt versus white one on a sunny day.

The project is funded by the World Bank as one of the winners of 100 Ideas to Save the Planet, a contest “which focused on innovative solutions for climate change”.  Peruvian inventor Eduardo Gold is responsible for the idea, and even though funding has not come through yet, the painting has begun.  The paint is made from lime and egg whites.


The BBC explains Gold’s idea:

Changing the albedo (a measure of how strongly an object reflects light) of the rock surface, would bring about a cooling of the peak’s surface, says Mr Gold, which in turn would generate a cold micro-climate around the peak.

“Cold generates more cold, just as heat generates more heat,” says Mr Gold.

“I am hopeful that we could re-grow a glacier here because we would be recreating all the climatic conditions necessary for a glacier to form.

Glaciers are melting rapidly in the Peruvian Andes.  22 percent of the glaciers have disappeared in the last 30 years, and village rely on the mountain glaciers for their water supply.

There are skeptics to Gold’s plan, but he is determined to cover three peaks.  Ariel Schwartz writes:

Gold’s scheme isn’t a panacea to the larger problem of melting glaciers–just imagine how long it would take for workers to dump buckets of paint on top of even a fraction of the world’s mountain peaks. But if it succeeds, the project could be a boon to the hundreds of local villagers who rely on Chalon Sombrero for water.

Even though the paint is made from natural ingredients, I wonder what the effect will be on local drinking water supplies.

Peru is home to “70% of the world’s tropical glaciers”.  Local solutions by local inventors may help mitigate the effects of climate change, at least temporarily while the world attempts to solve the carbon problem.

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