Guest Post: Any Climate Treaty Which Does Not Dramatically Reduce Soot Is Not Worth the Paper It’s Written On

Note to NC Readers: This essay deals with cost and benefit.  As such, it is relevant to business and economics.

Preface: I studied global warming at a top university in the early 1980’s. I was taught – as Al Gore was taught in college – that temperatures are directly correlated with CO2 levels.

This essay will not address the question of whether global temperatures are rising, and if so, how much. Others have written extensively on that issue. This essay also will not look at questions of the percentage of climate change attributable to natural factors, such as variations in solar output, volcanic activity or El Niño (also called the “southern oscillation”). These are important issues, but this essay will not address them.

Whether or not you believe the planet is warming or that it is warming because of CO2 is irrelevant for the purpose of this essay. Either way, you will benefit from reading this.

Finally, I am against big oil and big coal. As I have repeatedly argued, power should be taken away from the oil giants and decentralized. I have repeatedly argued for microgeneration and for alternative energy. These things are beneficial for a number of reasons – including better health, less corruption of our political systems through decentralization of power, and a boost to our economy – in addition to whatever climate benefits they may have.

Do you remember the stories a couple of years ago about all of the dust coming from China?

There were headlines such as:

Unfortunately, it’s not just dirt. It’s also soot, or “black carbon”.

As the Wall Street Journal wrote in 2007:

“There are times when it covers the entire Pacific Ocean basin like a ribbon bent back and forth,” said atmospheric physicist V. Ramanathan at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, Calif.

On some days, almost a third of the air over Los Angeles and San Francisco can be traced directly to Asia. With it comes up to three-quarters of the black carbon particulate pollution that reaches the West Coast, Dr. Ramanathan and his colleagues recently reported in the Journal of Geophysical Research.”

And the New York Times wrote in 2007:

One of China’s lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants.

In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast.

Researchers in California, Oregon and Washington noticed specks of sulfur compounds, carbon and other byproducts of coal combustion coating the silvery surfaces of their mountaintop detectors. These microscopic particles can work their way deep into the lungs, contributing to respiratory damage, heart disease and cancer.

Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California “are the darkest that we’ve seen” outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis.

Soot and Climate Change

Time Magazine wrote last month:

Black carbon [another name for “soot”] in the air actually absorbs sunlight as it comes from space, directly heating up the atmosphere. “The soot particles are like the parts of a blanket, and it’s getting thicker,” says Ramanathan. “The smoke absorbs sunlight and heats the blanket directly.”

The world’s leading crusader against global warming – Dr. James Hansen – said in 2003:

Soot in snow and ice, by itself in an 1880-2000 simulation, accounted for 25 percent of observed global warming.

NASA wrote in 2005, based on Hansen’s work:

Soot Affects Polar Ice

Posted March 26, 2005

Soot Affects Polar Ice

download large image (742 KB, PDF)

Far in the frigid north, glaciers rule and temperatures are harsh. It is not the sort of place one would expect pollution to be a problem, but new NASA research reveals that soot is traveling farther north than previously believed. Soot, or black carbon, could have a huge impact on the delicate Arctic environment by speeding up the melting of Arctic ice, altering temperatures and cloud formation, and changing weather patterns.

Black carbon is released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are not completely burned, either in vehicles, home heating appliances, or when trees and other plants are burned. When large quantities of soot enter the atmosphere, they create a haze that absorbs energy from the Sun, so the temperature of the atmosphere increases. This atmospheric heating can affect weather patterns and cloud formation.

Dorothy Koch and James Hansen, climate scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), modeled the transport of black carbon particles around the world using the GISS general circulation model. The above images show some of their results. The top image shows where black carbon is concentrated in the atmosphere, and thus where surface temperatures and weather patterns might be affected, and the lower image shows where carbon is predicted to settle on the ground.

