Clean Air Causing Global Warming?
It seems that the leading man-made cause of global warming is environmentalism; specifically, efforts to improve air quality by reducing pollution, New Scientist reports.
Since 1980, average air temperatures in Europe have risen 1 °C: much more than expected from greenhouse-gas warming alone. Christian Ruckstuhl of the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science in Switzerland and colleagues took aerosol concentrations from six locations in northern Europe, measured between 1986 and 2005, and compared them with solar-radiation measurements over the same period. Aerosol concentrations dropped by up to 60 per cent over the 29-year period, while solar radiation rose by around 1 watt per square metre (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2008GL034228). “The decrease in aerosols probably accounts for at least half of the warming over Europe in the last 30 years,” says Rolf Philipona, a co-author of the study at MeteoSwiss, Switzerland’s national weather service.
Say Anything‘s Piligrim finds this terrifically amusing: “Well now, there’s a moral dilemna for you. If we go back to eating roots and berries and living in pre-industrial all natural bliss, one with nature and all that, we might end up with a warmer planet than if we just went ahead and enjoyed ourselves.”
Of course, clean air is a good thing in and of itself. I was, however, under the impression that the rationale for getting rid of aerosols (or, more accurately, the hydroflourocarbons that propelled them) was because we thought they were destroying the ozone layer and thereby increasing harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. It would be quite odd, indeed, if our solution to the problem yielded the same results in a different way.
UPDATE: Commenters tell me that, in this case, aerosols have nothing to do with aerosol spray cans but simply particulates in the air. Oddly, the report in New Scientist Environment is entitled “Cleaner skies explain surprise rate of warming” and the linked abstract is unhelpful. Is the Web headline misrepresenting the article itself?
I’ve updated the headline and illustration to eliminate confusion, although I remain somewhat confused as to what the study actually reports.
UPDATE II: A reader has sent me a PDF copy of the entire journal article which I’ve uploaded here. I’ve made a quick scan and, frankly, still don’t understand it.
Illustration: NASA Earth Observatory