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May 06, 2005

Doomed if you do, doomed if you don't

(Hat tip: Everything I Know is Wrong)

We'd long been told by our environmental betters that the planet is doomed because of global warming, so we'd best reduce our toxic emissions, including those caused by that 4-alarm chili. So here in the U.S. we've been doing a great job keeping the air clean and pure, imposing lots of environmental regulations on businesses, increasing standards for automobiles, etc.

So have we delayed doom?

No, say our environmental betters. In fact, we now have a new problem. Our air is too clean.

Reductions in industrial emissions in many countries, along with the use of particulate filters for car exhausts and smoke stacks, seem to have reduced the amount of dirt in the atmosphere and made the sky more transparent.

That sounds like very good news. But the researchers say that more solar energy arriving on the ground will also make the surface warmer, and this may add to the problems of global warming. More sunlight will also have knock-on effects on cloud cover, winds, rainfall and air temperature that are difficult to predict.

. . .

Researchers will now focus on working out the long-term effects of clearer air. One thing they do know is that black particulate matter in the air has been contributing a cooling effect to the ground. "It is clear that the greenhouse effect has been partly masked in the past by air pollution," says Andreas Macke, a meteorologist at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany.

In other words, "Oops, sorry folks. I guess air pollution actually reduced global warming!"

Sigh. Ever feel like you just can't win with these people?

Posted by Drew at May 6, 2005 09:32 PM

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It's quite simple really. As we add to the greenhouse gas levels in oour atmosphere, the sun's heat gets trapped by the atmosphere. Particulates, while not being real healthy for any lung-based breathing system, increase the albedo or reflectivity of the atmosphere. If heat is reflected, it can't be trapped.

These people represent a hard-working, deeply committed scientific community that is desperately trying to increase our understanding of very real problems for human life on this planet. The rest of life would adapt quite readily to the suffering and economic collapse that global climate change could bring to human beings.

Posted by: Jon Gallagher at May 7, 2005 06:27 PM