In the top image, the regions with the most haze—higher optical thickness—are white, while the least-affected areas are blue. As the image shows, Koch and Hansen found that soot in the atmosphere is most concentrated over southern and eastern China, where industry pumps black carbon into the atmosphere, and over central Africa, where fires are widely used for agriculture. Other regions with high concentrations of black carbon include the United States, Central Europe, and India. The model also reveals that instead of being clear of soot, the Arctic is blanketed with black carbon haze. About one-third of the haze, Koch and Hansen say, comes from Asia, one-third comes from fire around the world, and the remaining third comes from the United States, Russia, and Europe.

Soot does not stay in the atmosphere; it falls out in rain or with dust. Koch and Hansen’s research reveals that soot might have a longer range than previously believed, with higher concentrations reaching far into the Arctic. As dark soot falls on the snow and ice of the Arctic, it turns the white, reflective surface into a dark surface that absorbs the Sun’s energy. This extra energy makes the snow melt more quickly.

Studies by other mainstream scientists also demonstrate that much of the melting of Himalyan glaciers is due to soot:

Soot emitted when fuels like diesel, wood and coal are burned, may have a bigger impact on climate in some areas than greenhouse gases. New research presented here at the American Geophysical Union meeting shows that the 20 percent decrease in the extent of Himalayan glaciers since the 1960s may be partly due to an influx of black carbon [i.e. soot] from Asian cities.

As NASA writes:

A new modeling study from NASA confirms that when tiny air pollution particles we commonly call soot – also known as black carbon – travel along wind currents from densely populated south Asian cities and accumulate over a climate hotspot called the Tibetan Plateau, the result may be anything but inconsequential.

In fact, the new research, by NASA’s William Lau and collaborators, reinforces with detailed numerical analysis what earlier studies suggest: that soot and dust contribute as much (or more) to atmospheric warming in the Himalayas as greenhouse gases.

Indeed, some scientists think that the role of soot is much bigger. As an article from 2002 pointed out:

The research, published in this week’s Science, suggests that soot — produced by diesel engines, cooking fires and other sources — could have nearly as much impact on climate change as carbon dioxide, which has long been considered the primary culprit in global warming.

A group of US and Chinese researchers used a global climate model to simulate how black carbon affects weather patterns. They found that soot can influence regional climate by absorbing sunlight, heating the air and affecting rainfall.

Emissions of soot are particularly large in China because cooking and heating are done with wood, cow dung and coal at low temperatures that do not allow for complete combustion.

And an article published in the journal Nature Geosciences (subscription required) concludes “increasing concentrations of black carbon have substantially contributed to rapid Arctic warming during the past three decades”, and that aerosols are responsible for “half or more” of Arctic warming.

Indeed, Dr. Hansen himself now admits:

Black soot is probably responsible for as much as half of the glacial melt.

A paper published by the National Academy of Science in July 2009 notes:

Our ability to predict how global temperatures will change in the future is currently limited by the large uncertainties associated with aerosols. Soot aerosols represent a major research focus as they influence climate by absorbing incoming solar radiation resulting in a highly uncertain warming effect. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the actual amount soot warms our atmosphere strongly depends on the manner and degree in which it is mixed with other species, a property referred to as mixing state. In global models and inferences from atmospheric heating measurements, soot radiative forcing estimates currently differ by a factor of 6, ranging between 0.2–1.2 W/m2, making soot second only to CO2 in terms of global warming potential. This article reports coupled in situ measurements of the size-resolved mixing state, optical properties, and aging timescales for soot particles. Fresh fractal soot particles dominate the measured absorption during peak traffic periods (6–9 AM local time). Immediately after sunrise, soot particles begin to age by developing a coating of secondary species including sulfate, ammonium, organics, nitrate, and water. Based on these direct measurements, the core-shell arrangement results in a maximum absorption enhancement of 1.6× over fresh soot. These atmospheric observations help explain the larger values for soot forcing measured by others and will be used to obtain closure in optical property measurements to reduce one of the largest remaining uncertainties in climate change.

This is a new discovery. As Time notes:

The science is evolving — it’s so new that black carbon wasn’t even listed as a warming agent in the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — but it cannot be ignored.

