Climate Change

Hi Will,
I’m not a scientist, but believe my BHS Physical Science classes and common sense bears a little weight here. Sunlight and our distance from the sun is the only source of planet heat. How much of that sunlight reaches our surface determines our temp. We can use darkness and cloud shade as examples here. We cannot change our darkness and cloud cover frequency because it is a given norm, but we can learn from them that both, darkness and shading cause lower surface temps. We have also learned that large meteorite strike dust has blocked sunlight and thrown our planet into ice ages. I also believe the planet has been getting warmer since the industrial revolution. I have even noticed this in my lifetime of 57 years. Since the height of the industrial revolution, the economically developed countries have made great progress in taking steps to clean the air. We have pics of how dirty and dusty our air was not long ago from man made causes. Through extensive firefighting efforts, we have also cut down dramatically on the amount of land lost to wild fires. Natural fires use to take thousands of square miles of forest, causing great atmospheric dust. We have also reduced dramatically the burning of fossil fuels. Given all the steps we have and are taking to reduce atmospheric particles/dust, which retard direct sunlight from reaching and warming the earth, isn’t at least part of the warming of the earth/climate change a natural and direct man made result of our cleaner air efforts? I believe so.
David Benoit

4 replies on “Climate Change”

  1. Dave,

    I’d encourage you to read some more of the science. There are many different things happening at once, but carbon emissions seem to be the biggest factor — they clearly encourage warming.

    Here is a link to the 2007 report of the largest group of scientists working on the issue:

    An update to that report will come out fairly soon and most expect that it will place an even greater urgency on reducing fossil fuel consumption.


  2. Hi Will,
    My article was written based upon my own non-expert opinion, but at your request I did do some research. There is some research to support my claim. I’m happy for cleaner air. It is better for our health. I just believe basic science will prove out that cleaner air is allowing for brighter sun rays to reach the earth, thereby adding to global warming. It is not a popular theory, but I believe factually based. Because the fight against air pollution and global warming is a big and lucrative industry, I would only trust the scientific opinions of those who have nothing to gain from their scientifically based opinions. I learned long ago to always question peoples motivations. In your political position, and especially because you are a strong advocate in the fight against global warming, we need to be open-minded as to a legitimate cause or causes. My intent is to make sure you are aware of all issues so you can make intelligent decisions for us.
    See below just a few of the many references I found on the web.
    David Benoit

    Swiss study reported by NewScientist Wednesday (emphasis added, photo courtesy Reuters):
    GOODBYE air pollution and smoky chimneys, hello brighter days. That’s been the trend in Europe for the past three decades – but unfortunately cleaning up the skies has allowed more of the sun’s rays to pierce the atmosphere, contributing to at least half the warming that has occurred.
    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.
    L.A. TIMES
    Why cleaner air could speed global warming
    Aerosol pollution, which is now on the downswing, has helped keep the planet cool by blocking sunlight. Tackling another pollutant, soot, might buy Earth some time.
    April 18, 2010|By Eli Kintisch
    You’re likely to hear a chorus of dire warnings as we approach Earth Day, but there’s a serious shortage few pundits are talking about: air pollution. That’s right, the world is running short on air pollution, and if we continue to cut back on smoke pouring forth from industrial smokestacks, the increase in global warming could be profound.
    Cleaner air, one of the signature achievements of the U.S. environmental movement, is certainly worth celebrating. Scientists estimate that the U.S. Clean Air Act has cut a major air pollutant called sulfate aerosols, for example, by 30% to 50% since the 1980s, helping greatly reduce cases of asthma and other respiratory problems.

    • Ethanol & the EnvironmentDid You Know Ethanol Can Increase GHG Emissions?
    But even as industrialized and developing nations alike steadily reduce aerosol pollution — caused primarily by burning coal — climate scientists are beginning to understand just how much these tiny particles have helped keep the planet cool. A silent benefit of sulfates, in fact, is that they’ve been helpfully blocking sunlight from striking the Earth for many decades, by brightening clouds and expanding their coverage. Emerging science suggests that their underappreciated impact has been incredible.
    Researchers believe greenhouse gases such as CO2 have committed the Earth to an eventual warming of roughly 4 degrees Fahrenheit, a quarter of which the planet has already experienced. Thanks to cooling by aerosols starting in the 1940s, however, the planet has only felt a portion of that greenhouse warming. In the 1980s, sulfate pollution dropped as Western nations enhanced pollution controls, and as a result, global warming accelerated.
    There’s hot debate over the size of what amounts to a cooling mask, but there’s no question that it will diminish as industries continue to clean traditional pollutants from their smokestacks. Unlike CO2, which persists in the atmosphere for centuries, aerosols last for a week at most in the air. So cutting them would probably accelerate global warming rapidly.
    In a recent paper in the journal Climate Dynamics, modelers forecast what would happen if nations instituted all existing pollution controls on industrial sources and vehicles by 2030. They found the current rate of warming — roughly 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit per decade — doubled worldwide, and nearly tripled in North America.
    Despite intransigence on carbon emissions, even China is taking aggressive steps to cut sulfate pollution, and temperatures have risen as a result.
    But surely the answer can’t be to slow our drive to clean our air. One way to buy time might be to tackle another air pollutant that warms the planet: soot. In 2008, scientists estimated that so-called black carbon, soot’s prime component, is responsible for 60% more global warming above that caused by greenhouse gases. Cleaner-burning diesel engines in the West and more efficient cookstoves in the developing world are the answer. But on both scores, “relatively little has been done to address the problem,” says the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force.
    In the face of severe climate risks, credible scientists are beginning to study geo-engineering — tinkering with global systems to reduce warming directly. One scheme is to spew sulfates or other sun-blocking particles miles high in the stratosphere. If it worked, it would mimic the natural cooling effect of volcanoes, replacing the near-surface sulfate mask with a much higher one. But the possible side effects could be dire, including damage to the ozone layer. The potential geopolitical implications, like wars over the thermostat, could be devastating as well.

  3. I was surprised the volunteer who called to ask me if I knew who I was going to vote for in the primary had no idea what fracking was. There is a lot of “stuff” on this website but nothing jumps out about fracking. It makes me wonder if you are aware of the issue at all?

  4. Hi Irene,

    So far, we haven’t had fracking in Massachusetts, so it hasn’t been a major subject of discussion on this website. I favor strong regulation of fracking and all other forms of oil extraction, especially to protect drinking water.

    All best,

    Will B.

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