Soot Has a More Immediate Effect than CO2

The key is that there is a much shorter lag time between soot and temperature that between CO2 and temperature. As Time writes:

Unlike CO2, which can hang around in the atmosphere for centuries — CO2 that was emitted by the first coal-powered train is probably still in the air, warming the planet — black carbon has a relatively brief life span. It remains just a few weeks in the air before it falls to earth. That’s key, because if the world could reduce black carbon emissions soon, it could help blunt warming almost instantly. “You can wait a week or a month and the totals in the atmosphere can be significantly different,” says Eric Wilcox, an atmospheric scientist with NASA. Meanwhile, if we were to vastly reduce new CO2 emissions immediately, the billions of tons that already exist in the atmosphere would keep warming the planet for decades.

As the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development writes:

Because black carbon only remains in the atmosphere for several days to weeks, reducing it can bring about almost immediate mitigation of warming, whereas decreases in temperature lag reductions in CO2 by 1,000 years or more.

Good News

Time points out that it is relatively easy to reduce soot:

The good news is that while taking CO2 out of our energy cycle has proven very difficult — especially in poorer developing nations — black-carbon emissions should be easier to curb. Reducing deforestation will help — the burning of tropical rain forests is a big contributor to the black-carbon load. Next, diesel filters in cars can be upgraded, and biomass-burning stoves can be exchanged for technology that uses solar power or natural gas. These changes will cost money, but they should be cheaper than decarbonization. And cutting back on black carbon will also pay immediate health dividends, with less air pollution and fewer deaths from respiratory diseases. We might even be able to see the sky in New Delhi again.

Similarly, Dr. Ramanthan notes in a new paper:

A neglected fast-action strategy presented in the paper is reducing black carbon soot, an aerosol produced largely from the incomplete combustion of diesel fuels and biofuels, and from biomass burning. It is now considered to be the second or third largest contributor to climate change.

“If we reduce black carbon emissions worldwide by 50% by fully deploying all available emissions-control technologies, we could delay the warming effects of CO2 by one to two decades and at the same time greatly improve the health of those living in heavily polluted regions,” said Dr. Ramanathan.

The New York Times also notes the cost-effectiveness of reducing soot:

Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say …

For these reasons, any international treaty or domestic law which does not focus on significantly reducing soot is not worth the paper it’s written on.

Note 1: As I have previously noted, Dr. Hansen, the economists who invented cap and trade, and the head of California’s cap and trade offsets program for the EPA are all opposed to cap and trade. I have also noted that the person who invented credit default swap derivatives is one of the key people pushing cap and trade.

Therefore, any treaty which pushes cap and trade at the exclusion of soot reduction is doubly worthless.

Note 2: As one example of an inexpensive soot reduction measure, solar cookers or plans for building them could be given to millions of people in the developing world, thus slashing soot from the burning of wood and dung.

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23 comments

  1. sangell

    Well no one is going to be opposed to removing soot and other particulates from combustion gas but the ability to do so can be difficult. It is against the law to start forest fires, e.g. but people do it anyway and, while we might be able to fine coal power plants for excess emissions doing so in China or India is another matter.

    The deeper issue is what gives us the right to impose our environmental concerns or computer ‘models’ on those who are an order of magnitude below us in economic resources and not just in the third world.

    Go to your city’s fire department and ask them what happens when it gets cold. They will tell you people try and stay warm and fires and monoxide poisoning can result. Sure they might like to have a windmill and solar collectors on their roof to provide them with clean renewable electricity but if all they’ve got is a kerosene heater that’s what they’ll
    use. If the electricity is turned off and they have but a gas oven they’ll use that and fill the house with monoxide. If the gas is turned off they’ll use a space heater and burn the home down.

    There are millions of people in this country who can’t afford their utility bills right now. Jacking the price of electricity up isn’t going to reduce pollution just create soot and bodies.

  2. sgt_doom

    Outstanding post (and please don’t ignore the dropping of the volume of O2 in the atmosphere — supposed to occurring faster than the rising of CO2)!

    Obvious to many of us, this cap-and-trade scam is simply a form of energy securitization — as opposed to financial securitization — with the same consequences.

    Carbon permits GIVEN to the oil/energy industry, then sold or traded while utilizing carbon derivatives — plus ultraspeculation — on climate exchanges owned by Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and the oil cartel.

    And if clearing to take place, it will be through ICE US Trust, owned by ICE (which in turn is owned by GS, Morgan Stanley and the oil cartel), as well as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, MarkIt Group, etc.

    And the MarkIt Group — originally financed (and still, perchance owned by???) by Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and BofA.

    Geez, this stuff gets tedious……

  3. Skippy

    Thank you, George.

    For all those that hate tobacco and would see it removed from consumption, can you say *fine particulate matter* which is the by product of energetic chemical reaction ie: COMBUSTION OF FOSSIL FUELS.

    BTW there is a nice photo up at Rocky national park Colorado showing the change in air quality from the 70s? to the 90s, can you say cataracts lol.

    Joggers of South Bay CA. breath deep so you can run longer and harder and there by filter this shit out of the air before it gets to far east OK.

  4. m.smith

    Used to have a pond behind my home when I was growing up. Frogs, birds, Perch, cattails and sundry other complexities of life were all encapsulated in this pond. One year I noticed an algae growing around the edges. As the summer heated up the algae took off and covered the whole pond, killing the fish and giving off a noxious odor. The pond barely compared to the pond I knew from earlier years.

    Humanity has become the algae in our pond.

  5. EmilianoZ

    You learned it at school, so it must be true. LMAO! I stopped reading after that, not that I’m a denier. Yves should do some quality control on her site from time to time.

    1. George Washington Post author

      If you had read the essay, you would note that this is brand new. Not only didn’t I learn it at school, but it is a revolutionary – and very hopeful – development.

  6. Michael

    Economics is really at the heart of dealing with global warming, now that science has done it’s job and finding out first that it is happening, and then why it’s happening. It’s an entirely appropriate post for an economics blog (although being such a big issue it wouldn’t want to swamp it).

    I’m surprised economics hasn’t had more of an impact on the support for addressing climate change in a real way. It’s mostly been used to support keeping things the same.

    The Stern Review made it clear that the economic cost from inaction grows very quickly with increased delay. And yet all we get is the politicians saying we can’t do anything that might ‘hurt the economy’ or ‘cost jobs’ – like reducing coal use.

    Australia has been extremely hypocritical on this front under Rudd – saying the right things but doing the opposite (sound like anyone else?). And Australia with it’s still wildly over-priced coastal real estate, has a lot of ‘wealth and prosperity’ to lose. All for a few coal miner’s jobs. The myopia is blinding!

  7. tomk

    I wonder how significant the newer high efficiency wood and wood pellet stoves are in creating soot. In my part of New England some of us switched over to wood (from fuel oil or kerosene) with the fuel price spike a year and a half ago. Natural gas and solar are not options for house heating in our area.

    The pellet stoves are poised to take off, with storage bins and auto feed mechanisms eliminating much of the hassle traditional to burning wood. Is this something that should be encouraged given the need to reduce soot emissions?

    1. KJMClark

      The newer, EPA certified, stoves are much better. That’s why they’re EPA certified. The worst part about soot is that not only is it a health and environmental problem, but it’s perfectly good fuel that’s being wasted. The newer stoves work better because they afterburn the emissions from the primary burning. There’s a secondary burn chamber above the primary, that gets heated by the primary. Air gets mixed into that secondary burn chamber, and burns some of that exhaust further, resulting in cleaner final exhaust and more of the energy of the wood being turned into heat.

      Catalytic converters do basically the same thing, though more effectively, and though they eventually clog (in woodstoves) and have to be replaced. The better EPA certified stoves all use the secondary burn chamber approach now, probably because you don’t know when the catalytic converter is clogged, and therefore don’t know when to change it. The secondary burn works almost as well, and never needs to be replaced.

  8. i on the ball patriot

    Good read, and right on as the soot being a major contributing factor as a warming agent.

    I don’t think black carbon is really a new discovery as a warming agent. Many moons ago as a scientific illustrator I used to work in the CEPS department at UNH and was privileged to prepare illustrations for the results of Paul Mayewski’s early Himalayan glacier ice coring expeditions. He is an amazing guy and was pretty familiar then with black carbon as a warming agent, as were all of the New Hampshireites who spread wood stove ashes on snowy and icy walkways in winter so as to absorb heat and melt the snow and ice away.

    Asphalt roof tops, miles of hot top roadways, and traffic generated dust are also factors, somewhere I have seen numbers and they are significant. To tired to track it down right now. De-paving to make gardens is popular on the list of green projects that can be taken on for immediate benefit.

    I agree with decentralization as a preferred way to go and lots can be done right now locally to bypass the crooked scamerican centralized government. But that crooked government, at all levels, is really the big nut that has to be to cracked.

    Here is a good overview article on Mayewski, he is right on about the “whole range of influences”;

    Excerpt;

    “Your ice core work has led you to the conclusion that climate change is not only real, it has been accelerated by man. How?
    The ice cores tell us that greenhouse gases have been on the rise since the industrial revolution, about 150 years ago. The last few decades of Earth’s history, in particular, are truly remarkable. Carbon dioxide is 30% higher than at any time in the last several million years. The increase is 100 times faster than anything we’ve seen in at least 850,000 years. That alone is pretty startling. We’ve had unparalleled increase above natural levels of many chemicals, plus introduction of humanly engineered chemicals. Essentially, the atmosphere has never been through something like this. The surprising thing is that the temperature change hasn’t been greater already. Everything predicts it will be much greater. There is a lag, but it won’t last forever.

    What do you think mankind has done that is causing an acceleration of climate change?
    The most definitive thing to say about human impact on the climate system is that there are a whole range of human influences and therefore a whole range of impacts—not just greenhouse gases, but also industrial pollutions, sulfuric acid, increased levels of dust from the paving of cities and our agricultural practices, the list goes on. They are changing things. We’ve made the climate system less stable, and more prone to abrupt climate change.”

    http://www.bangormetro.com/media/Bangor-Metro/March-2008/The-Quest-for-Core-Truth/

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

  9. mozzie

    From some-one who didn’t study climate change, but enough thermodynamics to be dangerous.
    I’ve been surprised by the focus on temperature, as the key factor would seem to be heat energy (is temperature used a proxy?). An increase in heat energy (abosrbed by soot rather than radiated back to space) could raise ambient temperature but it could also melt ice caps/glaciers, increase evaporation without necessarily increasing temperature.

    So the focus on temperature and whether its rising or falling may miss other parts of the heat balance. Increased melting of ice is well recorded.

  10. Chauncy Guardian

    70% or more of arctic melting is due to soot. The same for glaciers that are downwind of soot producers. While everyone is obsessively focused on CO2, soot from China and India are melting the ice.

    CO2 is rising, and temperatures are either static or slightly falling. The CO2 to temperature correlation is not working out as well as Hansen, Gore, and Jones / Mann had hoped.

    It may not be too late to get in on the same carbon trading schemes as Al Gore and Pachauri the IPCC chief. They’ve been pushing for international controls while investing in the financial instruments that would funnel the cash flow. Very shrewd.

    We could all learn from such shrewdness, if we want to become wealthy in the age of Mr. Obama, Mr. Brown, Mr. Rudd, and friends.

  11. alex black

    “Hi, Mr. Gore, my name is Susie, and I write for my 3rd grade class newspaper. Thank you for letting me interview you”
    “mbmmblbmbl”
    “Oh, I have to give you money? Why?”
    “mmblbmblbm”
    “Yes, my Mommy drove me here….”
    “mmbmbmbmbl”
    “Oh, carbon footprint. Okay, but all I have is my milk money.”
    “mmbmbmbbml”
    “You need it ALL? Then I can’t buy milk at lunch. Why do you need it all?”
    “mlmmlbml”
    “Oh. Yes that IS a big house you have. And yes, I can see that fuel is very expensive for your private jet.”
    “mmbmdlmdml”
    “That’s the end of our interview? But I had questions….”
    “mmblmblbm”
    “Yes, I understand. There IS a long line of people waiting to see you. I tried to interview Mr. Blankenfien as he was waiting behind me, but kept trying to steal my milk money…”

  12. Jojo

    Soot and atmosphere particulates as a contributor to climate change isn’t a new problem, it just doesn’t seem to make it into MSM stories all that often. CO2 is more sexy, apparently.

    ============
    Can cause COOLING:
    How Do Volcanoes Affect Our Weather?
    http://www.farmersalmanac.com/weather/a/how-do-volcanoes-affect-our-weather

    ============
    Brown cloud of smog shrouds much of Asia
    Andrew Jacobs, New York Times
    (11-14-08) 04:00 PST Beijing —

    A noxious cocktail of soot, smog and toxic chemicals is blotting out the sun, fouling the lungs of millions of people and altering weather patterns in large parts of Asia, according to a report released Thursday by the United Nations.

    http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/14/MNLD143ULR.DTL

    =============
    Nuclear power is a solution to soot, but we still have the problem of what to do with the waste.

    How Nuclear Power Works
    By Amit Asaravala
    02:00 AM Jul. 05, 2005 PT

    Why use nuclear power?

    Unlike burning fossil fuels, using nuclear fission to generate electricity produces no soot or greenhouse gases. This helps keep the skies clean and doesn’t contribute to global warming. The World Nuclear Association estimates that the electricity industry would add 2.6 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere each year if it used coal power instead of nuclear.

    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,68074,00.html

    =============

  13. Jojo

    And Methane is a bigger problem than CO2.

    Here’s a good article with links to methane stories from Discover magazine:

    ===============
    10 Ways Methane Could Brake Global Warming-or Break the Planet

    The enigmatic gas is a valuable fuel and a dangerous digestive waste product.

    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/aug/04-10-ways-methane-could-brake-global-warming/
    =====================

    And here are some cool climate maps to play with:

    =============
    Earth climate history
    http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm
    =============

  14. Janine

    Great post! I’ve always had problems understanding all the CO2 / Global warming “panic”. Our climate is influenced by 1000’s of different factors, solar activity, volcanos, ocean currents etc. Any “theory” that doesn’t address all/most of these cannot really be called “SCIENCE”. The more people who start questioning mainstream news the better. Thanks for the post.

    1. aet

      Ah yes life is the result of many thousands of different “factors”: but the cause of death is often clear enough.

      Increased concentrations of CO2 have swamped the other signals and their effects as we have watched: the CO2 levels have been changing quickly while humans have observed (six or seven, maybe more, generations using scientific instrumentation), the other factors have not.

      Oh but now that the observational record is adequate to draw conclusions…”we don’t know enough about it to need to change our ways”.
      Well, global warming has been known about for twenty-five years (although it seems that many weren’t really paying attention): this “global warming “debate” is not new nor even recent unlike our observational record.(Had only the “debate” as to invading Iraq been so prolonged! But people were in a hurry as to that item…mostly the same people who urge extreme caution and hesitancy in the response to global warming!)In fact, serious people paying attention have only been waiting prudently for the observational evidence prior to acting…which we have now, in spades. Prudence now says that it’s time to act.

      But…but oil corps are the pinnacle of civilization: as are “investment” banks: that’s why they are so richly rewarded, right? So it’s better we all suffer and die, than they should go broke, or have to change their ways, if that should in some way reduce their personal pay-outs and social status.

      Society can’t do without the benefits those oil cos and investment banks provide, eh? That’s what all those well-off politicians tell us peons, anyhow.

      Oh yeah, I remember the line from Ronald Reagan’s time:
      “Cut a Green and you’ll find some Red underneath”….before the “Islamiscist threat” or whatever they call it, the American Rightists were lining up the Greens as their “next big target”…”irresponsible eco-terrorists”…in contrast to those oh-so-responsible oil cos and banks. (WTF does “responsible” mean , any more? “Responsible”…to whom? For what? And precisely how, or in what way, are they held responsible?)

  15. Brick

    There really is no excuse for particulate filters not being fitted to vehicles and to industrial production in my view. What you have not explored is the sulphur emissions which cause acidic rain and hence damage plants. This seriously alters plants ability to absorb CO2 and hence combines with CO2 emissions to make things worse. You also have not considered that soot and farming methods have altered the way plankton blooms form with an estimated reduction of plankton of around 30 percent. This may be the single biggest contributor to CO2 increases. Another factor is that soot particles often provide a nucleii for rain formation, with high concentratios at the equator increasing the likelihood of thunderstorm formation. Thunderstorms as opposed to low level sheet cloud have a net warming effect albedo wise. In fact personally I think the albedo effects of cloud are miscalculated in climate models due to assumptions about the size variability of the Walker cell and impacts of rossby wave breaking up into the stratosphere. As such the natural feedbacks to CO2 warming may not be accurate, something which is born out by the fact that although climate models do pretty well modelling global temperatures they are not particularly good at forecasting temperatures on a more local scale. Don’t even get me started on whether climate models should really be called climate models (rather than physical atmospheric models) without including the carbon cycle. The point is and here I agree with you is that CO2 is important but so are a lot of other things affecting climate which tend to get ignored because they are politically incovenient and pose problems for those with large vested interest and political clout. Regulatory capture, now where have I heard that before.

  16. i on the ball patriot

    Good comments. Regarding this;

    “The point is and here I agree with you is that CO2 is important but so are a lot of other things affecting climate which tend to get ignored because they are politically incovenient and pose problems for those with large vested interest and political clout.”

    One of the main reasons that those ‘politically inconvenient’ things tend to be ignored is that those with large vested interest and political clout have set the battlefield of debate with the deceptive labeling term of, ‘global warming’. The name global warming deflects and focuses the debate on temperature, a less concrete measure of effect with natural and man made causes, and not the great variety of pollutants that the vested interests with political clout are responsible for, and which are more concretely measured and connected to specific effects.

    One thing that all of us can do is reject that ‘global warming’ deflection and always rephrase it to ‘global pollution’.

  17. Carbon Tax

    There is a SIMPLE solution to climate change which 192 countries at COP15 should be able to agree to – and it does not require 1 cent of money transfer from rich to poor.

    A GLOBALLY AGREED LEVEL OF CARBON TAX APPLIED NATIONALLY AND SPENT DOMESTICALLY
    – WITH GREEN TECHNOLOGY TRANSFERS FROM RICH TO POOR.

    STEP 1:
    Fossil fuel burning is releasing carbon into the atmosphere and oceans in 300 years which was stored over 100 million years. So fossil fuel usage must be deterred by a price penalty. Globally agreed Carbon Tax is the best mechanism.

    STEP 2. Tax rates are set based on Carbon content for simplicity:
    Coal=10%, Oil=5%, Gas=2.5%
    They apply on top of all other domestic taxes and duties which already apply on these fossil fuels.
    These rates are on a globally agreed escalator increasing over 20 years to punishing levels.

    Because every country applies the same Carbon Tax then no country gets a competitive/general product lower cost export advantage (over today’s levels).

    STEP 3: Each nation accounts to the UN on the amount of Carbon Tax raised nationally – but NOT A PENNY is sent offshore. But they must also account to the UN for the expenditure of this tax revenue domestically.

    STEP 4: Each nation must spend their Carbon tax revenue in TWO ways.

    a) Subsidizing local companies which sell green energy alternatives: Solar, wave, wind, biomass and biofuel products.

    b) Direct funding of green tech licenses to domestic companies which develop/patent green tech. The amount of the cash benefit matches the level of technology that those same companies licence to any other country – for FREE.

    STEP 5: Free green technology transfer (typically from rich to poor nations) with the licensing in the poor nation paid for by the domestic benefit in the rich nation – step 4a.

    End result. Fossil fuel usage is penalised globally on price – while green alternatives are boosted globally. No money transfers between nations. Only green-tech know-how.
    Peak-oil impact diminished.

    This will work infinitely better than any carbon-trading scheme.

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